Jane Austen

(1775-1817), English

Jane Austen is one of the most important English literary figures. Her novels of 19th century English life are well-loved around the world.

Jane Austen is remembered today for her six novels, the most famous of which is Pride and Prejudice. Throughout her work, Austen touches on common themes, including romance, youth, wealth, and poverty. Many of the characteristics the women exhibit in her novels, as well as the struggles their families go through, are reminiscent of moments in Austen’s own life.


Life Facts

  • Jane Austen was born in Hampshire, England on 16 December 1775.
  • When Austen was 12 years old, she wrote several plays. 
  • In the 1790s, she began to write her own novels.
  • From 1811 to 1816, she published ‘Mansfield Park,’ ‘Emma,’ ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility.’
  • Jane Austen died in 1816 at the age of 41.

Interesting Facts

  • She had open access to her father’s books as a child. 
  • Jane’s sister, Cassandra was born in 1773 and her brother, Francis, was born in 1774.
  • She caught typhus as a young woman which nearly ended her life.
  • ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ were published after her death. 
  • No one is certain why or how Austen died, although Addison’s disease is the most popular suggestion. 


Famous Books by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is without a doubt Jane Austen’s best-known novel. The book was published in January of 1813 and focuses on the character of Elizabeth Bennet, an opinionated young woman and one of five sisters living at Longbourn. She and her sister’s lives are changed when an eligible young man, Mr. Bingley, and his friend Mr. Darcy, move into a neighboring home.

Persuasion was the last novel that Jane Austen completed. It was published in 1817, after her death the year before. The novel focuses on Anne Eliot, a twenty-seven years old English woman whose family starts renting their home to an Admiral and his wife. This novel, as is the case with others as well, features events and stressors that were present in Austen’s life as well. Anne Eliot is considered to be one of Austen’s best heroines

Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously in three volumes in 1811. It is set in London and Sussex between 1792 and 1797 and follows the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. The two navigate their contemporary world while dealing with relationships and trying to maintain the good sense.

Emma is set in Highbury, Randalls, and Downwell Abbey. It follows Emma, a headstrong young woman who thoughtlessly interferes with other people’s lives and relationships. She’s blinded by her desire to matchmake and entangles herself in relationships that finally force her to take a long hard look at her own emotions. She eventually learns her lesson though and transforms into a much more thoughtful person.

Northanger Abbey is a coming-of-age novel about Catherine Moreland, a young woman who, over the course of the novel, comes to understand the world and herself better. She, like the women in Austen’s other novels, deals with complex friendships and romantic relationships.

Explore the Best Books by Jane Austen.


Early Life

Jane Austen was born in Steventon Rectory, Hampshire, England on the 16th of December 1775. Unfortunately, little is known about Jane Austen’s life except for that which comes from letters she wrote to his family. Of the 3,000 letters she is thought to have written during her lifetime, only 161 have survived. Most of these were written to Austen’s sister, Cassandra, who burnt a great deal of them. 

Her father spent much of Jane’s life as the rector of the parishes at Steventon and Deane. He had a respectable heritage, descending from a line of wool merchants. Unfortunately, his branch of the family fell into poverty. He married Austen’s mother, Cassandra, on the 26th of April 1764, two months after her father died. She brought a bit of money to the family that helped their broader financial situation. 

Jane’s sister, Cassandra was born in 1773 and her brother, Francis, was born in 1774. Her childhood home was an open and well-educated place where varying points of view were discussed freely. In 1783, the two sisters were sent to Oxford. Unfortunately, they were both sent home after they caught typhus, which nearly ended Jane’s life. She was educated at home until 1785 when she went to Reading Abbey Girls’ School. Unfortunately, once again, the girls were sent home. This time due to the expense of the school. 

Jane had open access to her father’s books and they proved to be an essential part of her education. Her friends and family staged plays in their barn and her oldest brother, James, was known to enjoy writing. When Jane was 12 years old, she wrote several plays. 


Writing Career

In the 1790s, she began to write her own novels including Love and Friendship and The History of England. The latter was a parody of historical writing that was accompanied by Cassandra’s illustrations. She also worked on an epistolary story called Lady Susan and the beginnings of what would later be published as Sense and Sensibility. 

In 1801, shortly after her father died, the family moved to Bath. This dramatically increased the family’s financial troubles and the three women moved from home to home until they were finally able to settle down in Edward’s cottage in Chawton. It was at this time that Austen started anonymously publishing her novels. From 1811 to 1816, she published Mansfield Park, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. 


Death

Jane Austen died in 1816 at the age of 41. It’s not entirely clear what caused her death, although some reports suggest Addison’s disease. Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published in 1817.


Influence from other Writers

Jane Austen was notably influenced by writers such as Samuel Richardson and Frances Burney


Literature by Jane Austen

Explore literature by Jane Austen below, created by the team at Book Analysis.