An enjoyable collection of Jane Austen's short stories, prayers, and poems.
Jane Austen's minor works include short stories written when she was in her early teens or before, a comical sketch of the History of England, unfinished novels (The Watsons and Sanditon), a finished novella (Lady Susan), and collections of prayers, verses, and opinions of her novels Mansfield Park and Emma. Her small, early works are all of the same flavor: over-the-top love stories that combine almost all cliched plot lines imaginable, with a very tongue-in-cheek feel.
Her unfinished novel "Catherine" (or "The Bower") has for its heroine the lively but circumspect heiress Catherine, known as Kitty, whose good sense begins to leave her when she meets the handsome Mr. Stanley. "Lady Susan" is written as a series of letters, either written by or talking about the unscrupulous and dangerous (but pretty) Lady Susan, who preys on others to get what she wants.
"The Watsons" focuses on the Watson girls, specifically Emma, a younger sister who has just returned home from living for many years with her aunt and who now finds herself brought to the attention of the noble family nearby. It is unfinished, but has a summary at the end of how Austen expected to complete it. "Sanditon" starts out with a man and wife traveling from the village of Sanditon by the sea in search of a doctor. Mr. and Mrs. Parker do not get the doctor, but bring back the heroine, Charlotte, who is soon acquainted with their neighbor Lady Denham, her niece and nephew Miss Denham and Sir Edward, Mr. Parker's two sisters and "invalid" brother, and his other brother Sidney.
Morality is not much addressed in the Juvenilia (Austen's earlier works). Some of the characters have no common sense, or, seemingly, a concept of right and wrong, but these stories are portrayed as silly and seem to be making fun of romances in general. In the stories made up of letters, there is some backstabbing and spitefulness (such as in her work "Lesley Castle").
The character of Lady Susan is appalling and she obviously has no morals (threatening her daughter and flirting with married and unmarried men), but the heroine of the story is her sister-in-law, who has high morals and who confounds the plans of Lady Susan.
There are silly, ungrounded characters in "Catherine," "The Watsons," and "Sanditon," but the heroines of all are usually quite good. Catherine has her moments when good sense abandons her, and she also dislikes her guardian (who is, admittedly, very trying).
Parishes and churches are mentioned here and there, but not often. Mary I's persecution of the Protestants and Elizabeth I's execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was Roman Catholic, are both mentioned in Austen's History of England. Her prayers are deep and expressive, and though it is impossible to know if she meant them, they at least seem heartfelt and sincere.
In "Love and Friendship," one of the Juvenilia and probably the most uproariously unbelievable, two men die after their carriage crashes; then a woman dies from shock. A carriage overturns in "Sanditon" and Mr. Parker's ankle is sprained.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Wine is used, but not to excess.
All except the History of England are romances. In "The Visit," one of the Juvenilia, characters sit on top of each other for lack of enough chairs at the dinner table. Tom Musgrave in "The Watsons" is clearly a good-for-nothing fellow, but only Emma seems to realize it. Mr. Stanley in "Catherine," also, is not a respectable young man, and he likes to make young women believe he is in love with them. In "Lady Susan," Lady Susan flirts with several men at once, one of whom is a married man who pines for her and who at last separates from his wife (these actions being clearly understood to be wrong).
Crude or Profane Language or Content
"Lord!" is used as an exclamation throughout several of these works. Catherine in "Catherine" exclaims "Gracious heaven!" Once or twice, "d---" is used by an unscrupulous man to show his carelessness.
This collection of works is, of course, not equal to Austen's finished classics, but they provide an interesting look at her early stories and her developing style. Also, her unfinished novels - especially "The Watsons" and "Catherine" - are very good, though frustrating because of their being uncompleted. Also interesting are the opinions she collected of her two novels, "Emma" and "Mansfield Park," which range from overjoyed to disgusted. They are all enjoyable reads after her finished novels, but I would not advise reading them before, as they cannot give an accurate representation of her finished style.