Jane Austen: 6 Interesting Facts About the Beloved English Author
Here are some interesting highlights of Austen’s life, career, and literary impact.
Although she never married,Jane Austendid become engaged — for one night. She received and accepted a proposal of marriage on December 2, 1802, two weeks before her 27 birthday. Jane Austen changed her mind overnight, however, and refused the proposal the next morning. And, perhaps she changed her mind because she believed – as she later wrote to a niece considering a marriage of convenience – that “nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without Love.” Fortunately for her readers, she chose to remain single and was able to focus on writing rather than running a household and raising children.
Jane Austen continued to imagine how the lives of her characters evolved long after she finished a novel.InA Memoir of Jane Austen, her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote, “She would, if asked, tell us many little particulars about the subsequent career of some of her people.” For example, Anne Steele, Lucy’s silly and vulgar sister in Sense and Sensibility, did not catch Dr. Davies after all. And, after the close of Pride and Prejudice, Kitty Bennet eventually married a clergyman near Pemberley, while Mary ended up with a clerk who worked for her Uncle Philips. Some of the most interesting revelations, however, related to Emma. Mr. Woodhouse not only survived Emma’s marriage to Mr. Knightly, but also kept his daughter and son-in-law living at Hartfield for two years. Deirdre Le Faye has also noted in Jane Austen: A Family Record that “According to a less well-known tradition, the delicate Jane Fairfax lived only another nine or ten years after her marriage to Frank Churchill.”
The surnames of a number of Austen’s characters can be found within the prominent and wealthy Wentworth family of Yorkshire — which also happens to intersect with Jane Austen’s own family tree.
Jane Austen took her writing very seriously. She began writing stories, plays and poetry when she was 12 years old. Most of her “Juvenilia,” as the material she wrote in her youth is called, was in the comic vein. She wrote a parody of textbook histories,The History of England… by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant historian, when she was 16 years old. She also wrote parodies of the romantic novels of “sensibility” that were popular in her day. Austen’s family members read aloud and performed plays for each other, and she learned about writing from these activities and the comments her family made about her own efforts. By the age of 23, Austen had written first drafts of the novels that later became Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. From the letters she wrote to her sister, Cassandra, and other family members, one can see that Jane Austen was proud of her writing. She enjoyed discussing her latest work, sharing news about a novel’s progress at the printer, and offering advice on the craft of writing to other aspiring authors in the family. She also carefully tracked comments made by family members and friends about Mansfield Park and Emma and referred to Pride and Prejudice as her “own darling child.” Jane Austen continued writing throughout her adult life until just before she died in July of 1817.
Jane Austen’s life was not limited to a sheltered country existence. On the surface, her life seems to have been quiet and secluded; she was born in a small country village and lived there for 25 years. Her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh publishedA Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869, which reinforced the image that she was a demure, quiet maiden aunt in the best Victorian tradition. However, she led a very active life with travel and social contacts of many types. Through her family and friends she learned a great deal about the world around her.
Men read Jane Austen, too.Jane Austen’s novels are sometimes viewed as “chick-lit” romances, leading some men to think they wouldn’t enjoy reading them. But, Jane Austen has always had male admirers. Her books are not just about romance; they have a serious instructional purpose clothed in novel form. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan admitted to reading Austen’s novels, andWinston Churchill credited her with helping him win World War II .Rudyard Kipling read Jane Austen aloud to his wife and daughter each evening in an effort to raise their spirits after his son, fighting in WWI, was reported missing and believed dead. And one of her male contemporaries, Sir Walter Scott, praised her writing in his journal: “Also read again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen’s very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.”