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Jane Austen’s “Evelyn” is a remarkably precocious tale that repays philosophical scrutiny. The protagonist’s absurd adventures reveal paradoxes about giving that Jacques Derrida would formulate much later. Austen’s project of imagining a true gift justifies the tale’s lack of closure and realism. Yet the gift is not just one theme among others: since giving is intrinsic to literary language and its production, the tale’s concern with giving reflects the challenges faced by Austen as a writer. “Evelyn” provides an oblique commentary on the political, economic, and even ecological interests of the late eighteenth century.