I’m in a Jane Austen book club, and recently, we read two of her short stories. Austen began writing in her youth, and she wrote the stories we read when she was a teenager. Because I am not, at this time, reading everything in my copy of Juvenilia and Short Stories by Jane Austen, I’m counting the short story The History of England towards my TBR goal for 2021.
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The summary, from Amazon:
“The History of England” is a 1791 novel by English author Jane Austen. Written when she was just fifteen years old (it includes her original spelling quirks), it is a humorous burlesque on the popular history books contemporarily used in school. Within it, Austen comically mimics the style of writing characteristic of these books, mocking the dubious objectivity of the historians in question. With outrageous characters and Austen’s famously sharp wit, “The History of England” constitutes a must-read for fans of Austen’s work and would make for a worthy addition to any collection. Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) was an English author known primarily for her novels, which critique the 18th century English upper classes and contemporary novels of sensibility. Her use of irony coupled with biting social commentary and realism have led to her wide acclaim amongst scholars and critics, her work contributing to the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Other notable works by this author include: “Sense and Sensibility” (1811), “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), and “Mansfield Park” (1814). Many vintage books such as this are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive. We are republishing this book now in an affordable, modern, high-quality edition complete with a specially-commissioned new biography of the author.
Buy The History of England here.
Or buy it in an anthology of Austen’s short stories, such as Juvenilia and Short Stories.
This is an incredibly short essay, in which Austen, only fifteen at the time of writing, reflects on the reigns of English monarchs from Henry IV to James I. My copy included all of the spelling quirks of a fifteen-year-old, which I adored. Austen mimics the style of historians from her time, and this reads like a humorous take on a history textbook. Austen shares that she mostly wrote this to defend Mary, Queen of Scots and talk crap on Elizabeth I for having her murdered. I also loved her defense of Anne Boleyn (whom she calls Anna Bullen). My copy did not have illustrations, but I hear that the illustrated copy is a treat. The artist was Jane’s sister, Cassandra.
Is this on par with Austen’s other works? No, but she was a teenager when she wrote it. It’s fun and short, so if you’re an Austen super-fan, it’s worth the read. It was 4 stars for me.
Find out more about how I rate books here.
The History of England by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a funny, short read! It doesn’t surprise me that even as a teenager, Austen was full of biting wit.
Book Club Questions
- How does this essay compare to Austen’s works as an adult?
- How does this essay compare to Austen’s other works she wrote as a teen?
- What are your thoughts on Austen’s opinions surrounding England’s history?