A very short comic play, or rather a parody
of a comic play, by the young Jane Austen
, in the juvenilia
she preserved in her Volume the First
. This means she wrote it somewhere between the ages of 12 and 18.
It mocks the conventions of plays by having speakers confide secrets, and break off from confiding secrets, in such a short space that nothing at all is conveyed. There is a cast of stock comic actors, old and young, noble and simple, that don't have time to even begin to live their part. Jane Austen could do this and make it funny in a couple of pages.
The Mystery: An Unfinished Comedy
To the Revd George Austen
I humbly solicit your Patronage to the following Comedy, which tho' an unfinished one, is I flatter myself as complete a Mystery as any of its kind.
I am Sir your most Humle Servant
Sir Edward Spangle
Act the First
Scene the lst
Cory. But Hush! I am interrupted.
Enter Old Humbug and his Son, talking.
Old Hum. It is for that reason I wish you to follow my advice. Are you convinced of its propriety?
Young Hum. I am, Sir, and will certainly manner you have pointed out to me.
Old Hum. Then let us return to the House.
Scene the 2d
A Parlour in Humbug's House.
Mrs Humbug and Fanny, discovered at work.
Mrs Hum. You understand me, my Love?
Fanny. Perfectly ma'm. Pray continue your narration.
Mrs Hum. Alas! it is nearly concluded, for I have nothing more to say on the Subject.
Fanny. Ah! here's Daphne.
Daphne. My dear Mrs Humbug, how d'ye do? Oh! Fanny, t'is all over.
Fanny. It is indeed!
Mrs Hum. I'm very sorry to hear it.
Fanny. Then t'was to no purpose that I ....
Daphne. None upon Earth.
Mrs Hum. And what is to become of? .....
Daphne. Oh! that's all settled.
(whispers Mrs Humbug)
Fanny. And how is it determined?
Daphne. I'Il tell you.
Mrs Hum. And is he to? ...
Daphne. I'll tell you all I know of the matter.
(whispers Mrs Humbug and Fanny)
Fanny. Well! now I know everything about it, I'll go away.
Mrs Hum. and Daphne. And so will I.
Scene the 3d
The Curtain rises and discovers Sir Edward Spangle reclined in an elegant Attitude on a Sofa, fast asleep. Enter Colonel Elliott.
Colonel. My Daughter is not here I see ... there lies Sir Edward ... Shall I tell him the secret? ... No, he'll certainly blab it. ... But he is asleep and won't hear me.... So I'll e'en venture.
(Goes up to Sir Edward, whispers him, and Exit)
End of the 1st Act.