Saturday, December 15, 2012

10 Fun Facts About Jane Austen - JABA

Portrait of Jane Austen 
painted by her sister Cassandra.
Jane Austen is a favorite author of many around the world because of her intricate plots, lifelike characters and witty writing style. She has been my favorite author since I was fifteen years old and I still don't get tired of discussing her stories or learning more about her life and times.

As the 237th anniversary of her birth draws near let's take a look at Ten Fun Facts about Jane Austen's life and work!




All Saints Church in Steventon where Jane Austen's father was rector.
Fact #1: Jane Austen was the daughter of a pastor. - Her father, Reverend George Austen, was the rector of Steventon in Hampshire, England. Jane Austen went to church every Sunday with her family and wrote several prayers.

Jane Austen had lots of siblings like Catherine Morland does in Northanger Abbey.
Fact #2: Jane Austen came from a large family. - She was born the second to the last of eight children. Her siblings were George, James, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, Frank and Charles. Her two older brothers James and Edward also had large families that Jane and her sister often visited; they and were favorites with their nieces and nephews.

Portrait of niece Fanny Austen Knight drawn by Cassandra Austen.
Fact #3: Jane Austen was homeschooled. - For a few years Jane and her sister Cassandra were sent away to a school for young girls but they became sick and afterwards were always taught at home by their mother and father. Because her father was well educated many young boys from the area where they lived were sent to receive schooling from him, many of these boys actually lived with the Austen family.

The film Becoming Jane shows Jane Austen reading.
Fact #4: Jane Austen loved to read. - Her father had a good sized library from which she frequently borrowed books. And when she and her family were visiting in big cities like London or Bath she'd often borrow from lending libraries there. And even though Jane made fun of wildly romantic Gothic novels in her book Northanger Abbey she read many of them herself.

Many Balls & Parties Are Featured In He Books 
Fact #5: Jane Austen loved balls and parties. - In Jane's letters to friends and family members she describes the many parties and balls she attended and how she would dance all night. Balls were an especially good way to meet young men who might make suitable husbands. Jane Austen seems to have been quite a fan of dancing right up until her 40th birthday when she was considered an old maid.

Antique copies of Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park & Sense and Sensibility.
Fact #6: Jane Austen's first book was published when she was 36 years old. - Although Jane wrote stories and plays from her girlhood her works were only read by her family and close friends until much later in her life. Her father sent Pride and Prejudice (then called First Impressions) to a publisher in 1797 but it was immediately rejected and he sent Northanger Abbey (then called Susan) to a publisher in 1803 and they bought it but never published it. It wasn't until 1811 that Sense and Sensibility was finally accepted and published and Pride and Prejudice was published two years later.

Persuasion has a scene that takes place at Lyme and the heroine is 27, the same age as Jane Austen was.
Fact #7: Jane Austen never married. - She had a few beaus in her youth such as Tom Lefroy (read my blog post about him), who she met at a ball when they were both twenty years old, but Tom was in training to become a lawyer and didn't have enough money to marry Jane even if he had wanted to. Seven years later Jane and her family were vacationing at the seashore in Lyme Regis and her sister told the story years later that there Jane met a young man who fell in love with her. The young man left promising that they would meet again but some time later Jane would hear that he had died - this young man's name is not given in any of Jane or Cassandra's letters. Shortly after that a young man named Harris Bigg-Wither proposed to Jane one evening and she actually accepted him but in the morning she changed her mind because she didn't love him. No more young men came a-courting after that and Jane didn't seem very interest in marriage after that either but instead focused on her writing.

Northanger Abbey & Persuasion were originally published in four volumes.
Fact #8: Jane Austen had two books published after her death. - After Jane died in July 1817 her brother Henry Austen published her early novel Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, which Jane had finished in 1816. Sanditon, the novel left unfinished at the time of her death, and her other Juvenalia and unfinished works were not published until much later.

Actress Anna Maxwell Martin as Cassandra Austen in Becoming Jane (2005).
Fact #9: Jane Austen's sister was her best friend. - Jane's older sister Cassandra Elizabeth Austen was her closest friend, they did everything together and when they were apart they always wrote long letters to each other. Cassandra nursed her sister in her sickness and was heartbroken by her death. Cassandra lived to age 72 and never married. After Jane died Cassandra burned several of her letters that contained very private and potentially embarrassing information about her sister. It was Cassandra who kept Jane's memory alive though as she told her young nieces and nephews (even those born after Jane's death) about their wonderful aunt Jane Austen and her incredible stories! A few of Jane's nieces even wrote sequels to her books and her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh published a A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1870.

Heroines from Jane Austen film adaptations.
Fact #10: Jane Austen's popularity continues. - In her day Jane Austen didn't gain very much popularity because her first few books didn't even have her name on them but were said to be written "by A Lady". Her work was a bit popular with the royal family in England because the Prince Regent (later George IV) invited her to dedicated the second edition of Emma to him (which was more like a royal command). Today Jane Austen's novels have been published in hundreds of languages and are popular all over the world. Her novels have been turned into movies since the 1940's and thousands of sequels, continuations and writings related to her novels can be found on bookshelves today.


So there you have it, ten interesting facts about the amazing authoress Jane Austen.

Were there any of these facts that surprised you?
Have you ever read or watched anything about Jane Austen's life?

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I love this post! I even learned a bit from it. I have studied Jane a lot through the years but I never knew that she got sick at school and that was why she was homeschooled. I also didn't know that many young boys lived with the family so they could be taught by Jane's father.

I wrote a post on Anne & Wentworth yesterday that I invite you to read if you want: http://snowflakes-stardust.blogspot.com/2012/12/anne-wentworth.html

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