Run wild through Jane Austen’s Love & Freindship, but do not faint!

Illustration by Joan Hassall, Love and Freindship, The Folio Society (1973)

I have been reading Jane Austen’s Juvenilia and find it delightful. Love and Freindship, (note the original misspelling on friendship) a novella written as an epistolary inscribed “Deceived in Friendship & Betrayed in Love” was dedicated to Madame la Comtesse de Feuillide (Jane Austen’s cousin Eliza Hancock who married a French Count, Jean-Francois Capot de Feuillide) and completed on 13 June 1790 when she was 14 years old. It was first published in 1922, and can often be found in versions of her work entitled “Minor Works“. The misspelling of the third word in the title “freindship” is the customary spelling as it appeared on the original manuscript in Jane Austen’s hand. 

The novella contains 15 letters which begin with the narrator Laura and her friend Isabel, and continue with Laura and Isabel’s’ daughter Marianne. They are in turns hilarious and overly sentimental, a parody of the cult of “sensibility” that Jane Austen would revisit in a more serious light with her novel Sense and Sensibility. Here is one famous passage toward the conclusion, which I find so amusing. 

Beware of fainting-fits… Though at the time they may be refreshing and agreeable, yet beleive me they will in the end, if too often repeated and at improper seasons, prove destructive to your Constitution… My fate will teach you this… I die a Martyr to my greif for the loss of Augustus… One fatal swoon has cost me my Life… Beware of swoons, Dear Laura… A frenzy fit is not one quarter so pernicious; it is an exercise to the Body and if not too violent, is, I dare say, conducive to Health in its consequences — Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint –“  Letter 14, Laura to Marianne 

Further reading 

*Illustration by Joan Hassall, Jane Austen: Shorter Works, The Folio Society, London (1973) from Sorrow at Sills Bend Blog

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