We waited therefore with the greatest impatience, for the return of Edward in order to impart to him the result of our Deliberations–. But no Edward appeared–. In vain did we count the tedious Moments of his Absence–in vain did we weep–in vain even did we sigh–no Edward returned–. This was too cruel, too unexpected a Blow to our Gentle Sensibility–. we could not support it–we could only faint–.
(from Love and Freindship in The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume VI: Minor Works, page 89)
Jane Austen’s Love and Freindship (yes, that’s how she spelled it) is part of the second volume of Austen’s Juvenilia, short works she wrote from 1787 to 1793 mostly to entertain her family. Subtitled “Deceived in Freindship & Betrayed in Love,” Love and Freindship is a short epistolary novel that showcases Austen’s humor and wit. From these early writings, we can see Austen working toward the literary masterpieces (in my opinion) that readers continue to love nearly 200 years after her death.
The opening letter of the novel is from Isabel to her friend, Laura. Isabel figures that since Laura has turned 55, she should be ready to discuss the events of her life. The rest of the letters are from Laura to Isabel’s daughter, Marianne, and while only one point of view is featured in this novel (and the limited point of view is one of the drawbacks of the epistolary structure), it really works here. Laura writes to Marianne of her “Misfortunes and Adventures” in life and love to serve as a lesson or guide. And Laura certainly takes readers on an adventure!
In Love and Freindship, Austen pokes fun at romance novels. There are quick marriages against the wishes of parents, tragic deaths, thefts, and fainting spells. Austen goes all out on the melodrama, but it works. Laura’s antics are not only ridiculous, but also laugh-out-loud funny. It might have grown tiring had the piece been longer, but it’s only about 30 pages, and it reads very fast.
Laura almost immediately marries Edward after he appears at her family’s home, lost and seeking shelter. He is the son of a baronet who was supposed to marry someone else, but Edward is determined to always disobey his father. The newlyweds eventually find themselves in the home of Edward’s friends, Augustus and Sophia, who married against their parents’ wishes, burned through the money Augustus stole from his father, and racked up so many debts that Augustus is imprisoned. When Edward leaves to see if he can get Augustus out of jail but fails to return, Laura and Sophia, now best friends, must fend for themselves and head to Scotland.
From here on out, numerous things happen that cause the women to faint, and there are a series of odd coincidences. Austen didn’t take her heroine seriously, and neither should readers. For Austen fans looking to read some of her lesser-known works, Love and Freindship is the perfect place to start.
Disclosure: The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume VI: Minor Works is from my personal library.
© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.