Jane Austen is a female author from the Georgian era, spanning from 1714 to 1837. In my independent study novel, Pride and Prejudice, she is known for her social commentary that bridges the gap between romance and realism. Born in Steventon, Hampshire, England, on December 16, 1775. Born to Cassandra and George Austen, she was the seventh child of eight. She had one older sister. The Austens were very close and they strongly encouraged creative thinking and general learning in their home. Their father had an extensive library. They often put on plays in the rectory barn and partook in charades. Sometimes they even authored some of their own tales. As she aged, she grew closest to her older sister, Cassandra, and her father, who was an Oxford-educated rector for the nearby Anglican parish and an acclaimed scholar. Though the family was not poor, they could not afford an extravagant lifestyle. The sisters were sent to Oxford for their education but returned home when Jane nearly died of typhus. Their next boarding school in Reading was run by Mrs. La Tournelle who loved theater. Jane experienced a dynamic, independent female role model. When the expense of education became too much for the family, the girls returned to be home-schooled.
Jane loved to write stories and poems. She was fascinated by this fanciful world, where anything was possible. She began to write in notebooks constantly. In 1790, while still in her teens, she started to create her own novels, often writing about romance. Love and Freindship was a parody to romantic fiction, using a series of love letters. While trying this framework she realized she possessed much wit and also discovered her disgust for sensibility. This distinct perspective, characterized much of her later writing.
Jane’s adulthood consisted of attending church, helping run the family, playing the piano and socializing with her neighbours. She attended many gatherings in the evenings and often danced. She read aloud to her family. Ironically, she never married although there was one time she truly fell in love. It was to a boy named Tom Lefroy, a nearby neighbour’s nephew. He was in town because he was being educated in London. They spent much time together and Jane was officially smitten with him. Unfortunately, the Austens had nothing to offer him. Since he was being funded by his Uncle, he was forced to leave town by his meddling family. Even when returning to visit, there was heavy effort in not letting them see each other. After this brutal heartbreak there was much controversy about the fact that she agreed to marry a man named Harris Bigg-Wither in 1802, but took back her acquiescence early the following morning due to the fact that she did not truly love him. There is rumour she fell in love with another, but he died soon after this discovery. I believe her experience with Lefroy inspired the plot of Pride and Prejudice. She was motivated to write the novel to express her views on marriage. In her era, women were expected to be married and many did so out of convenience. Austen disagreed with this practice and used her book to express her opinions.
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As she continued her writing she gave her novels modern characteristics due to her treatment of people in her everyday life. Jane’s extended family lived all over England. She made many visits to Bath and London. Her extensive travels and experiences contributed greatly to the subjects, settings and characters in her novels. Many events and acquaintances mentioned in Austen’s letters turn up in her novels. The character of Elizabeth Bennet has similar attributes to her cousin Eliza. She is also quite close with her father and older sister, just like Jane was. There were literary influences in her life as well. She was a fan of authors Samuel Richardson and Fanny Burney. Richardson wrote in the epistolary style, revealing elements of the plot through letters. Austen also adapts this method in her novels. Fanny made her female characters strong and realistic for her readers. Austen enjoyed this element of her books and chose a heroine for her own stories. In the final chapter of her novel Cecilia, Fanny used the phrase Pride and Prejudice several times. This is where the critics feel Austen chose the name for her book.
Spanning from October 1796 and August 1797, she wrote the first draft of Pride and Prejudice, initially titled First Impressions. Attempts to publish this book failed until January of 1813, when Thomas Egerton agreed to publish it, anonymously. Sense and Sensibility was published first and subsequent publications were attributed to “The author of Sense and Sensibility”.
Her father, in 1801, retired from the clergy and moved to Bath with the female Austens. In 1804, her dearest friend, Mrs. Anne Lefroy passed away. When her father passed in 1805, the ladies were at the mercy of her brothers. They stayed in Southampton from 1805-1809 until one of her brothers, Edward, provided lodging for them at a cottage on his estate in Chawton Village, Hampshire. Early in 1816, Austen became fatally ill. She was suffering from Addison disease. Simple tasks like walking became very difficult and she was bedridden by April. She died, at a young age of 41, in Winchester on July 18 and was buried six days later at the local Cathedral. Her novels were finally published with her name, after her death, when her brother Henry, her literary agent, documented the truth about her authorship. Only four of her novels were published during her lifetime.