‘She has many rare and charming qualities, but Sobriety is not one of them.’
A selection of Austen’s dark and hilarious early writings – featuring murder, drunkenness, perjury, theft, poisoning, women breaking out of prison, men forging wills and babies biting off their mothers’ fingers…
I’m kicking off Austen in August (hosted by Roof Beam Reader) with The Beautiful Cassandra, one of Penguins Little Black Classics released earlier this year to celebrate 80 years of the wonderful Penguin Classics. It seems fitting. I’m a huge fan of the Penguin Classics with its aim to make great literature available at an affordable cost to the masses. Indeed my first copies of Austen’s word all came from the Penguin Classics catalog bought with my limited pocket money as a teenager. Now as an adult I own a full set of their wonderful cloth bound editions of Austen’s work.
The intention behind the Little Black Classics is to provide introductory samples of great writers work for 80p. I’m not entirely sure that I would consider this a good introduction to Austen. It is a selection of short stories written by Austen to amuse to her family. They are all comical and involve various young characters engaging in behaviour which would be unacceptable to society and getting into no end of trouble usually with comic results. They are also undoubtedly the work of young writer. While Austen’s undeniable wit is obvious, they lack the sophistication of her novels. Some more than others bear the hallmarks of her skill. The stories written as letters were my favourite. They are more mature and more in keeping with her novels. They are witty but without the use of implausible comical events, highlight the ridiculous behaviour of people but in a subtle manner and show the beginning of a commentary on society.
While I would not recommend this as a introduction to Austen, it will certainly be of interest to any fans of Austen providing interesting insight into her early work. And sure its so short you’ll have it read in under an hour. Great if you have a bit of time to kill.