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Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born December 16th, 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire, England (near Basingstoke). She was the seventh child (out of eight) and the second daughter (out of two), of the Rev. George Austen, 1731-1805 and his wife Cassandra, 1739-1827. He had a fairly respectable income of about L600 a year, Supplemented by tutoring pupils who came to live with him, but was by no means rich, and couldn't have given his daughters much to marry on.

Jane had 6 brothers. The oldest on being James (1765-1819) who was a studios young boy and went to Oxford at the age of 14 and was ordained as a clergyman in 1787. Edward (1767-1852) was a steady and rich childless cousins of the Austen's, Thomas and Catherine Knight adopted the business like fellow and in the early 1780's. Edward later inherited their estate in Kent and took the name "Knight". Henry (1771-1850), Jane's favorite brother, ended up as a minister when his business when broke. He was witty and enthusiastic in whatever he did, but was not always successful. Henry was the one that saw that Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published after his sister's death. Cassandra (1771-1845) was Jane's only sister and her closest confidante. Over 100 letters between Jane and Cassandra have survived, which give a detailed description of Jane Austen's life. Frank (1774-1865) and Charles (1779-1852) both entered the Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth at the age of 12. They fought from the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and both survived and rose to become Admirals.

In 1783, Jane and her older sister went briefly to be taught by Mrs. Cawley who lived in Oxford and then move to Southampton. They were brought home after an infectious disease broke out in Southampton. During 1785-1786, Jane and Cassandra went to the Abbey boarding school in Reading. Jane was an avid reader and read the serious and popular literature of the time. Her family had a library of over 500 books. Austen later wrote that "her family were great novel readers, and were not ashamed of being so"

Jane Austen wrote her novel, Juvenilia, from 1787 to 1793. It was originally written for the amusement of her family and most of the pieces are dedicated to one or another of her relatives or family friends. Earlier versions of the novels eventually published as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey were all begun and worked on from 1795-1799. At this early period, their working titles were Elinor and Marianne, First Impressions and Susan. Lady Susan was also probably written during this period. In 1803, Jane Austen actually sold Northanger Abbey (which was then titled Susan) to a publisher, for the low sum of L10. However, the publisher chose not to publish it.

In January of 1805, Jane Austen's father died and the family became very reliant on financial support from Austen's brothers. They had about L450 per year. In 1806, the family moved from Bath to Southampton. In 1809, Jane Austen, her mother, sister Cassandra and Martha Lloyd moved to Chawton, where her brother, Edward, provided a small house on one of his estates. Jane soon resumed her literary activities after returning into Hampshire and revised Sense and Sensibility, which was published under the name "By a Lady" in October of 1811. There were at least two fairly favorable reviews and the first edition eventually turned into a profit of L140 for her.

Encouraged by this success, Jane Austen turned to revising First Impressions, a.k.a. Pride and Prejudice. She sold it in November 1812 and was published in January 1813. She had already started work on Mansfield Park by 1812 and worked on it during 1813. A second edition of Sense and Sensibility was also published in October 1813. In May 1814, Mansfield Park appeareard and was sold out in six months. Emma was published in December 1816 and a second edition of Mansfield Park arrived. She started Persuasion in August 1815 and finished it in August 1816; although during 1816 she was becoming increasingly unwell.

In early 1817 she started work on another novel, Sanditon, but had to give it up in March. During April, she made out her will, leaving most to Cassandra, and in May she was moved to Winchester for medical treatment. Jane Austen died there on Friday, July 18th, 1817. She was 41. It was not known what caused her death, but it seems as though it was Addison's disease. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral on July 24th 1817.

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