History's Women: Miscellaneous Articles: Jane Austen, One of the Greater English Novelists  Jane Austen
One of the Greater English Novelists
1775 – 1817 A.D.

Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, at Steventon, Hampshire, of which parish her father was the rector. Here she spent the first twenty-five years of her peaceful life. She was the youngest of seven children, among whom she had but one sister, and of her brothers two ultimately rose to the rank of admiral in the navy.

Her father, who used to augment a slender income by taking pupils, gave her a better education than was common for girls towards the close of the eighteenth century. Jane learned French and Italian, and had good acquaintance with English literature, her favorite authors being Richardson, Johnson, Cowper, Crabbe, and later Scott. She sang a few old ballads with much sweetness, and was very dexterous with her needle. In her life there is a hint of an affection for a lover who died suddenly.

In 1801 she went with her family to Bath, and after her father’s death, in 1805, removed to Southhampton, and finally, in 1809, to Chawton near Winchester. She had written stories from her childhood, but it was here that she gave anything to the world. Four stories were published anonymously during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma. The first two were written before the the gifted authoress was more than twenty-two years old.

Early in 1816 her health began to give way. In May of 1817 she resorted for medical advice to Winchester, and here she died two months later, July 18, 1817. She was buried there in the cathedral. Northhanger Abbey and Persuasion were published in 1818, when the authorship of the whole six was first acknowledged.

Jane Austen’s novels are the earliest examples of the so-called domestic novel in England, nor within their own limits have they been surpassed or even equaled since. Her world is the gentry of the England of her time, and she portrays its everyday life with marvelous truthfulness of insight. Her characters are perfectly distinct, and more alive to us than many of the persons among whom we actually live.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.