Sunday, April 19, 2015

Jane Austen - Biography

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

v     Jane Austen was a novelist of the English romantic movement, and is one of the most popular writers in English literature today.

v     Despite being labelled a romantic, her stories are praised for their realism, as well as for their sharp irony, and social commentary.

v     Jane Austen wrote about the landed gentry in England, a wealthy class of people who didn't have to work, merely collecting rent from farmers and others.

v     She wrote six novels in her life time and started a seventh before she died. Her most famous works are Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Emma.

v     While her books were popular in her lifetime, they were published anonymously, so she wasn't famous. She only began to become famous in 1869 when her nephew wrote a memoir about her, and her popularity has grown ever since.

Personal Life:

Little is known about Jane Austen. She wrote extensively to her family, but they burned most of her letters, to keep her private life private. Her parents were of the landed gentry class. Her father was the rector (director) for several parishes (farnosť, kongregácia) of the English church. He also farmed and tutored children privately in his home. She had six brothers and one sister, Cassandra, her closest friend throughout her life. Neither sister ever married, which is a little strange because marriage was such an important part of her stories. It was how a woman could secure her future and finances.

Jane and Cassandra attended boarding school for a short time, but had to leave when their parents could no longer afford it. Then they studied at home, reading in the family library. Their father encouraged them in writing and drawing (Cassandra's specialty), and the family often put together small plays for their friends. Jane put together three notebooks of her childhood poems and stories, titled Juvenilia, illustrated by her sister. It included a humorous history of England.

As Jane grew up, she continued living at home, writing, playing the piano, sewing clothes, socializing, dancing, and attending church. When she was twenty, she met a nice young man at a party, but his parents didn't approve and kept him from ever seeing her again. At 27, Jane was proposed to, by a younger, wealthy man. At first she accepted, knowing it would help her family. But, the next morning, she realized she couldn't go through with it, as he was very unattractive, in every possible way. Meanwhile, her father tried to get her stories published, without success.

Three years later Jane's father died. Jane, Cassandra, and their mother had little money and no where to live. In 1809, The three were finally given a cottage by their brother Edward, in Chawton village. This is when Jane finally got a publisher to agree to sell her novels.

Jane died young from a mysterious illness. No one knows what it was, and there are many theories. She left two novels unfinished, and another two were published posthumously, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.

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