gt;gt;Jane's Famegt;gt;gt;gt;gt;CHAPTER 1gt;gt;gt;"Authors Too Ourselves"gt;gt;gt;IN 1869, JANE AUSTEN'S FIRST BIOGRAPHER, JAMES EDWARD Austen-Leigh, expressed surprise at how his aunt had managed to write so much in the last five years of her life, living in the close quarters of Chawton Cottage with her mother, sister, friend Martha Lloyd, and a couple of servants. "She had no separate study to retire to," said James Edward, with evident pity, "and most of the work must have been done in the general sitting-room, subject to all sorts of casual interruptions." He described how, careful to conceal her occupation from "servants, or visitors, or any persons beyond her own family party,"1 she wrote "upon small sheets of paper which could easily be put away, or covered with a piece of blotting paper." A squeaking swing door elsewhere in the cottage gave her warning whenever someone was approaching and time to hide the latest sheet of gt;Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion,gt; or "Sanditon."gt;gt;Quite where this famous story originated is a puzzle, as James Edward goes on to say that neither he nor his sisters (the main sources of all anecdotage about Austen) were ever aware of disturbing their aunt at her writing, and he makes it clear that there was no attempt at concealment "within her own family party." But secrecy about her workbecame a cornerstone of the Austen myth; the image conjured up was of the endlessly patient genius putting the demands of family life, however petty, before her work, writing, when she could, in guarded but modest isolation in a corner of a shared sitting room.gt;gt;The truth is that Jane Austen never exhibited self-consciousness or shame about her writing and never needed to. Unlike many women writers of her generation--or stories about them--she had no struggle for permission to write, no lack of access to books, paper, and ink; no frowning paterfamilias to face down or from whom to conceal her scribbling. Her ease and pleasure in writing as an occupation are evident from the very beginning, as is the full encouragement of her family, and if there was little space in her various homes, that was more a simple fact of life and square footage in relatively cramped households than a metaphor for creative limitations.gt;gt;What James Edward Austen-Leigh's testimony really reveals is not the author's lack of vanity but how much her writing was accepted, and even overlooked, within her family. Austen is now such a towering figure in literature and myth that it is hard to reinsert her in her home environment and not still see a genius; even James Edward was blinded by the awe factor by the time he came to write her biography, fifty years after his aunt's death. A generation younger than her, he was one of the last to find out that Aunt Jane was the anonymous "Author of 'Sense & Sensibility', 'Pride & Prejudice' etc." His surprise at this news, and his subsequent interest in his aunt, mark him out as not of the inner circle. gt;Theygt; were not so susceptible to awe.gt;gt;This is not to say that Austen's closest family members were indifferent to her ambitions and achievements as a writer or callously withholding of praise, but that the home context of genius is, by definition, utterly unlike any other. According to the theorist Leo Braudy, fame can be thought of as having four elements: a person, an accomplishment, their immediate publicity, and what posterity makes of them.2 The "immediate publicity" of Jane Austen's fame is interesting not so much in how and where her books were reviewed or what her contemporaries thought of them, but in how she was treated in her own circle and what sort of climate that provided. And the reason that Jane Austen did not require, or receive, any special treatment withinher family was that she was by no means the only writer among them.gt;gt; gt;gt;gt; gt;gt;gt;JANE WAS THE SECOND youngest of the Austen children, ten years younger than her eldest brother, James, and two years younger than her only sister, Cassandra. She was born and lived the first twenty-six years of her life at Steventon, on the northeasterly edges of Hampshire. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, was a clever, gentle man; her mother, Cassandra Leigh, a highly articulate woman with aristocratic ancestors, the niece of a famous Oxford scholar and wit. The family was only modestly well-off, and Jane's lively, good-looking, and accomplished brothers had to make their own ways in the world; James and Henry, both Oxford graduates, joined the church and the army, Francis and Charles joined the navy, and lucky Edward was adopted by childless relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Knight of Godmersham, sent on the grand tour, and made heir to their estates in Kent and Hampshire. Only George, the second son, did not share the family's health and success; disabled in some way, he spent his life being cared for elsewhere and hardly appears in the family records at all.gt;gt;Jane and her beloved elder sister Cassandra grew up surrounded by boys, for the Reverend Austen supplemented his clerical income by taking in pupils, running, in effect, a small school for the sons of the local gentry. Though the girls were later sent away to school briefly in Oxford, Reading, and Southampton, they spent most of their childhood in the more challenging intellectual atmosphere of their own home. At the rectory, there was a well-stocked library that included works of history, poetry, topography, the great essayists of the century, and plenty of fiction, for the Austens were "great Novel-readers & not ashamed of being so"3 and subscribed to the local circulating library, which held copies of all the recent best sellers. Jane was a fan of Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Smith, Ann Radcliffe, Elizabeth Inchbald, and a host of less memorable eighteenth-century romancers, lapping up their stories and lampooning their more absurd conventions with equal glee. "From an early age," the critic Isobel Grundy has noted, "she read like a potential author. She lookedfor what she could use--not by quietly absorbing and reflecting it, but by actively engaging, rewriting, often mocking it."4gt;gt;Like the eponymous heroine of her early work, "Catharine, or The Bower," the teenage Jane was "well-read in Modern History" and left more than a hundred marginal notes in a schoolroom copy of Oliver Goldsmith's 1771 gt;History of England,gt; still in the possession of the Austen family. Her cheeky ripostes, mostly in defense of her favorites, the Stuarts, give a strong impression of her intellectual confidence, as well as of her pleasure in acting as the classroom wit. In the same irreverent spirit, Austen wrote her own pro-Stuart "History of England" in 1791, for recital and circulation among the family. Her section on Henry VIII begins like this: "It would be an affront to my Readers were I to suppose that they were not as well acquainted with the particulars of this King's reign as I am myself. It will therefore be saving gt;themgt; the task of reading again what they have read before, and gt;myselfgt; the trouble of writing what I do not perfectly recollect, by giving only a slight sketch of the principal Events which marked his reign."5gt;gt;When "The History of England" was eventually published, in 1922, Virginia Woolf characterized the girlish author as "laughing, in her corner, at the world," but the writer of such a brilliant comic party piece was hardly the shrinking (or smirking) violet Woolf imagines, but a quick-witted, praise-hungry teenager, competing for attention in a close, loving, intellectually competitive household. With people outside her immediate circle, whose approval she didn't seek or value, Austen was likely to fall silent; hence her cousin Philadelphia's description of Jane in 1788 as "whimsical & affected ... not at all pretty & very prim, unlike a girl of twelve."6 The family, especially those she was closest to--Cassandra, Henry, Frank, Charles, and her father--would have known very well how "unlike a girl of twelve" Jane was, how fanciful, and how funny. But she didn't always choose to perform.gt;gt;In the years between 1788 and 1792, that is, between the ages of twelve and sixteen, Jane copied out her skits, plays, and stories into three notebooks titled humorously "Volume the First," "Volume the Second," and "Volume the Third," named as if they were installments of a conventional three-part novel. There was a habit among the Austens of using high-quality quarto notebooks (and one's best handwriting) tomake, in effect, manuscript gt;booksgt; to be passed around and enjoyed in the family; editions of one, but still editions. Much later, in 1812, Jane made a reference in a letter to a comic quatrain she had written and sent to her brother James for his comments, being added to "the Steventon Edition."7 As with so many of Austen's familiar references, it's not clear exactly what she meant by this, but the phrase and its context suggest an album in which the family verses were collected. James Austen's own poems and verse prologues have survived largely because his three children made copies of them in similar quarto volumes.8gt;gt;Almost every item in Jane Austen's juvenilia has an elaborate, mock-serious dedication to one or another member of the family circle: her brothers, both parents, her cousins Eliza de Feuillide and Jane Cooper, and friends Martha and Mary Lloyd. Cassandra, who had provided Jane with thirteen charming watercolor vignettes as illustrations to "The History of England," received this dedication to "Catharine, or The Bower," Jane's unfinished but ambitious early novel:gt;gt;gt;Madamgt;gt;Encouraged by your warm patronage of The beautiful Cassandra, and The History of England, which through your generous support, have obtained a place in every library in the Kingdom, and run through threescore Editions, I take the liberty of begging the same Exertions in favour of the following Novel, which I humbly flatter myself, possesses Merit beyond any already published, or any that will ever in future appear, except as may proceed from the pen of Your Most Grateful Humble Servt.gt;gt;The Author9gt;gt;gt;Behind the humor is a familiarity with book production and distribution as well as patronage, and a tacit acknowledgment of her own ambitions, which "Catharine, or The Bower" (the only substantial non-burlesque story by Jane to have survived from these early years) was clearly meant to advance.gt;gt;Jane's writing was encouraged in particular by her father, with whom she was something of a favorite (Mrs. Austen favored her firstborn, James). The portable writing desk that Jane bequeathed to herniece Caroline, which is now on display in the British Library, is thought to have been a gift from him.10 He certainly gave her the white vellum notebook that became "Volume the Second" (she inscribed it gt;"Ex Dono Mei Patris"gt;), and probably also provided "Volume the Third," as he wrote a mock commendation inside the front cover: "Effusions of Fancy / by a very Young Lady / Consisting of Tales / in a Style entirely new," sportingly joining in the spirit of her enterprise. In Austen's surviving letters, the earliest of which dates from 1796, it is her father who is depicted as most close to her own interest in books, literary periodicals, and the circulating library, and with whom she shares and discusses the latest novels.gt;gt;James Austen later characterized the family bookishness in this way:gt;gt;gt;gt;We love, & much enjoy with ivory knifegt; gt;To sever the yet damps & clinging leavesgt; gt;Of some new volume; & can pleased discussgt; gt;With critical acumens & due skill,gt; gt;An Author's merit: Authors too ourselvesgt; gt;Not seldom, & recite without much feargt; gt;To hearers kindly partial, verse or prose,gt; gt;Song, parody or tale, whose themes of highgt; gt;But local import, well record the fategt; gt;Of cat or pony: or, from satire freegt; gt;Raise against other's follies or our owngt; gt;Perchance, the fair & inoffensive laugh.gt; 11gt;gt;gt;Writing and reading--and sharing both with like minds in the family--was not a mere pastime for the Austens but an essential part of their lives. They were a very verbal tribe, and Jane's contributions to the family's entertainment, however original, would have appeared to them to corroborate a shared trait, not necessarily to display an individual one. The family was full of people who prided themselves on their own writing talent and wit, "Authors too ourselves," not least Jane's mother, a keen, sometimes unstoppable versifier.12 More pertinently, for the development of Jane Austen's sense of herself as awriter, the family had plenty of committed, quasi-professional authors in their circle, too. Two of her brothers, two first cousins, an aunt, two second cousins, and a neighbor were all published authors,13 and others in her circle strove to be.gt;gt;James Edward Austen-Leigh later emphasized his aunt's "entire seclusion" from the literary world, "neither by correspondence, nor by personal intercourse was she known to any contemporary authors,"14 giving a very misleading impression of her isolation and ignorance. Though it is true that Austen declined the few opportunities that she got in adult life to meet celebrity authors, she grew up in an atmosphere of informed interest in all aspects of print culture and had before her a surprising number of writers and would-be writers to learn from.gt;gt;The first published writer Jane Austen had the chance to observe at close quarters was a poet called Samuel Egerton Brydges, the younger brother of Jane's friend and mentor, Anne Lefroy. Mrs. Lefroy, who was married to the rector of the nearby village of Ashe, was a highly cultivated and intelligent woman, herself a poet who had been published in gt;The Poetical Registergt;.15 According to her brother's later tribute, she had "a warm and rapid poetical genius; she read voraciously; her apprehension was like lightning, and her memory was miraculous." 16 Brydges was only twenty-three when he came with his new bride, Elizabeth, and younger sister, Charlotte, to live in the vicinity of Mrs. Lefroy and her husband in 1786, but he was already suffering from thwarted poetical ambition due to the disappointing reception of his first book, gt;Sonnets and Other Poems; with a Verification of The Six Bards of Ossian,gt; which includes the quatrain,gt;gt;gt;gt;Yet, o beloved Muse, if in me glowgt; gt;Ambition for false fame, the thirst abate!gt; gt;Teach me, fair fields and flocks, mankind to know,gt; gt;And ope my eyes to all, that's truly great.gt;17gt;gt;gt;If this was his agenda on arrival in Deane, the poet didn't keep to it but sank into a melancholy quite as powerful as any he'd been able to imagine. Looking back on the years 1785--91, he thought them"amongst the most wearisome and low-spirited of my life ... in which my pride was most mortified and my self-complacence most disturbed."18gt;gt;Brydges found fame in the 1790s as a novelist, but he never got over his early failure as a poet; his 1834 autobiography is full of complaints about the unjust neglect of his genius and how it had exacerbated his "morbid sensitiveness."19 He must have harped on the theme a great deal during his time at Deane, when he wasn't enacting it in gloomy reverie.gt;gt;Jane was only ten when the melancholic poet became their neighbor. She was virtually beneath his notice--until, many years later, her fame prompted him to recall that she had been "very intimate" with his brilliant older sister, "and much encouraged by her ... . When I knew Jane Austen I never suspected that she was an authoress," he wrote in 1834. "The last time I think that I saw her was at Ramsgate in 1803: perhaps she was then about twenty-seven years old. Even then I did not know that she was addicted to literary composition."20 The phrase is an excellent one for Jane, who was indeed gripped by a sort of mania for writing in her early teens and who later told her niece Caroline she wished she had "read more, and written less" in those years, when she had been "much taken up with" her own compositions. 21gt;gt;The fellow addict whom Brydges did recognize at Deane was James Austen, undoubtedly the most ambitious, talented, and promising writer in the young Jane Austen's immediate circle. His seniority, his sex, and his choice of the art of poetry over prose meant that even after his sister had become a highly praised novelist, he was in all important respects still regarded as the writer of the family. A distant figure to the younger children, Cassandra and Jane (who were only five and three when he went up to St. John's College, Oxford, at the age of fourteen), James was also precociously talented; his earliest surviving poem, addressed to his boyhood friend Fulwar Craven Fowle, imagines them in later life, Fowle a successful statesman and James a secluded poet, whose fate is "to woo in lowly strain/The nymphs of fountain, wood or plain/To bless my peaceful lays." Imminentretreat from "tumultuous strife" was a theme the world-weary sixteen-year-old kept returning to:gt;gt;gt;gt;Nor er'e shall I with envy view their fategt; gt;Whilst solid bliss that ne'er can cloygt; gt;Thro' life's retired vale my steps await.gt;22gt;gt;gt;His plan was to take his degree and Holy Orders and lead a life given over mainly to poetry and his other great enthusiasm, the hunt. "Place me in farthest Scythia's trackless waste" could be taken to mean a nice Hampshire living where he could keep a pack of harriers and court his muse, for James was not an urban creature like his younger brother Henry and valued solitude and rural quiet rather more than is natural in a youth, even a poetical youth. Gray and Cowper, the most popular poets of the age gone by, were his models in language and form, but his melancholic sensibility was more in tune with the coming romantics.gt;gt;All through Jane's childhood, the visits home of this sophisticated, ambitious, and scholarly brother must have impressed her deeply. He was the moving force behind the home theatricals that were put on at Steventon, in the parlor and in the barn across the road, for seven consecutive years in the 1780s. As with the amateur theatricals that Jane later described so vividly in gt;Mansfield Park,gt; these productions must have galvanized the whole household, with all the demands of scenery and costume making, learning lines, and rehearsing. Jane was too young to take part until the later productions but would have been a keen observer of all the preparations for gt;Matildagt; and gt;The Rivalsgt; in 1782 and 1784, with James in charge of an excited group of young people drawn from the family, the Reverend Austen's pupils, neighbors, and friends. The productions were also showcases for James's own writing talents, as he composed prologues and epilogues for most of the plays they performed. Some were lengthy and elaborate, such as the prologue to Fielding's gt;Tragedy of Tom Thumb,gt; in which James surveyed a number of favorite sports and pastimes, wittily pointing out how arduous leisure can be, and ending with an evocation of his own preferred occupation, being a writer:gt;gt;gt;gt;To please no numerous crowd he e'er pretends--gt;gt;He writes & lives but for his private friends.gt; gt;Their vacant hours to amuse, his favourite toil,gt; gt;And his best thanks are their approving smile--gt;gt;23gt;gt;gt;gt;When they put on gt;The Wonder,gt; the Austens' glamorous and flirtatious cousin, Comtesse Eliza de Feuillide, was visiting Steventon and took the part of Violante. James, who was under his cousin's spell for many years (as was Henry, whom she later married), must have enjoyed putting these words into her mouth:gt;gt;gt;gt;Such was poor woman's lot--whilst tyrant mengt; gt;At once possessors of the sword & pengt; gt;All female claim, with stern pedantic pridegt; gt;To prudence, truth & secrecy denied,gt; gt;Covered their tyranny with specious words,gt; gt;That called themselves creation's mighty Lords--gt;gt;But thank our happier stars, those days are o'er,gt; gt;And woman holds a second place no more.gt; gt;Now forced to quit their long held usurpation,gt; gt;These men all wise, these Lords of the Creation!gt; gt;To our superior rule themselves submit,gt; gt;Slaves to our charms, & vassals to our wit.gt;24gt;gt;gt;Of course, such sentiments, coming from a young man who thinks of himself as "possessor of the pen," are as much an expression of his own anxieties as a welcome to the changing status of women. Jane, aged twelve, had fully absorbed the ambiguous messages of the day about women's rights in general and female "scribblers" in particular, and in her juvenilia (contemporary with these pieces by James) was already showing her complete awareness that the cardinal sin for a woman writer was a lack of humor about her own position. Even if one was not prepared to be self-deprecating, the subject had to be treated lightly.gt;gt;Six years after earning his BA, James Austen returned to Oxford with an ambitious plan to start up his own literary periodical. Henryhad gone up to St. John's in 1788, ten years after James's own promising start there, and the younger brother's high spirits and literary talent may have been behind the scheme to venture into print. In the years following his graduation, James had been traveling on the Continent, had taken Holy Orders, and had received his MA and first curacy. But as it approached, the retirement he had imagined for himself must have begun to look a little less attractive, for this was exactly the moment when he decided to take the only big risk of his life and "go public" as a man of letters.gt;gt;James's son, James Edward, said later that his father "used to speak very slightingly" of the gt;Loiterer,gt;25 but this says more about James's disappointments in later life than the lively publication he produced every Saturday, without a hitch, from January 1789 to March 1790. For all the gt;Loiterergt;'s provincial origins, the Austen brothers clearly did not intend to limit its potential audience to that of Oxford university or town. The title, a witty rejoinder to the gt;Idler,gt; the gt;Rambler,gt; the gt;Tatler,gt; and the gt;Spectator,gt; ought, they reckoned, to appeal to "four-fifths of the English nation."26 Within five issues, they had found distributors in Birmingham and London (the publisher Thomas Egerton) and a month later had spread out to Bath and Reading. At threepence a copy, the price was low. The issues were short, often consisting of a single essay or article, but the necessity of writing and printing them with such frequency, and the business of dealing with printers and distributors, must have taken up most of James's time and energy that year, when, one presumes, he was more often in Oxford than Hampshire.gt;gt;Back at Steventon, the thirteen-year-old Jane Austen would have been among the magazine's keenest readers, having been privy to excited planning among James, Henry, and their cousin Edward Cooper (also an Oxford undergraduate at the time) when everyone was together at Steventon for Christmas 1789. The first issue of the gt;Loiterergt; was published just a month later by this "small Society of Friends, who have long been accustomed to devote our winter evenings to something like learned pursuits."27 The optimism with which it was launched suggests that the project had the full backing of the Austen parents (it is hard to see how it could have happened without some financialsupport as well), and the editorial stance of the gt;Loiterergt; was completely in tune with the Austen family manner of gentle mockery and disingenuous self-deprecation. The editors justified their enterprise by claiming that "to keep our talent any longer wrapt in the napkin would be equal injustice to our writings, the world, and ourselves,"28 and the content, which started off mostly in the vein of short, slightly pompous musings on life and literature, evolved gradually into displays of individual taste, with James, the most frequent contributor, showing an increasing interest in writing fiction. His tale of "Cecilia" takes up two issues of the magazine--a risky editorial decision--and deals with just the themes that were to become central in Jane's novels, the moral choices that young women face in courtship and matrimony. "Though an union of gt;love maygt; have some misery," the author concludes, "a marriage of interest gt;cangt; give no happiness."29gt;gt;The temptation for the young Jane Austen to join in this exciting publishing venture in her own family must have been overpowering, and one contribution in particular, a letter published in number nine of the gt;Loiterer,gt; has attracted the attention of critics as possibly having been written by her, constituting her first appearance in print. The letter, signed "Sophia Sentiment," is a comically overstated (but sincere-sounding) complaint that the gt;Loiterergt; is not only too reliant on Oxford in-jokes but ignores female tastes and female readers (it predates James's "Cecilia" story by several months): "You have never yet dedicated one number to the amusement of our sex, and have taken no more notice of us, than if you thought, like the Turks, we had no souls." The writer has many suggestions of the kind of thing that would do instead: "Let us see some nice affecting stories, relating the misfortunes of two lovers, who died suddenly, just as they were going to church. Let the lover be killed in a duel, or lost at sea, or you may make him shoot himself, just as you please; and as for his mistress, she will of course go mad ... only remember, whatever you do, that your hero and heroine must possess a good deal of feeling, and have very pretty names."30 Though this could, at a pinch, have been written by Henry, the absurd tone and bravado are exactly those of Jane's own pastiches of sentimental literature, "Love and Freindship," "Lesley Castle," and "The Three Sisters," which she was writing atthe same time, and which everyone at home knew about. Writing to the gt;Loiterergt; would have been just the sort of pert joke Jane specialized in.31gt;gt;The fact that James worked so hard on the gt;Loiterergt; for over a year and then gave up so abruptly suggests that he was cutting his losses. He was also, possibly, sorely disappointed. There is a plangent tone to his farewell essay, in which he thanks the friends who had contributed to the magazine and cites several of "many sufficient causes" for the periodical closing, "the short list of my subscribers, and the long bill of my publisher" being perhaps the most pressing.32 But he also admits to a certain degree of editorial miscalculation, having changed tack from his initial objective of making his main matter "the circles of Oxford ... some portraits and some scenes," to a broadening out of subjects in the hope of appealing to a wider audience (in exactly the way suggested by Sophia Sentiment's letter). The gt;Loiterergt; actually achieved as much as, if not more than, the editor in chief could have expected, but perhaps his expectations had not been reasonable. George Holbert Tucker, one of the few biographers to pay much attention to James Austen, has described his personality as "an unequal blending of sociability and brooding melancholy, the latter predominating as he grew older."33 James retired to his country living and in 1792 married a well-to-do young woman, Anne Mathew. He published nothing after the gt;Loiterergt;--perhaps he disdained to, preferring to remain an unrecognized genius--but he certainly continued to write. As he had said in the first issue of his magazine, "of all chymical mixtures, ink is the most dangerous, and he who has once dipped his fingers in it--."34gt;gt;The skits and stories of Jane's earliest surviving manuscript, "Volume the First" (all completed well before her fifteenth birthday), show that she was every bit as ambitious as her brother had been at the same age but would never open herself up to the charge of self-importance by appearing to take herself too seriously. She sought to amuse and amaze her family circle with knockabout comedies full of abductions, abandonments, exotic accidents, adultery, and death (all the sort of spicy drama that is absent or carefully backgrounded in her adult fiction). From the dedication of her absurd sketch "The Visit," whichmentions two earlier works that have not survived, it is clear that she had written short comedies as early as 1788 or 1789. The title of one of these lost plays, "The School for Jealousy," immediately recalls that of Sheridan's gt;School for Scandalgt; (and perhaps lampooned Henry and James's joint infatuation with their cousin Eliza?); the other, "The Travelled Man," might well have taken James's Continental tour of 1786-87 as its subject.35 "The Visit" itself is dedicated to James and is fondly and jokingly recommended "to your Protection and Patronage." Although she was ten years his junior, Jane was already aligning herself with "the writer of the family" and seeking to be the cadet comic counterpart of this much-admired older brother.gt;gt;One wonders what James made of his little sister's skits, which she must have hoped would be taken up in some way by the older siblings at their theatricals. "The Visit," which ends with three proposals and engagements effected in four lines, involves an absurd scene where eight guests are provided with only six chairs and two of the ladies have to have men sitting on their laps: "I beg you will make no apologies," Sophy says. "Your Brother is very light."36 But could any of the amateur actors at Steventon have done justice to the brilliance of "The Mystery," in which all the characteristics of drama are deliberately absent? In one scene, a lone character, Corydon, enters and says, "But Hush! I am interrupted"; in another, the action is already over, and the characters, having nothing to tell one another, decide to leave. The second scene is entirely made up of this brief dialogue between a father and son:gt;gt;gt;Enter Old Humbug and his Son, talking.gt;gt;OLD HUM:) It is for that reason I wish you to follow my advice. Are you convinced of its propriety?gt;gt;YOUNG HUM:) I am Sir, and will certainly act in the manner you have pointed out to me.gt;gt;OLD HUM:) Then let us return to the House. (Exeunt)37gt;gt;gt;At thirteen or fourteen, Jane Austen was like a jolly Samuel Beckett! The juvenilia are full of sophisticated absurdity like this, as in "Jack and Alice": "A lovely young Woman lying apparently in great painbeneath a Citron tree was an object too interesting not to attract their notice"; or this deadpan description from "Lesley Castle": "She is remarkably good-tempered when she has her own way, and very lively when she is not out of humour."38 The young author lights on one style after another with remarkable virtuosity, impatient of longer, extended writing. Perhaps that was a sign of her eagerness to get things out before an audience and enjoy their response. Their response had almost always been very carefully anticipated and engineered.