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Austen, Jane (ôˈstən), 1775–1817, English novelist. The daughter of a clergyman, she spent the first 25 years of her life at “Steventon,” her father's Hampshire vicarage. Here her first novels, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey, were written, although they were not published until much later. On her father's retirement in 1801, the family moved to Bath for several years and then to Southampton, settling finally at Chawton Cottage, near Alton, Hampshire, which was Jane's home for the rest of her life.
Northanger Abbey, a satire on the Gothic romance, was sold to a publisher for £10 in 1803, but as it was not published, was bought back by members of the family and was finally issued posthumously. The novels published in Austen's lifetime were Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1816). Persuasion was issued in 1818 with Northanger Abbey. The author's name did not appear on any of her title pages, and although her own friends knew of her authorship, she received little public recognition in her lifetime.
Jane Austen's novels are comedies of manners that depict the self-contained world of provincial ladies and gentlemen. Most of her works revolve around the delicate business of providing husbands for marriageable daughters. She is particularly noted for her vivid delineations and lively interplay of character, her superb sense of comic irony, and her moral firmness. She ridicules the silly, the affected, and the stupid, ranging in her satire from light portraiture in her early works to more scornful exposures in her later novels. Her writing was subjected to the most careful polishing. She was quite aware of her special excellences and limitations, comparing herself to a miniaturist. Today she is regarded as one of the great masters of the English novel. Her minor works include her Juvenilia, the novel Lady Susan, and the fragments The Watsons and Sanditon.
See her letters (4th ed., ed. by D. Le Faye, 2011); D. Le Faye, Jane Austen: A Family Record (2d ed., 2004); biographies by J. A. Hodge (1972), J. Halperin (1986), P. Honan (1988), V. G. Myer (1997), D. Nokes (1997), C. Tomalin (1997), C. Shields (2001), and P. Byrne (2013); studies by A. W. Litz (1965), F. W. Bradbook (1966), A. M. Duckworth (1971), K. Kroeber (1971), F. B. Pinion (1973), S. M. Tave (1973), C. Johnson (1988), C. Harman (2010), R. M. Brownstein (2011), R. and L. Adkins (2013), J. Barchas (2013), H. Kelly (2016), C. L. Johnson and C. Tuite (2020), and T. Keymer (2020).
Born Dec. 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire; died July 18, 1817, in Winchester. English writer. Daughter of a country pastor.
Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey (1797–98; published 1818) is a parody of the Gothic novel. In the novels Sense and Sensibility (vols. 1–3, 1811) and Pride and Prejudice (vols. 1–3, 1813; Russian translation, 1967) the way of life and manners of the provincial gentry and clergy are depicted realistically, without any moralizing. The broad range of humor and profound psychologism in her novels, including the later works Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (vols. 1–3, 1816), and Persuasion (published 1818), make her a forerunner of critical realism in English literature.
WORKSThe Works. [Bristol, 1968.]
Letters. London-New York, 1955.
REFERENCEKettl, A. Vvedenie v istoriiu angliiskogo romana. Moscow, 1966.
Bel’skii, A. A. Angliiskii roman 1800–1810-kh godov. Perm’, 1968. Pages 47–107.
Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage. Edited by B. C. Southam. London-New York, 1969.
Mansell, D. The Novels of Jane Austen. London, 1973.
Chapman, R. W. Jane Austen: A Critical Bibliography, 2nd ed. London, 1969.
Hardwick, M. The Osprey Guide to Jane Austen. [Reading] 1973.
A. A. BEL’SKII