I am very drawn to the works of English authors and poets from the 18th Century. I enjoy Jan Austen’s work; Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibilities. I’m fascinated with the way of life during Jane Austen’s lifetime. For instances, women were not allowed to own property. I imagine many women found themselves in the same situation as that of the Dashwood women in Sense and Sensibilities. This past Sunday was a rainy, lazy day and I watched Sense and Sensibilities again.
Portrait of Jane Austen, from the memoir by J. E. Austen-Leigh.
|Born||(1775-12-16)16 December 1775
Steventon Rectory, Hampshire, England
|Died||18 July 1817(1817-07-18) (aged 41)
Winchester, Hampshire, England
|Resting place||Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, England|
|Period||1787 to 1809–11|
Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature. Her realism, biting irony and social commentary have gained her historical importance among scholars and critics.
Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years into her thirties. During this period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary novel which she then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels and began a fourth.[B] From 1811 until 1816, with the release 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 additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but died before completing it.
Austen’s works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism.[C] Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew’s A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a Janeite fan culture.
Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon rectory and publicly christened on 5 April 1776. After a few months at home, her mother placed Austen with Elizabeth Littlewood, a woman living nearby, who nursed and raised Austen for a year or eighteen months. In 1783, according to family tradition, Jane and Cassandra were sent to Oxford to be educated by Mrs. Ann Cawley and they moved with her to Southampton later in the year. Both girls caught typhus and Jane nearly died. Austen was subsequently educated at home, until leaving for boarding school with her sister Cassandra early in 1785. The school curriculum probably included some French, spelling, needlework, dancing and music and, perhaps, drama. By December 1786, Jane and Cassandra had returned home because the Austens could not afford to send both of their daughters to school.
Austen acquired the remainder of her education by reading books, guided by her father and her brothers James and Henry. George Austen apparently gave his daughters unfettered access to his large and varied library, was tolerant of Austen’s sometimes risqué experiments in writing, and provided both sisters with expensive paper and other materials for their writing and drawing. According to Park Honan, a biographer of Austen, life in the Austen home was lived in “an open, amused, easy intellectual atmosphere” where the ideas of those with whom the Austens might disagree politically or socially were considered and discussed. After returning from school in 1786, Austen “never again lived anywhere beyond the bounds of her immediate family environment”.
As Austen grew into adulthood, she continued to live at her parents’ home, carrying out those activities normal for women of her age and social standing: she practised the fortepiano, assisted her sister and mother with supervising servants, and attended female relatives during childbirth and older relatives on their deathbeds. She sent short pieces of writing to her newborn nieces Fanny Catherine and Jane Anna Elizabeth. Austen was particularly proud of her accomplishments as a seamstress. She also attended church regularly, socialized frequently with friends and neighbours, and read novels — often of her own composition — aloud with her family in the evenings. Socializing with the neighbours often meant dancing, either impromptu in someone’s home after supper or at the balls held regularly at the assembly rooms in the town hall. Her brother Henry later said that “Jane was fond of dancing, and excelled in it”.
In 1793, Austen began and then abandoned a short play, later entitled Sir Charles Grandison or the happy Man, a comedy in 6 acts, which she returned to and completed around 1800. This was a short parody of various school textbook abridgments of Austen’s favourite contemporary novel, The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753), by Samuel Richardson. Honan speculates that at some point not long after writing Love and Freindship [sic] in 1789, Austen decided to “write for profit, to make stories her central effort”, that is, to become a professional writer. Beginning in about 1793, she began to write longer, more sophisticated works.
Early in 1816, Jane Austen began to feel unwell. She ignored her illness at first and continued to work and to participate in the usual round of family activities. By the middle of that year, her decline was unmistakable to Austen and to her family, and Austen’s physical condition began a long, slow, and irregular deterioration culminating in her death the following year. The majority of Austen biographers rely on Dr. Vincent Cope’s tentative 1964 retrospective diagnosis and list her cause of death as Addison’s disease. However, her final illness has also been described as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.[H] Recent work by Katherine White of Britain’s Addison’s Disease Self Help Group suggests that Austen probably died of bovine tuberculosis, a disease (now) commonly associated with drinking unpasteurized milk. One contributing factor or cause of her death, discovered by Linda Robinson Walker and described in the Winter 2010 issue of Persuasions on-line, might be Brill–Zinsser disease, a recurrent form of typhus, which she had as a child. Brill–Zinsser disease is to typhus as shingles is to chicken pox; when a victim of typhus endures stress, malnutrition or another infection, typhus can recur as Brill–Zinsser disease.
Austen continued to work in spite of her illness. She became dissatisfied with the ending of The Elliots and rewrote the final two chapters, finishing them on 6 August 1816.[I] In January 1817, Austen began work on a new novel she called The Brothers, later titled Sanditon upon its first publication in 1925, and completed twelve chapters before stopping work in mid-March 1817, probably because her illness prevented her from continuing. Austen made light of her condition to others, describing it as “Bile” and rheumatism, but as her disease progressed she experienced increasing difficulty walking or finding the energy for other activities. By mid-April, Austen was confined to her bed. In May, Cassandra and Henry escorted Jane to Winchester for medical treatment. Austen died in Winchester on 18 July 1817, at the age of 41. Henry, through his clerical connections, arranged for his sister to be buried in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral. The epitaph composed by her brother James praises Austen’s personal qualities, expresses hope for her salvation, mentions the “extraordinary endowments of her mind”, but does not explicitly mention her achievements as a writer.
List of works
- Sense and Sensibility (1811)
- Pride and Prejudice (1813)
- Mansfield Park (1814)
- Emma (1815)
- Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)
- Persuasion (1818, posthumous)
- Lady Susan (1794, 1805)
- Sir Charles Grandison (adapted play) (1793, 1800)
- Plan of a Novel (1815)
- Poems (1796-1817)
- Prayers (1796-1817)
- Letters (1796-1817)
Juvenilia — Volume the First (1787-1793) 
- Frederic & Elfrida
- Jack & Alice
- Edgar & Emma
- Henry and Eliza
- The Adventures of Mr. Harley
- Sir William Mountague
- Memoirs of Mr. Clifford
- The Beautifull Cassandra
- Amelia Webster
- The Visit
- The Mystery
- The Three Sisters
- A beautiful description
- The generous Curate
- Ode to Pity
Juvenilia — Volume the Second (1787-1793)
- Love and Freindship
- Lesley Castle
- The History of England
- A Collection of Letters
- The female philosopher
- The first Act of a Comedy
- A Letter from a Young Lady
- A Tour through Wales
- A Tale
Juvenilia — Volume the Third (1787-1793)
- Catharine, or the Bower