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Transcript of Jane Austen
The Family of Jane Austen
Jane Austen was born seventh into a family of eight children on December 16, 1775 in the village of Steventon in England. Her mother was Cassandra Austen with the same name as Jane's only and older sister. Her father, George Austen, was a country clergyman who farmed and tutored students in their home to supplement the family income. Jane had four older and two younger brothers. The oldest brother, James, became the vicar of Sherborne St. John. The second son, George, was sickly, thought to be epileptic, deaf and mute. He was sent away to be cared for by another family. Edward was adopted by a rich aunt and uncle, the Knights, taking their name and becoming their heir. Henry served in the militia, was a banker and eventually became a clergy like his father and James. Frank and Charles served in the Royal Navy. Jane was dependent on her father and brothers for care and protection for her entire life as a single woman.
Jane Austen's Loves
Jane is Unlucky in Love
Jane's first love was Tom Lefroy who was visitng relatives near Ashe Rectory where her father served. She met him soon after her twentieth birthday in January of 1796. She writes to her sister, Cassandra, "He has but one fault, which time will, I trust, entirely remove....It is that his morning coat is ... too light."(Halperin, 720) She goes on to tell her sister," Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together" (720-721). She is genuinely fond of him and writes that she plans "to confine myself in future to Mr. Tom Lefroy" (721). His parents disapproved of the match and Jane never saw him again. She had difficulty finding anyone she liked as much.
Austin's Last Years and Legacy
Sense and Sensibility
was the first of Austen's novels to be published in 1811. She had begun work on it before 1796 when family members reported her reading aloud stories of Elinor and Marianne. She kept these stories in her notebooks and returned to them for editing and revisions. It is recorded that she changed to a third person point of view. In this novel Elinor and Marianne Dashwood must leave their home when their father dies. They go to live with relatives at Barton Park where they find romance with Edward Ferrars, Mr. Willoughby and Colonel Brandon.
Enjoy the movie trailer. (2:09)
Jane's father, George Austen, was not a wealthy man but he was proud of his extensive family library which he used to prepare his sermons, tutor students in his home and educate his children. Jane read extensively and was encouraged to write, as were all of the children. She benefited from her father's teaching of the live-in students and also learned much from her brothers and reading independently. Jane and her sister received a brief formal education by attending Mrs. Crawley's boardng school in Oxford.
Jane was closest to her sister, Cassandra, who was three years older. They lived together throughout their lives and were dedicated to writing letters when apart. Neither married, so both were dependent on family for support. The letters that Jane wrote to Cassandra have become an item of intrigue and study into her personal life and writing content. In 1932 Dr. R. W. Chapman was allowed to read the surviving letters. He notes," Of private affairs there is rarely a mention and then only the remarks of an astute provincial lady. For the student of manners, the letters are a storehouse of engaging detail, ....and the language of great interest." Cassandra, Lord Brabourne and other relatives burned, cut and removed letters with anything offensive to memory.
Some of Jane Austen's critics state that her novels reflect the life that she lived. Her actual life was probably much more modest, but she was exposed to the niceties of the world through her visiting and living with her brothers. She attended the theater, social events and art exhibitions. She traveled and stayed with other relatives and met a variety of people. Austen's female main characters always married their loves, but she never did. Deborah Kaplan explains that Austen never married because she "chose fiction writing over a husband: a woman in Austen's community was unlikely to be able to sustain an ongoing commitment to writing within marriage" (116). John Halperin proposes that Jane Austen had at least ten love interests.
In the Fall of 1796 she made reference to a Mr. Edward Taylor in a letter to Cassandra. "We went by Bifrons, & I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure, the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated" (Halperin, 723). Maybe this was just a teenage crush, but still a love interest.
In 1797 Reverend Samuel Blackall fell in love with Jane but her love was not returned . She wrote to her sister, " This is rational enough; there is less love and more sense in it than sometimes appeared before, and I am very well satisfied" (Halperin, 724). This may have been inspiration for the speech of Elizabeth with Mr. Collins.
In 1800 Mr. Holder invited Jane and her friend, Mary Lloyd, to dine at Ashe Park. He was wealthy and single. A friendship developed but no proposal. She wrote to Cassandra, " I thought it quite pleasant. I said two or three amusing things, & M Holder made a few infamous puns." Halperin comments that for Jane " such indulgences could only come with marriage; though comfortable at Steventon, the Austens were not wealthy, and the novelist's father had no fortune to bequeath his daughters" (726).
In 1801 Jane became reacquainted with Mr. Evelyn who she had met earlier in her life and disliked because of his obsession with horses. She shows interest in her comment, "trying to think up a pretext for visiting Mr. Evelyn, but so far has utterly failed in this endeavor" (Halperin, 727).
Later in 1801, Jane and Cassandra met two brothers on summer holiday in Devonshire. Jane fell in love and expected a proposal from the clergyman. Unfortunately, she received a letter of his death. Letters of this incident were burned but the relatives shared that she did indeed love.
On December 2, 1802 Harris Bigg Winter proposed to Jane and she accepted! She was 27 with no private income and he was a good match. She changed her mind and remained single.
She was offered the hand of Clergy Edward Bridges, her brother's brother-in-law in June of 1808. She did not marry and neither did Cassandra when he proposed to her.
There is a record of at least three more associations of Jane with men when she was in her thirties. Stephen Rumbold Lushington took her interest while at Godmersham. She wrote," I am rather in love with him. - I dare say he is Ambitious and Insincere." (733) . Their acquaintance was brief. She received her final marriage proposal from Mr. Seymour , but did not take it seriously. She revealed her interest in her brother's physician, Charles Thomas Haden, but it was not returned.
(Enjoy this video of Jane Austen's movie men.)
is the term given to the earliest works of Jane Austen. As a child she filled notebooks with poetry, plays and stories which where often read as entertainment for the family. Much of the work in these notebooks included ideas that developed into the characters and themes of her published novels.
Pride and Prejudice
was the second of Austen's novels to be published in 1813. It was loved by both critics and the public and led to a second edition. She had written the first draft of the novel as
in 1799. It was to become her most popular and long lasting work. In this novel the Bennets have five unmarried daughters in which Mrs. Bennet intends to ensure marry. Jane is soon attached to the new eligible bachelor neighbor, but he moves back to London. Elizabeth will marry Mr. Collins who will inherit Longbourn on Mr. Bennet's death because of the cursed entailment, but Lizzy refuses him and he marries Charlotte. Such scandal, and Mr. Darcy , the socialite, along with Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, keep the conversation and gossip flowing among Lydia, Mr. Wickham, Mrs. Gardiner and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Below is a video of Mr. Darcy's proposal. (3:29)
was the next novel published in 1814. It was more popular with the public than the critics. In this novel orphaned Fanny Price is adopted by the rich distant family, the Bertrams. She is raised with cousins , but loves only Edmund.
Enjoy the movie trailer. (1:52)
publication is a success but it is negated by the lack of sales of the second edition of
and the family is in financial trouble. This novel has Emma Woodhouse matchmaking and finding a love of her own in Mr. Knightley.
In this clip, he wants to marry me! (2:39)
Two other novels were
Persuasion. Both of these books developed from previous work. Northanger Abbey began as Susan and developed into Catherine. It was held by a publisher for a number of years and had to be purchased to get the rights again. Persuasion was drafted from what was
Jane's father, George Austen, died in January of 1805. This was a shock to the family but especially to the ladies who had no where to live. They moved about living with relatives until in 1808 when their brother Frank offered for them to live near his estate in Chawton Cottage. This was a happy habitat for Mrs. Austen, Cassandra and Jane. Jane enjoyed prolific writing during this time.
There was a noticed decline in Jane's health in 1816. Her sister and brother,Henry, took her to Windchester for medical care where she and Cassandra moved until her death at age 41 on July 18, 1817. After her death, Henry revealed Jane Austen as the author of all of her novels when
were published in December of 1817. She had always signed her books, "By A Lady".
In her will, she left all her earthly possessions to her sister, Cassandra. Among them were her letters which Cassandra chose to burn or cut the most personal information. They were made public by an ancestor Lord Brabourne.
An excerpt of one of Lord Brabourne letters to a publisher (in trying to make money from Jane's letters.)
I write to you under the following circumstances. My mother, the (Late) Dowr Lady Knatchbull, was the favourite niece of Jane Austen, & amongst her papers - which all became mine on her decease at Christmas 1882 - I have found some 80 or more autograph letters of her aunts.....There may be some little family details which should be omitted, but I think a volume might be made which would be popular.
Brabourne" (Le Faye, 92)
Jane Austen's End as reported in
The British Medical Journa
l in 1964:
"The main features of Jane Austen's last illness seem to have been its insidious onset about a year before her death, intermittently progressive weakness and languor, gastric upsets, and discolorations of the skin. Sir Zackory's discussion of the differential diagnosis includes pernicious anaemia, myasthenia gravis and cancer of the stomach, but many doctors will probably agree ....that the most likely condition is Addison's disease. (140)
Dillon, Brian. "Circumventing the Biographical
Subject: Jane Austen and the Critics."
Mountain Review of Language and Literature
46.4 (1992): 213-221. JSTOR. Web 28 Jan 2014.
Halperin, John. "Jane Austen's Lovers."
, 1500-1900,25.4 (1985):
719-736. JSTOR. Web 28 Jan.2014
Jane Austen's End."
The British Medical Journal
( July,1964):140. JSTOR. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.
Kaplan, Deborah. 'The Disappearance of the
Woman Writer: Jane Austen and Her
129-47. JSTOR. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.
Le Faye, Deirdre. "Anna Lefroy's Original Memories
of Jane Austen."
The Review of English Studies,
, 39.155 (1988): 417-421. JSTOR. Web.
28 Jan. 2014.
Le Faye, Deirdre. "Lord Brabourne's Edition of Jane
The Review of English Studies,
52. 205 (February,2001):91-102.
JSTOR. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.
Weatherby, Lonnie. "Jane Austen's Letters."
137.3 (2012): 105. Academic Search
Complete. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.