Jane Austen's Education (part 4)

Jane’s first trip to London was to stay with Eliza where she discovered the London maxim that ‘everything is to be got with money’ as we hear from Mary Crawford many years later.  Afterwards she wrote the story of ‘The Beautiful Cassandra’ and her adventures in London.  She was still only 12 years old.  Two years later Jane wrote ‘Love and Friendship’, a story of a rich widow marrying a younger man.  The story was a warning for Eliza to leave Henry alone. It had an effect.  A rupture between Henry and Eliza, and also Jane and Eliza, followed.  The other teenage writings followed over the next few years, all demonstrating her economy with words, the inclusion of family names and allusions to family events and jokes.

Countess Eliza De Feullide

Countess Eliza De Feullide

As well as writing, this extremely self-motivated teenager learned to play the piano, the only one in her family to do so.  It’s known that the Austen’s didn’t have a piano until they rented one for Eliza’s visit when Jane was 11.  It seems that the piano was kept on from this time.  Jane had lessons from a visiting master until she was 20.  Her teacher, George William Chard, assistant organist at Winchester Cathedral, eventually became Master of Music at Winchester College.  He had to travel fourteen miles for Jane’s lessons, paid for by Mr Austen.

Jane liked to play the piano early in the morning for about an hour and a half before breakfast throughout her life, with a high degree of competence.  She had her own collection of more than 50 pieces of music that are still available today.  After her time playing she would make breakfast for the family.

By now James and Henry were at Oxford University where they and their friends produced 60 issues of a periodical called ‘The Loiterer’ about the politics, fashion, marriage, boxing, alcohol and other topics of the day.  Due to the style of both articles, some writers suspect that the 14 year old Jane wrote the entry of 28 March 1789 attributed to ‘Sophia Sentiment’ and the letter of 21 November 1790 by ‘Margaret Mitton’.  As a teenager, Jane would have relished becoming part of her witty brothers’ first efforts at publication.  She knew no woman could attend university, but could have been impudently finding her own way to be present at Oxford!