Portal:Jane Austen

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Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics. Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years into her thirties. During this period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary novel which she tried then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), 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, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but died before completing it. (more...)

Selected article

NorthangerPersuasionTitlePage.jpg
Northanger Abbey was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be completed for publication, though she had previously made a start on Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Originally titled Susan, the novel was written approximately during 1798–99. It was revised by Austen for the press in 1803, and sold in the same year for £10 to a London bookseller, Crosby & Co., who decided against publishing. In 1817, the bookseller was content to sell it back to the novelist's brother, Henry Austen, for the exact sum — £10 — that he had paid for it at the beginning, not knowing that the writer was by then the author of four popular novels. The novel was further revised before being brought out posthumously in late December 1817 (1818 given on the title-page), as the first two volumes of a four-volume set with Persuasion.

Northanger Abbey is fundamentally a parody of Gothic fiction. Austen turns the conventions of eighteenth-century novels on their head, by making her heroine a plain and undistinguished girl from a middle-class family, allowing the heroine to fall in love with the hero before he has a serious thought of her, and exposing the heroine's romantic fears and curiosities as groundless. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin speculates that Austen may have begun this book, which is more explicitly comic than her other works and contains many literary allusions that her parents and siblings would have enjoyed, as a family entertainment—a piece of lighthearted parody to be read aloud by the fireside. (more...)

Selected biography

As seen in this 19th century illustration, Marianne's joys, loves, and sorrows know no restraint, opposed to her sister Elinor's 'propriety.'
Marianne Dashwood is a fictional character in the Jane Austen novel Sense and Sensibility. The 17-year-old second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood, she embodies the ‘sensibility’ of the title, as opposed to her elder sister Elinor’s ‘sense.’

She embraces spontaneity, excessive sensibility, love of nature, and romantic idealism. When she is helped by the dashing John Willoughby, she falls deeply and sincerely in love with him, abhorring all society's demands, and ignoring her sister’s rational warnings that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. His painful spurning of her, and the shocking discovery of his dissipated character, finally causes her to recognize her misjudgment of him. She acts exactly as she feels, thus making herself and everyone around her miserable when Willoughby leaves her. (more...)

Selected picture

CassandraAusten-JaneAusten(c.1810) hires.jpg
A watercolour and pencil sketch of Austen, believed to have been drawn from life by her sister Cassandra (c. 1810)

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