Where did Jane get her talent from?
It's said that it was both from her father and mother,as well as inspiration from her brother James.
She may have discovered her talent for writing at school in Reading.
But she was different. She had that something extra,creative fantasy,and a sensitivity and a sharp eye for people's behaviour.
And an urge to write, to express herself. The drive that great artists have. And who knows where that comes from?
It could have been different of course. If she had married, she may never have finished her novels.
(Thank God she said no to Harris Bigg-Wither. One reason for that may have been that he was 21 and she was 27 when he proposed).
The amateur theatricals at Steventon may have been another inspiration for her to start writing. James Austen was very much the driving force behind them. Writing the prologues and epilogues. Produced,directed and played parts in them.
They were performed in the barn nearby and in the rectory's parlour for a select audience. (Eliza Hancock says in a letter: My uncle's barn is fitting up quite like a theatre, and all the young folks are to take their part).
And performers were the Austen brothers and relatives and friends, including an enthusiastic Eliza,Tom Lefroy,the Cooper cousins,and possibly the Bigg-Wither sisters. And Cassandra and Jane may have taken part in some of the plays.
I quote most of the following from 'A family Record':
In December 1782 occurred the first presentation of the amateur
theatricals - very fashionable at this period - James, now nearly 18, produced 'Matilda' a tragedy by Dr. Thomas Francklin, which had five acts of ranting blank verse, and added to it his own versified prologue and epilogue, the former being spoken by Edward and the latter by Tom Fowle.
Matilda was supposedly a costume drama, being set at the time of the Norman Conquest; it threatened passion, murder and suicide until, with a sudden collapse into happy-ending bathos,the wicked brother meekly repented and the lovers were united. Cassandra may have had the small part of Bertha, the heroine's friend, but it is unlikely that little Jane was anything other than a fascinated spectator.
1784. Jane and her sister were at home this year after the unfortunate illness at Southampton.
In July 'The Rivals' a modern comedy by Sheridan, requiring a dozen performers,was performed at Steventon.
JA and CEA go to the Abbey School, Reading.
Edward goes abroad on Grand Tour from 1786-88 (he's 19).
Francis enters Royal Naval Academy, Portsmouth (he's 12).
James Austen goes to the Continent (he's 21).
December, JA and CEA have now left school.
Jane is now 11.
JA starts writing her Juvenilia.
Dec. 'The Wonder -a Woman keeps a secret' performed at Steventon.
A comedy set in 16th-century Portugal, which gave scope for a plot in which stern fathers could threaten their daughters with arranged marriages or banishment to nunneries, while the daughters schemed to marry the men of their fancy.
Jan. 'The Chances' performed at Steventon.
The plot once again dealt with the confusions of disguised ladies and jealous gallants.
This year 1788 was the climax of the Steventon theatricals, for
plays were presented every few months.
March, 'Tom Thumb' performed at Steventon.
Henry Fielding's burlesque 'The Tragedy of
Tom Thumb the Great', which had parodied the conventionally extravagant and unreal tragedy of the contemporary stage.
Tom Thumb, as his name implies, is a dwarf, the captive queen Glumdalca a giantess, and the royal parents a ridiculous, quarrelsome pair of drunks. The play ends with a ludicrous massacre as all the characters one by one kill each other.
This doesn't sound like the quiet village Steventon does it?!
Summer, JA and CEA with parents travels to Kent,Reading and London.
A 'private theatrical exhibition' also performed at Steventon some time later this year.
Winter, 'The Sultan' and 'High Life Below Stairs' performed at Steventon.
High Life below Stairs was also a short farce, written by Revd. James Townley in 1759, in which a household of lazy servants behave like their absent masters -flirting, drinking, gambling and quarrelling.
This winter season of 1788-89 saw the last of the amateur theatricals at Steventon rectory, for James, the family's actor-manager, now had other literary interests in view. 'The Loiterer'.
Jane was now 14.
I can't help wondering what Mr Austen thought of this. Could he have disapproved of anything that went on? And could this later on have inspired Jane to that much discussed 'play episode' in Mansfield Park?