It's sometimes said that if Shakespeare were around today he'd be writing for EastEnders.
If the grown-up Jane Austen were around she'd probably still be crafting elegant but biting novels (Gay Pride and Racial Prejudice?); but if it were Austen in her teens, she'd be being hailed as a precocious comedy genius, up there with Milligan and Python.
In Juvenile Jane, Austen expert Janet Todd inspected her early work, written in her teens and later elegantly transcribed by her into exercise books. They're funny in a very modern way. In the epistolary Love and Freindship [sic], written when Austen was 14, the narrator, Laura, is on her travels. "I mounted my Horse and followed by my faithful William, set forwards for my Aunt's. My Father's house is situated in Bedfordshire, Aunt's in Middlesex, and tho' I flatter myself with being tolerable proficient in Geography, I know not how it happened, but I found myself entering this beautifull Vale which I find is in South Wales." Silly, but it works.
Fuelled by the untamed antic spirit that Austen later refined and channelled, they're thoroughly knowing and laced with irony. "Where did you pick up this unmeaning gibberish?" Laura's father asks her. "You have been studying novels, I suspect." They're an absolute delight, and you can find them all at pemberley.com.
If she'd been around about 20 years ago, Austen would probably have been on Spitting Image, whose co-creator Roger Law later emigrated to Australia. In I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Into Here! he spoke to a few other émigrés. Leo Sayer is bigger there than he ever was here. "Life is complete, constant reinvention," he told Law. "Well, your afro looks the same," Law replied. Sayer's nervous giggle suggested Law wasn't entirely serious.
Law set his interviewees the Ashes test: with the series commencing on Australian soil, who would they be rooting for? Sayer said not the Poms (his word, not mine). Warren Mitchell said he'd always support England against anybody and Australia against anybody except England. I imagine Mitchell was watching on TV when the series began on Thursday, though wherever he was in the world, a true Englishman would endeavour at all costs to tune in to Test Match Special – which was still a pleasure, even when the England captain was out third ball. If the BBC is a national treasure then TMS is one of its shiniest baubles.Reuse content