Friday, February 22, 2008

Jane Austen


Jane Austen was an English novelist whose books, set amongst the English middle and upper classes, are notable for their wit, social observation and insights into the lives of early 19th century women.

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in the village of Steventon in Hampshire. She was one of eight children of a clergyman and grew up in a close-knit family. She began to write as a teenager. In 1801 the family moved to Bath. After the death of Jane's father in 1805 Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother moved several times eventually settling in Chawton, near Steventon.

Jane's brother Henry helped her negotiate with a publisher and her first novel, 'Sense and Sensibility', appeared in 1811. Her next novel 'Pride and Prejudice', which she described as her "own darling child" received highly favourable reviews. 'Mansfield Park' was published in 1814, then 'Emma' in 1816. 'Emma' was dedicated to the Prince Regent, an admirer of her work. All of Jane Austen's novels were published anonymously.

In 1816, Jane began to suffer from ill-health, probably due to Addison's disease. She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment, and died there on 18 July 1817. Two more novels, 'Persuasion' and 'Northanger Abbey' were published posthumously and a final novel was left incomplete.

/\/ \|":Biography:"|/ \/\

Jane Austen was born on 16 December, 1775, at the rectory in the village of Steventon, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire. The seventh of eight children of the Reverend George Austen and his wife, Cassandra, she was educated mainly at home and never lived apart from her family. She had a happy childhood amongst all her brothers and the other boys who lodged with the family and whom Mr Austen tutored. From her older sister, Cassandra, she was inseparable. To amuse themselves, the children wrote and performed plays and charades, and even as a little girl Jane was encouraged to write. The reading that she did of the books in her father's extensive library provided material for the short satirical sketches she wrote as a girl.

At the age of 14 she wrote her first novel, Love and Freindship (sic) and then A History of England by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant Historian, together with other very amusing juvenilia. In her early twenties Jane Austen wrote the novels that were later to be re-worked and published as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. She also began a novel called The Watsons which was never completed.

The first 25 years of her life Jane spent in Hampshire. On her father's unexpected retirement, the family sold off everything, including Jane's piano, and moved to Bath. Jane, aged twenty-five, and Cassandra, her elder sister, aged twenty-eight, were considered by contemporary standards confirmed old maid, and followed their parents. Torn from her friends and rural roots in Steventon, Austen abandoned her literary career for a decade.

As a young woman Jane enjoyed dancing (an activity which features frequently in her novels) and she attended balls in many of the great houses of the neighbourhood. She loved the country, enjoyed long country walks, and had many Hampshire friends. It therefore came as a considerable shock when her parents suddenly announced in 1801 that the family would be moving away to Bath. Mr Austen gave the Steventon living to his son James and retired to Bath with his wife and two daughters. The next four years were difficult ones for Jane Austen. She disliked the confines of a busy town and missed her Steventon life. After her father's death in 1805, his widow and daughters also suffered financial difficulties and were forced to rely on the charity of the Austen sons. It was also at this time that, while on holiday in the West country, Jane fell in love, and when the young man died, she was deeply upset. Later she accepted a proposal of marriage from Harris Bigg-Wither, a wealthy landowner and brother to some of her closest friends, but she changed her mind the next morning and was greatly upset by the whole episode.

After the death of Mr Austen, the Austen ladies moved to Southampton to share the home of Jane's naval brother Frank and his wife Mary. There were occasional visits to London, where Jane stayed with her favourite brother Henry, at that time a prosperous banker, and where she enjoyed visits to the theatre and art exhibitions. However, she wrote little in Bath and nothing at all in Southampton.

Then, in July, 1809, on her brother Edward offering his mother and sisters a permanent home on his Chawton estate, the Austen ladies moved back to their beloved Hampshire countryside. It was a small but comfortable house, with a pretty garden, and most importantly it provided the settled home which Jane Austen needed in order to write. In the seven and a half years that she lived in this house, she revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice and published them ( in 1811 and 1813) and then embarked on a period of intense productivity. Mansfield Park came out in 1814, followed by Emma in 1816 and she completed Persuasion (which was published together with Northanger Abbey in 1818, the year after her death). None of the books published in her life-time had her name on them — they were described as being written "By a Lady". In the winter of 1816 she started Sanditon, but illness prevented its completion.

Possibly suffering from Addington’s disease, Jane Austen died on 18 July, 1817. She lies buried in the north aisle of the nave in Winchester Cathedral in Winchester, England.

In the Memory of

Jane Austen

youngest daughter of the Late

Rev.d George Austen

formerly rector of Steventon in this County

She departed this Life on the 18th of July, 1817,

Aged 41, after a long illness supported with

the patience and the hopes of a Christian

''^^Quick Facts^^''

Dates: December 16, 1775 - July 18, 1817

Occupation: novelist, Romantic period.

Jane Austen's Family:

  • Father: George Austen, Anglican clergyman, died 1805
  • Mother: Cassandra Leigh
  • Siblings: Jane Austen was the seventh of eight children.
    • James, also a Church of England clergyman
    • George, institutionalized, disability uncertain (may have been mental retardation, may have been deaf)
    • Henry, banker then Anglican clergyman, served essentially as Jane's agent with her publishers
    • Francis and Charles, fought in the Napoleonic wars, became admirals
    • Edward, adopted by a wealthy cousin, Thomas Knight
    • older sister Cassandra who also never married

  • Aunt: Ann Cawley; Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra studied at her home 1782-3
  • Aunt: Jane Leigh Perrot, who hosted the family for a time after George Austen retired
  • Cousin: Eliza, Comtesse of Feuillide, whose husband was guillotined during the Reign of Terror in France, and who later married Henry

The family was associated with the Tories and maintained a sympathy for the Stuart succession rather than the Hanoverian.


  • Early education at home, as was usual for girls of the time; her brothers were educated at Oxford
  • widely read; her father had a large library of books including novels
  • 1782-1783 - Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra studied at home of their aunt, Ann Cawley
  • 1784-1786 - boarding school in Reading, with her sister Cassandra

Novels Published:

  • Northanger Abbey - sold 1803, not published until 1819
  • Sense and Sensibility - published 1811 but Austen had to pay the printing costs
  • Pride and Prejudice - 1812
  • Mansfield Park - 1814
  • Emma - 1815
  • Persuasion - 1819


I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.

To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.

Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.

Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.

A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.

Everybody likes to go their own way--to choose their own time and manner of devotion.

I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of.

I pay very little what any young person says on the subject of marriage. If they profess a disinclination for it, I only set it down that they have not yet seen the right person.

If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.

It will, I believe, be everywhere found, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of the nation.

Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves.

Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.

One cannot fix one's eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy.

The enthusiasm of a woman's love is even beyond the biographer's.

There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.

Where any one body of educated men, of whatever denomination, are condemned indiscriminately, there must be a deficiency of information, or...of something else.

But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.

Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.

In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with _______



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