Jane Austen, Her Life and Her Work
Today, December 16th, marks Jane Austen’s birthday. She was a prolific writer – with six major novels under her belt! We remember her for her biting irony paired delightfully with her realism, humour, and social commentary. In today’s blog, we talk about the life of Jane Austen. And, explore her work which is still revered to this day!
The Life of Jane Austen
Jane Austen came into the world in 1775 Steventon, Hampshire. Her father served as the rector of the Anglican parishes and came from an old, respected, and wealthy family of wool merchants. Unfortunately, over the centuries his branch of the family tree fell into poverty. However, he was able to provide modestly for Jane and the rest of the family. During her early years, Austen attended church and read novels – often penned by herself – aloud to her families in the evening. She was also particularly fond of dancing.
In 1783, Jane’s father sent her and her sister to Oxford in order to be educated. Unluckily, they were plagued by diseases and ill-fortune. Thus, leading to Austen never living anywhere beyond the bounds of her family after 1786.
From a young age, Jane Austen wrote poems and stories exaggerating details of daily life. She complied copies of these early works into three bound notebooks now known as the Juvenilia. Between 1793 and 1795 she penned a short novel: Lady Susan. After this, she began her first full-length work Elinor and Marianne.
However, it is hard to know how much of original draft survived in the novel published anonymously in 1811. You might know this book as Sense and Sensibility. By the age of 21, Austen finished her second classic Pride and Prejudice. This would prove to be an established favourite within her family.
She would continue to write hit after hit even as she fell ill in 1816. She always made light of her condition, but eventually succumb to it in the summer of 1817.
Interested in picking up a Jane Austen? We’ve made you a list of her six major novels!
Sense and Sensibility
Publish anonymously in 1811, it tells the story of the Dashwood sisters as they come of age. Its title lays out the mix of good judgement and wisdom (sense) with sensitivity and emotionality (sensibility). Each sister person personifies these characteristics. There is much debate whether Austen favoured one quality over the other. However, it might be a case that an equal does of both is the best recipe for life.
Pride and Prejudice
Many think of this 1813 novel as a romance, but it is also very satire in nature. It follows the character development of Elizabeth Bennet who learns the consequences of hasty judgments. Additionally, the story explores the different between superficial goodness and actual goodness.
Austen’s third novel follows protagonist Fanny Price. She is sent to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle, and we follow her journey into adulthood. While some feel it lacks the humour and sparkle of her previous work, others believe it offers complex realistic characters.
A novel about youthful hubris and romantic misunderstandings, its no wonder this story found itself repurposed for the 90s classic Clueless. The original, set in a fictional country village, involves the relationships among people from a small number of families. The title character, Emma, is spoiled, headstrong, and greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities.
The first of the six novels to be publish posthumously. It is a coming-of-age novel and satire of the Gothic genre. The story follows Catherin Morland and her journey in self (and world) discovery. However, her active imagination and fondness for Gothic novels often distorts these views.
Also published posthumously, this novel concerns Anne Elliot whose family rents out their home to an admiral and his wife. It explores love and marriage as a well-considered second chance.
Which Jane Austen novel will you pick up?