Jane Austen was the seventh of eight children born to a Steventon, Hampshire clergyman. A large family of gentle lineage and no fortune, the Austens were a lively, literary household whose quiet country life left time for novel reading and charades. In 1801, Austen’s father moved with his wife and daughters to Bath, an expensive and populous watering place, possibly because his daughters were still unmarried. Jane is reported to have fallen in love in that year, but the gentleman died before a formal engagement had occurred. She never married. Jane’s elder sister by three years, Cassandra, was closest to her, and they lived together continually until Jane died in Winchester in 1817.
Jane Austen’s life contained little in the way of outward event. Born in 1775, she was the seventh of eight children. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, was a scholarly clergyman, the rector of Steventon in rural Hampshire, England. Mrs. Austen shared her husband’s intelligence and intellectual interests, and the home they provided for their children was a happy and comfortable one, replete with the pleasures of country life, genteel society, perpetual reading, and lively discussion of ideas serious and frivolous. Jane Austen, who never married, was devoted throughout her life to her brothers and their families, but her closest relationship was with her older sister Cassandra, who likewise remained unmarried. Austen relied on Cassandra as her chief critic, cherished her as a confidant, and admired her as the ideal of feminine virtue.
On the rector’s retirement in 1801, Austen moved with her parents and Cassandra to Bath. After the Reverend George Austen’s death in 1804, the women continued to live for some time in that city. In 1806, the Austens moved to Southampton, where they shared a house with Captain Francis Austen, Jane’s older brother, and his wife. In 1808, Edward Austen (who subsequently adopted the surname Knight from the relations whose two estates he inherited) provided his mother and sisters with a permanent residence, Chawton Cottage, in the Hampshire village of the same name. At this house, Austen was to revise her manuscripts that became Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey and to write Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. In 1817, it became evident that she was ill with a serious complaint whose symptoms seem to have been those of Addison’s disease. To be near medical help, she and Cassandra moved to lodgings in Winchester in May, 1817. Austen died there less than two months later.
The standard view of Jane Austen, fostered to some extent by the novelist’s own remarks, is of a reserved and restricted writer, working on a consciously small scale and deliberately unaffected by major events of the time. She refused all suggestions that she should venture on abstract or political themes, and once wrote that the true subject of her fiction was “three or four families in an English country village.” The great events of her life—the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the war with Napoleon Bonaparte—are all on the face of it ignored in her novels. She has been accused accordingly of a kind of triviality, or lack of interest, and in the late twentieth century of too easy an acceptance of the...
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Jane Austen (OWS-tuhn) was born on December 16, 1775, in the tiny village of Steventon, where her father, the Reverend George Austen, served as the town rector. Her mother, Cassandra Leigh Austen, was herself the daughter of a rector, and Jane was the seventh of the couple’s eight children. An older brother, George, suffered from epilepsy and did not live with the family, and the couple’s third son, Edward, was adopted by wealthy, childless relatives who took a strong interest in the boy throughout his childhood. The remaining six children, however, lived with their parents in the plain, comfortable village rectory.
George Austen was a scholarly man, and the household included a large library, from which Jane read...
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Although she completed only six novels, Jane Austen has retained a position of great critical acclaim among English novelists. A writer of great wit and elegance of style, she depicts her characters’ strengths and weaknesses with tolerance and sympathy.
Finding, as she once noted in a letter to her niece, that “3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on,” Austen examines the world she knows with delicate irony and wry humor, revealing in the process a grasp of the subtleties of human nature that transcends her books’ deceptively ordinary settings and events.
Jane Austen (OWS-tuhn) was the seventh of eight children, the second daughter of a rural clergyman respected for his learning and literary taste. Two of her brothers followed their father to Oxford University and into the church; two others rose to be admirals in the navy. Except for brief schooling in Oxford, Southampton, and Reading, which ended at the age of nine, Austen was educated at home, where she learned French, a smattering of Italian, and some history and gained a thorough acquaintance with the essayists, novelists, and poets of the eighteenth century as well as with the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton.
Always somewhat shy but lively and witty, Austen developed into a young lady of cultivated manners...
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