16 December 1775|
Steventon Rectory, Hampshire, England
|Died||18 July 1817
Winchester, Hampshire, England
|Resting place||Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, England|
|Period||1787 to 1809–11|
Jane Austen (/ /; 16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favorable social standing and economic security. Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism.[b]
She experimented with various literary forms, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels, and began a fourth.[c] From 1811 until 1816, with the publication of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began a third, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion.
Her major novels are rarely out of print today, although they were first published anonymously and brought her little fame and brief reviews during her lifetime. A significant transition in her posthumous reputation occurred in 1869, fifty-two years after her death, when her nephew's publication of A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider audience.
During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries Austen's writings have inspired a large number of critical essays and literary anthologies, establishing her as a British author of international fame. Her novels have inspired many films, from 1940's Pride and Prejudice starring Laurence Olivier to more recent productions: Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship (2016).
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Genre and style
- 3 Reception
- 4 List of works
- 5 Family trees
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Life and career
Biographical information about Austen is "famously scarce", according to one biographer. Only some personal and family letters remain (by one estimate only 160 out of Austen's 3,000 letters are extant), and her sister Cassandra (to whom most of the letters were addressed) burned "the greater part" of the ones she kept and censored those she did not destroy. Other letters were destroyed by the heirs of Admiral Francis Austen, Jane's brother. Most of the early biographical material was written by her relatives and reflects the family's biases in favour of "good quiet Aunt Jane". Scholars have unearthed little information since.
Austen's parents, George Austen (1731–1805), and his wife, Cassandra (1739–1827), were members of substantial gentry families. George came from a family of woollen manufacturers, which had risen through the professions to the lower ranks of the landed gentry. Cassandra was a member of the prominent Leigh family. They married on 26 April 1764 at Walcot Church in Bath. For much of Jane's life, George Austen served as the rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon, Hampshire, and a nearby village. From 1773 until 1796, he supplemented this income by farming and by teaching three or four boys at a time, who boarded at his home.[d]
Austen's immediate family was large: six brothers—James (1765–1819), George (1766–1838), Edward (1768–1852), Henry Thomas (1771–1850), Francis William (Frank) (1774–1865), Charles John (1779–1852)—and one sister, Cassandra Elizabeth (1773–1845), who, like Jane, died unmarried. Cassandra was Austen's closest friend and confidante throughout her life.
Of her brothers, Austen felt closest to Henry, who became a banker and, after his bank failed, an Anglican clergyman. Henry also acted as his sister's literary agent. His large circle of friends and acquaintances in London included bankers, merchants, publishers, painters and actors. He exposed Austen to a social world not normally visible from a small parish in rural Hampshire.
George was sent to live with a local family at a young age because, as Austen biographer Le Faye describes it, he was "mentally abnormal and subject to fits". He may also have been deaf and mute. Charles and Frank served in the navy, both rising to the rank of admiral. Edward was adopted by his fourth cousin, Thomas Knight, inheriting Knight's estate and taking his name in 1812.
Early life and education
Austen was born in the rectory at Steventon and baptised on 5 April 1776. After a few months at home, her mother placed her with Elizabeth Littlewood, a woman living nearby, who nursed and raised her for a year or eighteen months. In 1783, according to family tradition, Jane and Cassandra were sent to Oxford to be educated by Mrs. Ann Cawley, and they moved with her to Southampton later in the year. Both girls caught typhus and Jane nearly died. Austen was subsequently educated at home, until leaving for boarding school with her sister early in 1785. The school curriculum probably included some French, spelling, needlework, dancing and music and, perhaps, drama. By December 1786 the sisters had returned home because the Austens could not afford to send both their daughters to school.
Austen acquired the remainder of her education by reading books, guided by her father and her brothers James and Henry.[e] Austen apparently had unfettered access both to her father's library and that of a family friend, Warren Hastings. Together these collections amounted to a large and varied library. Her father was also tolerant of Austen's sometimes risqué experiments in writing, and provided both sisters with expensive paper and other materials for their writing and drawing. According to biographer Park Honan, life in the Austen home was lived in "an open, amused, easy intellectual atmosphere" where the ideas of those with whom the Austens might disagree politically or socially were considered and discussed. After 1786, Austen "never again lived anywhere beyond the bounds of her immediate family environment".
Private theatricals were also a part of Austen's education. From when she was seven until she was thirteen, the family and close friends staged a series of plays, including Richard Sheridan's The Rivals (1775) and David Garrick's Bon Ton. While the details are unknown, Austen would certainly have joined in these activities, as a spectator at first and as a participant when she was older. Most of the plays were comedies, which suggests one way in which Austen's comedic and satirical gifts were cultivated. In 1788 her portrait may have been commissioned by her great uncle, Francis Austen.
Perhaps as early as 1787, Austen began to write poems, stories and plays for her own and her family's amusement. Austen later compiled "fair copies" of 29 of these early works into three bound notebooks, now referred to as the Juvenilia, containing pieces originally written between 1787 and 1793. There is manuscript evidence that Austen continued to work on these pieces as late as the period 1809–1811, and that her niece and nephew, Anna and James Edward Austen, made further additions as late as 1814. Among these works are a satirical novel in letters titled Love and Freindship [sic], in which she mocked popular novels of sensibility, and The History of England, a manuscript of 34 pages accompanied by 13 watercolour miniatures by her sister, Cassandra. Austen's History parodied popular historical writing, particularly Oliver Goldsmith's History of England (1764). Austen wrote, for example: "Henry the 4th ascended the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, after having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2nd, to resign it to him, & to retire for the rest of his Life to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered." Austen's Juvenilia are often, according to scholar Richard Jenkyns, "boisterous" and "anarchic"; he compares them to the work of 18th-century novelist Laurence Sterne and the 20th-century comedy group Monty Python.
As Austen grew into adulthood, she continued to live at her parents' home, carrying out those activities normal for women of her age and social standing: she practised the fortepiano, assisted her sister and mother with supervising servants, and attended female relatives during childbirth and older relatives on their deathbeds. She sent short pieces of writing to her newborn nieces Fanny Catherine and Jane Anna Elizabeth. Austen was particularly proud of her accomplishments as a seamstress. She also attended church regularly, socialized frequently with friends and neighbours,[f] and read novels—often of her own composition—aloud with her family in the evenings. Socializing with the neighbours often meant dancing, either impromptu in someone's home after supper or at the balls held regularly at the assembly rooms in the town hall. Her brother Henry later said that "Jane was fond of dancing, and excelled in it".
In 1793 Austen began and then abandoned a short play, later entitled Sir Charles Grandison or the happy Man, a comedy in 6 acts, which she returned to and completed around 1800. This was a short parody of various school textbook abridgments of Austen's favourite contemporary novel, The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753), by Samuel Richardson. Honan speculates that not long after writing Love and Freindship [sic] in 1789, Austen decided to "write for profit, to make stories her central effort", that is, to become a professional writer. Whenever she made that decision, beginning in about 1793, Austen began to write longer, more sophisticated works.
Between 1793 and 1795 Austen wrote Lady Susan, a short epistolary novel, usually described as her most ambitious and sophisticated early work. It is unlike any of Austen's other works. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin describes the novella's heroine as a sexual predator who uses her intelligence and charm to manipulate, betray and abuse her lovers, friends and family. Tomalin writes: "Told in letters, it is as neatly plotted as a play, and as cynical in tone as any of the most outrageous of the Restoration dramatists who may have provided some of her inspiration ... It stands alone in Austen's work as a study of an adult woman whose intelligence and force of character are greater than those of anyone she encounters."
After finishing Lady Susan, Austen attempted her first full-length novel—Elinor and Marianne. Her sister later remembered that it was read to the family "before 1796" and was told through a series of letters. Without surviving original manuscripts, there is no way to know how much of the original draft survived in the novel published anonymously in 1811 as Sense and Sensibility.
When Austen was twenty, Tom Lefroy, a neighbour, visited Steventon from December 1795 to January 1796. He had just finished a university degree and was moving to London for training as a barrister. Lefroy and Austen would have been introduced at a ball or other neighbourhood social gathering, and it is clear from Austen's letters to Cassandra that they spent considerable time together: "I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together." The Lefroy family intervened and sent him away at the end of January. Marriage was impractical, as both Lefroy and Austen must have known. Neither had any money, and he was dependent on a great-uncle in Ireland to finance his education and establish his legal career. If Tom Lefroy later visited Hampshire, he was carefully kept away from the Austens, and Jane Austen never saw him again.
Austen began work on a second novel, First Impressions, in 1796. She completed the initial draft in August 1797 when she was only 21 (it later became Pride and Prejudice); as with all of her novels, Austen read the work aloud to her family as she was working on it and it became an "established favourite". At this time, her father made the first attempt to publish one of her novels. In November 1797, George Austen wrote to Thomas Cadell, an established publisher in London, to ask if he would consider publishing "a Manuscript Novel, comprised in three Vols. about the length of Miss Burney's Evelina" (First Impressions) at the author's financial risk. Cadell quickly returned Mr. Austen's letter, marked "Declined by Return of Post". Austen may not have known of her father's efforts. Following the completion of First Impressions, Austen returned to Elinor and Marianne and from November 1797 until mid-1798, revised it heavily; she eliminated the epistolary format in favour of third-person narration and produced something close to Sense and Sensibility.
During the middle of 1798, after finishing revisions of Elinor and Marianne, Austen began writing a third novel with the working title Susan—later Northanger Abbey—a satire on the popular Gothic novel. Austen completed her work about a year later. In early 1803, Henry Austen offered Susan to Benjamin Crosby, a London publisher, who paid £10 for the copyright. Crosby promised early publication and went so far as to advertise the book publicly as being "in the press", but did nothing more. The manuscript remained in Crosby's hands, unpublished, until Austen repurchased the copyright from him in 1816.
Bath and Southampton
In December 1800 George Austen unexpectedly announced his decision to retire from the ministry, leave Steventon, and move the family to Bath. While retirement and travel were good for the elder Austens, Jane Austen was shocked to be told she was moving from the only home she had ever known. An indication of her state of mind is her lack of productivity as a writer during the time she lived at Bath. She was able to make some revisions to Susan, and she began and then abandoned a new novel, The Watsons, but there was nothing like the productivity of the years 1795–1799. Tomalin suggests this reflects a deep depression disabling her as a writer, but Honan disagrees, arguing Austen wrote or revised her manuscripts throughout her creative life, except for a few months after her father died.[g]
In December 1802 Austen received her only known proposal of marriage. She and her sister visited Alethea and Catherine Bigg, old friends who lived near Basingstoke. Their younger brother, Harris Bigg-Wither, had recently finished his education at Oxford and was also at home. Bigg-Wither proposed and Austen accepted. As described by Caroline Austen, Jane's niece, and Reginald Bigg-Wither, a descendant, Harris was not attractive—he was a large, plain-looking man who spoke little, stuttered when he did speak, was aggressive in conversation, and almost completely tactless. However, Austen had known him since both were young and the marriage offered many practical advantages to Austen and her family. He was the heir to extensive family estates located in the area where the sisters had grown up. With these resources, Austen could provide her parents a comfortable old age, give Cassandra a permanent home and, perhaps, assist her brothers in their careers. By the next morning, Austen realised she had made a mistake and withdrew her acceptance. No contemporary letters or diaries describe how Austen felt about this proposal. In 1814, Austen wrote a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, who had asked for advice about a serious relationship, telling her that "having written so much on one side of the question, I shall now turn around & entreat you not to commit yourself farther, & not to think of accepting him unless you really do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without Affection".
In 1804, while living in Bath, Austen started but did not complete a new novel, The Watsons. The story centres on an invalid clergyman with little money and his four unmarried daughters. Sutherland describes the novel as "a study in the harsh economic realities of dependent women's lives". Honan suggests, and Tomalin agrees, that Austen chose to stop work on the novel after her father died on 21 January 1805 and her personal circumstances resembled those of her characters too closely for her comfort.
Her father's fatal ilness was sudden, and left him, as she told her brother Francis, "quite insensible of his own state". Jane, Cassandra, and their mother were left in a precarious financial situation. Edward, James, Henry, and Francis Austen pledged to make annual contributions to support their mother and sisters. For the next four years, the family's living arrangements reflected their financial insecurity. They lived part of the time in rented quarters in Bath before leaving the city in June 1805 for a family visit to Steventon & Godmersham. They spent the autumn months of that same year in the newly fashionable seaside resort of Worthing, on the Sussex coast, where they resided at Stanford Cottage.[h] It was here that Austen is thought to have written her fair copy of Lady Susan and added its "Conclusion". In 1806 the family moved to Southampton, where they shared a house with Frank Austen and his new wife. A large part of this time they spent visiting various branches of the family.
On 5 April 1809, about three months before the family's move to Chawton, Austen wrote an angry letter to Richard Crosby, offering him a new manuscript of Susan if that was needed to secure immediate publication of the novel, and otherwise requesting the return of the original so she could find another publisher. Crosby replied that he had not agreed to publish the book by any particular time, or at all, and that Austen could repurchase the manuscript for the £10 he had paid her and find another publisher. She did not have the resources to buy the copyright back at that time, but was able to purchase it in 1816.
Around early 1809 Austen's brother Edward offered his mother and sisters a more settled life—the use of a large cottage in Chawton village[i] that was part of Edward's nearby estate, Chawton House. Jane, Cassandra and their mother moved into Chawton cottage on 7 July 1809. Life was quieter in Chawton than it had been since the family's move to Bath in 1800. The Austens did not socialise with the neighbouring gentry and entertained only when family visited. Austen's niece Anna described the Austen family's life in Chawton: "It was a very quiet life, according to our ideas, but they were great readers, and besides the housekeeping our aunts occupied themselves in working with the poor and in teaching some girl or boy to read or write." Austen wrote almost daily, but privately, and seems to have been relieved of some household responsibilities to give her more opportunity to write. In this setting, she was able to be productive as a writer once more.
During her time at Chawton, Jane Austen successfully published four novels, which were generally well received. Through her brother Henry, the publisher Thomas Egerton agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility,[j] which appeared in October 1811. Reviews were favourable and the novel became fashionable among young aristocratic opinion-makers; the edition sold out by mid-1813.[k] Austen's earnings from Sense and Sensibility provided her with some financial and psychological independence. Egerton then published Pride and Prejudice, a revision of First Impressions, in January 1813. He advertised the book widely and it was an immediate success, garnering three favourable reviews and selling well. By October 1813 Egerton was able to begin selling a second edition. Mansfield Park was published by Egerton in May 1814. While Mansfield Park was ignored by reviewers, it was a great success with the public. All copies were sold within six months, and Austen's earnings on this novel were larger than for any of her other novels.
Austen learned that the Prince Regent admired her novels and kept a set at each of his residences.[l] In November 1815, the Prince Regent's librarian James Stanier Clarke invited Austen to visit the Prince's London residence and hinted Austen should dedicate the forthcoming Emma to the Prince. Though Austen disliked the Prince, she could scarcely refuse the request. She later wrote Plan of a Novel, according to hints from various quarters, a satiric outline of the "perfect novel" based on the librarian's many suggestions for a future Austen novel.
In mid-1815 Austen moved her work from Egerton to John Murray, a better known London publisher,[m] who published Emma in December 1815 and a second edition of Mansfield Park in February 1816. Emma sold well but the new edition of Mansfield Park did poorly, and this failure offset most of the profits Austen earned on Emma. These were the last of Austen's novels to be published during her lifetime.
While Murray prepared Emma for publication, Austen began to write a new novel she titled The Elliots, later published as Persuasion. She completed her first draft in July 1816. In addition, shortly after the publication of Emma, Henry Austen repurchased the copyright for Susan from Crosby. Austen was forced to postpone publishing either of these completed novels by family financial troubles. Henry Austen's bank failed in March 1816, depriving him of all of his assets, leaving him deeply in debt and losing Edward, James, and Frank Austen large sums. Henry and Frank could no longer afford the contributions they had made to support their mother and sisters.
Illness and death
Early in 1816 Austen began to feel unwell. She ignored her illness at first and continued to work and to participate in the usual round of family activities. By the middle of that year, her decline was unmistakable to Austen and to her family, and her physical condition began a long, slow and irregular deterioration culminating in her death the following year. The majority of Austen biographers rely on Dr. Vincent Cope's tentative 1964 retrospective diagnosis and list her cause of death as Addison's disease, although her final illness has also been described as Hodgkin's lymphoma.[n]
She continued to work in spite of her illness. Dissatisfied with the ending of The Elliots, she rewrote the final two chapters, finishing them on 6 August 1816.[o] In January 1817 she began novel The Brothers (titled Sanditon upon first publication in 1925), and completed twelve chapters before stopping work in mid-March 1817, probably due to illness.
Austen made light of her condition to others, describing it as "Bile" and rheumatism, but as her disease progressed she experienced increasing difficulty walking or finding the energy for other activities. By mid-April she was confined to her bed. In May Cassandra and Henry escorted her to Winchester for medical treatment. Austen died in Winchester on 18 July 1817, at the age of 41. Henry, through his clerical connections, arranged for his sister to be buried in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral. The epitaph composed by her brother James praises Austen's personal qualities, expresses hope for her salvation, mentions the "extraordinary endowments of her mind", but does not explicitly mention her achievements as a writer.
After Austen's death, Cassandra and Henry Austen, and Murray arranged for the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey as a set.[p] Henry Austen contributed a Biographical Note which for the first time identified his sister as the author of the novels. Tomalin describes it as "a loving and polished eulogy". Sales were good for a year—only 321 copies remained unsold at the end of 1818—and then declined. Murray disposed of the remaining copies in 1820; her novels remained out of print for twelve years.
In 1832 Richard Bentley purchased the remaining copyrights to all of Austen's novels and over the following winter published five illustrated volumes as part of his Standard Novels series. In October 1833, Bentley put out the first collected edition of her works. Since then, Austen's novels have been continuously in print.
Genre and style
Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism.[q] The earliest English novelists, Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Tobias Smollett, were followed by the school of sentimentalists and romantics such as Walter Scott, Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, Laurence Sterne, and Oliver Goldsmith, whose style and genre Austen rejected, returning the novel on a "slender thread" to the tradition of Richardson and Fielding for a "realistic study of manners".
Walter Scott noted Austen's "resistance to the trashy sensationalism of much of modern fiction – 'the ephemeral productions which supply the regular demand of watering places and circulating libraries'". Yet the rejection of these genres is incomplete and complex, as evidenced by Northanger Abbey and Emma. Similar to William Wordsworth, who excoriated the modern frantic novel in the "Preface" to his Lyrical Ballads (1800), Austen distances herself from escapist novels; the discipline and innovation she demonstrates is similar to his, and she shows "that rhetorically less is artistically more." She eschewed popular Gothic fiction, stories of terror in which a heroine typically was stranded in a remote location, a castle or abbey (32 novels contained the word "abbey" in their title between 1784 and 1818). Yet in Northanger Abbey she alludes to the trope, with the heroine, Catherine, anticipating a move to a remote locale. Rather than full-scale rejection or parody, Austen transforms the genre, juxtaposing reality, with descriptions of elegant rooms and modern comforts, against the heroine's "novel-fueled" desires. Nor does she completely denigrate Gothic fiction: instead she transforms settings and situations, such that the heroine is still imprisoned, yet her imprisonment is mundane and real – regulated manners and the strict rules of the ballroom. In Sense and Sensibility Austen presents characters who are more complex than in staple sentimental fiction, according to critic Keymer, who notes that although it is a parody of popular sentimental fiction, "Marianne in her sentimental histrionics responds to the calculating world ... with a quite justifiable scream of female distress."
Richardson's Pamela was the prototype for the sentimental novel, a didactic love story with a happy ending, written at a time women were beginning to have the right to choose husbands and yet were restricted by social conventions. Austen attempted Richardson's epistolary style, but found the flexibility of narrative more conducive to her realism, a realism in which each conversation and gesture carries a weight of significance. The narrative style allowed her to employ free indirect speech – she was the first English novelist to do so extensively – through which she had the ability to present a character's thoughts directly to the reader and yet still retain narrative control. The style allows an author to vary discourse between the narrator's voice and values and those of the characters.
Though fundamentally comic, Austen's plots highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. As an art form, the 18th-century novel lacked the seriousness it attained in the 19th century, with authors such as Leo Tolstoy, George Eliot and Charles Dickens, who treated novels as "the natural vehicle for discussion and ventilation of what mattered in life". Rather than delving too deeply into the psyche of her characters, Austen enjoys them and imbues them with humour, according to critic John Bayley. He believes that the well-spring of her wit and irony is her own attitude that comedy "is the saving grace of life". Part of Austen's fame rests on the historical and literary significance that she was the first woman to write great comic novels. Samuel Johnson's influence is evident, in that she follows his advice to write "a representation of life as may excite mirth". The success of her humour lies in her modesty and lack of superiority, allowing her most successful characters, such as Elizabeth Bennet, to transcend the trivialities of life, which the more foolish characters are overly absorbed in. Austen used comedy to explore the individualism of women's lives and gender relations, and she appears to have used it to find the goodness in life, often fusing it with "ethical sensibility", creating artistic tension. Critic Robert Polhemus writes, "To appreciate the drama and achievement of Austen, we need to realize how deep was her passion for both reverence and ridicule .... and her comic imagination reveals both the harmonies and the telling contradictions of her mind and vision as she tries to reconcile her satirical bias with her sense of the good."
Austen's works brought her little personal renown because they were published anonymously. Although her novels quickly became fashionable among opinion-makers, such as Princess Charlotte Augusta, daughter of the Prince Regent, they received only a few published reviews. Most of the reviews were short and on balance favourable, although superficial and cautious. They most often focused on the moral lessons of the novels. Sir Walter Scott, a leading novelist of the day, contributed one of them, anonymously. Using the review as a platform from which to defend the then-disreputable genre of the novel, he praised Austen's realism. The other important early review was attributed to Richard Whately in 1821. However, Whately denied having authored the review, which drew favourable comparisons between Austen and such acknowledged greats as Homer and Shakespeare, and praised the dramatic qualities of her narrative. Scott and Whately set the tone for almost all subsequent 19th-century Austen criticism.
Because Austen's novels did not to conform to Romantic and Victorian expectations that "powerful emotion [be] authenticated by an egregious display of sound and colour in the writing", 19th-century critics and audiences generally preferred the works of Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Though Austen's novels were republished in Britain beginning in the 1830s and remained steady sellers, they were not bestsellers.
Austen had many admiring readers in the 19th century who considered themselves part of a literary elite: they viewed their appreciation of Austen's works as a mark of their cultural taste. Philosopher and literary critic George Henry Lewes expressed this viewpoint in a series of enthusiastic articles published in the 1840s and 1850s. This theme continued later in the century with novelist Henry James, who referred to Austen several times with approval and on one occasion ranked her with Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Henry Fielding as among "the fine painters of life".
The publication of James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869 introduced Austen to a wider public as "dear aunt Jane", the respectable maiden aunt. Publication of the Memoir spurred the reissue of Austen's novels — the first popular editions were released in 1883 and fancy illustrated editions and collectors' sets quickly followed. Author and critic Leslie Stephen described the popular mania that started to develop for Austen in the 1880s as "Austenolatry". Around the start of the 20th century, members of the literary elite reacted against the popularization of Austen. They referred to themselves as Janeites in order to distinguish themselves from the masses who did not properly understand her works. For example, Henry James responded negatively to what he described as "a beguiled infatuation" with Austen, a rising tide of public interest that exceeded Austen's "intrinsic merit and interest". During the last quarter of the 19th century, the first books of criticism on Austen were published. In fact, after the publication of the Memoir, more criticism was published on Austen in two years than had appeared in the previous fifty.
20th century and beyond
Several important works made way for Austen's novels to become a focus of academic study. The first milestone was a 1911 essay by Oxford Shakespearean scholar A. C. Bradley, which, according to Brian Southam, is "generally regarded as the starting-point for the serious academic approach to Jane Austen". In the essay Bradley established the groupings of Austen's "early" and "late" novels, which are still used by scholars today. The second was R. W. Chapman's 1923 edition of Austen's collected works. Not only was it the first scholarly edition of Austen's works, it was also the first scholarly edition of any English novelist. The Chapman text has remained the basis for all subsequent published editions of Austen's works.
With the publication in 1939 of Mary Lascelles's Jane Austen and Her Art, the academic study of Austen took hold. Lascelles's innovative work included an analysis of the books Austen read and the effect of her reading on her work, an extended analysis of Austen's style, and her "narrative art". Concern arose that academics were taking over Austen criticism and that it was becoming increasingly esoteric, a debate that has continued to the beginning of the 21st century.
In a spurt of revisionist views in the 1940s, scholars approached Austen more sceptically and argued that she was a subversive writer. These revisionist views, together with F. R. Leavis's and Ian Watt's pronouncement that Austen was one of the great writers of English fiction, did much to cement Austen's reputation amongst academics. They agreed that she "combined [Henry Fielding's and Samuel Richardson's] qualities of interiority and irony, realism and satire to form an author superior to both". The period since World War II has seen more scholarship on Austen using a diversity of critical approaches, including feminist theory, and perhaps most controversially, postcolonial theory. The continuing disconnection between the popular appreciation of Austen, particularly by modern Janeites, and the academic appreciation of Austen has widened considerably.
Sequels, prequels and adaptations of almost every sort have been based on Austen's novels, from soft-core pornography to fantasy. Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, Austen family members published conclusions to her incomplete novels, and by 2000 there were over 100 printed adaptations. The first film adaptation was the 1940 MGM production of Pride and Prejudice starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. BBC television dramatisations, first produced in the 1970s, attempted to adhere meticulously to Austen's plots, characterisations and settings.
In 1995 a great wave of Austen adaptations began to appear, with Ang Lee's film of Sense and Sensibility, for which screenwriter and star Emma Thompson won an Academy Award, and the BBC's immensely popular TV mini-series Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. A 2005 British production of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, was followed in 2007 by ITV's Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, and in 2016 by Love & Friendship, a film version of Lady Susan that borrowed the title of Austen's Love and Freindship [sic].
List of works
- Sense and Sensibility (1811)
- Pride and Prejudice (1813)
- Mansfield Park (1814)
- Emma (1815)
- Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)
- Persuasion (1818, posthumous)
- Lady Susan (1794, 1805)
- Sir Charles Grandison (adapted play) (1793, 1800)[r]
- Plan of a Novel (1815)
- Poems (1796–1817)
- Prayers (1796–1817)
- Letters (1796–1817)
Juvenilia — Volume the First (1787–1793)[s]
- Frederic & Elfrida
- Jack & Alice
- Edgar & Emma
- Henry and Eliza
- The Adventures of Mr. Harley
- Sir William Mountague
- Memoirs of Mr. Clifford
- The Beautifull Cassandra
- Amelia Webster
- The Visit
- The Mystery
- The Three Sisters
- A beautiful description
- The generous Curate
- Ode to Pity
Juvenilia — Volume the Second (1787–1793)
- Love and Freindship
- Lesley Castle
- The History of England
- A Collection of Letters
- The female philosopher
- The first Act of a Comedy
- A Letter from a Young Lady
- A Tour through Wales
- A Tale
Juvenilia — Volume the Third (1787–1793)
- Catharine, or the Bower
- The original is unsigned but was believed by the family to have been made by Cassandra and remained in the family with the one signed sketch by Cassandra until 1920. The original sketch, according to relatives who knew Jane Austen well, was not a good likeness.
- Oliver MacDonagh says that Sense and Sensibility "may well be the first English realistic novel" based on its detailed and accurate portrayal of what he calls "getting and spending" in an English gentry family.
- These included the original versions of and revisions to the novels later published as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, and a novel fragment, The Watsons.
- Irene Collins estimates that when George Austen took up his duties as rector in 1764, Steventon comprised no more than about thirty families.
- Irene Collins believes that Austen "used some of the same school books as the boys" her father tutored.
- For social conventions among the gentry generally, see.
- Doody agrees with Tomalin; see Doody, "Jane Austen, that disconcerting child", in Alexander and McMaster 2005, 105.
- Austen's observations of early Worthing probably helped inspire her final but unfinished novel, Sanditon, the story of an up-and-coming seaside resort in Sussex.
- Chawton had a population of 417 at the census of 1811.
- All of Jane Austen's novels except Pride and Prejudice were published "on commission", that is, at the author's financial risk. When publishing on commission, publishers would advance the costs of publication, repay themselves as books were sold and then charge a commission for each book sold, paying the rest to the author. If a novel did not recover its costs through sales, the author was responsible for them.
- Austen's novels were published in larger editions than was normal for this period. The small size of the novel-reading public and the large costs associated with hand production (particularly the cost of handmade paper) meant that most novels were published in editions of 500 copies or less to reduce the risks to the publisher and the novelist. Even some of the most successful titles during this period were issued in editions of not more than 750 or 800 copies and later reprinted if demand continued. Austen's novels were published in larger editions, ranging from about 750 copies of Sense and Sensibility to about 2,000 copies of Emma. It is not clear whether the decision to print more copies than usual of Austen's novels was driven by the publishers or the author. Since all but one of Austen's books were originally published "on commission", the risks of overproduction were largely hers (or Cassandra's after her death) and publishers may have been more willing to produce larger editions than was normal practice when their own funds were at risk. Editions of popular works of non-fiction were often much larger.
- The Prince Regent's admiration was by no means reciprocated. In a letter of 16 February 1813 to her friend Martha Lloyd, Austen says (referring to the Prince's wife, whom he treated notoriously badly) "I hate her Husband".
- John Murray also published the work of Walter Scott and Lord Byron. In a letter to Cassandra dated 17/18 October 1816, Austen comments that "Mr. Murray's Letter is come; he is a Rogue of course, but a civil one."
- Claire Tomalin prefers a diagnosis of a lymphoma such as Hodgkin's disease.
- The manuscript of the revised final chapters of Persuasion is the only surviving manuscript in Austen's own handwriting for any of her published novels. Cassandra and Henry Austen chose the final titles and the title page is dated 1818.
- Honan points to "the odd fact that most of [Austen's] reviewers sound like Mr. Collins" as evidence that contemporary critics felt that works oriented toward the interests and concerns of women were intrinsically less important and less worthy of critical notice than works (mostly non-fiction) oriented towards men.
- Oliver MacDonagh says that Sense and Sensibility "may well be the first English realistic novel" based on its detailed and accurate portrayal of what he calls "getting and spending" in an English gentry family.
- The full title of this short play is Sir Charles Grandison or The happy Man, a Comedy in 6 acts. For more information see Southam (1986), 187–189.
- This list of the juvenilia is taken from The Works of Jane Austen. Vol VI. 1954. Ed. R. W. Chapman and B. C. Southam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, as supplemented by additional research reflected in Margaret Anne Doody and Douglas Murray, eds. Catharine and Other Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
- Kirkham (2005), 68–72.
- Grundy (2014), 195–197
- MacDonagh (1991), 65, 136–137.
- Sutherland (2005), 13.
- Fergus (2005), 3–4.
- Le Faye (2005), 33.
- Le Faye (2003), 270; Nokes (1998), 1.
- Le Faye (2003), 279.
- Honan (1987), 29–30.
- Honan (1987), 11–14; Tucker (1986), 143.
- Tomalin (1997), 13–16, 147–151, 170–171; Greene (1963), 156–157; Fergus (2005), 5–6; Collins (1994), 10–11.
- Tomalin (1997), 20.
- Honan (1987), 14, 17–18; Collins (1994), 54.
- Collins (1994), 86.
- Fergus (2005), 3; Tomalin (1997), 4, 142; Honan (1987), 23, 119.
- MacDonagh (1991), 50–51; Honan (1987), 24, 246; Collins (1994), 17.
- Le Faye (2003), 22.
- Tucker (1986), 147; Le Faye (2003), 43–44.
- Le Faye (2003), 20.
- Le Faye (2003), 27.
- Tomalin (1997), 7–9; Honan (1987), 21–22; Collins (1994), 86; Le Faye (2003), 19. Le Faye and Collins add that the Austens followed this custom for all their children.
- Le Faye (2003), 47–49; Collins (1994), 35, 133.
- Tomalin (1997), 9–10, 26, 33–38, 42–43; Le Faye (2003), 52; Collins (1994), 133–134.
- Grundy (2014),192–193; Tomalin (1997), 28–29, 33–43, 66–67; Honan (1987), 31–34; Lascelles (1966), 7–8.
- Collins (1994), 42.
- Honan (1987), 66–68; Collins (1994), 43.
- Honan (1987), 211–212.
- Le Faye (2003), 52.
- Le Faye (2014), xvi–xvii; Tucker (1986), 1–2; Byrne (2002), 1–39; Gay (2002), ix, 1; Tomalin (1997), 31–32, 40–42, 55–57, 62–63; Honan (1987), 35, 47–52, 423–424, n. 20.
- Honan (1987), 53–54; Lascelles (1966), 106–107; Litz (1965), 14–17.
- Le Faye (2003), 66; Litz (1986), 48; Honan (1987), 61–62, 70; Lascelles (1966), 4.
- Honan (1987), 62–76; Le Faye (2003), 270.
- Sutherland (2005), 14; Doody (2014) 87–89.
- Litz (1965), 21; Tomalin (1997), 47; Honan (1987), 73–74; Southam (1986), 248–249.
- Honan (1987), 75.
- Austen, The History of England, Catharine and Other Writings, 134.
- Jenkyns (2004), 31.
- Kelly (2005), 256–257; Tomalin (1997), 101–103, 120–123, 144.
- Le Faye (2003), 84.
- Honan (1987), 265.
- Collins (1994), 105
- Tomalin (1997), 101–103, 120–123, 144; Honan (1987), 119.
- Quoted in Tomalin (1997), 102; see also Honan (1987), 84.
- Southam (1986), 187–189.
- Honan (1987), 93.
- Honan (1987), 101–102; Tomalin (1997), 82–83
- Tomalin (1997), 83–84; see also Sutherland (2005), 15.
- Tomalin (1997), 118.
- Sutherland (2005), 16–18; LeFaye (2014), xviii; Tomalin (1997), 107, 120, 154, 208.
- Quoted in Le Faye (2003), 92.
- Le Faye (2014), xviii; Fergus (2005), 7–8; Tomalin (1997), 112–120, 159; Honan (1987), 105–111.
- Le Faye (2003), 100, 114.
- Le Faye (2003), 104; Sutherland (2005), 17, 21; quotations from Tomalin (1997), 120–122.
- Le Faye (2014), xviii–xiv; Fergus (2005), 7; Sutherland (2005), 16–18, 21; Tomalin (1997), 120–121; Honan (1987), 122–124.
- Litz (1965), 59–60.
- Tomalin (1997), 182.
- Le Faye (2014), xx–xxi, xxvi; Fergus (2005), 8–9; Sutherland (2005), 16, 18–19, 20–22; Tomalin (1997), 199, 254.
- Collins (1994), 8–9.
- Sutherland (2005), 21.
- Le Faye (2014) xx–xxii; Fergus (2005), 8; Sutherland (2005), 15, 20–22; Tomalin (1997), 168–175; Honan (1987), 215.
- Le Faye (2014), xxi; Fergus (2005), 7–8; Tomalin (1997), 178–181; Honan (1987), 189–198.
- Le Faye (2005), 51.
- Letter dated 18–20 November 1814, in Le Faye (1995), 278–282.
- Kirkham (2005), 68–72; Auerbach (2004), 19.
- Sutherland (2005), 15, 21.
- Le Faye (2014) xxii; Tomalin (1997), 182–184; Honan (1987), 203–205.
- MacDonagh (1991), 111; Honan (1987), 212; Tomalin (1997), 186.
- Honan (1987), 213–214.
- Tomalin (1997), 194–206.
- Tomalin (1997), 207.
- Le Faye (2014), xx–xxi, xxvi; Fergus (2005), 8–9; Sutherland (2005), 16, 18–19, 20–22; Tomalin (1997), 182, 199, 254.
- Collins (1994), 89.
- Le Faye (2014), xxii; Tomalin (1997), 194–206; Honan (1987), 237–245; MacDonagh (1991), 49.
- Grey (1986), 37–38; Tomalin (1997), 208, 211–212; Honan (1987), 265–266, 351–352.
- Doody (2014), 90.
- Fergus (1997), 15–17; Raven (2005), 198; Honan (1987), 285–286.
- Honan (1987), 289–290.
- For more information and a discussion of the economics of book publishing during this period, see Fergus (1997), 18, and Raven (2005), 196–203.
- Honan (1987), 290, Tomalin, 218.
- Sutherland (2005), 16–17, 21; Le Faye (2014) xxii–xxiii; Fergus (1997), 19–23; Tomalin (1997), 210–212, 216–220; Honan (1987), 287.
- Le Faye (2014), xxiii; Fergus (1997), 22–24; Sutherland (2005), 18–19; Tomalin (1997), 236, 240–241, 315, n. 5.
- Le Faye (1995), 207–208.
- Austen letter to James Stannier Clarke, 15 November 1815; Clarke letter to Austen, 16 November 1815; Austen letter to John Murray, 23 November 1815, in Le Faye (1995), 296–298.
- Litz (1965), 164–165; Honan (1987), 367–369, describes the episode in detail.
- Honan (1987), 364–365; Le Faye (1995) 291.
- Le Faye (2014), xxv–xxvi; Sutherland (2005), 16–21; Fergus (1997), 23–27, 30, n.29, 31, n.33; Fergus (2005), 10; Tomalin (1997), 256.
- Le Faye (2014), xx, xxvi; Fergus (1997), 26–27; Tomalin (1997), 252–254.
- Honan (1987), 378–379, 385–395
- For detailed information concerning the retrospective diagnosis, its uncertainties and related controversies, see Honan (1987), 391–392; Le Faye (2003), 236; Grey (1986), 282; Wiltshire, Jane Austen and the Body, 221.
- Tomalin (1997), Appendix I, 283–284; see also A. Upfal, "Jane Austen's lifelong health problems and final illness: New evidence points to a fatal Hodgkin's disease and excludes the widely accepted Addison's", Medical Humanities, 31(1),| 2005, 3–11. doi:10.1136/jmh.2004.000193
- Tomalin (1997), 255.
- Tomalin (1997), 261.
- Le Faye (2014), xxv–xxvi; Fergus (1997), 26–27; Tomalin (1997), 254–271; Honan (1987), 385–405.
- Honan (1987), 317.
- Tomalin (1997), 272.
- Tomalin (1997), 321, n.1 and 3; Gilson (1986), 136–137.
- Gilson (1986), 137; Gilson (2005), 127; Southam (1986), 102.
- Litz (1965), 3–14; Grundy (2014), 195–197; Waldron (2005), 83, 89–90; Duffy (1986), 93–94.
- MacDonagh (1991), 65, 136–137.
- Grundy (2014), 196
- Keymer (2014), 21
- Keymer (2014), 24-25
- Keymer (2014), 29
- Keymer (2014), 32
- qtd. in Lodge (1986), 175
- Lodge (1986), 165
- Lodge (1986), 171-175
- Litz (1965), 142.
- MacDonagh (1991), 66–75; Collins (1994), 160–161.
- Bayley (1986), 24
- Bayley (1986), 25-26
- Polhemus (1986), 60
- Fergus (1997), 18–19; Honan (1987), 287–289, 316–317, 372–373.
- Southam (1968), 1.
- Waldron (2005), 83–91.
- Scott (1968), 58; Waldron (2005), 86; Duffy (1986), 94–96.
- Waldron (2005), 89–90; Duffy (1986), 97; Watt (1963), 4–5.
- Gilson (2005), 127.
- Duffy (1986), 98–99; MacDonagh (1991), 146; Watt (1963), 3–4.
- Southam (1968), 1; Southam (1987), 2.
- Johnson (2014), 232; Gilson (2005), 127.
- Southam (1968), 152; Southam (1987), 20–21.
- Southam (1987), 70.
- Southam (1987), 58–62.
- Southam (1987), 46–47, 230 (for the quote from James); Johnson (2014), 234.
- Trott (2005), 92.
- Southam (1987), 79.
- Southam (1987), 99–100; see also Watt (1963), 10–11; Gilson (2005), 149–50; Johnson (2014), 239.
- Southam (1987), 107–109, 124.
- Southam (1986), 108; Watt (1963), 10–11; Stovel (2014), 248; Southam (1987), 127; Todd, 20.
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- Todd (2006), 20.
- Rajan (2005), 101–110
- Lynch (2005), 160–162.
- Brownstein (2001), 13.
- Troost (2007), 79.
- Troost (2007), 82–84.
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- Poovey, Mary. The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. ISBN 0-226-67528-9.
- Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. "Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl." Critical Inquiry 17.4 (1991): 818–37.
- Waldron, Mary. Jane Austen and the Fiction of Her Time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-521-00388-1.
- Wiltshire, John. Recreating Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-521-00282-6.
|Library resources about
|By Jane Austen|
- Works by Jane Austen at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Jane Austen at Internet Archive
- Works by Jane Austen at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Works by Jane Austen — etexts by Electronic Literature Foundation
- Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition, a digital archive from the University of Oxford
- E-books of Austen's work in ePub, mobipocket, and pdf. Includes the complete Juvenilia.
- A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Edward Austen-Leigh
- Jane Austen at the British Library