At the age of 16, Jane Austen wrote a parody of Oliver Goldsmith's "History of England. "She entitled her work The History of England, but added "By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian... There will be very few Dates in this History.)" She never did like "perfection," preferring rather to employ her wit to provide some representative version of society.
Austen's "History of England "was not the first work that she had written. Three volumes are filled with her early "Juvenilia." The first volume (written between 1787 and 1790) includes: "Frederic and Elfrida: A Novel," "Jack and Alice: A Novel," "Edgar and Emma: A Tale," "Henry and Eliza: A Novel," "The Adventures of Mr. Harley," "Sir William Montague," "Memoirs of Mr. Clifford: An Unfinished Tale," "The Beautifull Cassandra," "Amelia Webster, The Visit: A Comedy in Two Acts, The Mystery: An Unfinished Comedy, The Three Sisters, Detached Pieces, "and "Ode to Pity."
Her second volume (written between 1790 and 1792) included "The History of England," along with "Love and Freindship," "Lesley Castle: An Unfinished Novel in Letters," "Collection of Letters," and "Scraps". Her third volume contained "Evelyn" and "Catharine".
So, from the age of 12 (in 1787) onward, she was busy perfecting her literary talents in one form or another. In the process of studying these early works, we see a side of Jane Austen that seems more veiled in her later, and more well-received novels: "Northanger Abbey" (1817), "Sense and Sensibility" (1811), "Mansfield Park" (1814), "Emma" (1815), and "Persuasion" (1817).
In "Northanger Abbey," Catherine Morland perhaps explains something of Austen's view of history: "But history, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in ... I read it as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me... and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention... and invention is what delights me in other books."
So, Austen invents her "History of England," with her own version of England's great leaders. As for the character in this book, of Henry the 4th, "It is supposed that Henry was married, since he had certainly four sons, but it is not in my power to inform the Reader who was his wife." During the reign of Henry the 6th, Austen writes, "It was in this reign that Joan of Arc lived and made such a row among the English.
Writing about Anne Bullen, Austen says, "It is however but Justice, & my Duty to declare that this amiable Woman was entirely innocent of the Crime with which she was accused, of which her Beauty, her Elegance, & her Sprightliness were sufficient proofs, not to mention her solemn protestations of Innocence, the weakness of the Charges against her, & the King's Character..."
Bits of Austen's personality seem to seep through the pages of the book, as you study the manuscript closely. She did not mean to excuse history, make excuses, or cover over any part... Instead, she (in her note on the text, Deirdre Le Faye says "gleefully") composes this work — "sketchy, illogical, and crazily confused, as befitted the work of a 'partial, prejudiced, and ignorant Historian'."