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“Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint.”

Posted by on February 6, 2008

Love and Friendship

Love_and_Friendship.jpg

I re-read Love and Friendship last night, Jane Austen’s novella — novlette? novelina? — that she wrote while still in her teens. I’d forgotten how much of the later books can be found in here. For example:

A young man speaks to people he’s met moments ago:

“My father,” he continued, “is a mean and mercenary wretch — it is only to such particular friends as this dear party that I would thus betray his failings.”

Doesn’t that sound like Wickham in Pride and Prejudice telling Elizabeth and her family everything about his history with Mr. Darcy, when he’s only just met them?

Or this, where the heroine meets another girl for the first time:

There was a disagreeable coldness and forbidding reserve in her reception of me which was equally distressing and unexpected: none of that interesting sensibility or amiable sympathy in her manners and address to me when we first met which should have distinguished our introduction to each other.

Sounds like Emma complaining about Jane Fairfax, who she’s only just met again after an absence of many years:

Wrapped up in a cloak of politeness, she was determined to hazard nothing. She was disgustingly, was suspiciously reserved.

In this passage, the heroine condemns a young man as being entirely worthless:

They said he was sensible, well-informed, and agreeable; we did not pretend to judge of such trifles, but as we were convinced he had no soul, that he had never read the Sorrows of Werther…we were certain Janetta could feel no affection for him.

Not unlike Harriet in Emma requiring Robert Martin to read The Romance of the Forest before she could consider him perfect, or Catherine in Northanger Abbey being so delighted that Henry Tilney admitted to reading Gothic novels.

Really, the heroines of Love and Friendship are Jane Austen’s models for many of her future silly characters: Harriet, Catherine and Isabella in Northanger Abbey, Maria in Mansfield Park and Lydia in Pride and Prejudice, to name a few. And that’s the fun of reading this, because all the sensible characters are sunk back in the narrative. Imagine Pride and Prejudice if Lydia and Kitty had been the main characters, running mad with all the officers and running wild at home, while Elizabeth and Jane were just part of the wallpaper. Sort of a Breakfast Club for the empire waist set.

Anyway, Love and Friendship (tagline: “Deceived in Friendship and Betrayed in Love”) is a fun half-hour read and if you like Jane Austen but find her occasionally stuffy you should try this.

I could not help telling her how much she engaged my admiration. “Oh! Miss Jane,” said I — and stopped from an inability, at the moment, of expressing myself as I could wish — “Oh! Miss Jane,” I repeated — I could not think of words to suit my feelings. She seemed waiting for my speech. I was confused — distressed — my thoughts were bewildered — and I could only add — “How do you do?”

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