Books That Endure: Classic Studies of Human Relationships

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Pride and Prejudice

Background

  • Born in the rectory at Steventon, Hampshire, the sixth of seven children of the Reverend George and Cassandra Leigh Austen. 
  • Part of a lively, affectionate family who encouraged her as a child to read and write; began at twelve writing parodies of popular and sentimental fiction.  Like the rest of her family, enjoyed producing and performing in amateur theatricals.
  • Her closest lifetime relationship, with her only sister, Cassandra, who edited (and censored) her letters after her death..
  • Little known of the events of her life; never married, though she had several suitors.
  • Moved with great unhappiness from Steventon to Bath after her father's retirement (1801); upon his death in 1806, moved to Southampton and then, in 1809, to Chawton.
  • Died at forty-two of what is believed to have been Addison's disease.

Career

  • First sustained writings were novels in epistolary form, beginning in 1794 with Lady Susan.
  • Guarded her privacy and deliberately avoided literary circles; all works published during her lifetime appeared anonymously.
  • Her fiction favorably reviewed by Sir Walter Scott, the most popular novelist of the day.
  • The chronology of her writing difficult to establish because she typically rewrote and reworked earlier materials throughout her career--e.g., Lady Susan eventually evolved into Northanger Abbey; First Impressions, into Pride and Prejudice; Elinore and Marianne into Sense and Sensibility. Novels published in a different order than they were begun or completed.

Major Writings

Juvenilia (written during her teens) (published in three volumes by Oxford Press)
Love and Friendship (at fourteen)
A History of England (at fifteen)
A Collection of Letters
and Lesley Castle (between sixteen and seventeen)
Lady Susan (between eighteen and nineteen)
Elinore and Marianne  (written 1795-6)
First Impression (written 1797)
Sense and Sensibility (1811)
Pride and Prejudice
(1813)
Mansfield Park (1814)
Emma (1816)
Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (post. 1818)

Biographical and Critical Information



Retired Discussion Series



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