Most Janeites know Jane Austen’s biting wit of old. It is certainly present in all of her novels. But if you love Jane Austen and have not read “The History of England,” you are missing one of the most exuberant displays of that wit. This little book, written by a young Jane and dedicated to her sister Cassandra, pokes fun at historians, historical figures, and unreasonable prejudices. The edition I read included both a facsimile copy of the manuscript, complete with Cassandra’s pictures, and the text typed out (since the handwriting is a bit hard to read sometimes).
The “historian” is an ardent advocate for the Stuart family and anyone who is a Stuart or helped a Stuart is entirely innocent of any wrong they might have been accused of. Anyone hurt or opposed a Stuart is instantly vilified. Poor Elizabeth I, who executed Mary, Queen of Scots, has no chance at all. She is “that disgrace to humanity, that pest of society, Elizabeth….the destroyer of all comfort, the deceitful Betrayer of trust reposed in her, & the Murderess of her Cousin.”
A reasonable knowledge of English history from the reigns of Edward IV to Charles I is helpful when reading this, but the main part of the history, from Henry VIII to Elizabeth (that pest of society) should be accessible to everyone. Highly recommended for all ages.