Claudia L. Johnson at The Paris Review:
When the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle was asked whether he read novels, he famously replied, without missing a beat, “Oh, yes—all six, every year.” And without missing a beat we get the joke, of course, not because we believe that Jane Austen’s novels throw all others into the shadows (though we do), and not because they bear annual rereading (though they do), but rather because we all know—or think we know—that she wrote six of them.
But Austen wrote more than six novels. Along with Love and Freindship and Lady Susan, which enjoy modest fame, Austen proudly subtitled several shorter works as “A Novel”—such as Jack and Alice: a Novel and Henry and Eliza: a Novel. But these, though enjoyed by a handful of avid enthusiasts, are mostly unknown to the general public. Written for the amusement of her family, these works belong to the collection of early writing referred to sometimes as the “juvenilia” or “minor works,” both terms being rather disparaging, and most recently as “Teenage Writings.” Variously described—by Austen herself—as novels, tales, odes, plays, fragments, memoirs, and scraps, the juvenilia consist of twenty-seven pieces written from 1787 to 1793, when Austen was between the ages of eleven and eighteen.