Jane Austen (/ˈɒstɪn, ˈɔːs-/; 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.[b] 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 publications 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 another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript, a 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 a large number of 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), and Love & Friendship (2016).
Portrait, c. 1810[a]
|Born||16 December 1775|
Steventon Rectory, Hampshire, England
|Died||18 July 1817 (aged 41)|
Winchester, Hampshire, England
|Resting place||Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, England|
|Education||Reading Abbey Girls' School|
|Period||1787 to 1809–11|
There is little biographical information about Jane Austen's life except the few letters that survive and the biographical notes her family members wrote. During her lifetime, Austen may have written as many as 3,000 letters, but only 161 survived. Many of the letters were written to Austen's 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".[c] Cassandra believed that in the interest of tact and Jane's penchant for forthrightness, these details should be destroyed. The paucity of record of Austen's life leaves modern biographers little with which to work.
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" 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 the family and relatives created 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 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.[d] 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 consolidated, 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, they 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 finally 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 dumb, and she chose to send him out to be fostered. In 1773, Cassandra was born, followed by Francis in 1774, and Jane in 1775.
According to Honan, the atmosphere of the Austen home was an "open, amused, easy intellectual" one, where the ideas of those with whom the Austens might disagree politically or socially were considered and discussed. The family relied on the patronage of their kin and hosted visits from numerous family members. Cassandra Austen spent the summer of 1770 in London with George's sister, Philadelphia, and her daughter Eliza, accompanied by his other sister, Mrs Walter and her daughter Philly.[e] Philadelphia and Eliza Hancock were, according to Le Faye, "the bright comets flashing into an otherwise placid solar system of clerical life in rural Hampshire, and the news of their foreign travels and fashionable London life, together with their sudden descents upon the Steventon household in between times, all helped to widen Jane's youthful horizon and influence her later life and works."
Cassandra Austen's cousin Thomas Leigh visited a number of times in the 1770s and 1780s, inviting young Cassie to visit them in Bath in 1781. The first mention of Jane occurs in family documents on her return, "... and almost home they were when they met Jane & Charles, the two little ones of the family, who had to go as far as New Down to meet the chaise, & have the pleasure of riding home in it." Le Faye writes that "Mr Austen's predictions for his younger daughter were fully justified. Never were sisters more to each other than Cassandra and Jane; while in a particularly affectionate family, there seems to have been a special link between Cassandra and Edward on the one hand, and between Henry and Jane on the other."
From 1773 until 1796, George Austen supplemented his income by farming and by teaching three or four boys at a time, who boarded at his home. The Reverend Austen had an annual income of £200 from his two livings. This was a very modest income at the time; by comparison, a skilled worker like a blacksmith or a carpenter could make about £100 annually while the typical and annual income of a gentry family was between £1,000 and £5,000.
During this period of her life, Austen attended church regularly, socialised with friends and neighbours,[f] and read novels — often of her own composition — aloud with her family in the evenings. Socialising 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 1783, Austen and her sister Cassandra were sent to Oxford to be educated by Mrs Ann Cawley who took them with her to Southampton when she moved there later in the year. In the autumn both girls were sent home when they caught typhus and Austen nearly died. Austen was from then home educated, until she attended boarding school in Reading with her sister from early in 1785 at the Reading Abbey Girls' School, ruled by Mrs La Tournelle, who possessed a cork leg and a passion for theatre. The school curriculum probably included some French, spelling, needlework, dancing and music and, perhaps, drama. The sisters returned home before December 1786 because the school fees for the two girls were too high for the Austen family. After 1786, Austen "never again lived anywhere beyond the bounds of her immediate family environment".
The remainder of her education came from reading, guided by her father and brothers James and Henry. Irene Collins believes that Austen "used some of the same school books as the boys" her father tutored. Austen apparently had unfettered access both to her father's library and that of a family friend, Warren Hastings. Together these collections amounted to a large and varied library. Her father was also tolerant of Austen's sometimes risqué experiments in writing, and provided both sisters with expensive paper and other materials for their writing and drawing.
Private theatricals were an essential part of Austen's education. From her early childhood, the family and friends staged a series of plays in the rectory barn, including Richard Sheridan's The Rivals (1775) and David Garrick's Bon Ton. Austen's eldest brother James wrote the prologues and epilogues and she probably joined in these activities, first as a spectator and later as a participant. Most of the plays were comedies, which suggests how Austen's satirical gifts were cultivated. At the age of 12, she tried her own hand at dramatic writing; she wrote three short plays during her teenage years.
From the age of eleven, and perhaps earlier, Austen wrote poems and stories for her own and her family's amusement. In these works the details of daily life are exaggerated, common plot devices are parodied, and the "stories are full of anarchic fantasies of female power, licence, illicit behaviour, and general high spirits", according to Janet Todd. Austen later compiled fair copies of twenty-nine early works into three bound notebooks, now referred to as the Juvenilia, containing work written between 1787 and 1793. She called the three notebooks "Volume the First", "Volume the Second" and "Volume the Third", and they preserve 90,000 words she wrote during those years. The Juvenilia are often, according to scholar Richard Jenkyns, "boisterous" and "anarchic"; he compares them to the work of 18th-century novelist Laurence Sterne.
Among these works are a satirical novel in letters titled Love and Freindship [sic], written at age fourteen in 1790, in which she mocked popular novels of sensibility. The next year she wrote The History of England, a manuscript of thirty-four pages accompanied by thirteen watercolour miniatures by her sister, Cassandra. Austen's History parodied popular historical writing, particularly Oliver Goldsmith's History of England (1764). Honan speculates that not long after writing Love and Freindship [sic], Austen decided to "write for profit, to make stories her central effort", that is, to become a professional writer. When she was around eighteen years old, Austen began to write longer, more sophisticated works.
In August 1792, aged seventeen, Austen started writing Catharine or the Bower, which presaged her mature work, especially Northanger Abbey; it was left unfinished and the story picked up in Lady Susan, which Todd describes as less prefiguring than Catharine. A year later, she began, but abandoned a short play, later titled 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 abridgements of Austen's favourite contemporary novel, The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753), by Samuel Richardson.
|Presentation by Claire Tomalin on Jane Austen: A Life, November 23, 1997, C-SPAN|
When Austen became an aunt for the first time at age eighteen, she sent new-born niece Fanny-Catherine Austen-Knight "five short pieces of ... the Juvenilia now known collectively as 'Scraps' .., purporting to be her 'Opinions and Admonitions on the conduct of Young Women'". For niece Jane-Anna-Elizabeth Austen (also born in 1793) Jane Austen wrote "two more 'Miscellanious [sic] Morsels', dedicating them to [Anna] on 2 June 1793, 'convinced that if you seriously attend to them, You will derive from them very important Instructions, with regard to your Conduct in Life.'" There is manuscript evidence that Austen continued to work on these pieces as late as 1811 (when she was 36), and that her niece and nephew, Anna and James Edward Austen, made further additions as late as 1814.
Between 1793 and 1795 (aged eighteen to twenty) Austen wrote Lady Susan, a short epistolary novel, usually described as her most ambitious and sophisticated early work. It is unlike any of Austen's other works. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin describes the novella's heroine as a sexual predator who uses her intelligence and charm to manipulate, betray and abuse her lovers, friends and family. Tomalin writes:
Told in letters, it is as neatly plotted as a play, and as cynical in tone as any of the most outrageous of the Restoration dramatists who may have provided some of her inspiration ... It stands alone in Austen's work as a study of an adult woman whose intelligence and force of character are greater than those of anyone she encounters.
According to Janet Todd, the model for the title character may have been Eliza de Feuillide, who inspired Austen with stories of her glamorous life and various adventures. Eliza's French husband was guillotined in 1794; she married Jane's brother Henry Austen in 1797.
When Austen was twenty, Tom Lefroy, a neighbour, visited Steventon from December 1795 to January 1796. He had just finished a university degree and was moving to London for training as a barrister. Lefroy and Austen would have been introduced at a ball or other neighbourhood social gathering, and it is clear from Austen's letters to Cassandra that they spent considerable time together: "I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together."
Austen wrote in her first surviving letter to her sister Cassandra that Lefroy was a "very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man". Five days later in another letter, Austen wrote that she expected an "offer" from her "friend" and that "I shall refuse him, however, unless he promises to give away his white coat", going on to write "I will confide myself in the future to Mr Tom Lefroy, for whom I don't give a sixpence" and refuse all others. The next day, Austen wrote: "The day will come on which I flirt my last with Tom Lefroy and when you receive this it will be all over. My tears flow as I write at this melancholy idea".
Halperin cautioned that Austen often satirised popular sentimental romantic fiction in her letters, and some of the statements about Lefroy may have been ironic. However, it is clear that Austen was genuinely attracted to Lefroy and subsequently none of her other suitors ever quite measured up to him. The Lefroy family intervened and sent him away at the end of January. Marriage was impractical as both Lefroy and Austen must have known. Neither had any money, and he was dependent on a great-uncle in Ireland to finance his education and establish his legal career. If Tom Lefroy later visited Hampshire, he was carefully kept away from the Austens, and Jane Austen never saw him again. In November 1798, Lefroy was still on Austen's mind as she wrote to her sister she had tea with one of his relatives, wanted desperately to ask about him, but could not bring herself to raise the subject.
After finishing Lady Susan, Austen began her first full-length novel Elinor and Marianne. Her sister remembered that it was read to the family "before 1796" and was told through a series of letters. Without surviving original manuscripts, there is no way to know how much of the original draft survived in the novel published anonymously in 1811 as Sense and Sensibility.
Austen began a second novel, First Impressions (later published as Pride and Prejudice), in 1796. She completed the initial draft in August 1797, aged 21; as with all of her novels, Austen read the work aloud to her family as she was working on it and it became an "established favourite". At this time, her father made the first attempt to publish one of her novels. In November 1797, George Austen wrote to Thomas Cadell, an established publisher in London, to ask if he would consider publishing First Impressions. Cadell returned Mr. Austen's letter, marking it "Declined by Return of Post". Austen may not have known of her father's efforts. Following the completion of First Impressions, Austen returned to Elinor and Marianne and from November 1797 until mid-1798, revised it heavily; she eliminated the epistolary format in favour of third-person narration and produced something close to Sense and Sensibility. In 1797, Austen met her cousin (and future sister-in-law), Eliza de Feuillide, a French aristocrat whose first husband the Comte de Feuillide had been guillotined, causing her to flee to Britain, where she married Henry Austen. The description of the execution of the Comte de Feuillide related by his widow left Austen with an intense horror of the French Revolution that lasted for the rest of her life.
During the middle of 1798, after finishing revisions of Elinor and Marianne, Austen began writing a third novel with the working title Susan — later Northanger Abbey — a satire on the popular Gothic novel. Austen completed her work about a year later. In early 1803, Henry Austen offered Susan to Benjamin Crosby, a London publisher, who paid £10 for the copyright. Crosby promised early publication and went so far as to advertise the book publicly as being "in the press", but did nothing more. The manuscript remained in Crosby's hands, unpublished, until Austen repurchased the copyright from him in 1816.
In December 1800 George Austen unexpectedly announced his decision to retire from the ministry, leave Steventon, and move the family to 4, Sydney Place in Bath. While retirement and travel were good for the elder Austens, Jane Austen was shocked to be told she was moving from the only home she had ever known. An indication of her state of mind is her lack of productivity as a writer during the time she lived at Bath. She was able to make some revisions to Susan, and she began and then abandoned a new novel, The Watsons, but there was nothing like the productivity of the years 1795–1799. Tomalin suggests this reflects a deep depression disabling her as a writer, but Honan disagrees, arguing Austen wrote or revised her manuscripts throughout her creative life, except for a few months after her father died.[g] It is often claimed that Austen was unhappy in Bath, which caused her to lose interest in writing, but it is just as possible that Austen's social life in Bath prevented her from spending much time writing novels. The critic Robert Irvine argued that if Austen spent more time writing novels when she was in the countryside, it might just have been because she had more spare time as opposed to being more happy in the countryside as is often argued. Furthermore, Austen frequently both moved and travelled over southern England during this period, which was hardly a conducive environment for writing a long novel. Austen sold the rights to publish Susan to a publisher Crosby & Company, who paid her £10. The Crosby & Company advertised Susan, but never published it.
The years from 1801 to 1804 are something of a blank space for Austen scholars as Cassandra destroyed all of her letters from her sister in this period for unknown reasons. In December 1802 Austen received her only known proposal of marriage. She and her sister visited Alethea and Catherine Bigg, old friends who lived near Basingstoke. Their younger brother, Harris Bigg-Wither, had recently finished his education at Oxford and was also at home. Bigg-Wither proposed and Austen accepted. As described by Caroline Austen, Jane's niece, and Reginald Bigg-Wither, a descendant, Harris was not attractive — he was a large, plain-looking man who spoke little, stuttered when he did speak, was aggressive in conversation, and almost completely tactless. However, Austen had known him since both were young and the marriage offered many practical advantages to Austen and her family. He was the heir to extensive family estates located in the area where the sisters had grown up. With these resources, Austen could provide her parents a comfortable old age, give Cassandra a permanent home and, perhaps, assist her brothers in their careers. By the next morning, Austen realised she had made a mistake and withdrew her acceptance. No contemporary letters or diaries describe how Austen felt about this proposal. Irvine described Bigg-Wither as a somebody who "...seems to have been a man very hard to like, let alone love".
In 1814, Austen wrote a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, who had asked for advice about a serious relationship, telling her that "having written so much on one side of the question, I shall now turn around & entreat you not to commit yourself farther, & not to think of accepting him unless you really do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without Affection". The English scholar Douglas Bush wrote that Austen had "had a very high ideal of the love that should unite a husband and wife ... All of her heroines ... know in proportion to their maturity, the meaning of ardent love". A possible autobiographical element in Sense and Sensibility occurs when Elinor Dashwood contemplates that "the worse and most irremediable of all evils, a connection for life" with an unsuitable man.
In 1804, while living in Bath, Austen started, but did not complete her novel, The Watsons. The story centres on an invalid and impoverished clergyman and his four unmarried daughters. Sutherland describes the novel as "a study in the harsh economic realities of dependent women's lives". Honan suggests, and Tomalin agrees, that Austen chose to stop work on the novel after her father died on 21 January 1805 and her personal circumstances resembled those of her characters too closely for her comfort.
Her father's relatively sudden death left Jane, Cassandra, and their mother in a precarious financial situation. Edward, James, Henry, and Francis Austen (known as Frank) pledged to make annual contributions to support their mother and sisters. For the next four years, the family's living arrangements reflected their financial insecurity. They spent part of the time in rented quarters in Bath before leaving the city in June 1805 for a family visit to Steventon and Godmersham. They moved for the autumn months to the newly fashionable seaside resort of Worthing, on the Sussex coast, where they resided at Stanford Cottage.[h] It was here that Austen is thought to have written her fair copy of Lady Susan and added its "Conclusion". In 1806 the family moved to Southampton, where they shared a house with Frank Austen and his new wife. A large part of this time they spent visiting various branches of the family.
On 5 April 1809, about three months before the family's move to Chawton, Austen wrote an angry letter to Richard Crosby, offering him a new manuscript of Susan if needed to secure the immediate publication of the novel, and requesting the return of the original so she could find another publisher. Crosby replied that he had not agreed to publish the book by any particular time, or at all, and that Austen could repurchase the manuscript for the £10 he had paid her and find another publisher. She did not have the resources to buy the copyright back at that time, but was able to purchase it in 1816.
Around early 1809 Austen's brother Edward offered his mother and sisters a more settled life — the use of a large cottage in Chawton village[i] that was part of Edward's nearby estate, Chawton House. Jane, Cassandra and their mother moved into Chawton cottage on 7 July 1809. Life was quieter in Chawton than it had been since the family's move to Bath in 1800. The Austens did not socialise with gentry and entertained only when family visited. Her niece Anna described the family's life in Chawton as "a very quiet life, according to our ideas, but they were great readers, and besides the housekeeping our aunts occupied themselves in working with the poor and in teaching some girl or boy to read or write."
At the time, married British women did not have the legal power to sign contracts, and it was common for a woman wishing to publish to have a male relative represent her to sign the contract. Like most women authors at the time, Austen had to publish her books anonymously. At the time, the ideal roles for a woman were as wife and mother, and writing for women was regarded at best as a secondary form of activity; a woman who wished to be a full-time writer was felt to be degrading her femininity, so books by women were usually published anonymously in order to maintain the conceit that the female writer was only publishing as a sort of part-time job, and was not seeking to become a "literacy lioness" (i.e a celebrity).
During her time at Chawton, Jane Austen published four generally well-received novels. Through her brother Henry, the publisher Thomas Egerton agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility, which, like all of Jane Austen's novels except Pride and Prejudice, was published "on commission", that is, at the author's financial risk. When publishing on commission, publishers would advance the costs of publication, repay themselves as books were sold and then charge a 10% commission for each book sold, paying the rest to the author. If a novel did not recover its costs through sales, the author was responsible for them. The alternative to selling via commission was the selling the copyright, where an author received a one-time payment from the publisher for the manuscript, which occurred with Pride and Prejudice. Austen's experience with Susan (the manuscript that became Northanger Abbey) where she sold the copyright to the publisher Crosby & Sons for £10, who did not publish the book, forcing her to buy back the copyright in order to get her work published, left Austen leery of this method of publishing. The final alternative, of selling by subscription, where a group of people would agree to buy a book in advance, was not an option for Austen as only authors who were well known or had an influential aristocratic patron who would recommend an up-coming book to their friends, could sell by subscription. Sense and Sensibility appeared in October 1811, and was described as being written "By a Lady". As it was sold on commission, Egerton used expensive paper and set the price at 15 shillings.
Reviews were favourable and the novel became fashionable among young aristocratic opinion-makers; the edition sold out by mid-1813. Austen's novels were published in larger editions than was normal for this period. The small size of the novel-reading public and the large costs associated with hand production (particularly the cost of handmade paper) meant that most novels were published in editions of 500 copies or less to reduce the risks to the publisher and the novelist. Even some of the most successful titles during this period were issued in editions of not more than 750 or 800 copies and later reprinted if demand continued. Austen's novels were published in larger editions, ranging from about 750 copies of Sense and Sensibility to about 2,000 copies of Emma. It is not clear whether the decision to print more copies than usual of Austen's novels was driven by the publishers or the author. Since all but one of Austen's books were originally published "on commission", the risks of overproduction were largely hers (or Cassandra's after her death) and publishers may have been more willing to produce larger editions than was normal practice when their own funds were at risk. Editions of popular works of non-fiction were often much larger.
Austen made £140 from Sense and Sensibility, which provided her with some financial and psychological independence. After the success of Sense and Sensibility, all of Austen's subsequent books were billed as written "By the author of Sense and Sensibility" and Austen's name never appeared on her books during her lifetime. Egerton then published Pride and Prejudice, a revision of First Impressions, in January 1813. Austen sold the copyright to Pride and Prejudice to Egerton for £110. To maximise profits, he used cheap paper and set the price at 18 shillings. He advertised the book widely and it was an immediate success, garnering three favourable reviews and selling well. Had Austen sold Pride and Prejudice on commission, she would had made a profit of £475, or twice her father's annual income. By October 1813 Egerton was able to begin selling a second edition. Mansfield Park was published by Egerton in May 1814. While Mansfield Park was ignored by reviewers, it was very popular with readers. All copies were sold within six months, and Austen's earnings on this novel were larger than for any of her other novels.
Unknown to Austen, her novels were translated into French and published in cheaply produced, pirated editions in France. The literary critic Noel King commented that given the prevailing rage in France at the time was for lush romantic fantasies, it is remarkable that her novels with the emphasis on everyday English life had any sort of a market in France. However, King cautioned that Austen's chief translator in France, Madame Isabelle de Montolieu, had only the most rudimentary knowledge of English, and her translations were more of "imitations" than translations proper, as Montolieu depended upon assistants to provide a summary, which she then translated into an embellished French that often radically altered Austen's plots and characters. The first of the Austen novels to be published that credited her as the author was in France, when Persuasion was published in 1821 as La Famille Elliot ou L'Ancienne Inclination.
Austen learned that the Prince Regent admired her novels and kept a set at each of his residences.[j] In November 1815, the Prince Regent's librarian James Stanier Clarke invited Austen to visit the Prince's London residence and hinted Austen should dedicate the forthcoming Emma to the Prince. Though Austen disliked the Prince Regent, she could scarcely refuse the request. Austen disapproved of the Prince Regent on the account of his womanising, gambling, drinking, spendthrift ways and generally disreputable behaviour. She later wrote Plan of a Novel, according to Hints from Various Quarters, a satiric outline of the "perfect novel" based on the librarian's many suggestions for a future Austen novel. Austen was greatly annoyed by Clarke's often pompous literary advice, and the Plan of A Novel parodying Clarke was intended as her revenge for all of the unwanted letters she had received from the royal librarian.
In mid-1815 Austen moved her work from Egerton to John Murray, a better known London publisher,[k] who published Emma in December 1815 and a second edition of Mansfield Park in February 1816. Emma sold well, but the new edition of Mansfield Park did poorly, and this failure offset most of the income from Emma. These were the last of Austen's novels to be published during her lifetime.
While Murray prepared Emma for publication, Austen began The Elliots, later published as Persuasion. She completed her first draft in July 1816. In addition, shortly after the publication of Emma, Henry Austen repurchased the copyright for Susan from Crosby. Austen was forced to postpone publishing either of these completed novels by family financial troubles. Henry Austen's bank failed in March 1816, depriving him of all of his assets, leaving him deeply in debt and losing Edward, James, and Frank Austen large sums. Henry and Frank could no longer afford the contributions they had made to support their mother and sisters.
Austen was feeling unwell by early 1816, but ignored the warning signs. By the middle of that year, her decline was unmistakable, and she began a slow, irregular deterioration. The majority of biographers rely on Dr. Vincent Cope's 1964 retrospective diagnosis and list her cause of death as Addison's disease, although her final illness has also been described as resulting from Hodgkin's lymphoma.[l] When her uncle died and left his entire fortune to his wife, effectively disinheriting his relatives, she suffered a relapse, writing, "I am ashamed to say that the shock of my Uncle's Will brought on a relapse ... but a weak Body must excuse weak Nerves".
She continued to work in spite of her illness. Dissatisfied with the ending of The Elliots, she rewrote the final two chapters, which she finished on 6 August 1816.[m] In January 1817 Austen began The Brothers (titled Sanditon when published in 1925), and completed twelve chapters before stopping work in mid-March 1817, probably due to illness. Todd describes Sanditon's heroine, Diana Parker, as an "energetic invalid". In the novel, Austen mocked hypochondriacs and though she describes the heroine as "bilious", five days after abandoning the novel she wrote of herself that she was turning "every wrong colour" and living "chiefly on the sofa". She put down her pen on 18 March 1817, making a note of it.
Austen made light of her condition, describing it as "bile" and rheumatism. As her illness progressed, she experienced difficulty walking and lacked energy; by mid-April she was confined to bed. In May Cassandra and Henry brought her to Winchester for treatment, by which time she suffered agonising pain and welcomed death. 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 and mentions the "extraordinary endowments of her mind", but does not explicitly mention her achievements as a writer.
After Austen's death, Cassandra, Henry Austen and Murray arranged for the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey as a set.[n] Henry Austen contributed a Biographical Note which for the first time identified his sister as the author of the novels. Tomalin describes it as "a loving and polished eulogy". Sales were good for a year — only 321 copies remained unsold at the end of 1818.
In 1832 Richard Bentley purchased the remaining copyrights to all of her novels, and over the following winter published five illustrated volumes as part of his Standard Novels series. In October 1833, Bentley released the first collected edition of her works. Since then, Austen's novels have been continuously in print.
Austen's works critique the sentimental novels of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism.[o] The earliest English novelists, Richardson, Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett, were followed by the school of sentimentalists and romantics such as Walter Scott, Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, and Oliver Goldsmith, whose style and genre Austen rejected, returning the novel on a "slender thread" to the tradition of Richardson and Fielding for a "realistic study of manners". In the mid-20th century, literary critics F. R. Leavis and Ian Watt placed her in the tradition of Richardson and Fielding; both believe that she used their tradition of "irony, realism and satire to form an author superior to both".
Walter Scott noted Austen's "resistance to the trashy sensationalism of much of modern fiction — 'the ephemeral productions which supply the regular demand of watering places and circulating libraries'". Yet her rejection of these genres is complex, as evidenced by Northanger Abbey and Emma. Similar to William Wordsworth, who excoriated the modern frantic novel in the "Preface" to his Lyrical Ballads (1800), Austen distances herself from escapist novels; the discipline and innovation she demonstrates is similar to his, and she shows "that rhetorically less is artistically more." She eschewed popular Gothic fiction, stories of terror in which a heroine typically was stranded in a remote location, a castle or abbey (32 novels between 1784 and 1818 contain the word "abbey" in their title). Yet in Northanger Abbey she alludes to the trope, with the heroine, Catherine, anticipating a move to a remote locale. Rather than full-scale rejection or parody, Austen transforms the genre, juxtaposing reality, with descriptions of elegant rooms and modern comforts, against the heroine's "novel-fueled" desires. Nor does she completely denigrate Gothic fiction: instead she transforms settings and situations, such that the heroine is still imprisoned, yet her imprisonment is mundane and real — regulated manners and the strict rules of the ballroom. In Sense and Sensibility Austen presents characters who are more complex than in staple sentimental fiction, according to critic Keymer, who notes that although it is a parody of popular sentimental fiction, "Marianne in her sentimental histrionics responds to the calculating world ... with a quite justifiable scream of female distress."
Richardson's Pamela, the prototype for the sentimental novel, is a didactic love story with a happy ending, written at a time women were beginning to have the right to choose husbands and yet were restricted by social conventions. Austen attempted Richardson's epistolary style, but found the flexibility of narrative more conducive to her realism, a realism in which each conversation and gesture carries a weight of significance. The narrative style utilises free indirect speech — she was the first English novelist to do so extensively — through which she had the ability to present a character's thoughts directly to the reader and yet still retain narrative control. The style allows an author to vary discourse between the narrator's voice and values and those of the characters.
Austen had a natural ear for speech and dialogue, according to scholar Mary Lascelles "Few novelists can be more scrupulous than Jane Austen as to the phrasing and thoughts of their characters." Techniques such as fragmentary speech suggest a character's traits and their tone; "syntax and phrasing rather than vocabulary" is utilised to indicate social variants. Dialogue reveals a character's mood — frustration, anger, happiness — each treated differently and often through varying patterns of sentence structures. When Elizabeth Bennett rejects Darcy, her stilted speech and the convoluted sentence structure reveals that he has wounded her:
From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that the groundwork of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike. And I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.
Austen's plots highlight women's traditional dependence on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. As an art form, the 18th-century novel lacked the seriousness of its equivalents from the 19th century, when novels were treated as "the natural vehicle for discussion and ventilation of what mattered in life". Rather than delving too deeply into the psyche of her characters, Austen enjoys them and imbues them with humour, according to critic John Bayley. He believes that the well-spring of her wit and irony is her own attitude that comedy "is the saving grace of life". Part of Austen's fame rests on the historical and literary significance that she was the first woman to write great comic novels. Samuel Johnson's influence is evident, in that she follows his advice to write "a representation of life as may excite mirth".
Her humour comes from her modesty and lack of superiority, allowing her most successful characters, such as Elizabeth Bennet, to transcend the trivialities of life, which the more foolish characters are overly absorbed in. Austen used comedy to explore the individualism of women's lives and gender relations, and she appears to have used it to find the goodness in life, often fusing it with "ethical sensibility", creating artistic tension. Critic Robert Polhemus writes, "To appreciate the drama and achievement of Austen, we need to realize how deep was her passion for both reverence and ridicule ... and her comic imagination reveals both the harmonies and the telling contradictions of her mind and vision as she tries to reconcile her satirical bias with her sense of the good."
As Austen's works were published anonymously, they brought her little personal renown. They were fashionable among opinion-makers, but were rarely reviewed. Most of the reviews were short and on balance favourable, although superficial and cautious. They most often focused on the moral lessons of the novels. Sir Walter Scott, a leading novelist of the day, contributed one anonymously. Using the review as a platform to defend the then-disreputable genre of the novel, he praised Austen's realism. The other important early review was attributed to Richard Whately in 1821. However, Whately denied having authored the review, which drew favourable comparisons between Austen and such acknowledged greats as Homer and Shakespeare, and praised the dramatic qualities of her narrative. Scott and Whately set the tone for almost all subsequent 19th-century Austen criticism.
Because Austen's novels did not conform to Romantic and Victorian expectations that "powerful emotion [be] authenticated by an egregious display of sound and colour in the writing", 19th-century critics and audiences preferred the works of Charles Dickens and George Eliot. In a rare sympathetic review, in this case of Emma in 1815, Sir Walter Scott wrote that book displayed "the art of copying from nature as she really exists in the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader, instead of the splendid scenes from an imaginary world, a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him". Though Scott was positive, Austen's work did not match the prevailing aesthetic values of the Romantic zeitgeist. Her novels were republished in Britain from the 1830s and sold at a steady rate, but they were not best-sellers. The first French critic who paid notice to Austen was Philarète Chasles who completely dismissed her as a writer, giving her two sentences in an 1842 essay on the influence of Sir Walter Scott, calling her a boring, imitative writer who wrote nothing of substance. Apart from Chasles, Austen was almost completely ignored in France until 1878.
Austen had many admiring readers in the 19th century, who considered themselves part of a literary elite. Philosopher and literary critic George Henry Lewes expressed this viewpoint in a series of enthusiastic articles published in the 1840s and 1850s. This theme continued later in the century with novelist Henry James, who referred to Austen several times with approval and on one occasion ranked her with Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Henry Fielding as among "the fine painters of life".
The publication of James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869 introduced Austen to a wider public as "dear aunt Jane", the respectable maiden aunt. Publication of the Memoir spurred the reissue of Austen's novels — the first popular editions were released in 1883 and fancy illustrated editions and collectors' sets quickly followed. Author and critic Leslie Stephen described the popular mania that started to develop for Austen in the 1880s as "Austenolatry". In 1878, the French critic Léon Boucher published the essay Le Roman Classique en Angleterre, where he called Austen a "genius", which was the first time that epithet had been used in France to describe Austen. The first proper translation of Austen into French that was completely faithful to the original occurred in 1899 when Félix Fénéon translated Northanger Abbey into French as Catherine Moreland. Around the start of the 20th century, members of the literary elite reacted against the popularisation of Austen. They referred to themselves as Janeites in order to distinguish themselves from the masses who did not properly understand her works. For example, Henry James responded negatively to what he described as "a beguiled infatuation" with Austen, a rising tide of public interest that exceeded Austen's "intrinsic merit and interest". The American literary critic A. Walton Litz noted that the "anti-Janites" in the 19th and 20th centuries comprise a formidable literary squad of Mark Twain, Henry James, Charlotte Bronte, D.H. Lawrence and Kingsley Amis, but in "every case the adverse judgement merely reveals the special limitations or eccentricities of the critic, leaving Jane Austen relatively untouched".
Winchester Cathedral, where Austen is buried, and her memorial gravestone in the nave of the Cathedral
Several of Austen's works have been subject to academic study. The first dissertation on Austen was published in 1883, by George Pellew, a student at Harvard University. The first examination came from a 1911 essay by Oxford Shakespearean scholar A. C. Bradley. In his essay, Bradley groups Austen's novels into "early" and "late" works, a distinction still used by scholars today. The first academic books devoted to Austen in France was Jane Austen by Paul and Kate Rague published in 1914, where the Ragues set out to explain why French critics and readers should take Austen seriously. The same year, Léonie Villard published Jane Austen, Sa Vie et Ses Oeuvres, which was originally her PhD thesis, marking the first time that Austen had subjected to a serious academic study in France. The second examination in English was R.W. Chapman's 1923 edition of Austen's collected works. Not only was it the first scholarly edition of Austen's works, it was also the first scholarly edition of any English novelist. The Chapman text has remained the basis for all subsequent published editions of Austen's works.
With the publication in 1939 of Mary Lascelles' Jane Austen and Her Art, the academic study of Austen took hold. Lascelles's innovative work included an analysis of the books Austen read and the effect of her reading on her work, an extended analysis of Austen's style, and her "narrative art". Concern arose that academics were taking over Austen criticism and that it was becoming increasingly esoteric, a debate that has continued since.
The period since World War II has seen more scholarship on Austen using a diversity of critical approaches, including feminist theory, and perhaps most controversially, postcolonial theory. The continuing disconnection between the popular appreciation of Austen, particularly by modern Janeites, and the academic appreciation of Austen has widened considerably. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Austen was in disfavor with the authorities who only wanted Western authors to be published in translation whose work could be presented as representing the West in a negative light, and Austen was regarded as too "frivolous" for this purpose. As hostile as the treatment of Austen was in the 1950s, it paled besides the treatment of her books during the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" in China between 1966–69, when Austen was banned as a "British bourgeois imperialist" author. In the late 1970s, Austen was allowed to be published in China, where her popularity with readers confounded the authorities who had trouble understanding that people sometimes want to read books for enjoyment instead of dialectical purposes. A sign of the way that Austen can still spark debate can be seen when the American English professor Gene Koppel mentioned in a lecture that Austen and her family were "Tories of the deepest dye" [the Tories were the conservative party while the Whigs were the liberal party], a statement which greatly upset many of Koppel's liberal students, who much to his amusement, complained to him how was it possible that Austen was a conservative. The conservative Koppel noted several feminist authors such as Claudia Johnson and Mollie Sandock were claiming Austen for their own cause. Citing the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Koppel argued that different people can and do react to the same work of literature in different ways as art is always a subjective discipline as various people have their standards for evaluating literature. As such, Koppel argued that competing interpretations of Austen's work, provided that they are grounded in readings of her work are all equally valid, and so it is equally possible to see Austen as a feminist critiquing Regency society and as a conservative upholding the values of Regency society.
Austen's novels have resulted in sequels, prequels and adaptations of almost every type, from soft-core pornography to fantasy. From the 19th century, her family members published conclusions to her incomplete novels, and by 2000 there were over 100 printed adaptations. The first dramatic adaptation of Austen was published in 1895, Rosina Filippi's Duologues and Scenes from the Novels of Jane Austen: Arranged and Adapted for Drawing-Room Performance, and Filippi was also responsible for the first professional stage adaptation, The Bennets (1901). The first film adaptation was the 1940 MGM production of Pride and Prejudice starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. BBC television dramatisations since the 1970s have attempted to adhere meticulously to Austen's plots, characterisations and settings. The British critic Robert Irvine noted that in American film adaptations of Austen's novels, starting with the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice and continuing on to today, class is subtly downplayed as the United States is officially an egalitarian nation where all people are equal and the society of Regency England depicted by Austen that is grounded in a hierarchy based upon the ownership of land and the antiquity of the family name is one that Americans cannot embrace in its entirety.
From 1995 a large number of Austen adaptations began to appear, with Ang Lee's film of Sense and Sensibility, for which screenwriter and star Emma Thompson won an Academy Award, and the BBC's immensely popular TV mini-series Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. A 2005 British production of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, was followed in 2007 by ITV's Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, and in 2016 by Love & Friendship, a film version of Lady Susan that borrowed the title of Austen's Love and Freindship [sic].
Juvenilia — Volume the First (1787–1793)[q]
Juvenilia — Volume the Second (1787–1793)
Juvenilia — Volume the Third (1787–1793)
A Memoir of Jane Austen is a biography of the novelist Jane Austen (1775–1817) published in 1869 by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh. A second edition was published in 1871 which included previously unpublished Jane Austen writings. A family project, the biography was written by James Edward Austen-Leigh but owed much to the recollections of Jane Austen's many relatives. However, it was the decisions of her sister, Cassandra Austen, to destroy many of Jane's letters after her death that shaped the material available for the biography.
Austen-Leigh described his "dear Aunt Jane" domestically, as someone who was uninterested in fame and who only wrote in her spare time. However, the manuscripts appended to the second edition suggest that Jane Austen was intensely interested in revising her manuscripts and was perhaps less content than Austen-Leigh described her. The Memoir does not attempt to unreservedly tell the story of Jane Austen's life. Following the Victorian conventions of biography, it kept much private information from the public, but family members disagreed over just how much should be revealed, for example, regarding Austen's romantic relationships.
The Memoir introduced the public to the works of Jane Austen, generating interest in novels which only the literary elite had read up until that point. It remained the primary biographical work on the author for over half a century.Becoming Jane
Becoming Jane is a 2007 British-Irish biographical romantic drama film directed by Julian Jarrold. It depicts the early life of the English author Jane Austen and her lasting love for Thomas Langlois Lefroy. American actress Anne Hathaway stars as the title character, while her romantic interest is played by Scottish actor James McAvoy. Also appearing in the film are Julie Walters, James Cromwell and Maggie Smith. The film was produced in cooperation with several companies, including Ecosse Films and Blueprint Pictures. It also received funding from the Irish Film Board and the UK Film Council Premiere Fund.
The film is partly based on the 2003 book Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Hunter Spence, who was also hired as historical consultant. The final screenplay, developed by Sarah Williams and Kevin Hood, pieced together some known facts about Austen into a coherent story, in what co-producer Graham Broadbent called "our own Austenesque landscape." According to Hood, he attempted to weave together "what we know about Austen's world from her books and letters," and believed Austen's personal life was the inspiration for Pride and Prejudice. Jarrold began production of the film in early 2006, opting to shoot primarily in Ireland as he found it had better-preserved locations than Hampshire, England, where Austen was raised.
Released firstly in the United Kingdom on 9 March 2007 and in other countries later in the year, Becoming Jane earned approximately $37 million worldwide. The film received mixed reviews from critics. Hathaway's performance received mixed critical reception, with some reviewers negatively focusing on her nationality and accent. Commentators and scholars have analysed the presence of Austen characters and themes within the film, and also noted the implementation of mass marketing in the film's release.Cassandra Austen
Cassandra Elizabeth Austen (9 January 1773 – 22 March 1845) was an amateur English watercolourist and the elder sister of Jane Austen.Edward Austen Knight
Edward Austen Knight (7 October 1768 – 19 November 1852), born Edward Austen, was the third eldest brother of Jane Austen, and provided her with the use of a cottage in Chawton where she lived for the last years of her life (now Jane Austen's House Museum). He was also High Sheriff of Kent in 1801.Emma (novel)
Emma, by Jane Austen, is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance. The story takes place in the fictional village of Highbury and the surrounding estates of Hartfield, Randalls, and Donwell Abbey and involves the relationships among individuals in those locations consisting of "3 or 4 families in a country village". The novel was first published in December 1815 while the author was alive, with its title page listing a publication date of 1816. As in her other novels, Austen explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian–Regency England; she also creates a lively comedy of manners among her characters and depicts issues of marriage, gender, age, and social status.
Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." In the first sentence, she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." Emma is spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people's lives; and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.
Emma, written after Austen's move to Chawton, was the last novel to be completed and published during her life, as Persuasion, the last novel Austen wrote, was published posthumously.
This novel has been adapted for several films, many television programmes, and a long list of stage plays. It is also the inspiration for several novels.Jane Austen's House Museum
Jane Austen's House Museum is a small independent museum in the village of Chawton near Alton in Hampshire. It is a writer's house museum occupying the 17th-century house (informally known as Chawton Cottage) in which novelist Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life. The museum has been a Grade I listed building since 1963.Jane Austen Centre
The Jane Austen Centre at 40 Gay Street in Bath, Somerset, England, is a permanent exhibition which tells the story of Jane Austen's Bath experience – the effect that visiting and living in the city had on her and her writing.
The building is part of a block (31–40 Gay Street) which has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building.Jane Austen College
Jane Austen College is a secondary free school located in Norwich, owned by the Inspiration Trust, that opened in September 2014. The school's Principal is David Thomas.Jane Austen in Manhattan
Jane Austen in Manhattan is a 1980 American romantic drama film produced by Merchant Ivory Productions for LWT, but released for theatrical exhibition in UK and USA. It was the last film appearance of Anne Baxter and the début film of Sean Young.
The film concerns competing theatrical productions in present-day New York, of a recently discovered early Austen work.Jane Austen in popular culture
The author Jane Austen and her works have been represented in popular culture in a variety of forms.
Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose social commentary and masterly use of both free indirect speech and irony eventually made her one of the most influential and honoured novelists in English literature. In popular culture, Austen's novels and personal life have been adapted into book illustrations (starting in 1833), dramatizations (starting in 1895), Hollywood films (starting in 1940), television (starting in 1938), and professional theatre (starting in 1901), with adaptations varying greatly in their faithfulness to the original.Books and scripts that use the general storyline of Austen's novels but change or otherwise modernise the story also became popular at the end of the 20th century. For example, Clueless (1995), Amy Heckerling's updated version of Emma, which takes place in Beverly Hills, became a cultural phenomenon and spawned its own television series, and furthermore, near the beginning of the 21st century, over two centuries after her death, her works still inform popular culture and cosplay.Miss Austen Regrets
Miss Austen Regrets is a 2007 BBC drama film directed by Jeremy Lovering and written by Gwyneth Hughes. It stars Olivia Williams as Jane Austen, with Imogen Poots, Greta Scacchi, Hugh Bonneville, Adrian Edmondson and Jack Huston. It was first aired on 21 August 2007 in the U.K. and on 3 February 2008 in the U.S. by PBS Masterpiece drama anthology television series as part of The Complete Jane Austen, the United States version of The Jane Austen Season.Persuasion (novel)
Persuasion is the last novel fully completed by Jane Austen. It was published at the end of 1817, six months after her death.
The story concerns Anne Elliot, a young Englishwoman of 27 years, whose family is moving to lower their expenses and get out of debt. They rent their home to an Admiral and his wife. The wife’s brother, Navy Captain Frederick Wentworth, had been engaged to Anne in 1806, and now they meet again, both single and unattached, after no contact in more than seven years. This sets the scene for many humorous encounters as well as a second, well-considered chance at love and marriage for Anne in her second "bloom".
The novel was well-received in the early 19th century. Greater fame came later in the century, continued in the 20th century, and through to the 21st century. Much scholarly debate on Austen's work has since been published. Anne Elliot is noteworthy among Austen's heroines for her relative maturity. As Persuasion is Austen's last completed novel, it is accepted as her most maturely written novel showing a refinement of literary conception indicative of a woman approaching forty years of age. Unlike Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion was not rewritten from earlier drafts of novels that Austen had originally started before 1800. Her use of free indirect discourse in narrative was by 1816 in full evidence.
The first edition of Persuasion was co-published with the previously unpublished Northanger Abbey in late December 1817 (1818 given on the title page), as the second two volumes of a four-volume set, with a preface for the first time publicly identifying Austen as the author of all her novels. Neither "Northanger Abbey" nor "Persuasion" was published under the working title Austen used. The later editions of both were published separately.
Four made-for-television adaptations of the novel were made in Britain, beginning in 1960 with a mini-series featuring Daphne Slater in Persuasion. The next starred Ann Firbank in the lead role in the 1971 version co-starring Bryan Marshall; Amanda Root starred in the 1995 version co-starring Ciarán Hinds; and Sally Hawkins starred in the 2007 version co-starring Rupert Penry-Jones and made for ITV1. Another was made in the US in 1995.Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice is an 1813 romantic novel by Jane Austen. It charts the emotional development of the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet, who learns the error of making hasty judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between the superficial and the essential. The comedy of the writing lies in the depiction of manners, education, marriage and money during the Regency era in Britain.
Mr. Bennet of the Longbourn estate has five daughters, but his property is inalienable intact entailed by a fee tail male, meaning that none of the girls can inherit it. His wife has no fortune, so it is imperative that at least one of the girls marry well to support the others upon his death. Jane Austen's opening line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife", is a sentence filled with irony and playfulness. The novel revolves around the importance of marrying for love, not simply for money, despite the social pressures to make a good (i.e., wealthy) match.
Pride and Prejudice has long fascinated readers, consistently appearing near the top of lists of "most-loved books" among literary scholars and the general public. It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, with over 20 million copies sold and paved the way for many archetypes that abound in modern literature. For more than a century, amateur and professional dramatic adaptations, print continuations and sequels and film and TV versions of Pride and Prejudice have portrayed the memorable characters and themes in the novel, to reach mass audiences. The 2005 film Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, is the most recent Hollywood adaptation of the book.Reception history of Jane Austen
The reception history of Jane Austen follows a path from modest fame to wild popularity. Jane Austen (1775–1817), the author of such works as Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815), has become one of the best-known and most widely read novelists in the English language. Her novels are the subject of intense scholarly study and the centre of a diverse fan culture.
During her lifetime, Austen's novels brought her little personal fame. Like many women writers, she chose to publish anonymously, but her authorship was an open secret. At the time they were published, Austen's works were considered fashionable, but received only a few reviews, albeit positive. By the mid-19th century, her novels were admired by members of the literary elite who viewed their appreciation of her works as a mark of cultivation, but they were also being recommended in the popular education movement and on school reading lists as early as 1838. The first illustrated edition of her works appeared in 1833, in Richard Bentley's Standard Novels series, which put her titles before thousands of readers across the Victorian period.The publication in 1870 of her nephew's Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public as an appealing personality—dear aunt Jane—and her works were republished in popular editions. By the start of the 20th century, competing groups had sprung up—some to worship her and some to defend her from the "teeming masses"—but all claiming to be the true Janeites, or those who properly appreciated her. The "teeming masses", meanwhile, were creating their own ways of honouring Austen, including in amateur theatricals in drawing rooms, schools, and community groups.In 1923, the publisher and scholar R. W. Chapman prepared a carefully edited collection of her works, which some have claimed is the first serious scholarly treatment given to any British novelist. By mid-century, Austen was widely accepted within academia as a great English novelist. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship, which explored numerous aspects of her works: artistic, ideological, and historical. With the growing professionalisation of university English departments in the second half of the 20th century, criticism of Austen became more theoretical and specialized, as did literary studies in general. As a result, commentary on Austen sometimes seemed to imagine itself as divided into high culture and popular culture branches. In the mid- to late 20th century, fans founded Jane Austen societies and clubs to celebrate the author, her time, and her works. As of the early 21st century, Austen fandom supports an industry of printed sequels and prequels as well as television and film adaptations, which started with the 1940 film Pride and Prejudice and evolved to include productions such as the 2004 Bollywood-style film Bride and Prejudice.Sense and Sensibility
Sense and Sensibility is a novel by Jane Austen, published in 1811. It was published anonymously; By A Lady appears on the title page where the author's name might have been. It tells the story of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor (age 19) and Marianne (age 16 1/2) as they come of age. They have an older, stingy half-brother, John, and a younger sister, Margaret, 13.
The novel follows the three Dashwood sisters as they must move with their widowed mother from the estate on which they grew up, Norland Park. Because Norland is passed down to John, the product of Mr. Dashwood's first marriage, and his young son, the four Dashwood women need to look for a new home. They have the opportunity to rent a modest home, Barton Cottage, on the property of a distant relative, Sir John Middleton. There they experience love, romance, and heartbreak. The novel is likely set in southwest England, London and Sussex between 1792 and 1797.The novel, which sold out its first print run of 750 copies in the middle of 1813, marked a success for its author. It had a second print run later that year. It was the first Austen title to be republished in England after her death, and the first illustrated Austen produced in Britain, in Richard Bentley's Standard Novels series of 1833. The novel continued in publication throughout the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries and has many times been illustrated, excerpted, abridged, and adapted for stage and film.Steventon, Hampshire
Steventon is a rural village with a population of about 250 in north Hampshire, England. Situated 7 miles south-west of the town of Basingstoke, between the villages of Overton, Oakley and North Waltham, it is close to Junction 7 of the M3.
Steventon is best known as the birthplace of the author Jane Austen, who lived there from 1775 to 1801, when she moved to Bath with her parents. Though the Rectory in which she wrote Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Sense & Sensibility was pulled down around 1824, the site is still marked by an old lime tree that is believed to have been planted by her eldest brother, James, who took over the parish from his father.
The 12th-century church of St Nicholas, where the Austens were rectors and Jane worshipped, stands little changed from their day. Inside are memorial tablets to James Austen, his nephew William Knight and their families, together with the Digweeds who rented the Steventon Estate during the Austen-Knight period. Outside in the churchyard are their graves together with those of later Lords of the Manor of Steventon.The Jane Austen Book Club (film)
The Jane Austen Book Club is a 2007 American romantic drama film written and directed by Robin Swicord. The screenplay, adapted from the 2004 novel of the same name by Karen Joy Fowler, focuses on a book club formed specifically to discuss the six novels written by Jane Austen. As they delve into Austen's literature, the club members find themselves dealing with life experiences that parallel the themes of the books they are reading.The Watsons
The Watsons is an unfinished novel by Jane Austen. She began writing it c. 1803 and probably abandoned it after her father's death in January 1805. It has five chapters, and is less than 18,000 words long.Timeline of Jane Austen
Jane Austen lived her entire life as part of a family located socially and economically on the lower fringes of the English gentry. The Rev. George Austen and Cassandra Leigh, Jane Austen's parents, lived in Steventon, Hampshire, where Rev. Austen was the rector of the Anglican parish from 1765 until 1801. Jane Austen's immediate family was large and close-knit. She had six brothers—James, George, Charles, Francis, Henry, and Edward—and a beloved older sister, Cassandra. Austen's brother Edward was adopted by Thomas and Elizabeth Knight and eventually inherited their estates at Godmersham, Kent, and Chawton, Hampshire. In 1801, Rev. Austen retired from the ministry and moved his family to Bath, Somerset. He died in 1805 and for the next four years, Jane, Cassandra, and their mother lived first in rented quarters and then in Southampton where they shared a house with Frank Austen's family. During these unsettled years, they spent much time visiting various branches of the family. In 1809, Jane, Cassandra, and their mother moved permanently into a large "cottage" in Chawton village that was part of Edward's nearby estate. Austen lived at Chawton until she moved to Winchester for medical treatment shortly before her death in 1817.Throughout their adult lives, Jane and Cassandra were close to their cousin, Eliza de Feuillide, and to neighbors Mary and Martha Lloyd. Mary became the second wife of Austen's brother James, and Martha lived with the Austen family (beginning shortly after Rev. Austen's death in 1805) and married Austen's brother Frank late in life. Jane and Cassandra were also friends for many years with three sisters, Alethea, Elizabeth and Catherine Bigg, who lived at Manydown Park. Anne Brydges Lefroy, wife of Rev. George Lefroy, "became Jane Austen's best-loved and admired mentor, the person she would always run to for advice and encouragement" after the Lefroys moved to nearby Ashe in 1783. Her death in a riding accident in 1804 left Jane grief-stricken.Austen met, danced with, and perhaps fell in love with Thomas Lefroy during the Christmas holidays in 1795. However, Lefroy departed to begin his law studies in January 1796 and he and Jane never saw each other again. Samuel Blackall, a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and a friend of Mrs. Anne Lefroy, was seriously interested in marrying Austen in 1797. Austen family tradition holds that Jane and an unnamed young clergyman fell in love while the Austen family visited the seaside at Sidmouth in the summer of 1801. Cassandra is said to have approved of this young man, but he died unexpectedly several months later, before he and Jane could be together again. Austen received her only proposal of marriage from Harris Bigg-Wither, brother of her friends Alethea, Elizabeth and Catherine Bigg, while visiting them at their home in December 1802. Austen at first accepted the proposal, then realized she had made a mistake and withdrew her acceptance the next day. Austen biographer Park Honan suggests that Jane may have received a proposal of marriage from Edward Bridges, a brother of Edward Austen's wife Elizabeth, in 1805, but biographer Claire Tomalin dismisses this claim.Jane Austen was primarily educated at home by her father and older brothers and through her own reading. Her apprenticeship as a writer lasted from her teenage years until she was about thirty-five years old. During this period, she wrote three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1815, with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey (originally written in 1798–1799 and revised later) and Persuasion, both published after her death in 1817, and began a third (eventually titled Sanditon), but died before it could be completed. A product of 18th-century literary traditions, Austen's works were influenced most by those of renowned writer and critic Samuel Johnson and novelists Frances Burney and Maria Edgeworth. She considered poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott a rival. Family theatricals, which included plays by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and other 18th-century dramatists, shaped Austen's writing from an early age. William Cowper's poetry was a favourite as were the novels of Samuel Richardson. Austen's engagement with sensibility illustrates her debt to sentimental writers such as Laurence Sterne.
Austen published all of her novels in the Regency period, during which King George III was declared permanently insane and his son was appointed as Prince Regent, and the novels are firmly rooted in the social context of the time. Throughout most of Austen's adult life, Britain was at war with revolutionary France. Fearing the spread of revolution and violence to Britain, the government tried to repress political radicals by suspending habeas corpus and passing the Seditious Meetings Act and the Treasonable Practices Act, known as the "Gagging Acts". Many reformers still held out hope for change in Britain during the 1790s, but by the first two decades of the 19th century, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars had exhausted the country and a deep conservative reaction had set in. While Austen's novels rarely explicitly touch on these events, she herself was personally affected by them, as two of her brothers served in the Royal Navy. When Napoleon was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Britain rejoiced. However, economic hardships in the 1810s increased the income disparity in the country and class conflict rose as the Industrial Revolution began.