"Isabel had seen the world. She had passed two years at one of the first boarding-schools in London, had spent a fortnight in Bath, and had supped one night in Southampton."
- Love and Friendship
From time to time I like to set myself literary challenges. I have, for example, re-read all existing books of Harry Potter before seeing each new movie as it came out (I'll leave you to work out how many times I've read The Philosopher's Stone!). I also challenge myself, quite regularly, to re-read all six Jane Austen novels (that's an easy one).
Some of my challenges to myself have been less successful. I set out once to read or re-read every major work that charted the rise of the English novel from the eighteenth century. I got as far as Defoe's Moll Flanders before getting seriously side-tracked.
I also once decided to read all the works of Charles Dickens, since at that time I'd actually read nothing by him and was feeling quite ashamed of this fact. I got as far as going to the bookshop, picking up Little Dorrit, opening a page at random.... and putting it down again. Dickens is a pompous, condescending git. I base that judgement on my extensive reading experience of his works. Ahem.
But I digress. My latest challenge to myself - to coincide with the research I'm doing currently into Jane Austen's life, particularly her years in Bath - is to read or re-read all of her existing works, complete and incomplete, in chronological order as she wrote them.
I started last night with Love and Friendship, which I've never read before. Austen wrote this before the age of eighteen - it forms part of her surviving juvenilia.
I have to say, I was rather dreading reading this one. I figured that if Jane Austen as an adolescent was anything like I was (black-clad, depressed and with delusions of omniscience), it would make for very dull, pompous reading indeed.
Instead, Love and Friendship is light, enjoyably silly and ridiculously well written for someone so young. I'm torn between loving Jane Austen even more and hating her for her early erudition. I am more than twice the age she was when she wrote the following passage:
"...we were of a sudden greatly astonished by hearing a violent knocking on the outward door of our rustic cottage.
My father started - 'What noise is that?' said he.
'It sounds like a loud rapping at the door,' replied my mother.
'It does indeed,' cried I.
'I am of your opinion,' said my father. 'It certainly does appear to proceed from some uncommon violence exerted against our unoffending door.'
'Yes,' exclaimed I. 'I cannot help thinking it must be somebody who knocks for admittance.'
'That is another point,' replied he. 'We must not pretend to determine on what motive the person may knock - though that someone does rap at the door, I am partly convinced.' "
I'm only fifteen pages into this book, but I'm ridiculously excited by it already. It all augurs well for this particular challenge!
I'll blog again when I've read more.