Jane Austen is one of the most familiar names in English literature. Her work stands out for its comedy, self-awareness and realistic, and detailed portrayals of characters and their relationships. Keep on reading to learn 25 facts about Jane Austen.
Fact 1: Jane Austen was an English novelist known primarily for her 6 major novels.
- She was best known for her social commentary in novels including ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ and ‘Emma.’
Fact 2: Austen achieved literary success with the publications of “Sense and Sensibility”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Mansfield Park”, and “Emma”.
- She wrote two additional novels, “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion”, both published after her death in 1818, and had begun another novel titled “Sanditon”, but she died before its completion.
Fact 3: Austen wrote over 3,000 letters during her lifetime.
- However, only 161 of the letters survived. Majority of the letters were burned by her older sister, Cassandra.
Fact 4: She was born in Steventon, Hampshire on December 16, 1775.
- Austen was born a month before her supposed due date, much to the surprise of her parents. Her father added that her arrival was particularly welcome as “a future companion to her sister”.
Fact 5: Her nephew published a memoir centred on Jane Austen in 1869.
- The memoir was entitled “A Memoir of Jane Austen”. However, certain details of Austen’s life were left out of the book.
Fact 6: Austen was born to George and Cassandra Austen.
- Jane’s father, George Austen was the rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon and Deane.
Fact 7: Because of the ignorance of the day, Jane’s education was inadequate by today’s standards.
- This coupled with Mr Austen’s small salary meant that Jane was kept from an exceptional formal education.
Fact 8: George Austen did everything he could to help Jane succeed.
- Despite his small income, he managed to send his daughters to a boarding school to further their education. And when Jane wrote “First Impressions” in 1797, George proudly sent it to a London publisher for review. The publisher, however, rejected the manuscript without even reading it.
Fact 9: She backed out from a marriage proposal that would’ve solved her financial worries.
- Jane initially accepted a marriage proposal from her wealthy childhood friend, Harris Bigg-Wither. Austen later decided that a union, motivated on her part by economics, wasn’t worthwhile, so Jane turned the proposal down the following day.
Fact 10: Her first full-length novel was “Elinor and Marianne”.
- The story was told through a series of letters.
Fact 11: Austen began her second novel, “First Impressions” in 1796.
- She completed the initial draft in August, 1797 when she was just 21 years of age.
Fact 12: Like most female authors at the time, Jane Austen had to publish her novels anonymously.
- Back then, writing full-time was considered to be degrading to a woman’s feminity, so female authors published anonymously in order to maintain the conceit that they were not trying to become “literacy lionesses”.
Fact 13: On July 18, 1817, Jane Austen died at the age of 41.
- She died of a rare illness called Addison’s disease, which robs the body of the ability to make critical hormones.
Fact 14: Evidence suggests that Austen’s death was due to arsenic poisoning from her medicine.
- In 2011, the crime writer Lindsay Ashford claimed to have pieced together evidence from various sources that indicated Austen’s early death resulted from arsenic poisoning, most likely from medicine prescribed by her doctor for “rheumatism.”
Fact 15: Jane Austen was very good at brewing her own beer.
- At the time, beer was the drink of choice, so Jane learned to brew her own beer. Her speciality was spruce beer, made from molasses that had a sweet tinge to it.
Fact 16: While at boarding school Cassandra and Jane almost died of typhoid fever.
- This is a bacterial infection.
Fact 17: Austen honed her comic abilities by writing for her family.
- Though the entire family was literary, only Austen would become a published novelist.
Fact 18: She drew inspiration from her “almost” relationship with her first love.
- The object of her affection was her close friend Anne Lefroy’s nephew, Tom Lefroy. Knowing that Tom was at risk of losing his entire inheritance if he married a “nobody” like Jane Austen, Anne Lefroy sent her nephew out of the country.
Fact 19: Finances forced Jane Austen’s family to move to the city of Bath.
- This upset Jane deeply as it forced her to socialize more and she didn’t have a private place where she could write during her stay in Bath.
Fact 20: In Bath, Jane made friends with a known adulterer.
- Their frequent interaction worried her aunt, much to Austen’s enjoyment. Jane’s friend had a fashionable open carriage and made better conversation than others in the town.
Fact 21: Austen remained unmarried her whole life.
- The most contentious hypothesis as to why Austen remained a spinster was that she preferred women over men. This claim, however, is not supported by any solid evidence.
Fact 22: Jane Austen started writing when she was just 12 years old.
- She called this period of her work her “Juvenilia”.
Fact 23: She had 7 siblings.
- Austen came from a large family with 8 children. She had 6 brothers: James, George, Edward, Henry, Frank and Charles, and an older sister named Cassandra.
Fact 24: By the time she was 26 years old, Jane had already published 3 novels.
- However, several years before her father died, Austen went on a hiatus from writing.
Fact 25: She wrote a novel for a man she despised.
- Austen wasn’t a fan of how the Prince Regent treated his estranged wife Caroline, so as a sign of protest, Austen dedicated her novel “Emma” to him.