Clutching My Pearls is my ongoing blog series about my take on Jane Austen’s beliefs and ideas, as based on her novels. I’ve also been blogging about now-obscure authors of the long 18th century. For more, click "Authoresses" on the menu at right. Click here for the first in the series.
I previously wrote about Elizabeth Helme in this blog post. She was a hard-working author who enjoyed considerable popular success although she died in illness and poverty.
I would not say that Helme was an "influence" on Austen in the sense that Austen emulated her. I would not compare Helme to Samuel Johnson, Cowper, or Fanny Burney--all writers whom Austen particularly admired. However, I think the evidence is clear that Austen read Helme's novels and made use of some of her dialogue, characters, and plot contrivances.
In this case, the novel I'm speaking of is called Albert, or, The Wilds of Strathnavern. It contains a character named Colonel O'Bryen, who I argue is the prototype of Admiral Croft.
Albert also makes use of private theatricals for plot purposes. Some Austen scholars have pointed to other contemporary novels which mention private theatricals as the possible source for Austen's use of Lover's Vows in Mansfield Park, but in Albert, the private theatricals are--as with Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford--used for the purposes of seduction....