In December of 1775, Jane Austen was born in the remote Hampshire village of Steventon. Her parents were George Austen and his wife Cassandra Leigh Austen. They belonged to what was then called the lesser gentry. The couple was never secured economically. They are at advantage because they had good education and good family connections with wealthy neighbors (Shields 11). George and Cassandra were thrilled at the birth of their daughter Jane. Finally their two year old daughter Cassandra, could have a playmate other than her six brothers. Six brothers were no fun for a little girl (Shields 12 and 20).
Today, we know little about Jane's mother Cassandra. We know that she was an accomplished versifier all her life. She also enjoyed rhymes and rhythms. As she got older it may have seemed that she had glimpse of hypochondia or peevishness. Mrs. Austen, may or may not have had a spirit similar to Mrs. Bennet who played the mother in Jane's book "Pride and Prejudice." Mrs. Austen had her work raising eight kids and was most certainly preoccupied. Most of her time revolved around the vegetable garden, the dairy, and the poultry yard (Shields 16 and 18). Jane's father Mr. Austen was considered to be a handsome man and one who lived close to the ideal of a country gentleman. He spent most of his time occupied with the farm and parish duties. By all accounts, he was a caring father with a genuine interest in his family.
He had been orphaned till the age of nine. He had an admirable tolerance for his children's differences, directing them down their own paths. Some examples were; the church, the admiralty, or in their daughter Jane's case, a life of literature (Shields 19). Jane's sister Cassandra played a huge degree in her life. Cassandra had once famously described her sister as "The sun of my life, the glider of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow." Cassandra and Jane got along fairly well. They shared everything with each other (Shields 5 and 17). Jane's six brothers had their own lives to live. Her oldest brother James, was ten years older than Jane and enrolled at Oxford in 1779. He left some breathing space for the newly born Charles. Her other brother Edward formed an attachment with the wealthy related Thomas Knight, which eventually lead to his formal adoption. Her handicapped brother George suffered from an unknown disability, which was might have been a form of brain damage. He lived in a farm refuge. Her brother Francis was a missionary in the East Indies (Shields 21-29).
Jane and her sister Cassandra were sent away to the Abbey School in Reading. The headmistress, Mrs. La Tournelle, spoke not a word of French, despite her name. The other mistresses in the school taught French, drawing and almost certainly dancing. In that time, doors of universities open to females had been considered an accomplishment. The atmosphere of the Abbey School was relaxed and the girls were exposed to healthy food, outdoor exercise, and a less than rigorous academic program. Jane ended her formal education near the end of her twelfth birthday (Shields 22 and 39).
Jane loved to read whenever she had the chance. Her reading was likely to have been supervised and random. Her father's book shelves were open to her, and he did not direct her choices. Her favorite books consisted of the adult world of letters. She enjoyed the works of Richardson and Fielding. Even as a child Jane Austen seemed to be thinking of herself as a future novelist. She carried the Richardson influence throughout her writing carrier. She turned away from Richardson's melodramatic excess. She trimmed and tempered her own episodes. Jane made certain her books stood on legs that were psychologically sound (Shields 23, 24, 27, and 28).
Between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-three, the flow of Jane Austen's life and the rhythms of her writing were profoundly disturbed. As mentioning earlier she was born in Steventon and was still living there until her mid-twenties under the family roof. Travels to London in Bath, had taken her away from home for short periods, but home was what she loved best. Home meant many things such as psychological security, old friends, daily routine, and the series of small accomplishments that gave purpose to her existence. Jane loved the natural world and found strength from it. She thrived in surroundings that were steady and assured. Her creativity to put pen on paper came from the reality of the familiar and predictable. The move to Bath would result in a refuge from those ever present praying thoughts. There would be a lot of new things to get use to such as new faces, social patterns, new distractions from her spinsterhood and the low source of money that would deny any hope of marriage (Shields 86 87 and 91).
As life went on her parents stayed in fairly good health. Her father George Austen was seventy which was considered a remarkable age to achieve at this time. Jane's mother on the other hand was unpredictable in her health. Her mother was a women of force and a full partner in her marriage. Jane's parents had both survived an isolated rural neighborhood. Their sons were scattered, but their two spinster daughters still lived at home. Cassandra had strongly prevailed through the death of her fiancÃÂ©. Jane's brother Frank became a popular heroics of Admiral Nelson and a naval success. A few years later a tragedy struck them with the death of their father. Jane's brother Edward who was a wealthy owner of Godmershan.
He owned Merge landholdings in Kent and Hampshire. One of Jane's most popular books is "Pride and Prejudice." It is a classic tale of the irrepressible Elizabeth Bennet. She is Jane's most fully realized heroine and a character not unlike her creator in which she possesses a dry wit, enjoys spotting a fool, and refuses to be taken lightly. This book is about how the people of rural Meryton scurry to marry their daughters off to Charles Bingley who portrays a dashing and eligible bachelor. He lives in a estate near the Bennets. At the village's welcoming ball, Elizabeth meets up with a familiar face: Bingley's closest friend, the mean, prideful and extremely wealthy Fitzwilliam Darcy. He has a way to pique her to new heights of antagonism. When Darcy harshly urges Bingley to give up his hopes of courtship with Elizabeth's sister, misunderstanding and lack of trust threatens to bury all he loves in turmoil and heartache (Pride and Prejudice).
Jane's famously known book "Emma" was written between January 1814 and March 1815. It was published in 1815. The main character in this book is lovely and wealthy Emma Woodhouse, she is thought of as the queen of her small community. She has no mother and her sickly father imposes no curb on her behavior or self-satisfaction. In Emma's eyes everyone in the village is deferentially lower in social standing. The only person that puts Emma in her place is an old family friend, Mr. Knightley. Emma has a great skill of matchmaking. Emma becomes good friends with Harriet Smith a pretty girl who is "the natural daughter of somebody." Emma takes her up as both a friend and a cause. Being under Emma's control, Harriet refuses a proposal from a local farmer, Robert Martin, because Emma sees a brighter light to a gentleman Mr. Elton. Sadly, Mr. Elton misunderstands the plan and believes Emma is interested in him. He feels as if he can't be lowered to consider the courtship of Harriet Smith. The couples are eventually sorted out but not according to Emma's talented matchmaking. Inn the end she happily engages herself to Mr. Knightly (http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides3/emma1.asp).
Jane's book "Sense and Sensibility" was not the first book written but was the first one published. It was initially called "Elinor and Marianna" but was later changed to the epistolary mode in which is was originally written. This story is about finding the necessity of a workable middle ground between passion and reason. The story revolves around the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. The older sister is a sensible and rational creature, but the younger one is wildly romantic. A potential suitor for Elinor's hand is Edward Ferrars. Marianne admits that she loves him too tenderly but she finds him disappointing as a possible lover for her sister. Soon however, Marianne meets a perfect man for her: Mr. Willoughby, a new neighbor. Marianna becomes so swept away with passion for Willoughby that her behavior becomes the borders of scandalous. Mr. Willoughby abandons her leaving Marianna once again broken hearted. While this was all happening Elinor still had strong feelings for Edward but is torn in two when she finds out that he is secretly engaged to a childhood sweetheart. Their romantic misfortunes do a number on them. Through Marianne's dislike of social conventions, it is Elinor whom Austen herself most strongly admired. To have a truly happy marriage, Jane shows us that to come to the reality that its only met where sense and sensibility meet and mix in proper measure (http://www.online-literature.com/austen/sensibilty1).
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