Jane Austen was writing from a very early age. Her family kept some of her early pieces, one of which was this comic ‘novel’ believed to have been written between the years 1787-90, when Jane was aged between 12 and 15 years old. I think it really illustrates well her sense of humour which was to become integral to her writing later on.
THE BEAUTIFULL CASSANDRA
A NOVEL IN TWELVE CHAPTERS
Dedicated by permission to Miss Austen.
You are a Phoenix. Your taste is refined, your Sentiments are noble, & your Virtues innumerable. Your Person is lovely, your Figure, elegant, & your Form, magestic. Your Manners are polished, your Conversation is rational & your appearance singular. If, therefore, the following Tale will afford one moment’s amusement to you, every wish will be gratified of
Your most obedient
CHAPTER THE FIRST
CASSANDRA was the Daughter & the only Daughter of a celebrated Millener in Bond Street. Her father was of noble Birth, being the near relation of the Dutchess of …’s Butler.
CHAPTER THE 2d
WHEN Cassandra had attained her 16th year, she was lovely & amiable, & chancing to fall in love with an elegant Bonnet her Mother had just compleated, bespoke by the Countess of …, she placed it on her gentle Head & walked from her Mother’s shop to make her Fortune.
CHAPTER THE 3d
THE first person she met, was the Viscount of …, a young Man, no less celebrated for his Accomplishments & Virtues, than for his Elegance & Beauty. She curtseyed & walked on.
CHAPTER THE 4th
SHE next ascended a Hackney Coach & ordered it to Hampstead, where she was no sooner arrived than she ordered the Coachman to turn round & drive her back again.
CHAPTER THE 6th
BEING returned to the same spot of the same Street she had set out from, the Coachman demanded his Pay.
CHAPTER THE 7th
SHE searched her pockets over again & again; but every search was unsuccessfull. No money could she find. The man grew peremptory. She placed her bonnet on his head & ran away.
CHAPTER THE 8th
THRO’ many a street she then proceeded & met in none the least Adventure, till on turning a Corner of Bloomsbury Square, she met Maria.
CHAPTER THE 9th
CASSANDRA started & Maria seemed surprised; they trembled, blushed, turned pale & passed each other in a mutual silence.
CHAPTER THE 10th
CASSANDRA was next accosted by her freind the Widow, who squeezing out her little Head thro’ her less window, asked her how she did? Cassandra curtseyed & went on.
CHAPTER THE 11th
CHAPTER THE 12th
SHE entered it & was pressed to her Mother’s bosom by that worthy Woman. Cassandra smiled & whispered to herself “This is a day well spent.”
Illustrations by Jane Odiwe: A portrait of a young Jane Austen, A teacup, Jane Austen at her desk