An essay about the writer Jane Austen
|Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775 and died July 18, 1817. She was a British novelist who primarily wrote about the social class of the landed gentry. Her romantic fiction is historically important because of its realism and social commentary.
Austen’s family was close. She was educated through reading and otherwise, by her family. They also continued to support her as she struggled through being a writing apprentice and becoming a professional. She published four novels during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). She also wrote Northanger Abbey and Persuasion which were both published posthumously in 1818. It was only with these that she was first identified as the author of a published work. The others were simply identified as being written “by a lady.” Though she didn’t achieve much fame during her lifetime, her nephew published A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869. By the 1940’s she was widely accepted as an important British author and her fame only grew from there.
Her parents, George Austen (1731–1805) and his wife, Cassandra (1739–1827), were married April 26, 1764. During much of Austen’s life, her father was a rector for Steventon and the local area. At times he also farmed and taught live-in boys for additional money. The couple had 8 children, six sons and two daughters—James (1765–1819), George (1766–1838), Edward (1768–1852), Henry Thomas (1771–1850), Cassandra Elizabeth (1773–1845), Francis William (Frank) (1774–1865), Jane (1775-1817), and Charles John (1779–1852).
Austen began creative writing as early as 1787. She eventually organized twenty-nine of her early works into what is now called the Juvenilia. These works have been called “anarchic” and “boisterous” and have been compared to the works attributed to Monty Python.
Austen was proud of her seamstress skills and enjoyed dancing, but she never stopped writing. She also often read her novels aloud to her family in the evenings. Around 1789 or so, she decided to become a professional writer. By 1793 her works were becoming longer and more sophisticated. She continued to be prolific. In 1797, her father even tried (and failed) to get an early version of Pride and Prejudice (originally called First Impressions) published. By 1800, the patriarch suddenly decided to quit his ministry and move the family to Bath. This began what appears to be a time of depression for Austen, marked by a lack of writing other than rewriting some of her earlier works.
In 1805, Austen’s father suddenly died and she, her also unmarried sister, Cassandra, and her now widowed mother all lived a very unstable life, moving from one relative’s home to another or temporarily renting places for short periods of time. Eventually, in 1809, her brother Edward offered for the three women to live in Chawton House, a part of his nearby estate. Finally with some stability, Austen returned to writing as she had before moving to Bath. It was during this time that she was able to get the four novels published during her lifetime into print.
In early 1816 Austen began to get sick. For months she ignored it and even when it became obvious she joked that it was “bile” or rheumatism, but she continued to get sicker and by May of 1817 she had to be hospitalized. On July 18, 1817 she died of what is presumed to have either been Addison’s disease or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. July 18, 2017 will mark two hundred years since her passing and she’s now more popular than ever.