Jane Austen is one of the greatest English novelists of the 19th century. Her witty, satirical and romantic fiction marks the transition in English literature from 18th century neo-classicism to 19th century romanticism.
Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in the village of Steventon, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire. The seventh of eight children of the Reverend George Austen and his wife, Cassandra, she was educated mainly at home and, even in her adult years, continued to live with other members of her family. In her childhood, she was surrounded by her older sister, Cassandra, her six brothers, and the other boys who lodged with the family and whom Mr. Austen tutored.
Jane wrote her first novel, Love and Freindship (sic) when she was fourteen. This was followed by, A History of England by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant Historian and several other juvenile works. Jane went on to write six major novels. Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816) were published during her lifetime, while a gothic parody, Northanger Abbey (1818) and Persuasion (1818), were published posthumously by her brother, Henry Austen, with a biography and the first formal notice of her authorship. The novels published during her lifetime had been published anonymously.
As a young woman Jane enjoyed dancing (an activity which features frequently in her novels) and she attended balls in many of the great houses of the neighborhood. She loved the country, enjoyed long country walks, and had many Hampshire friends. From 1801 until her father's death in 1805, the family lived in Bath.
After the death of Mr. Austen, Jane, together with her mother and sister, moved to Southampton to share the home of Jane's brother Frank and his wife Mary. There were occasional visits to London, where Jane stayed with her favourite brother Henry, at that time a prosperous banker, and where she enjoyed visits to the theatre and art exhbitions. However, she appears to have set aside her writing almost entirely during the years she lived in Bath and Southampton.
In 1809, her brother Edward offered his mother and sisters a permanent home on his Chawton estate, and they moved back to the Hampshire countryside. The environment proved to be exactly what Jane needed to write. It was in the seven and a half years that followed that she published all of her major novels.
In the winter of 1816 she started another novel, Sanditon, but illness prevented its completion. Jane Austen had contracted Addisons Disease, a tubercular disease of the kidneys. By May 1817, she was so ill that she and Cassandra, to be near Jane's physician, rented rooms in Winchester. Tragically, there was then no cure and Jane Austen died in her sister's arms in the early hours of July 18, 1817 at the age of 41. She is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
The Classical Library,