A comic novella
by the young Jane Austen
, the second entry in Volume the First
, one of three volumes of juvenilia
she preserved, and composed somewhere between the ages of 12 and 18. It is, like her other youthful works, a parody
of the conventional style of polite
novel. Its language is exceedingly proper and its plot almost
ordinary, until she veers into sudden excess, and veers out again as if nothing had happened.
Mr and Mrs Jones were both rather tall and very passionate, but were in other respects good-tempered, well-behaved people. Charles Adams was an amiable, accomplished, and bewitching young man, of so dazzling a beauty that none but eagles could look him in the face.
There are three sisters, one the picture of ambition
, the second of envy
, the third of vanity
. There is a very likable and decent family whose slightest faults are being excessively addicted
to the bottle
. Young Alice Johnson
is permanently red in the face and arguing drunkenly
with her friend Lady Williams
, who is a paragon of every sort of virtue and good sense
: actually much prefiguring Lady Russell
. Except that at the end of the entertainment, "the bottle being pretty briskly pushed about", the whole party are carried home, Dead Drunk
In Chapter the First we meet the party, and they have a masked ball, at which Charles Adams is obliged to stand half a mile away from the others because of the brightness of his beauty. In Chapter the Second Alice confesses her love for Charles to Lady Williams, who in Chapter the Third describes her own youth, and how she would have attained perfection because of her dear governess had she not been tragically taken from her.
'Miss Dickins was an excellent governess. She instructed me in the paths of virtue; under her tuition I daily became more amiable, and might perhaps by this time have nearly attained perfection, had not my worthy preceptoress been torn from my arms ere I had attained my seventeenth year. I never shall forget her last words. "My dear Kitty," she said, "Good night t'ye." I never saw her afterwards,' continued Lady Williams, wiping her eyes. 'She eloped with the butler the same night.'
In Chapter the Fourth the walk from her ladyship's pigsty
to one of Charles Adams's horsepond
s, the two arguing constantly about Alice's red complexion
, until they meet a distressed and injured young lady, who in Chapter the Fifth tells her own story, how she fell in love with Charles on his estate in Wales
, and has since stalked
him and pursued him here seeking to marry him, but has been caught in one of the mantrap
s he puts around his grounds to discourage the hordes of women who would seek his perfection
. In Chapter the Sixth they become firm friends with this Lucy
and Alice once more partakes very freely of Lady Williams's excellent claret
In Chapter the Seventh we hear about the hero of the novel, never mentioned by name, and not mentioned before: Alice's brother, who drops dead from excessive drinking and leaves her a large fortune. She seeks the hand of that perfect paragon Charles Adams, who refuses her in a manner that caricatures what Jane Austen would later use as the haughty and self-loving character of Mr Darcy.
In Chapter the Eighth the envious sister several times attempts to cut Lucy's throat while they are at Bath, and in Chapter the Ninth Lucy perishes by poison, the envious sister is hanged, the ambitious sister becomes the chief sultana to the grand mogul, and Lady Williams and Charles Adams are happily united.
There is an e-text available at http://home.earthlink.net/~lfdean/austen