Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Jane Austen (December 16, 1775 – July 18, 1817), the beloved British author, led a writing life of the inimitable artist. Despite her charm and modesty, she continually hints that she was in full mastery of her gift and cared deeply about getting published despite myths to the contrary.

Though only a small portion of her letters survive, she left enough material in her first-person narratives to reveal a sense of the woman behind the pen. She sought to create perfection and grace, no matter what the outcome.

Born in Steventon, Hampshire (England), Jane Austen was part of a convivial middle-class family consisting of five brothers and an elder sister, Cassandra, with whom she was very close. The Austen family valued education and sent the two girls briefly to boarding school in addition to receiving further education at home.

Jane’s talent was recognized early on, and male members of her family, particularly her father (George Austen, a country rector), played key roles in getting her works published. Austen longed to see her work in print, regardless of whether or not it would gain her fame or fortune. 

She had trouble finding a publisher for Sense and Sensibility at first, but soon found a reputable publisher to print it on a commission basis. It was published 1811 and took two years to sell out the edition of one thousand.

Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 and was one of the most successful novels of the season. Though sales were modest by today’s standards, both it and Sense and Sensibility were deemed successes and set the stage for slow and steady sales of her subsequent books. Six exquisite novels—crafted with compassion, humor, and insight into the travails of the sexes and social classes assured her lofty position in literary history.

Jane Austen died in Winchester, England a few months shy of her 42nd birthday.

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Selected film adaptations


Jane Austen Quotes

Jane Austen“A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.” (Northanger Abbey, 1817)

“An artist cannot do anything slovenly.” (From a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1798)

“Good-humoured, unaffected girls, will not do for a man who has been used to sensible women. They are two distinct orders of being.” (Mansfield Park, 1814)

“Wisdom is better than wit, and in the long run will certainly have the laugh on her side.” (From a letter to her niece, 1814)

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” (Northanger Abbey, 1817)

“I begin already to weigh my words and sentences more than I did, and am looking about for a sentiment, an illustration or a metaphor in every corner of the room. Could my Ideas flow as fast as the rain in the Store closet it would be charming.” (From a letter to her sister, 1809)

“I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible Vanity, the most unlearned, & uninformed Female who ever dared to be an Authoress.” (From a letter to James Stainer, 1815)

“Nothing ever fatigues me, but doing what I do not like.” (Mansfield Park, 1814)

“Why not seize the pleasure at once, how often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparations.”

Cassandra Austen's portrait of Jane Austen (ac.1810)
Jane Austen’s portrait, drawn by her sister Cassandra (ca.1810)

“I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.” (Jane Austen’s Letters, In a letter to her sister Cassandra, December 24, 1798)

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” (Pride and Prejudice, 1813)

“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” (Sense and Sensibility, 1811)

“It is only a novel … or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” (Northanger Abbey, 1817)

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.” (Mansfield Park, 1814)

“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience— or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.” (Sense and Sensibility, 1811)

“The distance is nothing when one has a motive.” (Pride and Prejudice, 1813)

“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” (Mansfield Park, 1814)

“The work [Pride and Prejudice] is rather too light and bright and sparking; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter — of senses if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense — about something unconnected with the story… anything that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general style.” (From a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1813)

“I must make use of this opportunity to thank you, dear Sir, for the very high praise you bestow on my other novels. I am too vain to wish to convince you that you have praised them beyond their merits. My greatest anxiety at present is that this fourth work should not disgrace what was good in the others.” (From a letter to a librarian, 1815)  

“One cannot have too large a party.”

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.”

“There’s nothing like staying home for real comfort.”

“People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid them.” (Sense and Sensibility, 1811)

“The pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity and taste and opinions will make good amends for orange wine.” (From a letter to her sister Cassandra, June 20, 1808)

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