Jane Austen


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Jane Austen (1775-1817), English author wrote numerous influential works contributing to the Western literary canon including Pride and Prejudice (1813) which starts;

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.” —Chapter 1

Austen had rejected suitor Harris Bigg Wither at the last minute and never ended up marrying, but still she expresses a keen grasp of the traditional female role and the ensuing hopes and heartbreaks with her memorable protagonists including Emma Woodhouse, Fanny Price, Catherine Morland, Anne Elliot, and Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. Writing in the romantic vein, Austen was also a realist and has been lauded for her form and structure of plot and intensely detailed characters who struggle with the issues of class-consciousness versus individualism: self-respecting men were supposed to become lawyers or join the church or military, and respectable women married to improve their station in life.

Jane had started writing at an early age and her family were highly supportive, though as was done at the time her works were published anonymously. Her combination of irony, humour, and sophisticated observations of the societal and cultural machinations between the classes epitomise the often absurd problems of inheritance, courtship, morals, and marriage in Regency England. Modestly successful during her life, her works have gone on to inspire adaptations to the stage and film and have endured the test of time even into the 21st century.

Born on 16 December, 1775 Jane Austen was the daughter of Cassandra (née Leigh) (1739–1827) and the reverend George Austen (1731–1805). The Austens were a very close-knit family; Jane had six brothers and one sister, Cassandra, who would later draw a famous portrait of Jane. They lived in the village of Steventon in Hampshire county, England, where George was rector. Young Jane was tutored at home and attended the Abbey School in Reading, Berkshire.

Jane was inseparable from her older sister Cassandra. They sang and danced and attended balls together. When George retired around 1801, he moved his family to Bath where he died in 1805. Adjusting to the ensuing financial difficulties, Jane, Cassandra and their mother then moved to Southampton for a time before settling in a cottage on the estate of Edward Austen in the village of Chawton, Hampshire in 1809, which is now a museum. Austen had missed Steventon life and now returning to the Hampshire countryside she wrote in earnest, revising and writing new works including Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815).

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

Posthumous publications were Persuasion (1817) and Northanger Abbey, a satirisation of Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Although Austen had many critics, among them Charlotte Bronte, Mark Twain and Lionel Trilling, she also had many admirers during her life and since, including the Prince Regent, Andrew Lang, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Virginia Woolf, and Sir Walter Scott who wrote;

“That young lady has a talent for describing the involvements of feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.”

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on Jane Austen

Standish of Standish?

Jane Austin wrote a novel in the historical novel genre titled "Standish of Standish" why is it not listed with her works on this site? Not a P/C type book, is that it? I enjoyed reading it, maybe not the greatest bit of literature but deserves to be on the list, no? KDM


pride and prejudice

Do you think that the book by Jane Austen, pride and prejudice, reflects the way we behave in Arabia? Explaination: Pride and Prejudice, is a book written by Jane Austen which was set in the early eighteen hundreds in England. It’s a book which, in my opinion, reveals the strict moral code which the people of that time lived by, and which we follow in Arabia.


Death comes to Pemberley

Yes, there is another sequel to Pride & Prejudice, but not one of the most straightforward kind. Firstly it is written by the revered P.D. James and secondly it is not foremost concerned with what happened after Lydia, Elizabeth and Jane finally got married. Despite its subject, the death of Captain Denny who also featured in the original, it keeps an odd balance between Austen’s world and characters and the investigation of the murder in its timeframe. As P.D. James is herself a fan of Austen, she has written her sequel with much respect for the three things that define a good Austen read: style, knowledge of the times and a world that is always smaller than one thinks at first sight. Although Death comes to Pemberley is a spin-off from P&P, other Austen characters feature as well: Mrs Reynolds happens to know Mrs Goddard, Harriet Martin’s (née Smith) ex headmistress and Mr and Mrs Knightley of Donwell Abbey (do we need to say, Emma), Mr Wickham once worked briefly for Mr Elliot whose daughter made an advantageous match with a sea captain who has now become a famous admiral (do we need to mention that this is Persuasion?). Maybe it is to be concluded that these happen to be P.D. James’s favourite Austen novels? After a brief filling in about the past six years pretty much in an Austen tone of voice, in which Jane and Bingley have had three children (a boy and twin girls), bought an estate far away from Mrs Bennet and closer to the Darcys; in which Elizabeth and Darcy have had two boys; in which Lydia and Wickham still none; in which Mary Bennet made a divine match with a very boring curate who happened to find himself preaching boring long sermons to the congregation of Bingley’s estate of Highmarten; and in which Georgiana Darcy is, as it turns out, now being pursued by two suitors: Colonel Fitzwilliam on the one side and a Mr Alveston (a successful lawyer-and-impoverished-baronet friend to the Bingleys) on the other whom she clearly prefers; on the stormy night of the 14th of October 1803, the night before Lady Anne’s ball, the social occasion for Derbyshire, a chase comes riding down the road to Permberley at frightening speed so much so that Darcy cannot help asking what the hell the coachman is doing. The family run out to see what is up and who should get out but Lydia who screams they killed her husband? Of course indisposed, they take her upstairs, but a search party is organised by Darcy (who else?). Colonel Fitzwilliam briefly incriminates himself by having gone for a ride in the dark and returning shortly after the chase has arrived. Deep in the woodland they find Denny’s body and Wickham with a face smeared with blood saying that he killed his friend, his only friend and that it was his fault… To be sure, Wickham is a nasty creature, but is he really capable of murder? None of them believe so, but in the absence of a murder weapon and any other more plausible murderer, Wickham is the one, must be the killer. Although James’s style does turn factual, it is not a surprise. A murder mystery is factual and it should remain so, but from time to time James seems to fondly return to an Austen tone. Governesses and nursery maids commenting on children’s progress and the Bingley sisters who let the Darcys stay with them because they want themselves to be seen with them is a quintessential Austen point of view. James did not abandon her own writing style and in that at least did not try to imitate to her own detriment. She displays a good knowledge of the timeframe she is writing about. About servants and their feelings, discipline and ways, forms of address. When she mentions small details like Elizabeth walking along the corridor early in the morning and thinking that, even if she were to meet a maid, the latter would flatten herself against the wall and smile, she displays great knowledge that is to be respected. It is equally a funny detail that Stoughton, I believe, is cheesed off about using such good wax candles (the best) for examining Denny’s body in the gunroom. Indeed, candles were an expensive commodity and should the best bees’ wax candles really be used for such business rather than the ball? But, what all Austen fans want to know is, ‘How did she do with all the characters?’ I am delighted to say, pretty well. James does admit that she has read and re-read this novel, but there are enough of such people who still cannot seem to understand the characters no matter how many times they read their favourite novel. James, however, makes a good stab at it. Only Elizabeth, I found, was a little lacking, although maybe we could not picture her as the natural, respectable and at ease mistress of a large house like Pemberley. Jane and Bingley regretfully did not make much of an appearance, but of course Elizabeth did and in the six years she has been married, she has calmed down quite a lot. Probably not surprising though, if we acknowledge that she was ‘not one-and-twenty’ when she was at Rosings and she should now be about 26 and mother to two boys, SPOILER ALERT and may we say about to bring a third Darcy into the world SPOILER OVER. People change a lot in those few years and certainly becoming a parent changes a woman profoundly, even if she is only 26. Lydia, on the other hand, forasmuch as she made an appearance still seems to be the very same… Darcy has a remarkable inner life in this novel. Indeed, it is he and not his wife who has to deal with the business of the murder in his woodland and as such he has to face his demons: what happened to Georgiana and why he does not wish to talk about it. How he needs to confront himself with Wickham, someone who is never received at Pemberley and whom he would prefer to keep out of his life and mind forever. But as he is rich, he is compelled to help him, just as Bingley and Mr Gardiner: Wickham he is their brother or nephew and they have money. If they do not help him to escape the noose and the disgrace, then who will? With this, of course, Darcy can finally accept the past and deal with it. But the past is not only Wickham, it is also the heavy burden of duty. Reminiscent of the shock king Edward VIII’s abdication caused the English royal family, Darcy’s great grandfather forsook his duty and had a cottage built in the woodland which will prove essential to the plot. He went to live there alone with his dog, not even taking a servant to cook. When the dog got old and ill, he shot it and himself, asking to be buried with the dog. The estate has not crumbled, but Darcy is raised with that legend in mind and it hovers over his existence permanently and at some point explains why he does not regret marrying Elizabeth, but still thinks it was in spite of… Mr Bennet also makes a brief appearance as well as Lady Catherine de Bourgh through a letter. They are both very faithful renderings of their originals and it is a shame Mr Bennet could not stay longer, with even Mrs Reynolds commenting that he is like a friendly ghost whom you never see but you miss when he is gone… But now for criticism. I think James missed a chance. Since I finished the book I have been pondering over a possible part for Darcy or at least a possible incrimination for him. He could easily have had a motive to kill Wickham, he could easily have mistaken Denny for him in the dark, and it would have been great to try that, but it was not to be. Maybe James justly felt that a person like Darcy, or Colonel Fitzwilliam for that matter as well, would never be put on trial in the first place, whatever or whatever not their alibi. Fitzwilliam was briefly incriminated as he was suspiciously out on a night ride despite the storm, but that course of thought was quickly abandoned a few days later. However, I suppose Darcy could have challenged Wickham to a duel years before if he felt that was necessary… On the other hand we all know Darcy is not a killer, by no means, I can’t even see him shooting birds out of the sky (now that was missing in the novel ;)), but maybe James could have cast some doubt. Possibly she found that too obvious, though. Be the aforementioned as it may, Death comes to Pemberley was worthy of Austen and her characters and, indeed, to be sure, upon my word, I daresay, and all that, it was by no means a novel sold because it is a sequel of P&P alone.


Jane Austen comparison questions

I am planning on reading Pride and Prejudice this spring or summer, maybe closer to summer, when I can devote more time to it. I have summers off, I work in a school. I have never read Austen, but cannot imagine neglecting to read her most famous book, being a classics fan! I have an interesting question, I hope. I am currently rereading Jane Eyre, which I LOVE!! I love the writing style; the formality of it, the suspense, and the wonderful narration by Eyre. I am wondering about a comparison in writing styles. I have not researched this, but as I am reading this book I can't help but anticipate reading Austen - the time period is not quite the same, but it is very close. I am thinking maybe you Austen fans and experts can chime in with your opinions, if you also like Charlotte Bronte, and if you see similarities in their work.


good articles about Jane Austen and her world

I just began a college course called bibliography and research. The basic purpose of this course is to prepare the students for further college research and writing. In this course we are required to choose a work of fiction of our choice to analyze and use as our primary research text throughout the course. Being a Jane Austen fan, I chose Pride and Prejudice. I am just now doing some preliminary research for a couple short summaries about Austen, Pride and Prejudice, and the times she lived in. I'm just wondering if anyone knows of any good sources regarding this sort of thing; summaries of the themes she addresses, the issues facing the world she lived in, and how they influenced her, are all questions that I want to look into.


pride and prejudice paper!

Hi! I'm in high school and am writing an english paper on Pride and Prejudice. Particularly on the theme of marriage. For examples of the different views on marriage, i will be using Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Mrs. Bennet. Do you think I would have better luck analyzing Lydia rather than Mrs Bennet?


Did Jane Austen write "shadow stories"?

I recently came across the blog Sharp Elves Society, which is dedicated to the exploration of Jane Austen's "shadow stories". Among the author's ideas are that Jane Austen was a more radical feminist than Mary Wollstonecraft, that there really was something nefarious going on in Captain Tilney's marriage and that Jane Fairfax had a baby, gave it to Mrs Weston ... and the father was not Frank. I am in no way affiliated with the author, and indeed, find some of his hypotheses extremely circumstantial. However, I appreciate his bringing to light the complexity of Austen's intelligence and her knowledge of other authors. Here's the link to his blog. I'd encourage anyone interested in Austen to check it out and come back here with some thoughts. http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/


Research help!

Hi! I am a third year undergraduate student currently studying towards a degree in geography and, as part of this, am completing a project on how the novels of Jane Austen have sculpted both the imagined and physical landscape of Bath. One of the facets of this is how the idea of Bath is constructed in the novels and how this is achieved through associating it with certain characters. With this in mind, I was wondering if anyone could be a huge help and let me know their thoughts on some of Austen’s characters such as feelings towards them or words you would associate with them. The characters I need to know opinions on are Mr Woodhouse, Mr Elton, Mrs Elton (Emma); Mr Rushworth, Mr Crawford, Miss Crawford (Mansfield Park); Mr Wickham, Lydia Bennett (Pride and Prejudice). Thank you – I would be hugely grateful for any input at all!


Jane Austen couldn't spell!

It has been revealed that Jane Austen couldn't spell, wrote in a regional accent and didn't have sufficient punctuation! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1323056/How-Jane-Austen-failed-spelling-Study-shows-author-used-regional-accent-poor-punctuation.html?ITO=1490 That puts this piece of her own writing in perspective: "Henry Tilney: It appears to me that the usual tyle of letter-writing among women is faultless except in three particulars. Miss Morland (?): And what are they? Tilney: A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar.' Not to mention spelling, no doubt :lol: I mean, she wrote 'recieve'. :lol: Just liked to mention it because it was nice to know :) And they are going to put free Austen manuscripts online via the British library. Would like to see it for myself. ;)


Putting the boot in - Miss Austin style

This is just brilliant! The language may be genteel and elegant, but no one puts the boot in quite like Miss Austin. - a lucky contraction of the brow had rescued her countenance from the disgrace of insipidity, by giving it the strong character of pride and ill-nature. She was not a woman of many words: for unlike people in general, she proportioned them to the number of her ideas.


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