"Thrills and Other Benefits" of the Juvenilia Press

Reflections of a former Student and former Editorial Advisory Board Member

Student editor Bonnie Heron
Student editor Bonnie Heron signing copies of
George Eliot's Edward Neville, Vancouver, Canada

I must say it is thrilling to be attached to a project that continues to appeal to students and scholars. Not long ago I received an e-mail telling me that I will be sent a copy of our revised Juvenilia Press edition of Edward Neville. The note begins: "Hello, editing team"! When I got involved as a student editor to produce that Juvenilia Press edition, in 1995, I had no idea that I was earning a lifetime membership on the editing team. Since then, two new editions of George Eliot's story, Edward Neville, rolled off the Juvenilia presses, in 2009: a revision of the edition I worked on as a graduate student in 1995 and a Japanese translation with adapted annotation.

Juvenilia Press and the Jane Austen Society

The Juvenilia Press was already on my mind last week. I gave a presentation to the members of the Victoria, BC, Canada chapter of the Jane Austen Society (JASNA), about my experience with the Press. I was happy to share my own small library of 39 volumes of the Juvenilia Press, including eleven Jane Austen titles. After relating general information about the history of the Press, I discussed the thrills and other benefits of my journey from a student editor to the Editorial Advisory Board of the Juvenilia Press.

George Eliot's Edward Neville

My discussion of Edward Neville focused on the benefits of scholarship training for everyone in our class. We considered these questions:

  • what would a modern reader want to know before reading the story?
  • what should go into an introduction? 

We also decided what to annotate, and we learned valuable research skills as we searched for definitions and derivations of unfamiliar words. These benefits are to be expected from a rigorous, scholarly project.

However, we received an unexpected benefit too. The generous leadership of Dr. McMaster fostered a sense of camaraderie that developed as we worked toward completing "our" book. The ever-present competition for marks that is so much a part of graduate school was suspended within the scope of this project: we all had the same goal, we all "owned" the text and considered it our job to make it the best copy text, the best annotated work and the best introduced story we could share with the world, on behalf of the young George Eliot.

The thrills of our Edward Neville experience followed. We were invited to our own book signing, complete with a photographer and a cake! We were reminded then, that we were all being published, that our names were in the book. Somehow, that crucial goal of every graduate student had slipped into the background, while we edited. We were living in the moment, never imagining that this experience would be relived and shared many years later, that "our" book and the experience would take on lives of their own.

Jane Austen's Catharine, or The Bower

Jane Austen's Catharine or The Bower is the second Juvenilia Press volume on which I worked as a student editor, in another of Juliet McMaster's classes of 1996. During this experience I was able to refine my editing skills, particularly annotation research. And, as happened with my earlier experience, the learning went on, long after we finished editing our volume of this story. A year later, the editing team received a note from Dr. McMaster about one of our annotations. A colleague of hers had found the source of an expression that was used by a character in Austen's juvenile story. Now, we weren't simply "used to be editors" people, we were up-to-date scholars, constantly improving our knowledge of our subject.

My Juvenilia experience with Jane Austen's Catharine, or The Bower also included thrills. First, I won't pretend that we were complacent when we discovered that Jane Austen wasn't born with perfect spelling as an inherent trait. We were thrilled. We found misspelled words such as "toothake." The logic goes that if THE Jane Austen makes spelling mistakes, there must be hope for us too.

I made a second exciting discovery while I was working on Catharine as a student editor; I uncovered an interesting plot device that Austen practiced as a young girl and perfected as a mature novelist. This realization led to my writing a paper that I delivered later that year at a conference on juvenilia, in England. Such discoveries are more likely for students who get involved in a Juvenilia project and you can imagine how rewarding this particular benefit was for me.

Finally, my involvement with the Juvenilia Press resulted in my appointment to the Editorial Advisory Board as a graduate student member, a privilege that continued after graduation. I had the opportunity to learn about the organization and operation of the Press and to participate in discussions and decisions that would promote the continuation of this very worthwhile endeavour. I am not sure whether you would call this a thrill or a benefit, but, believe me, either word will do.

Bonnie L. Herron, Ph.D.
Victoria, BC Canada 

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