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|From Claire Tomalin on L&F
Written by BarbaraB
(6/20/2006 11:42 a.m.)
"Four years later, when she was fourteen, she (Jane) dedicated to Eliza one of her more ambitious early stories, Love and Friendship, the one everyone remembers for the scene in which the two heroines "fainted alternately on a sofa." This particualar joke was cribbed from Sheridan, but many of the other jokes are crisp enough to be worthy of him, and the humour does not flag in all thirty-three pages. Laura, who tells her own story in a series of letters, has a background to match Eliza's: she was "born in Spain and received my Education at the Convent in France," her father an Irishman and her mother "the natural daughter of a Scotch Peer by an italian Opera-girl." She writes to the daughter of a middle-aged friend, as Eliza might tell her story to Aunt Austen's daughter, and with a touch of Eliza's insouciance. Most of it consists of travels, often with her friend Sophia, and both meet with sentimental and violent adventures, including carriage crashes fatal to their loved ones. In one episode a vernerable old gentleman makes a sudden discovery of four separate hiterto unknown grandchildren, to each of whom he gives a L50 banknote, only to abandon them again immediately afterwards: a hint of Eliza's expectations from her godfather, Warren Hastings, for little Hastings?
Laura and Sophia fly in the face of every lesson Berquin spells out. They not only fail to take parental advice, they manage not even to notice the deaths of parents. They encourage friends and lovers to "disentangle themselves from the shakles of Parental Authority." A fifteen-year-old girl is persuaded to elope with a fortune-hunting officer, and two other young men, the illegitimate sons of well-born ladies, rob their mothers, leave them to starve, and take to the stage, first as strolling actors and then as stars at Convent Garden. All the young people steal, run up debts and refuse to settle them. It is black comedy, absurd and riotous, rejecting domestic virtue and decorum with elan and authority. For Jane to dedicate it to her cousin, she must have felt confident that Eliza would see and enjoy the jokes with her...." Jane Austen: A Life (Tomalin}
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