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 life of the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Her most highly praised novel during her lifetime was Pride and Prejudice, her second published novel. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security.
The author's 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 as an author 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. Austen's most successful novel during her lifetime was Pride and Prejudice, which went through two editions at the time. Her third published novel was Mansfield Park, which (despite being largely overlooked by reviewers) was successful during her lifetime.
All of Austen's major novels were first published between 1811 and 1818. From 1811 to 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 author. Austen wrote two additional novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818) and began another, eventually titled Sanditon, before her death.
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 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 Novels
- 3 Themes
- 4 Reception
- 5 List of works
- 6 Critical editions
- 7 Family trees
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
Life and career
Information about Austen is "famously scarce", according to one biographer. Only some personal and family letters remain (by one estimate, only 160 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 them and censored those she did not destroy. Other letters were destroyed by the heirs of Admiral Sir Francis Austen, Jane's brother. Most of the biographical material produced for fifty years after Austen's death was written by her relatives and reflected the family's bias in favour of "good quiet Aunt Jane"; scholars have unearthed little information since. Austen wrote during the period of British Romanticism leading to British Idealism. She admired a number of British Romantic poets, including William Wordsworth (1770–1850), Samuel Coleridge (1772–1834) and Lord Byron (1788–1824), whose influence on her novels has been studied.
Austen's parents, George (1731–1805), an Anglican rector, and his wife Cassandra (1739–1827), shared a gentry background. George was descended from wool manufacturers who had risen to the lower ranks of the landed gentry, and Cassandra was a member of the aristocratic Leigh family. They married on 26 April 1764 at Walcot Church in Bath. From 1765 to 1801 (for much of Jane's life), George was a rector of Anglican parishes in Steventon, Hampshire and a nearby village. Irene Collins estimates that when George Austen took up his duties as rector in 1764, Steventon comprised no more than about thirty families. From 1773 to 1796, he supplemented his income by farming and teaching three or four boys at a time (who boarded at his home).
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) and Charles John (1779–1852) and one sister, Cassandra Elizabeth (Steventon, Hampshire, 9 January 1773 – 1845) who, like Jane, did not marry. 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 was also his sister's literary agent. Henry's large circle of friends and acquaintances in London included bankers, merchants, publishers, painters and actors and he provided Austen with a view of social worlds not normally visible from a small parish in rural Hampshire. He married their first cousin (and Jane's close friend), Eliza de Feuillide.
George was sent to live with a local family at a young age because, according to Austen biographer Le Faye, 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 on 16 December 1775 at the Steventon rectory, and baptised on 5 April 1776. After several months at home her mother placed her with Elizabeth Littlewood, a woman living nearby who nursed and raised her for twelve to eighteen months.[B] In 1783, according to family tradition, Jane and Cassandra were sent to Oxford to be educated by Ann Cawley and moved with her to Southampton later in the year. Both girls became ill with typhus, and Jane nearly died. Austen was then educated at home until she and Cassandra left for boarding school in early 1785. The school curriculum probably included French, spelling, needlework, dancing and music, and may have included drama. By December 1786, Jane and Cassandra had returned home because the Austens could not afford to send both daughters to school.
Austen acquired the remainder of her education by reading books, guided by her father and brothers James and Henry. Irene Collins believes that Austen "used some of the same school books as the boys" her father tutored. She apparently had unfettered access to her father's library and that of family friend Warren Hastings, which made up a large and varied collection. Her father was tolerant of Austen's sometimes-risqué experiments in writing, and provided the sisters with expensive paper and other materials for 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 disagreed (politically or socially) were discussed. After returning from school in 1786, Austen "never again lived anywhere beyond the bounds of her immediate family environment".
Private theatricals were also a part of the author's education. Beginning when Austin was seven years old and continuing until she was thirteen, her family and close friends staged a series of plays including Richard Sheridan's The Rivals (1775) and David Garrick's Bon Ton. Although the details are unknown, she would have joined in these activities as a spectator and (later) a participant. Most of the plays were comedies, suggesting a source for Austen's comedic and satirical gifts.
Perhaps as early as 1787, Austen began to write poems, stories and plays for her and her family's amusement. She later compiled "fair copies" of 29 of these early works into three bound notebooks, now known as the Juvenilia, with pieces written from 1787 to 1793. Manuscript evidence exists that Austen continued to work on these pieces as late as 1809–1811 and her niece and nephew, Anna and James Edward Austen, made further additions as late as 1814. Among the pieces are Love and Freindship [sic], a satirical epistolary novel in which she mocked popular novels of sensibility, and The History of England, a 34-page manuscript accompanied by 13 watercolour miniatures by Cassandra.
Austen's History parodied popular historical writing, particularly Oliver Goldsmith's 1764 History of England. Austen wrote, "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." According to scholar Richard Jenkyns, Austen's Juvenilia are often "boisterous" and "anarchic"; he compares them to Monty Python and the work of 18th-century novelist Laurence Sterne.
Austen continued to live in the family home, engaged in activities typical of women of her age and social standing; she practised the fortepiano, assisted her sister and mother with the supervision of servants and attended relatives during childbirth and 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 attended church regularly, socialized frequently with friends and neighbours[C] and read novels (often her own) aloud to her family in the evenings. Socializing with neighbours often meant dancing—impromptu in someone's home after supper or at balls, held regularly in the town hall assembly rooms. According to her brother Henry, "Jane was fond of dancing, and excelled in it".
In 1793 Austen began and abandoned a short play later titled Sir Charles Grandison, or, The happy man: a comedy in five acts which she completed around 1800. The play parodied school-textbook abridgments of her favourite contemporary novel, The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753) by Samuel Richardson. According to Park Honan, soon after writing Love and Freindship in 1789 Austen decided to "write for profit, to make stories her central effort" and began writing longer, more sophisticated works around 1793.
Between 1793 and 1795 Austen wrote Lady Susan, considered her most ambitious and sophisticated early novel. It is unlike Austen's other work; biographer Claire Tomalin describes the novella's heroine as a sexual predator who uses her intelligence and charm to manipulate, betray and abuse lovers, friends and family:
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 began her first full-length novel: Elinor and Marianne. Cassandra later remembered that the epistolary novel was read to the family "before 1796". 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 years old, Tom Lefroy (a nephew of neighbours) visited Steventon from December 1795 to January 1796. Lefroy had just completed his university education 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 her 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, sending 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 Lefroy later visited Hampshire he was carefully kept from the Austens, and Jane never saw him again.
She began work on a second novel, First Impressions, in 1796. Austen completed the initial draft in August 1797, when she was 21, and it later became Pride and Prejudice. Like all of her novels, she read it 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 wrote to London publisher Thomas Cadell asking 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 the letter, marked "Declined by Return of Post", and Austen may not have known about her father's efforts. After finishing First Impressions, she returned to Elinor and Marianne from November 1797 to mid-1798, revising it heavily, replacing the epistolary format with third-person narration and producing something close to Sense and Sensibility.
In mid-1798, after revising Elinor and Marianne, she began writing a third novel with the working title Susan—later Northanger Abbey—a satire on the popular Gothic novel; she finished it about a year later. In early 1803 Henry Austen offered Susan to the London publisher Benjamin Crosby, who paid £10 for the copyright. Although Crosby promised early publication and advertised the book as being "in the press", he did nothing more and retained the unpublished manuscript until Austen bought back the copyright 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. Although retirement and travel were good for the elder Austens, Jane was shocked to hear that she was moving from the only home she had ever known. An indication of her state of mind is her lack of productivity when she lived in Bath. She made some revisions to Susan and began—and abandoned—a new novel (The Watsons), but there was nothing like the productivity of 1795–1799. Tomalin suggests that this reflects a deep depression, disabling her as a writer; Honan disagrees, arguing that Austen wrote (or revised) her manuscripts throughout her life except for a few months after her father died. Doody agrees with Tomalin.
In December 1802, Austen received her only known proposal of marriage. She and her sister visited Alethea and Catherine Bigg, old friends who lived at Manydown Park near Basingstoke. Their younger brother, Harris Bigg-Wither, had recently finished his education at Oxford and was at home. Bigg-Wither proposed, and Austen accepted. As described by Caroline Austen (Jane's niece) and Reginald Bigg-Wither (a descendant), Harris was unattractive—a large, plain-looking man who spoke little, stuttered, was aggressive in conversation and almost completely tactless. However, Austen had known him since they were young and the marriage offered many practical advantages to her and her family; he was heir to extensive family estates 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 decided that she had made a mistake and withdrew her acceptance. No contemporary letters or diaries describe how she felt about the proposal. In 1814 Austen wrote a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, who asked for advice about a serious relationship: "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 began an unfinished novel, The Watsons. The story centres on an invalid clergyman with little money and 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 stopped working on the novel after her father died on 21 January 1805 and her personal circumstances resembled those of her characters too closely for comfort.
Her father's final illness struck suddenly, leaving him (as Austen reported to her brother Francis) "quite insensible of his own state" and he died quickly. Jane, Cassandra and their mother were left in a precarious financial situation and 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-time in rented quarters in Bath before leaving the city in June 1805 for a family visit to Steventon and Godmersham. They spent the autumn of 1805 in the newly fashionable seaside resort of Worthing on the Sussex coast, at Stanford Cottage. It was here that Austen is thought to have written her fair copy of Lady Susan and added its "Conclusion". Her observations of early Worthing helped inspire her final (unfinished) novel, Sanditon, the story of an up-and-coming seaside resort in Sussex. In 1806 the family moved to Southampton, where they shared a house with Frank Austen and his new wife and visited 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 her novel and otherwise requesting the return of the original so she could find another publisher. Crosby replied he had not agreed to publish the book by any particular time (or at all); Austen could repurchase the manuscript for the £10 he had paid her, and find another publisher. She did not have the money to repurchase the book, but she did eventually repurchase the manuscript in 1816.
In early 1809, Austen's brother Edward offered his mother and sisters a more settled life: the use of a large cottage in Chawton (a small village with population of 417 at the census of 1811)  which was part of Edward's nearby estate, Chawton House. Jane, Cassandra and their mother moved into the cottage on 7 July 1809. In Chawton, life was quieter than it had been since the family's move to Bath in 1800. The Austens did not socialise with the neighbouring gentry, entertaining only when family visited. Austen's niece, Anna, described the 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, and was apparently relieved of some household responsibilities to give her more opportunity to write. In this setting, she could be productive once more.
At Chawton, Austen published four novels which were generally well received. Through her brother Henry, Thomas Egerton agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility,[D] which appeared in October 1811. Reviews were favourable; the novel became fashionable among opinion-makers, and the edition sold out by mid-1813.[E] Austen's earnings from Sense and Sensibility gave her some financial and psychological independence. Egerton then published Pride and Prejudice, a revision of First Impressions, in January 1813. He advertised the book and it was an immediate success, receiving three favourable reviews and selling well; by October 1813, Egerton began selling a second edition. Mansfield Park was published by Egerton in May 1814. Although the novel was ignored by reviewers, it was a popular success. All copies were sold within six months, and Austen's earnings for this novel were larger than for any of her others.
The author learned that the Prince Regent admired her novels and kept a set at each of his residences.[F] In November 1815 the Prince Regent's librarian, James Stanier Clarke, invited Austen to visit the prince's London residence and hinted that she should dedicate the forthcoming Emma to the prince. Although Austen disliked the prince, she could not refuse the request. She later wrote Plan of a Novel, according to Hints from Various Quarters, a satirical outline of the "perfect novel" based on the librarian's many suggestions for a future Austen novel.
In mid-1815 Austen moved from Egerton to John Murray, a better-known London publisher,[G] who published Emma in December 1815 and a second edition of Mansfield Park in February 1816. Although Emma sold well, the new edition of Mansfield Park did poorly and this offset most of her profit on Emma. They were the last novels published during her lifetime.
While Murray prepared Emma for publication, Austen began a new novel she called The Elliots (later published as Persuasion). She completed its first draft in July 1816. Shortly after the publication of Emma, Henry Austen repurchased the copyright for Susan from Crosby. Austen was forced to postpone publishing both completed novels by family financial trouble. Henry Austen's bank failed in March 1816, depriving him of his assets, leaving him deeply in debt and costing Edward, James and Frank Austen large sums; Henry and Frank could no longer afford to support their mother and sisters.
Illness and death
Early in 1816, Austen began to feel unwell. She ignored her illness at first, continuing to work and participate in the usual round of family activities. By midyear her decline was unmistakable to her and to her family, and she began a long, slow and irregular deterioration which ended in her death the following year. Although most Austen biographers rely on Dr. Vincent Cope's tentative 1964 retrospective diagnosis and list her cause of death as Addison's disease, her final illness has also been described as consistent with Hodgkin's lymphoma.[H] Katherine White of Britain's Addison's Disease Self Help Group suggests that Austen probably died of bovine tuberculosis, a disease now commonly associated with drinking unpasteurized milk. A contributing factor to Austen's death, discovered by Linda Robinson Walker and described online in the winter 2010 issue of Persuasions, might have been Brill–Zinsser disease (a recurrent form of typhus, which she had had as a child). Brill–Zinsser disease is to typhus as shingles is to chicken pox; when a person who has had typhus is subjected to abnormal physiological stress (such as malnutrition or another infection), it can resurface as Brill–Zinsser disease.
Despite her illness, Austen continued to work. She was dissatisfied with the ending of The Elliots and rewrote the final two chapters, finishing them on 6 August 1816.[I] In January 1817 she began a new novel she called The Brothers (entitled Sanditon when it was first published in 1925) and completed twelve chapters before stopping in mid-March, probably due to illness. Although she made light of her condition to others, describing it as "bile" and rheumatism, as her disease progressed she experienced increasing difficulty in walking and other activities. By mid-April, Austen was bedridden. The following month Cassandra and Henry brought her to Winchester for medical treatment, but she died there on 18 July 1817 at age 41. Through his clerical connections, Henry 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 – including the "extraordinary endowments of her mind" – and expresses hope for her religious salvation, but does not mention her achievements as a writer.
After Austen's death, Cassandra and Henry arranged with John Murray for the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey as a set in December 1817.[J] Henry contributed a biographical note which Claire Tomalin calls "a loving and polished eulogy", identifying his sister for the first time as the author of the novels. Sales were good for a year (only 321 copies remained unsold at the end of 1818) before they declined; Murray disposed of the remaining copies in 1820, and Austen's novels were out of print for twelve years. In 1832 publisher Richard Bentley purchased the remaining copyrights to her novels and, beginning in December 1832 or January 1833, published them in five illustrated volumes as part of his Standard Novels series. In October 1833, he published the first collected edition of Austen's works. Since then, her novels have been continuously in print.
Although Austen's novels had always been popular, they were disparaged by academics of English literature until her work was reassessed by F. R. Leavis, Ian Watt and others during the mid-20th century. They recognised Austen's importance to the development of the English novel after Henry Fielding (1707–1754) and Samuel Richardson (1689–1761) and before Charles Dickens. They agreed that she combined Fielding and Richardson's "qualities of interiority and irony, realism and satire to form an author superior to both". Austen's six main novels, in order of publication, are Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma and the posthumous Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.
Sense and Sensibility
Sense and Sensibility was originally written as an epistolary novel around 1795, when Austen was about 19 years old, and was entitled Elinor and Marianne. Austen later changed its form to narrative and its title to Sense and Sensibility. In the novel, "sense" means good judgment or prudence and "sensibility" means sensitivity or emotion. "Sense" is personified by the character of Elinor, and "sensibility" by Marianne. By changing the novel's title, Austen added "philosophical depth" to what began as a sketch of two characters. Its title and that of her next published novel, Pride and Prejudice (1813), may allude to the political conflicts of the 1790s. Austen drew inspiration for Sense and Sensibility from other 1790s novels which explored similar themes. These included Adam Stevenson's autobiographical 1785 essay "Life and Love" (in which Stevenson described an unfortunate relationship) and Jane West's A Gossip's Story (1796), which features two sisters—one rational and the other romantic and emotional. West's romantic sister-heroine shares a first name (Marianne) with Austen's character, and other textual similarities are described in a recent annotated edition of West's novel. According to Austen biographer Claire Tomalin, Sense and Sensibility has a "wobble in its approach"; Austen, while writing the novel, gradually became uncertain whether sense or sensibility should prevail. She paints Marianne as sweet, with attractive qualities: intelligence, musical talent, frankness and the capacity to love deeply. The author also acknowledges that Willoughby, with all his faults, continues to love and (to some degree) appreciate Marianne. For these reasons, some readers find Marianne's ultimate marriage to Colonel Brandon unsatisfactory.
Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice (the author's second published novel) featured a memorable portrayal of the main character, Elizabeth Bennet. Austen began writing the novel after staying at Goodnestone Park in Kent with her brother, Edward, and his wife in 1796. Originally titled First Impressions, it was written between October 1796 and August 1797.[page needed] On 1 November 1797, Austen's father sent a letter to the London bookseller Thomas Cadell asking if he was interested in seeing the manuscript; the offer was declined by return of post. Austen significantly revised the manuscript of First Impressions between 1811 and 1812,[page needed] and the original manuscript is lost. Because of the large number of letters in the final novel, First Impressions was probably an epistolary novel; this theory is defended by D. W. Harding and separately by Brain Southam. Austen later renamed the novel Pride and Prejudice; she probably had in mind the "sufferings and oppositions" summarised in the final chapter of Fanny Burney's Cecilia, "Pride and Prejudice", in which the phrase appears three times in block capitals.[page needed] The title of First Impressions may have been changed to avoid confusion with other works. During the years between the completion of First Impressions and its revision into Pride and Prejudice, two other First Impressions had been published: a novel by Margaret Holford and a comedy by Horace Smith. Austen sold the novel's copyright to Thomas Egerton of Whitehall for £110, after requesting £150. It was a costly decision; Austen had published Sense and Sensibility on a commission basis, indemnifying the publisher against losses and receiving any profits (less costs and the publisher's commission). Not knowing that Sense and Sensibility would sell out its edition (earning her £140), she sold the copyright to Egerton for a lump sum; all its profits would be his. According to Jan Fergus, Egerton earned about £450 from the novel's first two editions alone. He published the first edition of Pride and Prejudice, in three hardcover volumes, on 27 January 1813. It was advertised in the Morning Chronicle at a price of 18 shillings.[page needed] Receiving favourable reviews, the edition sold out; a second edition was published in November, and a third in 1817.
Mansfield Park, Austen's third published novel, is the most controversial of her major works. Although Regency critics praised its wholesome morality, many modern readers find Fanny's timidity and disapproval of the theatricals difficult to relate to and reject the notion (explicit in the final chapter) that she is a better person for her childhood privations. Austen's mother thought Fanny "insipid", and other readers have found her priggish and unlikable. Critics point out that she is a complex personality, perceptive but given to wishful thinking, and demonstrates courage and greater self-esteem during the latter part of the story. According to Austen biographer Claire Tomalin (who is generally critical of Fanny), "It is in rejecting obedience in favour of the higher dictate of remaining true to her own conscience that Fanny rises to her moment of heroism". Tomalin reflects the ambivalence many readers feel towards the character: "More is made of Fanny Price's faith, which gives her the courage to resist what she thinks is wrong; it also makes her intolerant of sinners, whom she is ready to cast aside."
Austen's life during the Regency era enmeshed her in the debate about slavery. She omits any mention of the Slave Trade Act 1807, which abolished the slave trade (not slavery itself) in the British Empire. The act (passed four years before Austen began the novel) was the culmination of a long campaign by abolitionists, notably William Wilberforce. Slavery was not abolished in the empire until 1833; the death rate on the Caribbean plantations was high due to yellow fever and malaria, and abolitionists thought that abolishing the slave trade would end slavery in the West Indies (since plantation owners would be unable to import slaves from Africa). Literary theoretician Edward Said implicated Mansfield Park in the acceptance by Western culture of the benefits of slavery and imperialism (a connection also made by Vladimir Nabokov in his Lectures on Literature, delivered in the 1940s but unpublished until 1980), citing Austen's failure to note that the Mansfield Park estate was possible only with slave labour. Said depicted Austen as a racist supporter of slavery whose books should be condemned, not celebrated. His thesis that she wrote Mansfield Park to glorify slavery received wide attention; the editor of a Penguin edition of the novel wrote in its introduction that Said had called Mansfield Park "part of the structure of an expanding imperialist venture". Literary critics (including Gabrielle White) have rejected Said's condemnation of Austen and Western culture, maintaining that she and other writers—including Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke—opposed slavery and helped make its eventual abolition possible. Tomalin writes that the usually timid Fanny questions her uncle about the slave trade and receives no answer, suggesting that Fanny's perception of its immorality is clearer than his.
Emma is the fourth and last of Austen's novels published during her lifetime. Emma Woodhouse is the first Austen heroine with no financial concerns, which (she tells naïve Miss Smith) is why she has no inducement to marry. This is a departure from Austen's other novels, where the quests for marriage and financial security are important themes. Emma's financial resources place her in a more privileged position than the heroines of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice; Jane Fairfax's prospects, in contrast, are bleak. By comparison to other Austen heroines, Emma seems immune to romantic attraction. Unlike Marianne Dashwood, who is attracted to the wrong man before she settles on the right one, Emma shows no romantic interest in the men she meets. She is surprised—and somewhat dismayed—when the parson Elton declares his love for her, similar to Elizabeth Bennet's reaction to the obsequious Mr Collins (who is also a parson). Emma's fancy for Frank Churchill is more a romantic plot complication for Austen than a pursuit of Emma's genuine affections. At the beginning of Chapter XIII, Emma has "no doubt of her being in love"; however, it quickly becomes clear (although she spends time "forming a thousand amusing schemes for the progress and close of their attachment") that "the conclusion of every imaginary declaration on his side was that she refused him".
Persuasion, Austen's last novel, was unpublished at the time of her death, although it appeared before the end of 1818. It was first published in a four-volume edition; the first two volumes included the first publication of her early novel, Northanger Abbey, and the last two included Persuasion. Although readers might conclude that Austen intended "persuasion" to be the story's unifying theme, the novel was named by her brother Henry after her death. The idea of persuasion runs through the story, with vignettes as variations on the theme. There is no known documentation of what Austen intended to call the novel. Whatever her intentions may have been, according to family tradition she referred to it as The Elliots and some critics believe that it was her intended title. Henry probably chose the title for Northanger Abbey as well. According to literary scholar Gillian Beer, Austen was deeply concerned about the level and application of "persuasion" in society (particularly the pressures and choices facing young women). Beer writes that for Austen and her readers, persuasion was indeed "fraught with moral dangers"; Austen was appalled by what she came to regard as her misguided advice to niece Fanny Knight on whether to accept a particular suitor, despite the prospect of a long engagement: "Jane Austen's anxieties about persuasion and responsibility are here passionately expressed. She refuses to become part of the machinery with which Fanny is manoeuvring herself into forming the engagement. To be the stand-in motive for another's actions frightens her. Yet Jane Austen cannot avoid the part of persuader, even as dissuader." Fanny ultimately rejects her suitor and, after her aunt's death, marries someone else. Beer says that Austen was keenly aware that persuasion—to persuade or be persuaded, rightly or wrongly—is fundamental to human communication; in the novel, "Jane Austen gradually draws out the implications of discriminating 'just' and 'unjust' persuasion." The story winds through a number of situations in which people are influencing, or attempting to influence, other people (or themselves). Beer notes "the novel's entire brooding on the power pressures, the seductions, and also the new pathways opened by persuasion".
Northanger Abbey was written when Austen was relatively young (before 1800), well before the 1812 publication of Sense and Sensibility. Although it was written over a decade before Persuasion and left unpublished at that time, the two novels were posthumously co-published in 1818 by her family. In Northanger Abbey, an early parody of Gothic fiction, Austen upends eighteenth-century fictional conventions by making her heroine a plain, undistinguished girl from a middle-class family, allowing her to fall in love with the hero before he gives her a thought and exposing her romantic fears and curiosity as groundless. According to Claire Tomalin, Austen may have begun the novel (more comic than her other works, with literary allusions her parents and siblings would have enjoyed) as family entertainment to be read aloud by the fireside. Joan Aiken writes, "We can guess that Susan [the original title of Northanger Abbey], in its first outline, was written very much for family entertainment, addressed to a family audience, like all Jane Austen's juvenile works, with their asides to the reader, and absurd dedications; some of the juvenilia, we know, were specifically addressed to her brothers Charles and Frank; all were designed to be circulated and read by a large network of relations." Austen addresses the reader directly at times—particularly at the end of the fifth chapter, where she expresses at length her opinion of the value of novels and the contemporary social prejudice against them in favour of historical works and newspapers. Through discussions by Isabella, the Thorpe sisters, Eleanor and Henry, and when Catherine peruses the general's library and her mother's instructional books on behaviour, the reader gains an insight into Austen's perspective on novels in general compared with other popular contemporary literature (especially Gothic novels). Eleanor enjoys history books, despite Catherine's pointing out the obvious fiction of speeches given to important historical characters. The directness with which Austen addresses the reader (particularly at the end of the novel) provides unique insight into Austen's thoughts well before the publication of Sense and Sensibility; this is particularly valuable because a large portion of Austen's letters were burned, at her request, by her sister at Jane's death.
The themes and literary theory applied to the analysis of Austen's novels have varied and expanded with generations of readers and scholars who approach her writings. The reins of criticism and analysis of the major themes in Austen's novels were first taken up by Walter Scott and theologian Richard Whately. After the disposition of her estate, by 1821 a second period of literary analysis and criticism of her writings began; it lasted for about a half-century, until 1870. This was followed by several decades of Austen scholarship after the international reception of her novels, which were translated into a number of foreign languages during the late 19th century.[K] The modern period of scholarship and analysis of her literary themes, from about 1930 to the present, defends her as one of the most accomplished internationally known British authors.
While Austen was alive and during the years immediately following her death, critiques of her literary themes were written by historical novelist Walter Scott and theologian Richard Whately. Asked by publisher John Murray to review Emma, Scott wrote a long, thoughtful piece which was published anonymously in the March 1816 Quarterly Review. Using the review as a platform from which to defend the then-disreputable genre of the novel, he praised Austen's ability to copy "from nature as she really exists in the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader ... a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him". According to 21st-century Austen scholar William Galperin, "Unlike some of Austen's lay readers, who recognized her divergence from realistic practice as it had been prescribed and defined at the time, Walter Scott may well have been the first to install Austen as the realist par excellence". Scott wrote in his journal in 1826 what later became a widely quoted comparison: "Also read again and for the third time at least Miss Austen's very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with."
In the Quarterly Review in 1821, English writer and theologian Richard Whately published the most serious and enthusiastic early posthumous review of Austen's work. Whately drew favourable comparisons between Austen, Homer and Shakespeare, praising her dramatic narrative qualities. He affirmed the legitimacy of the novel as a genre, arguing that imaginative literature (particularly narrative literature) was more valuable than history or biography. When properly done (as Austen had), Whately said, imaginative literature concerned itself with generalised human experience from which the reader could gain important insights into human nature; it was moral. Whately also analysed Austen as a female writer: "We suspect one of Miss Austin's [sic] great merits in our eyes to be, the insight she gives us into the peculiarities of female characters ... Her heroines are what one knows women must be, though one never can get them to acknowledge it." No other significant, original Austen criticism was published until the late 19th century; Whately and Scott had set the tone for the Victorian era's view of the author.
For several decades after 1821 and the disposition of Austen's literary estate, Victorian critics and audiences were drawn to authors such as Charles Dickens and George Eliot; her novels seemed provincial and quiet by comparison. Although Austen's works began to be republished in late 1832 or early 1833 by Richard Bentley in his Standard Novels series and remained in print continuously thereafter, they were not best-sellers. Brian C. Southam describes her "reading public between 1821 and 1870" as "minute beside the known audience for Dickens and his contemporaries". Those who read Austen saw themselves as a discriminating, cultured few (a common theme of Austen criticism during the 19th and early 20th centuries). Philosopher and literary critic George Henry Lewes articulated this view in a series of enthusiastic articles in the 1840s and 1850s. In "The Novels of Jane Austen", published anonymously in Blackwood's Magazine in 1859, Lewes praised Austen's novels for "the economy of art ... the easy adaptation of means to ends, with no aid from superfluous elements" and compared her to Shakespeare. Acknowledging her weak plot construction, he appreciated Austen's dramatisation: "The reader's pulse never throbs, his curiosity is never intense; but his interest never wanes for a moment. The action begins; the people speak, feel, and act; everything that is said, felt, or done tends towards the entanglement or disentanglement of the plot; and we are almost made actors as well as spectators of the little drama." Responding to Lewes's essays and his communications with her, novelist Charlotte Brontë admired Austen's fidelity to everyday life but described her as "only shrewd and observant" and criticised the absence of overt passion in her work. To Brontë, Austen's work appeared formal and constrained: "a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of bright vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck".
The six decades from around 1870 to 1930 saw a redoubling of Austen's international renown, with translations of her works into other languages (including French, German, Danish and Swedish) and three biographical studies and analyses of her literary themes. In 1869 the first significant Austen biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh[K] was published, and her popularity and critical standing increased dramatically. The Memoir was written by Austen-Leigh with the assistance and cooperation of his older sister, Anna, and his younger sister, Caroline, both of whom had known Austen and contributed written reminiscences. Readers of the Memoir were presented with the myth of an amateur novelist who wrote masterpieces; it fixed in the public mind a sentimental image of Austen as a quiet, middle-aged maiden aunt whose work was appropriate for a respectable Victorian family. Austen-Leigh commissioned a portrait of Austen, based on an earlier watercolour, which softened her image for the Victorian public. Richard Bentley's engraving, the Memoir's frontispiece, is based on this idealised image. The Memoir sparked a revival of Austen's novels. The first popular editions (an economical, sixpenny series published by Routledge) were published in 1883. This was followed by elaborate illustrated editions, collectors' sets and scholarly editions. Contemporary critics continued to assert that Austen's works were sophisticated, capable of enjoyment only by those who could plumb their depths. However, more criticism of Austen's novels was published in the two years following the Memoir than had appeared in the previous fifty. Austen descendants William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh published the definitive family biography, Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters—A Family Record, in 1913. Based primarily on family papers and letters, it was described by Austen biographer Park Honan as "accurate, staid, reliable, and at times vivid and suggestive". The authors distanced themselves from the Memoir's sentimental tone, making little effort to go beyond immediately available family records and traditions, and their book offers facts with little interpretation.
During the last quarter of the 19th century, the first critical analyses of Austen's works were published. Goldwin Smith's 1890 Life of Jane Austen began a "fresh phase in the critical heritage", in which Austen reviewers became critics. This launched "formal criticism", focusing on Austen as writer and analysing what made her writing unique. According to Brian C. Southam, Austen criticism increased in quantity and (to some degree) quality after 1870 but was infused with "a certain uniformity". Notable critics included Richard Simpson, Margaret Oliphant and Leslie Stephen. In a review of the Memoir, Simpson described Austen as a serious-but-ironic critic of English society. He introduced two interpretative themes which became the basis for modern literary criticism of her works: humour as social critique and irony as a means of moral evaluation. According to Simpson, Austen "began by being an ironical critic; she manifested her judgment ... not by direct censure, but by the indirect method of imitating and exaggerating the faults of her models ... Criticism, humour, irony, the judgment not of one that gives sentence but of the mimic who quizzes while he mocks, are her characteristics." Simpson's essay, obscure for many years, became influential when Lionel Trilling quoted from it in 1957.
Another prominent writer whose Austen criticism was ignored, novelist Margaret Oliphant, described her in quasi-feminist terms as "armed with a 'fine vein of feminine cynicism,' 'full of subtle power, keenness, finesse, and self-restraint,' blessed with an 'exquisite sense' of the 'ridiculous,' 'a fine stinging yet soft-voiced contempt,' whose novels are 'so calm and cold and keen'". This view was explored during the 1970s rise of feminist literary criticism. Although abridged editions of Austen's novels had been published in the United States since 1832, a distinct American response to Austen was not heard before 1870. According to Southam, "For American literary nationalists Jane Austen's cultivated scene was too pallid, too constrained, too refined, too downright unheroic". Austen was not a democratic author, and her canvas did not extend to the frontier themes which had come to define American literature. By the turn of the 20th century, the American response was represented by a debate between American novelist and critic William Dean Howells and writer and humourist Mark Twain. In a series of essays, Howells painted Austen as a canonical popular figure; Twain used her as an argument against anglophilia, demonstrating the distinctiveness of American literature by disparaging that from England. In his book, Following the Equator, Twain described his ship's library: "Jane Austen's books ... are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it."
Members of the literary elite, who had appropriated an appreciation of Austen as a mark of culture, reacted against the popularisation of her work around 1900. They called themselves "Janeites", distinguishing themselves from the masses who (in their view) did not properly understand Austen. American novelist Henry James, part of this group, ranked Austen with Shakespeare, Cervantes and Henry Fielding as one of "the fine painters of life". James considered her an "unconscious" artist, describing her as "instinctive and charming". In 1905, however, he responded to what he described as "a beguiled infatuation" with Austen—a rising tide of public interest which exceeded her "intrinsic merit and interest". James attributed the groundswell principally to "the stiff breeze of the commercial, ... the special bookselling spirits. ... the body of publishers, editors, illustrators, producers of the pleasant twaddle of magazines; who have found their 'dear,' our dear, everybody's dear, Jane so infinitely to their material purpose, so amenable to pretty reproduction in every variety of what is called tasteful, and in what seemingly proves to be salable, form."
Austen's place among internationally known British authors appeared secure by the early twentieth century. Important early works included Oxford Shakespearean scholar A. C. Bradley's 1911 essay, "generally regarded as the starting-point for the serious academic approach to Jane Austen". Bradley emphasised Austen's ties to 18th-century critic and writer Samuel Johnson, calling her a moralist as well as a humourist; in this, according to Southam, he was "totally original". Bradley divided Austen's works into "early" and "late" novels, categories still used by scholars today. The second groundbreaking early-20th-century critic of Austen was R. W. Chapman, whose collection of Austen's works was the first scholarly edition of any English novelist; the Chapman texts have remained the basis for subsequent editions of her works. In a burst of mid-century revisionism, scholars approached Austen more sceptically. D. W. Harding, following and expanding upon Farrer, argued in his essay "Regulated Hatred: An Aspect of the Work of Jane Austen" that her novels subverted (rather than supported) the status quo. Her irony, more caustic than humorous, intended to undermine the assumptions of the society she portrayed. With this irony, Austen attempted to protect her integrity as an artist and a person in the face of attitudes and practices she rejected. Critic Q. D. Leavis wrote in "Critical Theory of Jane Austen's Writing", published in Scrutiny in the early 1940s, that Austen was a professional (not an amateur) writer. Harding's and Leavis's articles were followed by another revisionist treatment by Marvin Mudrick in Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery (1952). Mudrick portrayed Austen as isolated, defensive and critical of her society, describing in detail the relationship he saw between her attitude toward contemporary literature and her use of irony to contrast the realities of her society with what she felt they should be. These revisionist views, with critic F. R. Leavis's view in The Great Tradition (1948) that Austen was one of the great writers of English fiction (a belief shared by Ian Watt, who helped shape scholarly debate about the novel as a genre), cemented Austen's academic reputation.
Late-20th-century literary critic Harold Bloom has continued Leavis's tradition, comparing Austen to Shakespeare on the strength of the portrayal of the inner lives of her major characters. For Bloom, Austen's "genius" is comparable to Murasaki Shikibu (author of The Tale of Genji), Alexander Pope, John Donne and Jonathan Swift. Vladimir Nabokov was less enthusiastic about Austen in his comparison with Nikolai Gogol, one of his favourite authors. To Nabokov, Gogol's craftsmanship exceeded Austen's.
Since Austen's works were published anonymously, they brought her little personal renown. Although her novels quickly became fashionable among opinion-makers such as Princess Charlotte Augusta (daughter of George IV), only a few reviews were published. Most were short, favourable, superficial and cautious, focusing on the novels' moral lessons. Walter Scott, a leading novelist of the day, provided an anonymous review. Using it as a platform from which to defend the then-disreputable genre of the novel, he praised Austen's realism. The other important early review of Austen's works was attributed to Richard Whately in 1821. Whately denied writing the review, which drew favourable comparisons between Austen, Homer and Shakespeare and praised the dramatic quality of her storytelling. Scott and Whately set the tone for nearly all subsequent 19th-century Austen criticism.
Because Austen's novels failed 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 Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Although her novels were republished in Britain beginning in the 1830s and sold steadily, they were not bestsellers.
Austen had many 19th-century admirers who considered themselves part of a literary elite, viewing their appreciation of her work as a mark of cultural taste. Philosopher and literary critic George Henry Lewes expressed this view in a series of enthusiastic articles published in the 1840s and 1850s. Later in the century, novelist Henry James ranked Austen with Shakespeare, Cervantes and Henry Fielding (author of Tom Jones) as among "the fine painters of life".
The 1869 publication of James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public as "dear aunt Jane", a respectable maiden aunt. Publication of the Memoir sparked a revival of Austen's novels; the first popular editions appeared in 1883, and illustrated editions and collectors' sets quickly followed. Author and critic Leslie Stephen called Austen's great popularity during the 1880s "Austenolatry". Around the turn of the 20th century, members of the literary elite reacted against the popularization of Austen. They called themselves "Janeites", distinguishing themselves from the masses who did not fully understand her works. Henry James began criticising what he called "a beguiled infatuation" with Austen, a rising tide of public interest which exceeded her "intrinsic merit and interest". During the last quarter of the century, the first criticism of Austen was published; after the Memoir, more criticism of Austen appeared in two years than in the previous half-century.
Several works paved the way for an academic focus on Austen's novels. The first, a 1911 essay by Oxford Shakespearean scholar A. C. Bradley, is "generally regarded as the starting-point for the serious academic approach to Jane Austen". Bradley categorised her novels as "early" and "late" novels, a distinction still used by scholars. The second was R. W. Chapman's 1923 edition of Austen's collected works, her first scholarly edition and the first of any English novelist. The Chapman text is the basis for all subsequent published editions of Austen's works. With the 1939 publication of Mary Lascelles's Jane Austen and Her Art, academic study of the author took hold. Lascelles's work included an analysis of the books Austen read and the effect of her reading on her work and an extensive analysis of Austen's style and "narrative art". Concern arose that Austen criticism was becoming increasingly academic and esoteric, a concern which continues.
During a period of 1940s revisionism, scholars called Austen a subversive writer. These views, with F. R. Leavis's and Ian Watt's belief that Austen was one of the great writers of English fiction, cemented her academic reputation. 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 post-World War II period has seen increased scholarship on Austen using a variety of critical approaches, with anthologies published by Cambridge University Press, Chelsea House and Prentice Hall. However, the gap between academic and popular appreciation of Austen has widened.
Sequels, prequels and adaptations, from soft-core pornography to fantasy, have been based on Austen's novels. During the mid-19th century, Austen family members began publishing conclusions to her incomplete novels; by 2000, there were over 100 printed adaptations. Austen's first film adaptation was the 1940 MGM production of Pride and Prejudice, starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. BBC television dramatisations, first produced during the 1970s, attempted to adhere meticulously to Austen's plots, characterisation and settings. In 1995, two Austen adaptations appeared: Ang Lee's film version of Sense and Sensibility (for which screenwriter and star Emma Thompson won an Academy Award) and the BBC's popular TV mini-series Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.
A 2005 British production of Pride and Prejudice was directed by Joe Wright. The film, a period piece which accurately depicts the five sisters as they deal with marriage, morality and misconceptions, is set in the late 18th century (slightly earlier than the novel). Keira Knightley starred as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen played her romantic interest, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Produced by Working Title Films and StudioCanal, it was released on 16 September 2005 in the United Kingdom and Ireland and on 11 November in the United States.
That year, Julia Day reported in The Guardian that ITV drama head Nick Elliott had ordered adaptations of Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. According to Elliot, they would be "important remakes for the new generation ... About every 10 years, all the great stories need retelling. These films will be very much 2007 films ... We've asked and pushed the production team to make them young. Her stories always make great TV drama and our Jane Austen season will feature the absolute cream of British acting talent". In January 2016 a film version of Lady Susan, directed by Whit Stillman and starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival as Love & Friendship (adapting its title from Austen's youthful story, Love and Freindship [sic]).
List of works
|Library resources about
|By Jane Austen|
- 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)[M]
- Plan of a Novel (1815)
- Poems (1796–1817)
- Prayers (1796–1817)
- Letters (1796–1817)
Juvenilia — Volume the First (1787–1793)[N]
- 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
An authoritative, contemporary six-volume critical edition of Austen's major novels was begun in 2010 by Harvard University Press as part of their Belknap Press imprint. Other "complete" editions of Austen's novels are available, although most lack annotations or period illustrations. The series' final volume, Mansfield Park, is scheduled for publication in fall 2016.
- Pride and Prejudice. Hardcover: 446 pages. Publisher: Belknap Press; 1st edition (October 31, 2010). ISBN 9780674049161.
- Persuasion. Hardcover: 360 pages. Publisher: Belknap Press; Annotated edition (November 7, 2011). ISBN 0674049748.
- Emma. Hardcover: 576 pages. Publisher: Belknap Press; Annotated edition (September 17, 2012). ISBN 0674048849.
- Sense and Sensibility. Hardcover: 448 pages. Publisher: Belknap Press; Annotated edition (October 1, 2013). ISBN 0674724550.
- Northanger Abbey. Hardcover: 384 pages Publisher: Belknap Press; Annotated edition (April 28, 2014). ISBN 0674725670.
- Mansfield Park. Hardcover: 490 pages. Publisher: Belknap Press; Annotated edition (October 24, 2016). ISBN 0674058100.
- 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.
- Le Faye and Collins add that the Austens followed this custom for all of their children.
- For social conventions among the gentry generally, see Collins 1994, p. 105.
- 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.
- Jane 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, in order 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 Jane Austen's novels was driven by the publishers or the author. Since all but one of Jane 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. For more information and a discussion of the economics of book publishing during this period, see Fergus, "The Professional Woman Writer", in Copeland & McMaster 1997, pp. 18, and Raven, "Book Production", in Todd 2005, pp. 196–203.
- The Prince Regent's admiration was by no means reciprocated, however. 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."
- Addison's disease was often a secondary effect of tuberculosis or cancer. For detailed information concerning the retrospective diagnosis, its uncertainties and related controversies, see Honan 1987, pp. 391–392; Le Faye, A Family Record, 236; Grey, "Life of Jane Austen", in Grey 1986, p. 282; and Wiltshire, Jane Austen and the Body, 221. Claire Tomalin prefers a diagnosis of a lymphoma such as Hodgkin's disease, arguing that Austen's known symptoms are more consistent with a lymphoma than with Addison'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.
- The Memoir by her nephew starting this period of several decades was published in December 1869 and dated 1870.
- 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.
- 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, "Grandison", in Grey 1986, pp. 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 Austen 1993.
- Kirkham, "Portraits", in Todd 2005, pp. 69–72.
- Fergus, "Biography", in Todd 2005, pp. 3–4.
- Le Faye, "Letters", in Todd 2005, p. 33
- Le Faye 2003, p. 270.
- Nokes 1998, p. 1.
- Le Faye 2003, p. 279.
- Thomas 1987.
- Dabundo 2000.
- Honan 1987, pp. 29–30.
- Honan 1987, pp. 11–14.
- Tucker, "Jane Austen's Family", in Grey 1986, p. 143.
- Tomalin 1997, pp. 6, 13–16, 147–151, 170–171.
- Collins 1994, pp. 10–11.
- Fergus, "Biography", in Todd 2005, pp. 5–6.
- Greene, "Jane Austen and the Peerage", Jane Austen: A Collection of Critical Essays, 156–157.
- Collins, 86.
- Honan 1987, pp. 14, 17–18.
- Collins 1994, p. 54.
- Tomalin 1997, p. 142.
- Honan 1987, pp. 23, 119.
- Fergus, "Biography", in Todd 2005, pp. 3.
- Kellynch Hall.
- Honan 1987, pp. 24, 246.
- Collins 1994, p. 17.
- MacDonagh 1991, pp. 50–51.
- Le Faye 2003, p. 22.
- Tucker, "Jane Austen's Family", in Grey 1986, p. 147.
- Le Faye 2003, pp. 43–44.
- Le Faye 2003, p. 20.
- Le Faye 2003, p. 27.
- Tomalin 1997, pp. 7–9.
- Honan 1987, pp. 21–22.
- Collins 1994, p. 86.
- Le Faye 2003, p. 19.
- Le Faye 2003, pp. 47–49.
- Collins, 35, 133.
- Le Faye 2003, p. 52.
- Tomalin 1997, pp. 9–10, 26, 33–38, 42–43.
- Collins 1994, pp. 133–134.
- Tomalin 1997, pp. 28–29, 33–43, 66–67.
- Honan 1987, pp. 31–34.
- Lascelles 1966, pp. 7–8.
- Le Faye, "Chronology", in Copeland & McMaster 1997, pp. 2–3.
- Grundy, "Jane Austen and Literary Traditions", 190–191.
- Collins, 42.
- Honan 1987, pp. 66–68.
- Collins 1994, p. 43.
- Honan 1987, pp. 211–212.
- Tomalin 1997, pp. 31–32, 40–42, 55–57, 62–63.
- Honan 1987, pp. 35, 47–52, 423–424, n. 20.
- Tucker, "Amateur Theatricals at Steventon", in Grey 1986, pp. 1–2.
- Byrne 2002, pp. 1–39.
- Gay 2002, pp. ix, 1.
- Honan 1987, pp. 53–54.
- Lascelles 1966, pp. 106–107.
- Litz 1965, pp. 14–17.
- Le Faye 2003, p. 66.
- Honan 1987, pp. 61–62, 70.
- Lascelles 1966, p. 4.
- Litz, "Chronology of Composition", in Grey 1986, p. 48.
- Honan 1987, pp. 62–76.
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- Stafford, Fiona (2004). "Notes on the Text". Pride and Prejudice. By Austen, Jane. Kinley, James, ed. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280238-0.
- Thomas, Keith G. (Winter 1987). "Jane Austen and the Romantic Lyric: Persuasion and Coleridge's Conversation Poems". ELH. The Johns Hopkins Press. 54 (4): 893–924.
- Todd, Janet (2006). The Cambridge Introduction to Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-67469-7.
- Waldron, Mary (1999). Jane Austen and the Fiction of Her Time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00388-1.
- Wiltshire, John (2001). Recreating Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00282-6.
- Wiltshire, John (1992). Jane Austen and the Body: The Picture of Health. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41476-8.
- Windschuttle, Keith (January 1999). "Edward Said's 'Orientalism revisited'". The New Criterion. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
|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