Great English Novelist
Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, at Steventon, Hampshire where her father was the parish minister. Her parents were Rev. George and Cassandra Austen and she was the youngest of eight children. It was here that she spent the first twenty-five years of her peaceful life.
While not poor, the Austen family lived on the Reverend’s humble income, supplemented only by income he earned by being a tutor. Because of his work as a tutor, he gave Jane a better education than was common for girls of her day. Jane learned French and Italian, and was introduced early on to English literature. Among her favorite authors were Richarson, Johnson, Cowper, Crabbe, and later Scott. She sang a few old ballads with much sweetness, and was a very capable seamstress. Though she never married, it is thought that she did indeed have a great love who died suddenly.
In 1801 she went with her family to Bath, and after her father’s death, in 1805, she moved to Southampton, and finally in 1809 to Chawton near Winchester. She had written stories from her childhood, but it was here that she first had anything published. Four stories were published anonymously during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibilities, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma. The first two were written before the gifted author was twenty-two years old.
Early in 1816, her health began to fail. In May, 1817 she moved to Winchester to receive medical attention and it’s there she died in July, 1817 at the age of 41. She was buried there in the cathedral where the inscription on her grave notes her life of Christian humility. It was in 1818, after her death, that her works Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published and 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, and they’ve yet to be surpassed or equaled. She made her characters come alive to the reader and it is believed that the basis of most of her plots and characters were based on her family and her own life experiences. Her world is that of the gentry of the England of her time, and she portrays its everyday life with marvelous truthfulness and insight.