The History of England

The History of England

"The History of England" is a 1791 work by Jane Austen, written when the author was fifteen. It is a burlesque which pokes fun at widely used schoolroom history books, such as Oliver Goldsmith's 1771 "The History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II". [Le Faye 1993: vi] Austen mockingly imitates the style of textbook histories of English monarchs, while ridiculing historians' pretensions to objectivity. Her "History" cites as sources fictional works such as the plays of Shakespeare and Sheridan, a novel by Charlotte Smith and the opinions of Austen's family and friends. Along with accounts of English kings and queens which contain little factual information but a great deal of comically exaggerated opining about their characters and behavior, the work includes material such as charades and puns on names. It was illustrated with colored portraits by Austen's elder sister Cassandra, to whom the work is dedicated.

The first page of the "History" reads:

The History of Englandfrom the reign of Henry the 4thto the death ofCharles the 1st

By a partial, prejudiced and ignorant historian

To Miss Austen, eldest daughter of the Revd. George Austen,

this work is inscribed with all due respect by

The Author

N.B.: There will be very few dates in this History.

Some years after writing it, Austen compiled "The History of England" and 28 other of her early compositions by copying them into three notebooks which she called "Volume the First", "Volume the Second" and "Volume the Third". "The History of England" is in "Volume the Second" (as are "Love and Freindship" and four other works) occupying 34 manuscript pages. Cassandra's 13 illustrations were done after the copying was completed. "Volume the Second" passed to Cassandra at Austen's death in 1817, and on Cassandra's death in 1845 to Francis Austen, with whose descendants it remained until it was sold to the British Library in 1977. [The notebook is now [ British Library Additional Manuscript 59874] .]

Publication history

None of Austen's youthful works were published in her lifetime. Francis Austen's granddaughter, the then owner of "Volume the Second", in 1922 permitted Chatto and Windus to publish the entire notebook under the name "Love and Freindship". The "History" was included in volume VI of R.H. Chapman's Oxford University Press edition of Jane Austen's complete works and since then has been published in several new editions and imprints. [Le Faye 1993: ix]



*Le Faye, Deirdre. "Introduction", "The History of England" by Jane Austen, facsimile edition, London, The Folio Society, 1993.

External links

* [ Love and Freindship on Project Gutenberg]
* [ The History of England on LibriVox]

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