06 March 2014

'I cannot say much for this monarch’s sense'

Henry VI
I cannot say much for this monarch’s sense. Nor would I if I could, for he was a Lancastrian. I suppose you know all about the wars between him and the duke of York, who was of the right side; if you do not, you had better read some other history, for I shall not be very diffuse in this, meaning by it only to vent my spleen against, and show my hatred to, all those people whose parties or principles do not suit with mine, and not to give information. This king married Margaret of Anjou, a woman whose distresses and misfortunes were so great as almost to make me, who hates her, pity her. It was in this reign that Joan of Arc lived and made such a row among the English. They should not have burned her—but they did. There were several battles between the Yorkists and Lancastrians, in which the former (as they ought) usually conquered. At length they were entirely overcome; the king was murdered—the queen was sent home—and Edward IV ascended the throne.

- Jane Austen (aged 15), 'The History of England from the Reign of Henry IV to the Death of Charles I', 1791, quoted in Lapham's Quarterly.

The Lapham article states that the young Hampshire-residing Miss Austen was engaged in the act of parody, lampooning the style of the Irish writer and poet Oliver Goldsmith's history of England. Goldsmith, who died in 1774 and is perhaps most famous for penning The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) and She Stoops To Conquer (1771), and for being a friend of Dr Johnson, is only mentioned in the Times twice in 1791. Both mentions are for the same advertisement: a new edition of his work -

This Day is published,
With the Portrait of the Author, finely engraved,
Handsomely printed in Two Volumes, Crown 8vo, price 6s.
in boards, 
A New Edition. 
With an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author.
London: Printed for Rivington and Sons, F. Power and Co. and E. Newbery, St Paul's Churchyard; T. Cadell, St and W. Lowndes and J. Murray, in Fleet-street; and Debrett, Piccadilly. 
- The Times, 15 August 1791, p.2
Note: '8vo' = Octavo - producing leaves of a book by printing 16 pages on a single sheet and folding three times. The M.B. refers to Goldsmith's three years studying medicine at Edinburgh, but his formal qualification was a B.A. from Trinity.

See also:
History: 'The Club' (Founded by Johnson & Reynolds, et al., 1764)
History: 'The Other Club' (Founded by Churchill, 1911)
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