Many people may be familiar with Jane Austen in some way or another. Her novels have long been on the reading lists of schools and universities and many others have discovered her in other ways. One thing is for sure her novels have won the hearts of many. These novels have been recreated for the screen a number of different times, but the most famous are Sense & Sensibility staring Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson, the BBC mini series of Pride & Prejudice and the recent Pride & Prejudice film staring Keira Knightly. But even though many people may be familiar with Jane Austen they may know little else about her. The upcoming film about Jane Austen’s life will certainly increased the number of Jane Austen fans. Here are some little known facts about Jane Austen.
Jane Austen was born on December 16,1775 in the town of Steventon, Hampshire, England. She was the daughter of Rev. George Austen. Jane Austen was the seventh in a family of eight children and the youngest daughter. Two of her brothers Henry and James joined the clergy while her other two brothers Charles and France went into the Navy.
Jane Austen’s education began in 1783 in Oxford an uncle’s sister taught her and her sister Cassandra. Next she went to Southhampton with the same relative and finally ended up in Reading, Berkshire at the Abbey boarding school where she was schooled from 1785 to 1786. This was an unusual amount of education for a woman during that time.
This high level of education and Jane Austen’s family life played a big role in Jane embarking on the career of a writer. In her family it was a popular pastime to enact plays and to read novels from her father’s library. Besides this her family particularly her brother Henry encouraged her to write. Jane Austen began her first novel in 1789.
In 1801 Jane Austen and her family moved to the seaside town of Bath, a town that was to play significant roles in her future books. However a little known fact is that Jane was not a fan of Bath and never felt at home there.
In 1802 Harris Bigg-Wither made Jane an offer of marriage. However her feelings on him were not particularly favourable and she described him as “big and awkward”. The only temptation Jane Austen had by the marriage offer was the chance to free herself from the constraints of being an unmarried woman at that time. As a result Jane at first accept the marriage offer, but by the next day had changed her mind and took back her acceptance and quickly along with her sister requested that their brother remove them from the neighbourhood.
In 1805 Jane Austen’s father passed away and Jane her sister Cassandra and her stepmother went to live with her brother Frank’s family in Southhampton. Then in 1809 Jane moved to Chawton with her mother and sister. This home was a cottage situated on the estate of her now wealthy brother Edward. It was in Chawton that Jane wrote her later novels.
By 1816 when she was only forty Jane Austen became ill. This illness became increasingly bad and as a result Jane moved to Winchester, the location of her doctor in May 1817. Over the next few months Jane’s condition deteriorated with Jane Austen dying on July 18,1817.
The cause of Jane Austen’s death has not be confirmed but there are some theories. The most accepted theory is that Jane Austen died of Addison’s disease, which at the time had not been identified. Carol Shield, her biographer, put another modern theory forth. This theory suggests that Jane Austen died of breast cancer.
Jane Austen’s work is much loved by many for many reasons. Her stories are filled with romance and happy endings. However they are much more than plane old romance novels. Jane Austen’s writing was that of wonderful wit, irony, humour, satire and cutting social commentary that described the wealthier classes of her time. She develops wonderful characters that represent the beliefs and behaviour of the time.
Of her books Jane Austen’s most popular novel is Pride & Prejudice. Other novels include Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. A number of these books are considered comedies of manners, with Emma being considered by modern critics as perfectly executed.
If you were to quickly want to know what Jane Austen’s various novels were about it could be said like this. Emma is about the transition from child to adult, Pride & Prejudice is about class prejudices and quick judgements of others, Sense & Sensibility is about thought and emotions and Mansfiled parks tackles a number of themes including religion, education and perceptions. Besides her well known novels Jane wrote a number of Juvenilia, some are very early works and provide a great way to see the development of Jane Austen’s style. These works are called, Love and Friendship, The Three Sisters, Frederic and Elfreda, Jack and Alice, Henry and Eliza and Parts of Lesley Castle.
For anyone interested in taking a look at Jane Austen’s works there is an excellent website called www.austen.com. On this site you will find most of her works where you can read them for no cost.