Lesley Castle was my introduction to the wonderful world of Hesperus Classics. Hesperus has republished a wide range of titles, from lesser known works by famous writers through to major works by neglected authors.
This is a beautifully presented book, containing three of Jane Austen’s short early works.
The first is a hilarious sequence of letters, with the correspondents less than mature young ladies. Margaret Lesley, frets about her appearance and social life and grumbles about her new stepmother, while Charlotte Lutterell is concerned with meals and the maintenance of the household and aggrieved that family events disrupt her routine.
The second is an ironic History of England, with little history but much opinion – pro York and Stuart and anti Lancaster and Tudor.
The third, entitled Catharine, comes closest to the themes and style of Jane Austen’s later work. Having lost her two best friends, Catharine has lost her two best friends, but hopes to find friendship with two visitors. Sadly they do not live up to her expectations.
All three pieces are readable, and there are glimpses of the writer that Jane Austen will become, but they read more like test runs than finished works. So this was great fun, but not unmissable.