And all the time in the dressing-room with its common-looking carpet, Jane’s piano, and the oval glass between the windows, [Jane] was hard at work on First Impressions, with Cassandra once more as critic and confidante. Their niece Anna, James’s daughter, who lived with them until her father’s remarriage, remembered later in life that she heard her two aunts reading the book aloud, with gales of laughter, and had threatened to betray the well-kept secret by picking up the names of the characters and repeating them downstairs.*
When Jane revealed First Impressions, the forerunner of Pride and Prejudice, to the Austen family, they greeted it with enthusiasm, reading it often alone and to each other. A proud papa tried to get his daughter’s three-volume novel published, but nothing came of that first effort, much to our benefit. Had First Impressions been accepted for publication at that time, we would not be reading the edited masterpiece that she eventually wrote. For another glimpse of Jane Austen at work, click here.
*Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen, Jane Aiken Hodge, NY, 1972, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc, Publishers,p. 49