Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)
Jane’s parents, George and Cassandra, were both born into gentry families and were married in 1764. George was a rector in Steventon, Hampshire, and later worked as a farmer and a teacher to increase his income. Jane had six brothers and one sister, who was her closest friend.
Jane was born in the rectory and when she was a few months old she was sent to a local woman, who looked after her for the next 18 months. At the age of eight both Jane and her sister were sent to Oxford and then Southampton to be educated, before beginning boarding school in 1885. They stayed at this school until the end of 1886 and the rest of Jane’s education was at home with the help of her father and brothers, and their collection of books.
Remaining at home with her parents, Jane’s activities included helping her mother and sister, attending at the births and deaths of relatives, reading, sewing and socialising. She also enjoyed writing and in 1789 decided that she wanted to become a professional writer.
Between 1896 – 97 Jane wrote the novel that would become Pride and Prejudice and the following year was spent revising a previous novel, which became Sense and Sensibility. The year after that was spent writing Northanger Abbey.
In 1800 Jane’s father retired and the family moved to Bath, where he died suddenly five years later, placing the rest of the family in financial difficulty.
Jane became ill at the beginning of 1816, ignoring her symptoms for a period, before her health began to decline steadily. There are several suggestions of what may have caused her death, including Addison’s Disease, Hodgkins’s Lymphoma and bovine tuberculosis.
Three months before her death, Jane was moved to Winchester for medical treatment, where she died in July 1817. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral, where her gravestone remains today.
- Arranged by her brother Henry, Sense and Sensibility was pubished in 1811 and was well-received, selling out within two years.
- Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, which became an instant success.
- In 1814 Mansfield Park was published, and was also popular with readers.
- Emma was published in 1815 and, like her previous novels, sold well.
After Jane’s death Cassandra and Henry arranged for two further books to be published, which they were in late 1817:
- Northanger Abbey