Biography of Jane AustenSource: PrideGuide
Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, to Rev. George Austen and the former Cassandra Leigh in Steventon, Hampshire. Like the families in many of her novels, the Austens were a large family of respectable lineage but no fortune. She was one of eight children. Her letters to her only sister Cassandra (the surviving letters date to 1796) are the primary source of biographical information.
Although she never married, her letters to Cassandra and other writings reveal several romantic entanglements, including a very brief engagement (which lasted only one evening). She moved several times around the English countryside, but information about her work is somewhat sketchy. She began to write as a teenager, though kept her work hidden from all but her immediate family. Legend has it that while she was living with relatives after her father’s death in 1805, she asked that a squeaky hinge on the room’s swinging door not be oiled. This way, she would have enough time to hide her manuscripts before someone entered the room.
Her brother Henry helped her sell her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, to a publisher in 1811. Her father unsuccessfully tried to get a publisher to look at her novel First Impressions when she completed it in 1797. This was the novel that later became Pride and Prejudice, and was published in 1813 to highly favorable reviews. Mansfield Park was published in 1814, and then Emma in 1816.
The title page of each book referred to one or two of Austen’s earlier novels—capitalizing on her growing reputation—but did not provide her name. In 1816, she began to suffer from ill health. At the time, it was thought to be consumption but it is now surmised to have been from Addison’s disease.
She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment, and died there on July 18, 1817 at age 41. Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published together posthumously in December 1817 with a “Biographical Notice” written by her brother Henry, in which Jane Austen was, for the first time in one of her novels, identified as the author.