Portal:Jane Austen

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Introduction

Watercolour-and-pencil portrait of Jane Austen

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 favourable social standing and economic security. Her 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. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism and social commentary, have earned her acclaim among critics and scholars.

With the publications 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 another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript and another unfinished novel, The Watsons. Her six full-length novels have rarely been out of print, although they were published anonymously and brought her moderate success and little fame during her lifetime.

Selected article

MemoirJaneAusten.jpg
A Memoir of Jane Austen is a biography of the novelist Jane Austen published in 1869 by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh. A second edition was published in 1871 which included previously unpublished Jane Austen writings. A family project, the biography was written by James Edward Austen-Leigh but owed much to the recollections of Jane Austen's many relatives. However, it was the decisions of her close friend and sister, Cassandra Austen, to destroy many of Jane's letters after her death that shaped the material available for the biography.

Austen-Leigh described his "dear Aunt Jane" domestically, as someone who was uninterested in fame and who only wrote in her spare time. However, the manuscripts appended to the second edition suggest that Jane Austen was intensely interested in revising her manuscripts and was perhaps less content than Austen-Leigh described her. The Memoir does not attempt to unreservedly tell the story of Jane Austen's life. Following the Victorian conventions of biography, it kept much private information from the public, but family members disagreed over just how much should be revealed, for example, regarding Austen's romantic relationships. (more...)

Selected biography

Anne Elliot is the protagonist of Jane Austen's sixth and last completed novel, Persuasion (1818). She is the overlooked middle daughter of a narcissistic and extravagant baronet, Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall. Unique among Jane Austen heroines, she is 27 years old and seemingly a confirmed spinster. With few to appreciate her sweet nature and refined, elegant mind, Anne is somewhat isolated, living in a narrow social sphere where she "was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way; she was only Anne."

Persuasion manifests a significant shift in Austen's attitude toward inherited wealth and rank. Elsewhere in her writing, salvation for the heroine comes in the form of marriage to a well-born gentleman, preferably wealthy and at least her equal in social consequence. Elizabeth Bennet, for example, who has little money of her own, marries Mr. Darcy, who has a great estate, a Norman-sounding name, and ₤10,000 a year. Anne Elliot's "true attachment and constancy" to Captain Wentworth, a dashing, self-made young outsider, distinguishes her from all her sister Austen heroines. (more...)

Selected picture

CassandraAustenSilhouette.png
Silhouette of Cassandra Austen (1773–1845), unknown date

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