Lady Susan and the Juvenilia

Jane Austen began to write as a girl, probably with the aim of entertaining her family. In about 1786 she began the comic tales known today as her Juvenilia. Some are very short, less than a page, and others are quite extensive. They were jokingly dedicated to members of her family. Later she copied these early works out into three notebooks, which are known as Volume the First, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third. The stories show how well developed was Jane Austen’s sense of irony and fun, even in her teens, and they have plenty of crime, anarchic behaviour and satire of popular novels of the day. Today the stories of the Juvenilia can be purchased separately, or in a complete volume.

Volume the First contains Frederic and Elfrida, Jack and Alice, Edgar and Emma, Henry and Eliza, The Adventures of Mr Harley, Sir William Mountague, Memoirs of Mr Clifford, The Beautifull [sic] Cassandra, Amelia Webster, The Visit, The Mystery, The Three Sisters, A Beautiful Description, The Generous Curate and Ode to Pity.

Volume the Second contains Love and Freindship [sic], Lesley Castle, The History of England, A Collection of Letters, The Female Philosopher, The first act of a comedy, A Letter from a Young Lady, A Tour through Wales and A Tale.

Volume the Third has Evelyn and Catharine, or The Bower.

Lady Susan was an early experiment in an epistolary novel, depicting a gold-digging but beautiful widow who loves flirtations and disruption; it is known as Lady Susan after its heroine / villainess, Lady Susan Vernon. It was probably written about 1793–4. It was first published in 1871.