A Portrait of Jane
Jane Austen, the daughter of Englishman Reverend George Austen and wife Cassandra nee Leigh, was the seventh of eight children. She was schooled at home by her father and was never separated from her family. She and her siblings would write and perform short plays for the family and Jane became enthralled with writing. She began writing comic stories which have become known as the Juvenilia of her works. She wrote a novella at the age of 19, composed of a series of letters which became her first serious work. Her first two novels came later in her twenties. The first was Sense and Sensibility was originally titled Elinor and Marianne. Her second was Pride and Prejudice and was originally entitled First Impressions. First Impressions was sent to a publisher by her father shortly after it was completed however, the publisher rejected the work. Her third novel, Susan, later was entitled Northanger Abbey and was sold for £10. Jane died a year after this novel was repurchased for the same £10 she was originally paid.
Love seemed to elude Austen although she wrote of love and with knowledge of romance. Early in her adulthood, she enjoyed the companionship of Tom LeFroy for a short period. Dating for Jane was far different from the way we date now so it is hard to know for sure the depth of their relationship. He admitted to his nephew after Austen's death that he had a "boyish love" for her. This was the only real love Jane came close to. It is suspected that Mr. LeFroy was her inspiration to her great romantic novels for which she later became known. Another man entered her life later and proposed marriage to her. Harris Bigg-Wither had proposed marriage to Jane and she accepted. However she later changed her mind, stating she was not in love with him.
Jane’s themes in her novels seem never to stray far from each other. She seemed to write about the same subject only in different situations and with different conclusions. Pride and Prejudice , Sense and Sensibility, and each novel of Janes' since, seemed to touch on the themes of society, freedom, love and marriage.
Many feel that Emma was Jane’s best written novel. Emma herself was a snob, manipulator, and a self deluded individual. Emma’s character was sometimes even cruel in her remarks but she was charming nonetheless. Some say she was an image of Jane as a young girl. Like other characters such as Catherine “Kitty” Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, each of her characters had their own form of wit and charm that leads the readers into their story. Kitty was impressionable with somewhat of an undesirable quality she picked up from her sister Lydia. However, her subjects were not all female and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice was proud and that pride made him look as if he was conceited. But it was really shyness that was mistaken for pride.
In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth exhibits characteristics that young Jane Austen herself once exhibited. Her witty writings like her Juvenilia writings prove her wit and her sense of humor. Jane Austen died at the young age of 41. Her last will and testament is archived at the National Archives in the United Kingdom. It is thought that she died from Addison’s Disease on July 18, 1817 in Winchester.
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