The Sensibility of Jane Austen
By | March 23, 2019
One of the most well-known female authors of the nineteenth century, Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, England, on December 16, 1775. Her parents, Reverend George Austen and Cassandra Leigh, had eight children of which Jane was the second youngest. The reverend was an Oxford scholar and kept an extensive library. He and his wife encouraged learning and creativity with their children. The family often wrote and performed plays and charades. Cassandra was Jane’s only sister and the sibling to whom she was the closest. The two of them eventually went off to boarding school; however, financial difficulties caused their education to be discontinued.
Jane Austen was not discouraged, however, and began writing in her notebooks around 1787. These notebooks now referred to as Jane’s Juvenalia, contain various plays, verses, short novels, and other prose which parodied the existing literary forms. She spent much of her early adulthood helping to run the family, but it is believed by some that she was briefly betrothed to Harris Bigg-Wither, having agreed to marry him only to change her mind the next morning. Other stories claim she fell in love with someone who died shortly afterward. There is no concrete proof to support either claim; however, her novels suggest she had some experience with love and loss.
In 1795, she began writing Elinor and Marianne, which would later become Sense and Sensibility, her first published novel. The original version of Pride and Prejudice was written from 1796-97 under the title First Impressions. Her father tried to have it published in 1797 but it was rejected. From 1798-99, she wrote Susan which would later be published posthumously as Northanger Abbey. In 1801, Jane and her family moved to Bath. This was the first of many moves as her father passed away in 1805 and the women of the family were forced to take temporary lodgings or stay with family members until 1809 when Jane’s brother Edward provided them with a cottage on his estate.