Jane Austin

By Gordon Smith,2014-06-04 18:25
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Jane Austen (1775-1817)

    A Brief Biography

Jane Austen

    Jane Austen, one of England??s foremost novelists, was never publicly acknowledged as a writer during her lifetime. She was born on December 16, 1775, at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire, the seventh child of a country clergyman and his wife, George and Cassandra Austen. She was primarily educated at home, benefiting from her father??s extensive library and the schoolroom atmosphere created by Mr. Austen??s live-in pupils. Her closest friend was her only sister, Cassandra, almost three years her senior.

    Though Austen lived a quiet life, she had unusual access to the greater world, primarily through her brothers. Francis (Frank) and Charles, officers in the Royal Navy, served on ships around the world and saw action in the Napoleonic Wars. Henry, who eventually became a clergyman like his father and his brother James, was an officer in the militia and later a banker. Austen visited Henry in London, where she attended the theater, art exhibitions, and social events and also corrected proofs of her novels. Her brother Edward was adopted by wealthy cousins, the Knights, becoming their heir and later taking their name. On extended visits to Godmersham, Edward??s estate in Kent, Austen and her sister took part in the privileged life of the landed gentry, which is reflected in all her fiction.

St. Nicholas Church, Steventon

    (Click photos for larger image.)

    As a child Austen began writing comic stories, now referred to as the Juvenilia. Her first mature work, composed when she was about 19, was a novella, Lady Susan, written in epistolary form (as a series of letters). This early fiction was preserved by her family but was not published until long after her death.

    In her early twenties Austen wrote the novels that later became Sense

    and Sensibility (first called ??Elinor and Marianne??) and Pride and Prejudice (originally ??First Impressions??). Her father sent a letter offering the manuscript of ??First Impressions?? to a publisher soon after it was finished in 1797, but his offer was rejected by return post. Austen continued writing, revising ??Elinor and Marianne?? and completing a novel called ??Susan?? (later to become Northanger Abbey). In 1803 Austen sold ??Susan?? for ?ê10 to a publisher, who promised early publication, but the manuscript languished in his archives until it was repurchased a year before Austen??s death for the price the publisher had paid her.

4 Sydney Place, Bath

    When Austen was 25 years old, her father retired, and she and Cassandra moved with their parents to Bath, residing first at 4 Sydney Place. During the five years she lived in Bath (1801-1806), Austen began one novel, The Watsons, which she never completed. After Mr. Austen??s death, Austen??s brothers contributed funds to assist the

    Chawton Cottage

    In 1809 Edward provided the women a comfortable cottage in the village of Chawton, near his Hampshire manor house. This was the beginning of Austen??s most productive period. In 1811, at the age of 35, Austen published Sense and Sensibility, which identified the author as ??a Lady.?? Pride and Prejudice followed in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814, and Emma in 1815. The title page of each book referred to one or two of Austen??s earlier novels?ªcapitalizing on her growing reputation?ªbut did not provide her name.

    Austen began writing the novel that would be called Persuasion in 1815 and finished it the following year, by which time, however, her health was beginning to fail. The probable cause of her illness was Addison??s Disease. In 1816 Henry Austen repurchased the rights to ??Susan,?? which Austen revised and renamed ??Catherine.??

8 College Street, Winchester

    All photos ?Copyright Allan Soedring

    During a brief period of strength early in 1817, Austen began the fragment later called Sanditon, but by March she was too ill to work. On April 27 she wrote her will, naming Cassandra as her heir. In May she and Cassandra moved to 8 College Street in Winchester to be near her doctor. Austen died in the early hours of July 18, 1817, and a few days later was buried in Winchester Cathedral. She was 41 years old. Interestingly, Austen??s gravestone, which is visited by hundreds of admirers each year, does not even mention that she was an author. Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published together in December 1817 with a ??Biographical Notice?? written by Henry, in which Jane

    Austen was, for the first time in one of her novels, identified as the author of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma.

    Jane Austen??s novels have never been out of print and are often included on lists of readers?? favorites. Her surviving letters are also a source of entertainment and biographical information (Jane Austen??s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Oxford University Press, 1995). Maps of real and fictional places in Austen??s novels are available on this site. A Selection of Biographies

    J. E. Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections, edited by Kathryn Sutherland (Oxford University Press, 2002) (also contains biographical memoirs by Austen??s brother Henry and her nieces Anna Lefroy and Caroline Austen).

    Jan Fergus, Jane Austen: A Literary Life (Macmillan Press, 1991). Park Honan, Jane Austen: Her Life (St. Martin??s Press, 1987). Elizabeth Jenkins, Jane Austen: A Biography (1938 and later reprints). Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen: A Family Record (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

    Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 19 Jane Austen??s Works

     Jane Austen wrote six novels, which continue to captivate readers almost 200 years after her death: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. The novels, as well as her juvenilia and unfinished works, are available in numerous modern editions. Her collected letters are published by Oxford University Press, The Letters of Jane Austen, edited by Deirdre Le Faye (1995).

    All essays and book reviews on this web site about Austen and her writing can be searched online. Maps of real and fictional places in Austen??s novels are posted on this site. A concordance to Austen??s six novels and Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon is available through this link.

    The following is a chronology of Austen??s writing and the publication of her novels through 1817, the year she died.

    Chronology of Austen??s Works

    c. 1787-1793 Short works, collectively called the Juvenilia, written. c. 1794 Lady Susan written, but without a conclusion.

    c. 1795 ??Elinor and Marianne?? written (later revised as Sense and Sensibility).

     1796 ??First Impressions?? begun (later revised as Pride and Prejudice).

     1797 ??First Impressions?? completed and offered by Austen??s father to a publisher, but rejected sight unseen.

    c. 1798-1799 ??Susan?? written (later retitled ??Catherine?? and

posthumously published as Northanger Abbey).

     1803 ??Susan?? sold to a publisher, but never published. c. 1804 The Watsons begun but not finished.

     1805 Lady Susan completed.

     1810 Sense and Sensibility accepted for publication.

     1811 Sense and Sensibility published.

    Extensive revision of ??First Impressions?? as Pride and Prejudice begun.

    Mansfield Park begun.

     1812 Pride and Prejudice purchased by publisher.

     1813 Pride and Prejudice published.

    Mansfield Park completed and accepted for publication.

    Second editions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility published.

     1814 Mansfield Park published.

    Emma begun.

     1815 Emma completed and published (1816 shown on title page). Persuasion begun.

     1816 Persuasion completed.

    ??Susan?? repurchased from publisher and revised as ??Catherine.?? Second edition of Mansfield Park published.

     1817 Sanditon begun but not finished.

    Northanger Abbey and Persuasion published together posthumously with ??Biographical Notice?? by Henry Austen (1818 shown on title page).

Where??s Where in Jane Austen??s Novels

    A defining characteristic of Jane Austen??s fiction is its realism, which is manifest in details of speech, manner, lifestyle, and even geography. In each novel her ??3 or 4 Families in a Country Village?? are situated in a specific part of England. Sense and Sensibility, her first published novel, begins, ??The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.?? Austen uses the removal of the Dashwood women from Norland Park in Sussex to Barton Cottage in distant Devonshire to underscore both their exilAusten always names the county in which a novel??s action is set and often mentions cities and landmarks, though her villages and estates are invented. This section reproduces maps of the novels from Where??s Where in Jane Austen . . . and What Happens There, by Patrick Wilson, published by the Jane Austen Society of Australia. The maps include both real and fictional places, and the book provides information about more than 400 locations in Austen??s fiction. It is available for purchase on JASA??s web site. Jane Axelrod and Nadine Ezra, JASNA members in the Metropolitan New York Region, created the maps of London and Bath respectively.

? Sense and Sensibility

    ? Pride and Prejudice

    ? Mansfield Park

    ? Emma

    ? Northanger Abbey

    ? Persuasion

    ? Map of London

    ? Map of Bath

    ? Map of English Counties

    Further Reading

    Pride and Prejudice

    Pemberley??s Welcome, or An Historical Conjecture Upon Elizabeth Darcy??s Wedding Journey, by Kelly McDonald

    Derbyshires Corresponding: Elizabeth Bennet and the Austen Tour of 1833, by Kelly McDonald

    The Probable Location of Longbourn in Jane Austen??s Pride and Prejudice, by Kenneth Smith

    Pemberley Revisited, by Donald Greene

    Mansfield Park

    Exploring Mansfield Park: In the Footsteps of Fanny Price, by John Wiltshire

    Portsmouth in Jane Austen??s Time, by B. C. Thomas


    ??It Must Be Done in London??: The Suburbanization of Highbury, by Tara Ghoshal Wallace

    ??Adoring the Girl Next Door: Geography in Austen??s Novels??, by Susan Morgan

    Northanger Abbey

    Yes, There is a Petty France, by Dean Cantrell


    The ??Positioning Systems?? of Persuasion, by Laura Mooneyham White Why Lyme Regis?, by Peter Graham

    ??What Part of Bath Do You Think They Will Settle In???: Jane Austen??s Use of Bath in Persuasion by Keiko Parker

News and Events


    3/29/2009 Special Edition of Persuasions On-Line3/23/2010 A Preview of Persuasions 313/14/2010 Podcast of Gina Luria Walker??s lecture at Chawton House Library: ??Pride, Prejudice, Patriarchy: Jane Austen Reads Mary Hays??2/2/2010 Registration Is Open for 2010 Tour to England1/10/2010 Read About New Emma Adaptation12/16/2009

     Winter 2009 issue of Persuasions On-Line11/2/2009 Austen??s

    Tonbridge Connections10/26/2009 2010 Essay Contest Topic Announced10/15/2009 A Woman??s Wit: Jane Austen??s Life and Legacy, Morgan Library and Museum, New YorkEvents

     JASNA Regions Host Special Events2010 Jane Austen Weekends, The Governor??s House, Hyde Park, VTFeb 21-Oct 31 Pride and Prejudice, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OregonApr 15-18 Jane Austen Festival, Canberra, AustraliaApr 20-May 9 Austen??s Women, Leicester Square Theatre, LondonMay 8 Sailing Masters Regency Ball, Essex, ConnecticuttMay 9 Mother??s Day Program: ??Remarkable Women: Jane Austen, Dolley Madison & Rebecca Gore,?? Gore Place, Waltham,JASNA News Editor Interviewed on WETA??s "Author Author!"

    JASNA President Interviewed on Milwaukee Public Radio

    Listen to replay of Pride and Prejudice discussion on "What??s the Word?" JASNA web site offers an RSS feed

    Listen to JASNA Board Members on NPR

    To request the addition of an Austen-related event, please contact webmaster@jasna.org.


    The Jane Austen Society of North America is dedicated to the enjoyment and appreciation of Jane Austen and her writing. JASNA is a nonprofit organization, staffed by volunteers, whose purpose is set forth in its Vision and Mission statements:


    Because literature has the power to change and enrich our lives, we want to see more people reading the great authors, with special emphasis on Jane Austen.


    Our mission is to foster among the widest number of readers the study, appreciation, and understanding of Jane Austen??s works, her life, and her genius.

    JASNA was founded in 1979 by Joan Austen-Leigh, Henry G. Burke, and J. David Grey. One hundred Janeites attended the society??s inaugural dinner, October 5, 1979, at the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan. The event was covered by The New Yorker magazine in a ??Talk of the Town?? item, which began, ??Some people who like Jane Austen got together the other evening ... .?? The society??s ranks have grown considerably in the past quarter century, but its collegiality and purpose remain the same.

    JASNA??s approximately 4,000 members are of all ages and from diverse walks of life. In addition to members in the United States and Canada, its rolls include Austen admirers from more than a dozen countries. Members at a local JASNA meeting may discuss an Austen novel, hear a

    lecture about Austen or the Regency era, enjoy a tea or Box Hill picnic, or learn English country dancing. Members participate in these and other activities by joining any of the more than 60 regional groups, which also celebrate Jane Austen??s birthday, December 16, with a tea or luncheon.

    Each autumn several hundred members gather for the Annual General Meeting (AGM), a three-day conference with an Austen theme hosted by a JASNA region in Canada or the United States. The AGM features dozens of lectures by Austen scholars and JASNA members, as well as workshops, exhibits, entertainment, tours, and a banquet and Regency ball. JASNA??s annual journals, Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line, are preeminent sources for Austen studies. JASNA News, mailed to members three times a year, carries features, book reviews, news from the AGM and regions, and reports about Austen sites in England. The society also conducts an annual student Essay Contest and sponsors occasional tours to England.

    JASNA relies for its funding primarily on membership dues and contributions. The society also provides support to sites in England that have close ties to Jane Austen and heJASNA Founders Joan Austen-Leigh (1920-2001)

    Henry G. Burke (1902-1989)

    J. David Grey (1935-1993)


    JASNA membership is open to everyone interested in the life and works of Jane Austen.

    JASNA members receive

    ? A subscription to the society??s newsletter, JASNA News, published three times a year, which carries book reviews, news from JASNA regions, and feature articles;

    ? Persuasions, JASNA??s annual journal, a preeminent source for Austen studies, with essays from the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and scholarly articles;

    ? An invitation to attend the AGM, a three-day conference with an Austen theme held each autumn in a different North American city, featuring speakers, entertainment, tours, banquet, and Regency ball; ? The opportunity to join one of the more than 60 JASNA regional groups in the United States and Canada, which host lectures, book discussions, teas, and a celebration of Austen??s birthday, December 16; ? Participation in members-only tours to England, organized and led by professionals with special access to Austen sites.

    To join JASNA or give a gift membership, you can either: ? print and mail the Membership Form with your check or money order