Early life and education
Bath and Southampton
Illness and death
Twentieth century and beyond
List of works
Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction set among the gentry earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics.
Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years until she was about 35 years old. During this period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary novel which she tried then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the release 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 andPersuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but died before completing it
Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the eighteenth century and are part of the transition to nineteenth-century realism. Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer. The second half of the twentieth century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a Janeite fan culture.
An analysis by Kathryn Sutherland of St Anne's College, Oxford, of 1,000 pages of Austen's letters and manuscripts suggested in 2010 that the polished prose for which Austen is famous was heavily edited by someone else, most likely her editor, William Gifford, a poet and classical scholar. The manuscripts show Austen's own writing and spelling to have been idiosyncratic and somewhat error-ridden. The three-year research project that led to the discovery was conducted by Oxford University and King's College London.