Troubador Jane Austen's Lost Novel

Released: 28/03/2021

ISBN: 9781800460140

Format: Hardback

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Jane Austen's Lost Novel

Its Importance for Understanding the Development of Her Art. Edited with an Introduction and Notes b


Until the appearance in 1870 of the Memoir written by her nephew J.E. Austen Leigh, very little was known about Jane Austen beyond what could be deduced from her major novels. This had been the family’s choice. Despite this lack of information Deidre Le Faye records that following the acceptance of Jane’s novel Susan for publication in 1803, “according to family tradition, she had composed the plot of another full-length novel”. This, Two Girls of Eighteen, never previously identified as Jane’s, was published in 1806 but at some point apparently suppressed. Only two copies are known to exist - one in the Deutsch Nationalbibliothek and the one from which the present text has been transcribed, which came from a house that Jane knew and is mentioned by her in A Collection of Letters.

Two Girls of Eighteen has a divided structure, involving two sisters, Charlotte and Julia, each of whom is given her own story, the one a Romance partly based on Richardson’s Clarissa, the other a Gothic confection - both set in contemporary England. Jane appears to be testing in this the capabilities of such forms for expressing what she was trying to achieve. Through the character of Charlotte, who is attempting to write a novel, she deliberates at length the sort of thing that she herself might write. Her reflections on such subjects as medicine, law, the rights of women, etc take us below the glossy surface of the major novels and show us the complex web of thought that lies beneath.

Antiquarian bookseller P J Allen was browsing the shelves at a book auction when a cursory glance at the opening paragraphs of one rather grubby and unprepossessing volume brought him up short. His instant thought was – “ Austen?” His second was "don't be so silly". He acquired the book anyway, if only to show himself how mistaken he was. Reading it however, revealed, as he himself puts it, so many correspondences of though, interest, detail, experience and sometimes even expression between the novel and Jane’s juvenilia, letters and other published works, he found himself veering towards belief.

This work is the culmination of his research and reading and makes a compelling and fascinating case that that novel – Two Girls of Eighteen – is in fact a missing work by Jane Austen. This is a must for all fans of Jane Austen.

by M Morgan

From the title I thought it would be a spoof like the Canadian one some years ago but actually it's not. It's very serious and well researched. It doesn't deal with the Great Novels at all but only with her development as a writer. Confused by the belief that 'To please we must comply withthe reigning taste' she spends much of her early years trying to imitate the popular fiction of the time. But she wanted to teach and Gothic fiction or Romance did not enable this and would not do. The story tells of a loss of confidence and her eventual discovery of what she should be doing.

by Lesley J. Arrowsmith

An extremely interesting read

Although I am not a great lover of the works of Jane Austen, I was intrigued by the idea of the discovery of a lost novel; and Mr. Allen’s recovery of this text did not disappoint. It will be of considerable interest to two particular groups of readers. First, the novel itself, even if a little imperfect, will entertain those general readers who like the novels of Miss Austen; or, more widely, the fiction her era, especially the literary work of the women of this period.
Second, the text and Mr. Allen’s arguments in favour of accepting it as a work by Jane Austen should be of great interest to the literary academic community. I am a retired university lecturer in English literature, but this genre and era lie outside my areas of expertise. Nonetheless, I found Mr. Allen’s detailed researches and arguments quite convincing and am happy to accept this as a lost novel of Jane Austen. Doubtless Austen experts may take a different view, but simply opening this text to further academic discourse is the best of all reasons for such experts to engage with it.

by Bruce Ingraham

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