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Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born on 16th December 1775 in the village of Steventon, near Basingstoke, Hampshire. Her father was a clergyman and served as the rector for the local Anglican parishes, and further enriched the family’s earnings through farming and tutoring a small number of pupils who, during their schooling, boarded at the Austen residence. Both of Jane’s parents were members of gentry families and, although they could by no means be considered wealthy, neither were they poverty-stricken and thus held their position and status fairly comfortably among the middleclass. For the most part, Jane was educated at home by her father and elder brothers who actively encouraged her reading and writing from a young age. The family had a large library which no doubt proved a great source of inspiration to Jane’s literary imagination.

Jane and her sister Cassandra were educated mainly at home, and Jane’s relationship with her sister was possibly the closest and strongest that she would hold in life. Much of Austen’s writing explores the connection between sisters. As Austen grew up she continued to live at home and employed herself in activities typical to a woman of her age and class: assisting her mother with the supervision of servants, practising the pianoforte, and visiting neighbours and relatives.

Much of Austen’s life was spent at her family home in a sphere of appreciation for education and learning, so it is not surprising to learn that, from a young age, Austen began to compose various stories, novels and plays for her family’s entertainment. These early writings have since become known as ‘Juvenilia’ and it is in these that we catch the first glimpses of the biting social commentary and aristocratic observations that she would later become famed for.

When her father retired from the ministry in 1801, Jane moved with her family to Bath, but, when her father died in 1805, the family was left to rely heavily on her brother Edward for financial support, and so in 1809 Jane moved to Chawton with her mother and sister to reside in a small house offered to them on one of Edward’s estates. It was here that she had the majority of literary success, writing four of her greatest works Sense and Sensibility  (1811), Pride and Prejudice  (1813), Mansfield Park  (1814) and Emma  (1815). With the help of her brother Henry, her first novel was accepted to be published with publisher Thomas Egerton. However it must be noted that until reaching relative success with Pride and Prejudice  Austen’s novels were published anonymously under a pen name, as writing was not considered a suitable female profession at the time. Jane Austen began to suffer from ill health, probably Addison’s disease, in 1816. She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment and died there on 18th July 1817 when she was only 42 years old.

Both Persuasion  and Northanger Abbey  were published posthumously by Henry following Jane’s death at the end of 1817 and, with these works, he included a biographical notice which, for the first time, identified Jane as the author of the novels. Together they earned over £500, more money then Austen ever saw in her lifetime.

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1775

Jane Austen was born

Austen was born in the village of Steventon, near Basingstoke, Hampshire. Her father was a clergyman and served as the rector for the local Anglican parishes
1795

Nearly became engaged to Tom Lefroy

However as neither had any money the marriage was declared impractical by Lefroy’s family, and he was sent away.

Read the truth about Jane and Tom

1798-1799

Jane began writing Northanger Abbey

"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine."
1801

Jane and her family moved to Bath

1809

Jane moved to Chawton

Jane moved to Chawton with her mother and sister to reside in a small house offered to them on one of Edward’s (her brother's) estates. It was here that she had the majority of literary success, writing four of her greatest works
1811

Sense and Sensbility was published

"The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance."
1813

Pride and Prejudice was published

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
1814

Mansfield Park was published

"About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet's lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income."
1815

Emma was published

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."
1816

Jane began writing Persuasion

"Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage;…"
1816

Jane fell ill and her health deterioated

1817

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously

These two works were published by her brother Henry following her death. With these works, he included biographical details which, for the first time, identified Jane as the author of the novels.
1817

Jane Austen died

1940

The Jane Austen Society was founded

The Society was founded in 1940 by Dorothy Darnell with the purpose of raising funds to preserve the cottage in Chawton where Jane Austen lived.

Read more about the society here.

2013

The 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice

This anniversary is being celebrated in many ways: The Jane Austen Centre in Bath is holding a nine day festival in September and The Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton is hosting an nu,ber of events throughout the year.

Visit Jane Austen's House

About the Contributor

English Editor at ZigZag Education

Northanger Abbey and the Gothic
Comprehensive notes interspersed with research links, practice essay questions, activities and discussion points. This guide has been written specifically for AQA B Lit Unit 3 and as such includes a wealth of information on linking Northanger Abbey with the Gothic genre.
Persuasion Comprehensive Guide
Intelligent, detailed notes work through the whole play discussing themes, characterisation, symbols & imagery.
Pride and Prejudice Study Guide
Provides detailed notes on every aspect of the novel to aid strong comprehension, questions and tasks throughout to support and engage learners and GCSE exam guidance