A Word from the Founding Editor

Juliet McMaster, University Professor Emeritus of English, University of Alberta

Juliet McMaster and Christine Alexander
Past and Present Editors of the Juvenilia Press.
Juliet & Christine at the JASNA Conference 2005

"Youth's a season made for joy," runs the lyric. And we all like to attach ourselves to youth, whether or not we still have it ourselves. The Juvenilia Press publishes the youthful works of known writers, so all our authors are by definition young: in fact they must be under 20 to qualify. And a second principle is that every volume we publish must involve students in the editing process, whether in writing a critical introduction, editing the text, annotating, illustrating, or all of the above.

Individual volumes may call for extra items, too: devising a map for the erratic wanderings of the personnel in Jane Austen's Love and Freindship, writing a historical afterword for George Eliot's historical fiction Edward Neville, set in the English Civil War, providing a supplement on Biblical references for Charlotte Brontë's My Angria and the Angrians, or a "What next?" speculation for Austen's unfinished novel Catharine, or the Bower; plus family trees and bibliographical explorations of previous editions.

Our texts are usually slim, and our editorial paraphernalia jubilantly generous. Students work alongside experienced scholars - often as part of a course - so that both can benefit, and all can participate in the satisfying consummation of a book published, an early work of an embryo genius duly highlighted and given to the world in a tenderly loving scholarly format.

A large proportion of the Press's volumes have been produced at my own University of Alberta, but prominent scholars from elsewhere have joined in with zest: Christine Alexander on the Brontë's, Jan Fergus, Peter Sabor, Joseph Wiesenfarth and myself on Jane Austen, Sherrill Grace on Atwood and Lowry: so Australia, the U.S. and Canada are all already in on the act.

The Juvenilia Press had its own beginnings as a classroom enterprise in which students produced a saddle-stitched pamphlet edition of Austen's wonderfully funny Jack and Alice, written at about thirteen. Since then our standards of production and scholarship have got higher, but we try to preserve the original impulse of an enjoyable team enterprise. (For the early history of the Press, see my article, "Apprentice Author, Apprentice Scholar," in English Studies in Canada, 22:1 [March 1996]).

What triggered the metamorphosis from classroom exercise to publishing venture was the offer from Isobel Grundy (author of the new biography of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu published by Oxford University Press) to edit a little romance that Lady Mary had written at fourteen, in 1704-5, hitherto unpublished. She had liked our "little book" format and the potential for illustration and attentive annotation. With this offer from a major scholar of an unpublished childhood work by a major author, I thought we'd made the big time. We got ourselves a Board of Editors, and the Juvenilia Press was born. Since then, Isobel Grundy and her students have edited another early work by precocious young Lady Mary, The Adventurer. Student involvement continues to be an essential constituent of the enterprise.

Now we have 24 volumes out, and counting. Besides Austen, a veritable pillar of the Press, our authors include George Eliot, Branwell and Charlotte Brontë, Louisa May Alcott, Opal Whiteley, Malcolm Lowry, Margaret Laurence, and - yes, an author very much alive and kicking - Margaret Atwood, who generously donated two early stories and a poem. Volumes at various stages in the pipeline are by Anna Maria Porter, Marian Engel, Katharine Mansfield, Philip Larkin, and more Brontë's.

Our books are receiving attentive reviews in good places. (For instance, see Peter Sabor's review of our Austen volumes in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 10:2 [January 1998]). Some are used as teaching texts in courses, so that our student editors' work goes forward to inform other students. The pedagogic value of the Juvenilia Press enterprise is twofold: in providing a particular angle on an author's development, it is a valid literary and critical exercise; and it gives students hands-on experience in aspects of the scholarly profession such as annotation and textual editing which they seldom receive in the conventional classroom.

Because our operation is small, there is a chance for students to involve themselves in design and book production too. Although each volume is necessarily apt to appeal most to those interested in that particular author, the volumes as a group throw considerable light on childhood writings in general, an under-studied literary category that surely cries out for critical attention.

Those interested in editing a volume, and with a viable text in mind, should write to Christine Alexander, at c.alexander@unsw.edu.au, describing the text, making a case for this work and this author, explaining student involvement, and if possible offering ideas for marketing. Because we're a small non-profit enterprise, we have to have reason to believe we can sell our volumes, so that authors with fans and associated societies with newsletters are particularly welcome.

In 2002 the prominent Brontë scholar and editor, Christine Alexander of the University of New South Wales, succeeded me as General Editor. Meanwhile the two of us have co-edited a volume of essays for Cambridge University Press' nineteenth-century series, called The Child Writer from Austen to Woolf. This collection, we hope, will bring further attention to this fascinating category of literature.

This is a little press, its authors are young by definition, and many of its editors are young too, and on the threshold of a literary career. This is a place where we pay close attention to those budding geniuses who are still trailing their clouds of glory.

Juliet McMaster, University Professor Emeritus of English
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB, CANADA T6G 2E5
jmcmaste@ualberta.ca

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