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George and Cassandra - Jane Austen's Parents

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In order to better understand Jane Austen, it is helpful to learn about her parents: George and Cassandra Leigh Austen. George Austen lost his mother at a young age. His father remarried, but the step-mother detested George, so much so that he was forced to live with his aunt. Later, he received a scholarship to Oxford and eventually earned his divinity degree at St. John's College (a part of Oxford). While he was there, he also learned Greek and Latin and would later teach those languages to his sons and pupils. He was ordained at Christ's Church Cathedral.

George likely met Cassandra Leigh at Oxford. A distant cousin of Cassandra's had been responsible for the found of St. John's College. Cassandra was a pretty and intelligent woman with a knack for writing poetry. George was thirty-two when he married Cassandra. Soon after his marriage, he became the rector at Steventon. He and Cassandra went on to have eight children (James, George, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, Frank, Jane, and Charles) while they were living in Steventon. The Austen family was often in debt as neither George nor Cassandra brought much money into their marriage. George, in addition to being a clergyman, operated a small boarding school and farm to bring some extra income. Cassandra stayed busy with the business of caring for all of her children and providing the necessary meals and clothing for everyone in household, including all of the school pupils.

When George retired, he took his wife and two unmarried daughters and moved to Bath. He lived there for about five years and died at the age of seventy-three. His wife lived on for several decades after his death. Though inclined to think herself ill as she grew older, she outlived her daughter Jane by almost ten years.

George and Cassandra were good parents. They encouraged their children to pursue their own interests, while striving to give all of them a thorough education.  George was an important source of encouragement to Jane. He provided Jane with her writing supplies and even a small writing desk. The young author, through aware of her parents' faults, deeply respected and loved them. It is highly probably that Jane Austen would not have become the author she was without the care and influence of her parents.

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