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Two Histories of England [NOOK Book]

Overview

In these two forgotten gems of English literature, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens offer delightful, irreverent histories of their native land.

When she was only sixteen years old, Jane Austen composed her bitingly satirical History of England for performance in her family's drawingroom. A startling and precocious example of her celebrated wit—not to mention a brilliant social commentary—this lively piece sweeps rapidly across almost four centuries of British monarchy. In ...

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Two Histories of England

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Overview

In these two forgotten gems of English literature, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens offer delightful, irreverent histories of their native land.

When she was only sixteen years old, Jane Austen composed her bitingly satirical History of England for performance in her family's drawingroom. A startling and precocious example of her celebrated wit—not to mention a brilliant social commentary—this lively piece sweeps rapidly across almost four centuries of British monarchy. In rambunctious and wickedly funny prose, Austen's critique spans from Henry IV to Charles I, from Richard III to Mary Queen of Scots, offering a fierce parody of the kind of biased history that young ladies of Austen's time were being forced to study. Reproduced here in its entirety, this is a rare, tantalizing look at the great novelist's budding talent, and an extraordinary bit of literary history that lay unpublished for more than 130 years.

Charles Dickens's A Child's History of England, by contrast, was written and published at the height of its author's considerable fame. A gory and dramatic account, full of villains and heroes, the essay was originally intended as a study-piece for his children, but in fact represented a sly, unconventional countertext to the more straitlaced historical canon. Dickens's exciting, flamboyant narrative is hugely evocative, both of the history he describes and of the time in which he himself was writing.

With an insightful introduction by bestselling historian David Starkey, Two Histories of England brings together, in a single, irresistible volume, these remarkable—and remarkably overlooked—literary treasures by two of the world's most beloved writers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Unbeknownst to most readers today, Austen and Dickens each wrote a satiric history of England. Austen's The History of England from the Reign of Henry the 4th to the Death of Charles the 1st-written in 1791 when she was 16-is a deliberate parody of the intellectually vapid histories to which girls of her class were routinely subjected. Reprinted in its entirety, Austen's juvenilia is witty, cold-blooded and contrarian: during Henry V's reign, she writes, "Lord Cobham was burnt alive, but I forget what for," and the history's purpose is supposedly to vindicate Mary Queen of Scots and "abuse" Elizabeth. Dickens was already a bestselling novelist when he published A Child's History of Englandin the early 1850s, which was part of the British school curriculum for decades; an excerpt appears here. Using plain language, sharp if heavy irony and evocative detail, Dickens is radical and opinionated: Elizabeth is "coarse, capricious, and treacherous" and James I is a greedy, dirty drunk. Although a knowledgeable introduction by historian and TV presenter Starkey (Elizabeth) offers interesting biographical tidbits and puts each book in its proper context, American readers will find these to be amusing minor works by a pair of English national treasures. (Oct. 2)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Barnes & Noble Review
Henry the 4th ascended the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, after having prevailed upon his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2nd to resign it to him, & to retire for the rest of his life to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered. That sentence opens Jane Austen's youthful send-up of high-minded history. She was just 16 when she wrote it, but her trademark wit and impatience with lazy romanticism are already prominent in this brief, sometimes hilarious parody. Her dunce of a narrator performs feats of sublime illogic, as in this time-tangled summary of a duke's execution: "He was beheaded, of which he might with reason have been proud, had he known that such was the death of Mary Queen of Scotland; but as it was impossible that he should be conscious of what had never happened, it does not appear that he felt particularly delighted with the manner of it." If Austen's private parody highlights her genteel sarcasm, Charles Dickens's long-popular A Child's History of England is an equally potent distillation of the author's writerly character. Sentimental, moralizing, and careless with facts, A Child's History (offered here in abridged form) is also a display of Dickens's unequaled mastery of telling detail: the little dog that faithfully lay down beside the decapitated Mary, Queen of Scots; "His Sowship," James I, fecklessly knighting supporters on his way to his English coronation; and the doomed Charles I, "who had always been a quick walker," on his tragic route to the block. Both writers make the most of the many executions, finding pathos and sardonic humor in what winds up as a bloody history indeed. --Bill Tipper
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061871528
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 520,085
  • File size: 335 KB

Meet the Author

Born in 1775, Jane Austen published four of her six novels anonymously. Her work was not widely read until the late nineteenth century, and her fame grew from then on. Known for her wit and sharp insight into social conventions, her novels about love, relationships, and society are more popular year after year. She has earned a place in history as one of the most cherished writers of English literature.


Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was one of England's greatest writers. Best known for his classic serialized novels, such as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, Dickens wrote about the London he lived in, the conditions of the poor, and the growing tensions between the classes. He achieved critical and popular international success in his lifetime and was honored with burial in Westminster Abbey.

Biography

In 1801, George Austen retired from the clergy, and Jane, Cassandra, and their parents took up residence in Bath, a fashionable town Jane liked far less than her native village. Jane seems to have written little during this period. When Mr. Austen died in 1805, the three women, Mrs. Austen and her daughters, moved first to Southampton and then, partly subsidized by Jane's brothers, occupied a house in Chawton, a village not unlike Jane's first home. There she began to work on writing and pursued publishing once more, leading to the anonymous publication of Sense and Sensibility in 1811 and Pride and Prejudice in 1813, to modestly good reviews.

Known for her cheerful, modest, and witty character, Jane Austen had a busy family and social life, but as far as we know very little direct romantic experience. There were early flirtations, a quickly retracted agreement to marry the wealthy brother of a friend, and a rumored short-lived attachment -- while she was traveling -- that has not been verified. Her last years were quiet and devoted to family, friends, and writing her final novels. In 1817 she had to interrupt work on her last and unfinished novel, Sanditon, because she fell ill. She died on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, where she had been taken for medical treatment. After her death, her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published, together with a biographical notice, due to the efforts of her brother Henry. Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Author biography courtesy of Barnes & Noble Books.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      December 16, 1775
    2. Place of Birth:
      Village of Steventon in Hampshire, England
    1. Date of Death:
      July 18, 1817
    2. Place of Death:
      Winchester, Hampshire, England
    1. Education:
      Taught at home by her father

Read an Excerpt

Two Histories of England
By Jane Austen and Charles Dickens

Chapter One

Henry the 4th

Henry the 4th ascended the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, after having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2d to resign it to him, & to retire for the rest of his Life to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered. It is to be supposed that Henry was married, since he had certainly four sons, but it is not in my power to inform the Reader who was his wife. Be this as it may, he did not live for ever, but falling ill, his son the Prince of Wales came and took away the crown; whereupon, the King made a long speech, for which I must refer the Reader to Shakespear's Plays, & the Prince made a still longer. Things being thus settled between them the King died, & was succeeded by his son Henry who had previously beat Sir William Gascoigne.

Henry the 5th

This Prince after he succeeded to the throne grew quite reformed & amiable, forsaking all his dissipated Companions, & never thrashing Sir William again. During his reign, Lord Cobham was burnt alive, but I forget what for. His Majesty then turned his thoughts to France, where he went & fought the famous Battle of Agincourt. He afterwards married the King's daughter Catherine, a very agreable Woman by Shakespear's account. Inspite of all this however he died, and was succeeded by his son Henry.

Henry the 6th

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 & the Duke of York who was of the right side; if you do not, youhad better read some other History, for I shall not be very diffuse in this, meaning by it only to vent my Spleen against, & shew my Hatred to all those people whose parties or principles do not suit with mine, & not to give information. This King married Margaret of Anjou, a woman whose distresses & Misfortunes were so great as almost to make me who hate her, pity her. It was in this reign that Joan of Arc lived & made such a row among the English. They should not have burnt her—but they did. There were several Battles between the Yorkists & 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—& Edward the 4th ascended the Throne.

Edward the 4th

This Monarch was famous only for his Beauty & his Courage, of which the Picture we have here given of him, & his undaunted Behaviour in marrying one Woman while he was engaged to another, are sufficient proofs. His Wife was Elizabeth Woodville, a Widow who, poor woman! was afterwards confined in a Convent by that Monster of Iniquity & Avarice Henry the 7th. One of Edward's Mistresses was Jane Shore, who has had a play written about her, but it is a tragedy & therefore not worth reading. Having performed all these noble actions, his Majesty died, & was succeeded by his son.

Edward the 5th

This unfortunate Prince lived so little a while that nobody had time to draw his picture. He was murdered by his Uncle's Contrivance, whose name was Richard the 3d.

Richard the 3d

The Character of this Prince has been in general very severely treated by Historians, but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a very respectable Man. It has indeed been confidently asserted that he killed his two Nephews & his Wife, but it has also been declared that he did not kill his two Nephews, which I am inclined to beleive true; & if this is the case, it may also be affirmed that he did not kill his Wife, for if Perkin Warbeck was really the Duke of York, why might not Lambert Simnel be the Widow of Richard. Whether innocent or guilty, he did not reign long in peace, for Henry Tudor Earl of Richmond as great a Villain as ever lived, made a great fuss about getting the Crown & having killed the King at the battle of Bosworth, he succeeded to it.

Henry the 7th

This Monarch soon after his accession married the Princess Elizabeth of York, by which alliance he plainly proved that he thought his own right inferior to hers, tho' he pretended to the contrary. By this marriage he had two sons & two daughters, the elder of which Daughters was married to the King of Scotland & had the happiness of being grandmother to one of the first Characters in the World. But of her, I shall have occasion to speak more at large in future. The Youngest, Mary, married first the King of France & secondly the Duke of Suffolk, by whom she had one daughter, afterwards the Mother of Lady Jane Gray, who tho' inferior to her lovely Cousin the Queen of Scots, was yet an amiable young woman & famous for reading Greek while other people were hunting. It was in the reign of Henry the 7th that Perkin Warbeck & Lambert Simnel before mentioned made their appearance, the former of whom was set in the Stocks, took shelter in Beaulieu Abbey, & was beheaded with the Earl of Warwick, & the latter was taken into the Kings kitchen. His Majesty died & was succeeded by his son Henry whose only merit was his not being quite so bad as his daughter Elizabeth.

Henry the 8th

It would be an affront to my Readers were I to suppose that they were not as well acquainted with the particulars of this King's reign as I am myself. It will therefore be saving them the task of reading again what they have read before, & myself the trouble of writing what I . . .

Two Histories of England
By Jane Austen and Charles Dickens
. Copyright © by Jane Austen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    A Must Read for Jane fans!!

    This was so fabulous and funny and such a neat way to look at history as it was thought of by Austen and Dickens. In making the movie version of "Mansfield Park" with Frances O'Connor they used a lot of Jane's history, word for word. I have an MA in History and English, and this book was FABULOUS! Totally worth it!

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    Posted September 7, 2010

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    Posted April 15, 2009

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    Posted December 11, 2009

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