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Love and Friendship

By: Jane Austen

Begun when she was just eleven years old, Love and Friendship is one of Jane Austen's stories that very few readers may have encountered before. Austen experts feel that this story was written, like many others, only for the pleasure of her family and friends. It is scribbled across three notebooks, in childish handwriting, and the complete work is thought to have been written over a period of six or seven years. It is dedicated to one of her cousins, whom she was very close to, Eliza de Feuillide. Eliza herself was an extremely colorful figure and is thought to have been the illegitimate daughter of the first Governor General of India, Warren Hastings. She was also a witness to the French Revolution where her husband, the self styled Comte de Feuillide was guillotined. For the young Jane, these events must have been sheer inspiration to a writer's imagination. Love and Friendship takes the shape of an expostulatory novel. Written as a series of letters from Laura to a much younger Marianne who is her friend Isabel's daughter, it is meant to apprise the young and flighty Marianne about the dangers of infatuation and falling headlong into romantic love. The book offers an early and crucial insight into Jane Austen's style, her wonderful sense of humor and her take on contemporary society. At times, she portrays events almost in parody form, at others, she is sharp and critical, but as always, the typical Jane Austen brand of gentle, sparkling wit is highly evident. She describes the concept of “sensibility” or what we would today call “sensitivity” or “sentimentality” and how it can be taken to ridiculous extremes. The deliberately twisted and complicated plot is replete with fainting fits, deaths due to a variety of causes, including “galloping consumption,” plenty of drama, elopements galore, unbelievable coincidences and wicked philanderers—all the elements that a typical potboiler of the era would contain.

Letter The First

From Isabel to Laura

This presents a glimpse into the life of Laura from Isabel's perspective. Isabel asks Laura to tell the "misfortunes and adventures" of her life to Isabel's daughter Marianne (Austen 516). Isabel argues that because Laura is turning 55, she is past the danger of "disagreeable lovers" and "obstinate fathers" (Austen 516). This initial letter sets up the rest of Austen's narrative through Laura's letters to Marianne.

Letter The Second

Laura to Isabel

This consists of a reply from Laura to Isabel. Laura initially disagrees with Isabel's assessment that she is safe from "misfortunes" simply because of her advanced age (Austen 516). Laura agrees to write to Marianne and detail her life experiences to "satisfy the curiosity of Marianne" and to teach her useful lessons (Poplawski 183). The useful lessons are lessons learned from the misfortunes caused by "disagreeable lovers" and "obstinate fathers" (Poplawski 183). Poplawski highlights the importance of the relationship between females and their lovers and also between females and their fathers as a means through which Austen is able to criticise stereotypical female behaviour. As seen throughout the work, these two relationships are constantly criticised by satirical anecdotes. Janetta's relations with her father and with her lover, Capitan M’Kenzie in the twelfth letter, shows Austen mocking the fickleness of family ties and romantic relationships.

Letter The Third

Laura to Marianne

Laura's narrative to Marianne begins in the third letter and continues through to the 15th letter. In the 3rd, Laura gives a brief overview of the origins of her parents, her birth in Spain, and her education in a convent in France. At 18, Laura returns to her parents’ home in Wales. Laura pauses to describe herself at this age. She emphasises her "accomplishments", which in that period would have been things that made a woman a better companion for her future husband (Austen 516). Laura ends the letter by posing the idea that her misfortunes in life “do not make less impression… than they ever did,” but that her accomplishments have begun to fade (Austen 517). The uncertainty of Laura's memory causes Austen's work to resemble a fairy tale in its qualities of ambiguity.


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Jane Austen was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often...

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