You’ve probably heard of Jane Austen—I mean, hasn’t everybody? Romantic images of Elizabeth Bennett or Mr. Darcy are the first things that come to mind when one thinks of the famous English author. The influence of Jane Austen’s classic literature in contemporary YA books is undeniable. However, did you know that you can also get a lot of wisdom on how to write with Jane Austen’s Juvenilia?
That’s right—Jane Austen’s Juvenilia can be read by anyone, from any age. Not only that but this treasure by beloved Austen can provide a very stimulating way for youngsters to start in the craft of writing.
As an Austenite myself, I hadn’t heard of Jane Austen’s Juvenilia until my freshman year of college, when one of my professors challenged me to write on something I hadn’t written on before. I wanted to incorporate Austen into my work somehow, and when I found her Juvenilia, I was delighted!
Before Jane Austen wrote her full-length novels (six of which are widely known today), she wrote many short stories and plays for her family while still a child. These short stories have been collected into a book called Jane Austen Juvenilia and Short Stories.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much out of Austen’s Juvenilia. I mean, what person can write clearly and honestly at such a young age? But her Juvenilia are bright, witty, very enjoyable, and readable by all ages. Another reason you should read these short stories and share them with the kids in your life!
But if you want to improve or dive into the craft of writing, here are five ways you can learn how to write with Jane Austen’s Juvenilia.
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How to Write with Jane Austen’s Juvenilia
1. The Juvenilia model the writing process
Austen was a skilled writer (and if anyone wants to disagree, bring it on!), but even she made mistakes and had to learn. The Juvenilia are a wonderful way to see how Austen learned to write.
Austen’s process over time can be both an encouragement and a model in teaching children and adults how to write. It’s something that should be taught in schools, and reading her Juvenilia is a great way to implement this.
2. The Juvenilia are easy for all to understand
Okay, so older English isn’t always easy to understand. Even Austen’s other novels aren’t always easy to follow! But her juvenilia are much easier to understand than other novels from that period. Plus, they are a lot shorter in length—much more readable than a 300-page novel.
For children (or adults!) who want to read an English novel but aren’t quite ready to commit to a huge tome, the Juvenilia would be perfect.
You may also like: 50 Writing Prompts to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing
3. Jane Austen’s Juvenilia help teach us about history
The Juvenilia were written from the eyes of a young child who was seeing her world and writing it down. Sometimes she did this sarcastically, by emphasizing a certain aspect of her culture to make it appear ridiculous. Other times, she simply recorded life as it was for her, a young girl living in the early nineteenth century.
Either way, the Juvenilia are full of historical details that would be important for anyone—child or adult—to learn.
4. The Juvenilia are funny
To be honest, Austen was brutal in her sarcasm as a young child. One of the biggest themes throughout her short stories is societal pressure on women. Austen would take a characteristic that a lady was supposed to have (gentleness, politeness, etc.) and make that characteristic so extreme that others could see how silly it was to expect that of women.
For example, in the short story Frederic & Elfrida, Austen tells her readers of a young lady named Elfrida whose “delicate frame of mind” was such that her wedding date could not be determined for fear of exciting her. Over twenty years go by before Elfrida finally becomes jealous of another woman and decides to set a date for her marriage.
Austen is very witty, and while some of the humor and/or themes may not be understood by children, the stories are still enjoyable by all.
5. Jane Austen’s Juvenilia are a great way to bring people together
Whether you are reading Jane Austen Juvenilia with your kids or with some friends, reading and talking about the Juvenilia is a perfect way to bring people together.
The Juvenilia are perfect bedtime stories—they’re funny, thought-provoking, and enjoyable for both parents and children. They’re also great to expand your reading repertoire, or just find an excuse to get together with a friend.
Concluding Thoughts on Jane Austen’s Juvenilia
If these five reasons still haven’t convinced you to read the Juvenilia, just know this: I hadn’t written anything creative since I was probably eight years old. However, after I read Austen’s juvenilia, I was inspired to start writing again—and write for fun.
Jane Austen’s writing is full of treasures for us readers and writers to enjoy, and her collection of short stories are no different. They’re historical, funny, readable, and inspiring. Now, centuries later, they continue teaching children and adults how to write.
So, what are you waiting for? Head to your library or bookshop and pick up your copy of Jane Austen’s Juvenilia today!
Have you read Jane Austen’s Juvenilia? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.