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The Influences behind Jane Austen’s Juvenilia

Who influenced Jane Austen’s Juvenilia? Austen’s family and a couple of prominent literary figures were among those that did. Read on to learn who these individuals were and the influence they had on Austen’s teenage writings.

Portrait of Samuel Richardson by Joseph Highmore

1) Samuel Richardson

“Charles Adams was an amiable, accomplished & bewitching young Man; of so dazzling a Beauty that none but Eagles could look him in the Face.” (Jack and Alice)

Jane Austen’s comic novella “Jack and Alice” is the second entry in Volume the First of her Juvenilia. In this quote, Austen makes fun of the ‘ideal’ man from Samuel Richardson’s novel ‘ Sir Charles Grandison.’ Richardson’s epistolary style of writing influenced some of her later works, including Pride and Prejudice, which is generally agreed to have begun as an epistolary novel called ‘First Impressions'.

Click here to learn more about Richardson’s life and his literary works.

2) William Shakespeare

“Be this as it may, he did not live for ever, but falling ill, his son the Prince of Wales came and took away the crown; whereupon, the King made a long speech, for which I must refer the Reader to Shakespear’s Plays, and the Prince made a still longer.” (The History of England)

In Volume the Second, Austen writes about her feelings toward British monarchs in “The History of England”, a humorous piece she composed in her late teens. In this quote, Austen is speaking about Henry the 4th and his life. She calls herself a ‘partial, prejudiced and ignorant Historian’ and cites works of fiction and Shakespeare in her piece. Shakespeare’s works largely reflect Tudor period bias and Austen adopts this bias when she references his plays.

Some of the watercolor illustrations painted by Cassandra Austen in "The History of England." Courtesy of Joy Museums Virtual Tours

Want to learn more about Shakespeare? Here are 10 things to know about the Bard

3) Cassandra Austen

Cassandra Austen's watercolor portrait of Jane Austen

“You are a Phoenix. Your taste is refined, your Sentiments are noble, & your Virtues innumerable. Your Person is lovely, your Figure, elegant, & your Form, magestic.”(The Beautifull Cassandra)

This quote is part of the affectionate dedication Austen makes to older sister Cassandra in the novella “The Beautiful Cassandra”, her eighth piece in Volume the First. Jane was very fond of her sister and it is said the two were inseparable. Cassandra was a strong supporter of Austen’s writing and encouraged her to take her talent seriously. “Ode to Pity”, the short poem in Volume the First, The History of England in Volume the Second, and the unfinished novella “Kitty, or the Bower’ in Volume the Third are also dedicated to Cassandra.

4) Henry Thomas Austen

“Sir I am now availing myself of the Liberty you have frequently honoured me with, of dedicating one of my Novels to you.” (Lesley Castle)

Austen’s unfinished epistolary novel “Lesley Castle” in Volume the Second is dedicated to her favorite brother Henry Thomas Austen. Henry played an instrumental role in furthering Jane’s writing career, and he is said to be responsible for the appearance of all six of her novels. Henry saw to the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey after Jane’s death and wrote the biographical notice that prefaced both novels.

5) James Austen

“SIR, the following Drama, which I humbly recommend to your Protection & Patronage, tho' inferior to those celebrated Comedies called "The School for Jealousy" & "The Travelled Man", will I hope afford some amusement to so respectable a curate as yourself; which was the end in veiw when it was first composed by your Humble Servant the Author.” (The Visit)

James Austen was Jane’s oldest brother and she describes him as being “good and clever.” He was also a gifted writer and had a creative side. When James visited his childhood home in Steventon, England, he organized family amateur theatricals. Austen dedicated her short play “The Visit” in Volume the First to James to honor his talents.

Interested in learning more about Jane Austen’s family? Check out this family tree featuring in-depth information about each family member and another from our blog that provides a closer look at Jane’s parents’ families.


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