Jane Austen Biography & Facts
Jane Austen (; 16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism, humour, and social commentary, have long earned her acclaim among critics, scholars, and popular audiences alike.With the publication of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript, the short epistolary novel Lady Susan, and another unfinished novel, The Watsons. Her six full-length novels have rarely been out of print, although they were published anonymously and brought her moderate success and little fame during her lifetime.
A significant transition in her posthumous reputation occurred in 1833, when her novels were republished in Richard Bentley's Standard Novels series, illustrated by Ferdinand Pickering, and sold as a set. They gradually gained wider acclaim and popular readership. In 1869, fifty-two years after her death, her nephew's publication of A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced a compelling version of her writing career and supposedly uneventful life to an eager audience.
Austen has inspired many critical essays and literary anthologies. Her novels have inspired many films, from 1940's Pride and Prejudice to more recent productions like Sense and Sensibility (1995), Emma (1996), Mansfield Park (1999), Pride & Prejudice (2005), Love & Friendship (2016), and Emma. (2020). Her novels have also inspired many TV adaptations, most notably Pride & Prejudice (1995), starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.
There is little biographical information about Jane Austen's life except the few letters that survived and the biographical notes which her family members wrote. During her lifetime, Austen wrote perhaps 3,000 letters, but only 161 have survived. Many were written to her older sister Cassandra, who in 1843 burned the greater part of them and cut pieces out of those she kept. Ostensibly, Cassandra destroyed or censored her sister's letters to prevent their falling into the hands of relatives and ensuring that "younger nieces did not read any of Jane Austen's sometimes acid or forthright comments on neighbours or family members". Cassandra believed that in the interest of tact and Jane's penchant for forthrightness, these details should be destroyed. The meager written record of Austen's life leaves little for modern biographers to research.The situation was compounded as successive generations of the family expunged and sanitised the already opaque details of Austen's biography. The heirs of Jane's brother, Admiral Francis Austen, destroyed more letters; details were excised from the "Biographical Notice" that her brother wrote in 1818; and family details continued to be omitted or embellished in her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen, published in 1869, and in William and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh's biography Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, published in 1913. The legend created by her family reflects their biases in favour of "good quiet Aunt Jane", portraying a woman whose domestic situation was happy and whose family was the mainstay of her life. Austen scholar Jan Fergus explains that modern biographies tend to include details excised from the letters and family biographical materials, but that the challenge is to avoid the polarising view that Austen experienced periods of deep unhappiness and was "an embittered, disappointed woman trapped in a thoroughly unpleasant family".
Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, on 16 December 1775. She was born a month later than her parents expected; her father wrote of her arrival in a letter that her mother "certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago". He added that her arrival was particularly welcome as "a future companion to her sister". The winter of 1776-77 was particularly harsh and it was not until 5 April that she was baptised at the local church with the single name Jane.For much of Jane's life, her father, George Austen (1731–1805), served as the rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon and at nearby Deane. He came from an old, respected, and wealthy family of wool merchants. Over the centuries as each generation of eldest sons received inheritances, their wealth was divided, and George's branch of the family fell into poverty. He and his two sisters were orphaned as children and had to be taken in by relatives. His sister Philadelphia went to India to find a husband and George entered St John's College, Oxford on a fellowship, where he most likely met Cassandra Leigh (1739–1827). She came from the prominent Leigh family; her father was rector at All Souls College, Oxford, where she grew up among the gentry. Her eldest brother James inherited a fortune and large estate from his great-aunt Perrot, with the only condition that he change his name to Leigh-Perrot.George and Cassandra exchanged miniatures in 1763 and probably were engaged around that time. George received the living for the Steventon parish from the wealthy husband of his second cousin, Thomas Knight, who owned Steventon and its associated farms, one of which the Austen family rented to live in. Two months after Cassandra's father died, she and George were married on 26 April 1764 at St Swithin's Church in Bath, by licence, in a simple ceremony. They left for Hampshire the same day.Their income was modest, with George's small per annum living; Cassandra brought to the marriage the expectation of a small inheritance at the time of her mother's death. The Austens took up temporary residence at the nearby Deane rectory until Steventon, a 16th-century house in disrepair, underwent necessary renovations. Cassandra gave birth to three children while living at Deane: James in 1765, George in 1766, and Edward in 1767. Her custom was to keep an infant at home for several months and then place it with Elizabeth Littlewood, a woman living nearby to nurse and raise for twelve to eighteen months.
In 1768 the family took up residence in Steventon. Henry was the first child to be born there, in 1771. At about this time, Cassandra could no longer ignore the signs that little George was developmentally disabled. He was subject to seizures, may have been deaf and mute, and she chose to .... Discover the Jane Austen popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Jane Austen books.