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The Oxford-based weekly periodical, The Loiterer, which appeared from January 31, 1789 to March 20, 1790, was the creation of both James Austen and his younger brother, Henry. Although the work of both men would be obscured by the achievements of their sister, Jane, their own writing deserves attention. The Loiterer represents an important stage in the history and development of the periodical essay as an English literary mode or genre.


“ ... The Loiterer is here published under the expert editorship of Dr. Robert Mack, who can identify classical quotations with as much ease as he does fashions and carriages. His probing commentary on the character of James is unsentimentally moving. We can have some sympathy with this optimistic and witty youth, and see how he became the cross and bossy man who was not quite Jane’s favourite brother in their later life. Dr. Robert Mack’s sharp annotative eye catches fashions, carriages, and classical illusions; he is thoroughly conversant with English literature, including all the works of the member of the Austen family best known to posterity.” – Professor Margaret Anne Doody, University of Notre Dame

“ ... Mack shows in his informative introduction, there are many suggestive links between essays in The Loiterer and Jane Austen’s own writings. But The Loiterer is also of great interest in itself, representing a new, more sophisticated and combative breed of magazine beginning to flourish in the late eighteenth century. Today’s reader will find much fascinating material here.” – Professor Peter Sabor, McGill University

“Dr. Robert Mack’s masterful edition of The Loiterer is necessary reading for everyone who aspires to understand the writerly world in which the young Jane Austen took root, for in this periodical, edited and largely written by Austen’s brothers James and Henry, the literary cultures of family, university, and nation come together.” – Professor Claudia L. Johnson, Princeton University

“Now, thanks to The Edwin Mellen Press, The Loiterer has been at last published in a modern edition, edited by the scholar Robert L. Mack, who provides a long and informative introduction and indispensable notes. Even readers with the most casual interest in seeing just what two of Jane Austen’s brothers were thinking about and writing and what subjects Jane Austen might have heard discussed at home have reason to be grateful to the publisher and editor for making The Loiterer available. ... The publisher is to be commended for making The Loiterer at last generally available, and the editor, Robert Mack, saluted for all his hard work in making the meanings of the pieces more accessible to us. The Loiterer is of no slight importance in shedding light on some of the forces that challenged Jane Austen and shaped her own genius.” - Professor Jon Spence, Sensibilities

Table of Contents

Note on the Text
Explanatory Notes

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