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Jane Austen

Portrait by Cassandra Chouinard

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in Hampshire, England. She was the seventh of eight children born to the Rev. George Austen and his wife, the former Cassandra Leigh. Austen received little formal education; her formal education ended by the age of nine, and she was brought home to be taught by her father, her mother, and her elder brothers.

Austen began writing as a young teen, producing short tales full of rollicking humor that mocked the literary productions of the day. She began her serious adult writing in 1795 with a novel in letters that she called Elinor and Marianne (later rewritten as Sense and Sensibility). The next year, Austen wrote another book in prose style, which she called First Impressions (later rewritten as Pride and Prejudice).

In all Austen produced six full length novels. She was in the process of writing her final novel novel, Persuasion, in the summer of 1815, when she began to feel the first symptoms of what would be her fatal illness. Jane Austen died in her sister’s arms in the early morning of July 18, 1817.

While Austen enjoyed only modest success during her lifetime, the novels remained popular, and by the end of the 19th century fans of her novels had become a force. In the past twenty or so years, the novels have exploded in popularity, due mostly to some well-received and popular film adaptations. (Biography by Margaret C. Sullivan)

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