Jane Austen (1775-1817), English author wrote numerous influential works contributing to the Western literary canon. Austen had rejected suitor Harris Bigg Wither at the last minute and never ended up marrying, but still she expresses a keen grasp of the traditional female role and the ensuing hopes and heartbreaks with her memorable protagonists including Emma Woodhouse, Fanny Price, Catherine Morland, Anne Elliot, and Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. Writing in the romantic vein, Austen was also a realist and has been lauded for her form and structure of plot and intensely detailed characters who struggle with the issues of class-consciousness versus individualism: self-respecting men were supposed to become lawyers or join the church or military, and respectable women married to improve their station in life.
Jane had started writing at an early age and her family were highly supportive, though as was done at the time her works were published anonymously. Her combination of irony, humour, and sophisticated observations of the societal and cultural machinations between the classes epitomise the often absurd problems of inheritance, courtship, morals, and marriage in Regency England. Modestly successful during her life, her works have gone on to inspire adaptations to the stage and film and have endured the test of time even into the 21st century.
Born on 16 December, 1775 Jane Austen was the daughter of Cassandra (née Leigh) (1739–1827) and the reverend George Austen (1731–1805). The Austens were a very close-knit family; Jane had six brothers and one sister, Cassandra, who would later draw a famous portrait of Jane. They lived in the village of Steventon in Hampshire county, England, where George was rector. Young Jane was tutored at home and attended the Abbey School in Reading, Berkshire.
Jane was inseparable from her older sister Cassandra. They sang and danced and attended balls together. When George retired around 1801, he moved his family to...