programme consisted of a series of readings from Austen’s juvenilia written between the ages of nine and fourteen. She
experimented with writing in a comedic/ parodic form, using some of the existing literary forms – picaresque novels
- as her templates. Her style was high, almost too elevated, full of lengthy sentences; the humour emerges from the contrast
between style and subject. Deaths and their consequences are described in mock-heroic language that might not seem out of
place in a modern-day Mills and Boon romance.
Janet Todd, with the help of illustrator Posy Simmonds and Rachel Fox, keeper of the British Museum department where the juvenilia
are now stored, took pleasure in the raciness of the material that contrasted with the more staid style of Austen’s
later years. The word “rambunctious” was used at least twice in the programme. In truth the material, as read
by Anna Maxwell Martin, did not appear all that spicy; like most juvenilia it showed someone experimenting with existing literary
forms in an attempt to discover a style of their own. It was quite entertaining, if one got past the elevated vocabulary to
appreciate the satire underneath. While Janeites might raise objection to this rather non-committal observation, I do believe
that Austen did produce the kind of work that really was not very good, as a way of discovering her distinctive literary voice.
The producer was Beaty Rubens.