English writer Jane Austen
English writer Jane Austen
1. Theoretical part gives general notes on Jane Austen’s works
1.1 English novelist - Jane Austen
1.2 Artistic and genre peculiarities of J. Austen's works
2. Practical part II. J. Austen’s literary art and its role in English
2.1 The "Defense of the Novel"
2.2 Jane Austen's Limitations
2.3 Jane Austen's literary reputation
writer, who first gave the novel its modern character through the treatment of
everyday life. Although Austen was widely read in her lifetime, she published
her works anonymously. The most urgent preoccupation of her bright, young
heroines is courtship and finally marriage. Austen herself never married. Her
best-known books include PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1813) and EMMA (1816). Virginia
Woolf called Austen "the most perfect artist among women." Jane
Austen focused on middle-class provincial life with humor and understanding. She
depicted minor landed gentry, country clergymen and their families, in which
marriage mainly determined women's social status. Most important for her were
those little matters, as Emma says, "on which the daily happiness of
private life depends." Although Austen restricted to family matters, and
she passed the historical events of the Napoleonic wars, her wit and observant
narrative touch has been inexhaustible delight to readers. Of her six great
novels, four were published anonymously during her lifetime. Austen also had
troubles with her publisher, who wanted to make alterations to her love scenes
in Pride and Prejudice. In 1811 he wrote to Thomas Egerton: "You
say the book is indecent. You say I am immodest. But Sir in the depiction of
love, modesty is the fullness of truth; and decency frankness; and so I
must also be frank with you, and ask that you remove my name from the title
page in all future printings; 'A lady' will do well enough." At her death
on July 18, 1817 in Winchester, at the age of forty-one, Austen was writing the
unfinished SANDITON. She managed to write twelve chapters before stopping in
March 18, due to her poor health. The cause of her death is not known. It has
been claimed that Austen was a victim of Addison's disease. According to Claire
Tomalin, she may have died of lymphoma. Katherine White has suggested in the
British Medical Journal's Medical Humanities magazine, that she died of
tuberculosis caught from cattle.
Jane Austen was
buried in Winchester Cathedral, near the centre of the north aisle. "It is
a satisfaction to me to think that [she is] to lie in a Building she admired so
much," Cassandra Austen wrote later. Cassandra destroyed many of her
sister's letters; one hundred sixty survived but none written earlier than her
brother Henry made her authorship public after her death. Emma had been
reviewed favorably by Sir Walter Scott, who wrote in his journal of March 14, 1826:
" had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters
of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I have ever met with. The
Big Bow-Wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch,
which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the
truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me." Charlotte
Brontë and E. B. Browning found her limited, and Elizabeth Hardwick said:
"I don't think her superb intelligence brought her happiness." It was
not until the publication of J. E. Austen-Leigh's Memoir in 1870 that a
Jane Austen cult began to develop. Austen's unfinished Sanditon was
published in 1925.
The Theme: “Jane
Austen's Art and her Literary Reputation"
The Aim of
investigation: is to analyze Jane Austen's works, to develop of genre
and style in her novels and reflect their role in
To give general
notes on Jane Austen's works;
To define the
author’s role as the most famous woman - writer in English literature;
To give an
explanation Jane Austen's literary reputation in her writings;
of investigation: is Jane Austen's novel “A
Sense and Sensibility".
The subject of
investigation: The development of genre and artistic peculiarities of novel “A
Sense and Sensibility".
of investigation: We suppose that investigation of Jane Austen's works, which is given
stylistic devices, analysis of her works, and also her genre of writings
reflect its own place in literature.
investigation: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), Northanger Abbey.
value: in our course paper work we are going to investigate J. Austen’s life
and her writings, literary genre in her writings. This material could be used
by the students during their theoretical classes as the literature of Great
of this course paper is to investigate J. Austen’s literary art and its role in
English realism; also it is given some facts such as Jane Austen's Limitations,
Jane Austen's literary reputation.
the course paper: Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Conclusion, Bibliography
includes topicality, theme, problem, aim, objectives, object, subject,
hypothesis, theoretical and practical value, methods of investigation and
1. Theoretical part gives general notes on Jane Austen’s works
represents J. Austen’s style and analyzes of her works.
conclusion we present the results of our investigation.
suggests a list of sources of references.
Jane Austen (16
December 1775 - 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic
fiction set among the gentry
have earned her a place as one of the most widely read and most beloved writers
in English literature.  Amongst
scholars and critics, Austen's realism and biting
social commentary have cemented her historical importance as a writer.
her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of
English gentry.  She was
educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own
reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to Austen's
development as a professional writer.  Austen's
artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years until she was about
thirty-five years old. During this period, she experimented with various literary
forms, including the epistolary
novel which she tried and then abandoned, and wrote and extensively
revised three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the
release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a
published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey
and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began
a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but died
before completing it.
critique the novels
of sensibility of the second half of the eighteenth century and are
part of the transition to nineteenth-century realism. Austen's plots, though
fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure
social standing and economic security. Like those of Samuel Johnson, one of
the strongest influences on her writing, her works are concerned with moral
issues. During Austen's lifetime her works brought her little personal fame and
only a few positive reviews. Through the mid-nineteenth century, her novels
were admired mainly by members of the literary elite. However, the publication
of her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869 introduced her to a far
wider public as an appealing personality and kindled popular interest in her
works. By the 1940s, Austen had become widely accepted in academia as a "great
English writer". The second half of the twentieth century saw a
proliferation of Austen scholarship, which explored many aspects of her novels:
artistic, ideological, and historical. In popular culture, a Janeite fan culture
has developed, centred on Austen's life, her works, and the various.
information concerning Jane Austen is "famously scarce", according to
one biographer. Only some personal and family letters remain (by one estimate
only 160 out of Austen's 3,000 letters are extant), and her sister Cassandra (to whom
most of the letters were originally addressed) burned "the greater part"
of the ones she kept and censored those she did not destroy. Other letters were
destroyed by the heirs of Admiral Francis Austen, Jane's
brother. Most of the biographical material produced for fifty years after
Austen's death was written by her relatives and reflects the family's biases in
favour of "good quiet Aunt Jane". Scholars have unearthed little
parents, George Austen (1731-1805), and his wife, Cassandra (1739-1827), were
members of substantial gentry
families. George was descended from a family of woollen manufacturers which had
risen through the professions to the lower ranks of the landed gentry. Cassandra
was a member of the prominent Leigh
family; they married on 26 April 1764 at Walcot Church in Bath. From 1765 until
1801, that is, for much of Jane's life, George Austen served as the rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon, Hampshire and a nearby village. From 1773 until
1796, he supplemented this income by farming and by teaching three or four boys
at a time who boarded at his home.
immediate family was large: six brothers-James (1765-1819), George (1766-1838),
Edward (1767-1852), Henry Thomas (1771-1850), Francis William (Frank) (1774-1865),
Charles John (1779-1852)
- and one sister, Cassandra
Elizabeth (1773-1845), who, like Jane, died unmarried. Cassandra
Elizabeth was Austen's closest friend and confidante throughout her life. Of
her brothers, Austen felt closest to Henry, who became a banker and, after his
bank failed, an Anglican clergyman. Henry was also his sister's literary agent. His
large circle of friends and acquaintances in London included bankers,
merchants, publishers, painters, and actors: he provided Austen with a view of
social worlds not normally visible from a small parish in rural Hampshire. George
was sent to live with a local family at a young age because, as Austen
biographer Le Faye describes it, he was "mentally abnormal and subject to
fits". He may also have been deaf and mute. Charles and Frank served in
the navy, both rising to the rank of admiral. Edward was adopted by his fourth
cousin, Thomas Knight, inheriting Knight's estate and taking his name in 1812.
Austen was born
on 16 December 1775 at Steventon rectory
and publicly christened on 5 April 1776. After a few months at home, her mother
placed Austen with Elizabeth Littlewood, a woman living nearby, who nursed and raised
Austen for a year or eighteen months. In 1783, according to family tradition,
Jane and Cassandra were sent to Oxford
to be educated by Mrs. Ann Cawley and they moved with her to Southampton later in
the year. Both girls caught typhus
and Jane nearly died. Austen was subsequently educated at home, until leaving
school with her sister Cassandra early in 1785. The school curriculum
probably included some French, spelling, needlework, dancing and music and,
perhaps, drama. By December 1786, Jane and Cassandra had returned home because
the Austens could not afford to send both of their daughters to school.
the remainder of her education by reading books, guided by her father and her
brothers James and Henry. George Austen apparently gave his daughters
unfettered access to his large and varied library, was tolerant of Austen's
experiments in writing, and provided both sisters with expensive paper and
other materials for their writing and drawing. According to Park Honan, a
biographer of Austen, life in the Austen home was lived in "an open,
amused, easy intellectual atmosphere" where the ideas of those with whom
the Austens might disagree politically or socially were considered and
discussed. After returning from school in 1786, Austen "never again lived
anywhere beyond the bounds of her immediate family environment".
theatricals were also a part of Austen's education. From when she was seven
until she was thirteen, the family and close friends staged a series of plays,
including Richard Sheridan's The Rivals (1775) and
David Garrick's Bon Ton. While the details are unknown,
Austen would certainly have joined in these activities, as a spectator at first
and as a participant when she was older. Most of the plays were comedies, which
suggests one way in which Austen's comedic and satirical gifts were cultivated.
Perhaps as early as 1787, Austen began to write poems, stories, and plays for
her own and her family's amusement. Austen later compiled "fair copies"
of 29 of these early works into three bound notebooks, now referred to as the Juvenilia, containing pieces originally
written between 1787 and 1793. There is manuscript evidence that Austen
continued to work on these pieces as late as the period 1809-11, and that her
niece and nephew, Anna and James Edward Austen, made further additions as late
as 1814. Among these works are a satirical novel in letters titled Love and Freindship [sic], in which she mocked
popular novels of sensibility,  and The History of England, a manuscript of 34
pages accompanied by 13 watercolour miniatures by her sister Cassandra.
historical writing, particularly Oliver Goldsmith's History
of England (1764). Austen wrote, for example: "Henry the 4th ascended
the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, after
having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2nd, to resign it
to him, & to retire for the rest of his Life to Pomfret Castle, where he
happened to be murdered. "Austen's Juvenilia are often, according
to scholar Richard Jenkyns, "boisterous" and "anarchic"; he
compares them to the work of eighteenth-century novelist Laurence Sterne and
the twentieth-century comedy group Monty Python.
As Austen grew
into adulthood, she continued to live at her parents' home, carrying out those
activities normal for women of her age and social standing: she practiced the pianoforte, assisted
her sister and mother with supervising servants, and attended female relatives
during childbirth and older relatives on their deathbeds. She sent short pieces
of writing to her newborn nieces Fanny Catherine and Jane Anna Elizabeth. Austen
was particularly proud of her accomplishments as a seamstress. She also
attended church regularly, socialized frequently with friends and neighbours,
and read novels-often of her own composition-aloud with her family in the
evenings. Socializing with the neighbours often meant dancing, either impromptu
in someone's home after supper or at the balls held regularly at the assembly rooms in the
town hall. Her brother Henry later said that "Jane was fond of dancing,
and excelled in it". In 1793, Austen began and then abandoned a short
play, later entitled Sir Charles Grandison or the happy
Man, a comedy in 6 acts, which she returned to and completed
around 1800. This was a short parody of various school textbook abridgments of
Austen's favourite contemporary novel, The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753),
Richardson. Honan speculates that at some point not long after
writing Love and Freindship [sic] in 1789, Austen decided to "write
for profit, to make stories her central effort", that is, to become a
professional writer. Whenever she made that decision, beginning in about 1793,
Austen began to write longer, more sophisticated works.
and 1795, Austen wrote Lady
Susan, a short epistolary novel,
usually described as her most ambitious and sophisticated early work. [ It is unlike
any of Austen's other works. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin
describes the heroine of the novella
as a sexual predator who uses her intelligence and charm to manipulate, betray,
and abuse her victims, whether lovers, friends or family. Tomalin writes:
"Told in letters, it is as neatly plotted as a play, and as cynical in
tone as any of the most outrageous of the Restoration
dramatists who may have provided some of her inspiration... It
stands alone in Austen's work as a study of an adult woman whose intelligence
and force of character are greater than those of anyone she encounters. "After
finishing Lady Susan, Austen attempted her first full-length novel-Elinor
and Marianne. Her sister Cassandra later remembered that it was read to the
family "before 1796" and was told through a series of letters. Without
surviving original manuscripts, there is no way to know how much of the
original draft survived in the novel published in 1811 as Sense and Sensibility.
Thomas Langlois Lefroy, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, by W. H. Mote (1855); in old age, Lefroy admitted
to a nephew that he had been in love with Jane Austen: "It was boyish love."
When Austen was
twenty, Tom Lefroy, a nephew of neighbours, visited Steventon from
December 1795 to January 1796. He had just finished a university degree and was
moving to London to train as a barrister.
Lefroy and Austen would have been introduced at a ball or other neighbourhood
social gathering, and it is clear from Austen's letters to Cassandra that they
spent considerable time together: "I am almost afraid to tell you how my
Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and
shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together. "The Lefroy
family intervened and sent him away at the end of January. Marriage was
impractical, as both Lefroy and Austen must have known. Neither had any money,
and he was dependent on a great-uncle in Ireland to finance his education and
establish his legal career. If Tom Lefroy later visited Hampshire, he was
carefully kept away from the Austens, and Jane Austen never saw him again.
work on a second novel, First Impressions, in 1796 and completed the
initial draft in August 1797 when she was only 21 (it later became Pride and Prejudice); as with all of her novels, Austen
read the work aloud to her family as she was working on it and it became an
"established favourite". At this time, her father made the first
attempt to publish one of her novels. In November 1797, George Austen wrote to Thomas Cadell, an established publisher in London, to ask if
he would consider publishing "a Manuscript Novel, comprised in three Vols.
about the length of Miss Burney's Evelina" (First Impressions) at
the author's financial risk. Cadell quickly returned Mr. Austen's letter,
marked "Declined by Return of Post". Austen may not have known of her
father's efforts. Following the completion of First Impressions, Austen
returned to Elinor and Marianne and from November 1797 until mid-1798,
revised it heavily; she eliminated the epistolary format in favour of third-person narration and produced something close to Sense
middle of 1798, after finishing revisions of Elinor and Marianne, Austen
began writing a third novel with the working title Susan-later Northanger Abbey-a
satire on the popular Gothic novel. Austen
completed her work about a year later. In early 1803, Henry Austen offered Susan
to Benjamin Crosby, a London publisher, who paid £10 for the copyright. Crosby
promised early publication and went so far as to advertise the book publicly as
being "in the press", but did nothing more. The manuscript remained
in Crosby's hands, unpublished, until Austen repurchased the copyright from him
1800, Rev. Austen unexpectedly announced his decision to retire from the
ministry, leave Steventon, and move the family to Bath. While retirement
and travel were good for the elder Austens, Jane Austen was shocked to be told
she was moving from the only home she had ever known. An indication of Austen's
state of mind is her lack of productivity as a writer during the time she lived
at Bath. She was able to make some revisions to Susan, and she began and
then abandoned a new novel, The
Watsons, but there was nothing like the productivity of the
years 1795-99. Tomalin suggests this reflects a deep depression disabling her
as a writer, but Honan disagrees, arguing Austen wrote or revised her
manuscripts throughout her creative life, except for a few months after her
1802, Austen received her only proposal of marriage. She and her sister visited
Alethea and Catherine Bigg, old friends who lived near Basingstoke. Their
younger brother, Harris Bigg-Wither, had recently finished his education at Oxford and was also at home. Bigg-Wither proposed and Austen
accepted. As described by Caroline Austen, Jane's niece, and Reginald
Bigg-Wither, a descendant, Harris was not attractive-he was a large,
plain-looking man who spoke little, stuttered when he did speak, was aggressive
in conversation, and almost completely tactless. However, Austen had known him
since both were young and the marriage offered many practical advantages to
Austen and her family. He was the heir to extensive family estates located in
the area where the sisters had grown up. With these resources, Austen could
provide her parents a comfortable old age, give Cassandra a permanent home and,
perhaps, assist her brothers in their careers. By the next morning, Austen
realised she had made a mistake and withdrew her acceptance. No contemporary
letters or diaries describe how Austen felt about this proposal. In 1814,
Austen wrote a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, who had asked for advice
about a serious relationship, telling her that "having written so much on
one side of the question, I shall now turn around & entreat you not to
commit yourself farther, & not to think of accepting him unless you really
do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying
without Affection". In 1804, while living in Bath, Austen started but did
not complete a new novel, The Watsons. The story centres on an invalid
clergyman with little money and his four unmarried daughters. Sutherland
describes the novel as "a study in the harsh economic realities of
dependent women's lives". Honan suggests, and Tomalin agrees, that Austen
chose to stop work on the novel after her father died on 21 January 1805 and
her personal circumstances resembled those of her characters too closely for
final illness had struck suddenly, leaving him, as Austen reported to her
brother Francis, "quite insensible of his own state", and he died
quickly. Jane, Cassandra, and their mother were left in a precarious financial
situation. Edward, James, Henry, and Francis Austen pledged to make annual
contributions to support their mother and sisters. For the next four years, the
family's living arrangements reflected their financial insecurity. They lived
part of the time in rented quarters in Bath and then, beginning in 1806, in Southampton, where
they shared a house with Frank Austen and his new wife. A large part of this
time they spent visiting various branches of the family.
On 5 April
1809, about three months before the family's move to Chawton, Austen wrote an
angry letter to Richard Crosby, offering him a new manuscript of Susan
if that was needed to secure immediate publication of the novel, and otherwise
requesting the return of the original so she could find another publisher. Crosby
replied he had not agreed to publish the book by any particular time, or at
all, and that Austen could repurchase the manuscript for the £10 he had
paid her and find another publisher. However, Austen did not have the resources
to repurchase the book.
1809, Austen's brother Edward offered his mother and sisters a more settled
life-the use of a large cottage in Chawton village that
was part of Edward's nearby estate, Chawton House. Jane,
Cassandra, and their mother moved into Chawton cottage on 7 July 1809. In
Chawton, life was quieter than it had been since the family's move to Bath in
1800. The Austens did not socialise with the neighbouring gentry and
entertained only when family visited. Austen's niece Anna described the Austen
family's life in Chawton: "It was a very quiet life, according to our
ideas, but they were great readers, and besides the housekeeping our aunts
occupied themselves in working with the poor and in teaching some girl or boy
to read or write. "Austen wrote almost daily, but privately, and seems to
have been relieved of some household responsibilities to give her more
opportunity to write. In this setting, she was able to be productive as a
writer once more.
During her time
at Chawton, Jane Austen successfully published four novels, which were
generally well-received. Through her brother Henry, the publisher Thomas Egerton agreed
to publish Sense and Sensibility, which appeared in
October 1811. Reviews were favourable and the novel became fashionable among
opinion-makers; the edition sold out by mid-1813. Austen's earnings from Sense
and Sensibility provided her with some financial and psychological
independence. Egerton then published Pride and Prejudice, a revision of First Impressions,
in January 1813. He advertised the book widely and it was an immediate success,
garnering three favourable reviews and selling well. By October 1813, Egerton
was able to begin selling a second edition. Mansfield Park was published by Egerton in May 1814. While
Mansfield Park was ignored by reviewers, it was a great success with the
public. All copies were sold within six months, and Austen's earnings on this
novel were larger than for any of her other novels.
that the Prince Regent admired her novels and kept a set at each of his
residences. In November 1815, the Prince Regent's librarian invited Austen to
visit the Prince's London residence and hinted Austen should dedicate the forthcoming
Emma to the Prince.
Though Austen disliked the Prince, she could scarcely refuse the request. She
later wrote Plan of a Novel, according to hints from various quarters, a
satiric outline of the "perfect novel" based on the librarian's many
suggestions for a future Austen novel.
Austen moved her work from Egerton to John Murray, a better known London publisher, who
published Emma in December 1815 and a second edition of Mansfield
Park in February 1816. Emma sold well but the new edition of Mansfield
Park did not, and this failure offset most of the profits Austen earned on Emma.
These were the last of Austen's novels to be published during her lifetime.
prepared Emma for publication, Austen began to write a new novel she
titled The Elliots, later published as Persuasion. She completed her first draft in July 1816. In
addition, shortly after the publication of Emma, Henry Austen
repurchased the copyright for Susan from Crosby. Austen was forced to
postpone publishing either of these completed novels by family financial
troubles. Henry Austen's bank failed in March 1816, depriving him of all of his
assets, leaving him deeply in debt and losing Edward, James, and Frank Austen
large sums. Henry and Frank could no longer afford the contributions they had
made to support their mother and sisters.
Early in 1816,
Jane Austen began to feel unwell. She ignored her illness at first and
continued to work and to participate in the usual round of family activities. By
the middle of that year, her decline was unmistakable to Austen and to her
family, and Austen's physical condition began a long, slow, and irregular
deterioration culminating in her death the following year. The majority of
Austen biographers rely on Dr. Vincent Cope's tentative 1964 retrospective diagnosis and list her cause of death as Addison's
disease. However, her final illness has also been described as Hodgkin's
lymphoma. Recent work by Katherine White of
Britain's Addison’s Disease Self Help Group suggests that Austen likely died of
tuberculosis, a disease (now) commonly associated with
drinking unpasteurized milk.
continued to work in spite of her illness. She became dissatisfied with the
ending of The Elliots and rewrote the final two chapters, finishing them
on 6 August 1816. In
January 1817, Austen began work on a new novel she called The Brothers,
later titled Sanditon upon its
first publication in 1925, and completed twelve chapters before stopping work
in mid-March 1817, probably because her illness prevented her from continuing. Austen made
light of her condition to others, describing it as "Bile" and
rheumatism, but as her disease progressed she experienced increasing difficulty
walking or finding the energy for other activities. By mid-April, Austen was
confined to her bed. In May, their brother Henry escorted Jane and Cassandra to
Winchester for medical
treatment. Austen died in Winchester on 18 July 1817, at the age of 41. Through
his clerical connections, Henry arranged for his sister to be buried in the
north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral. The epitaph composed by her brother
James praises Austen's personal qualities, expresses hope for her salvation,
mentions the "extraordinary endowments of her mind", but does not
explicitly mention her achievements as a writer.
death, Cassandra and Henry Austen arranged with Murray for the publication of Persuasion
and Northanger Abbey as a set in December 1817. Henr y Austen
contributed a Biographical Note which for the first time identified his
sister as the author of the novels. Tomalin describes it as "a loving and
polished eulogy". Sales were
good for a year-only 321 copies remained unsold at the end of 1818-and then
declined. Murray disposed of the remaining copies in 1820, and Austen's novels
remained out of print for twelve years. In 1832, publisher Richard Bentley purchased the remaining copyrights to all of Austen's
novels and, beginning in either December 1832 or January 1833, published them
in five illustrated volumes as part of his Standard Novels series. In
October 1833, Bentley published the first collected edition of Austen's works. Since
then, Austen's novels have been continuously in print.
In 1816, the
editors of The New Monthly Magazine noted Emma's publication but chose not to review
It brought her
little personal renown because they were published anonymously. Although her
novels quickly became fashionable among opinion-makers, such as Princess Charlotte Augusta, daughter of the Prince Regent, they received only a few
published reviews. Most of the reviews were short and on balance favourable,
although superficial and cautious. They most often focused on the moral lessons
of the novels. Sir Walter
Scott, a leading novelist of the day, contributed one of them,
anonymously. Using the review as a platform from which to defend the then
disreputable genre of the novel,
he praised Austen's realism. The other important early review of Austen's works
was published by Richard
Whately in 1821. He drew favourable comparisons between Austen and
such acknowledged greats as Homer
praising the dramatic qualities of her narrative. Whately and Scott set the
tone for almost all subsequent nineteenth-century Austen criticism.
Austen's novels failed to conform to Romantic and Victorian expectations that "powerful emotion [be] authenticated
by an egregious display of sound and colour in the writing", nineteenth-century
critics and audiences generally preferred the works of Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Though
Austen's novels were republished in Britain beginning in the 1830s and remained
steady sellers, they were not bestsellers.
One of the
first two published illustrations of Pride and Prejudice, from the Richard Bentley edition. Caption reads: "She then told
him [Mr Bennett] what Mr Darcy had voluntarily done for Lydia. He heard her
Austen had many
admiring readers in the nineteenth century who considered themselves part of a
literary elite: they viewed their appreciation of Austen's works as a mark of
their cultural taste. Philosopher and literary critic George
Henry Lewes expressed this viewpoint in a series of enthusiastic
articles published in the 1840s and 1850s. This theme continued later in the
century with novelist Henry James,
who referred to Austen several times with approval and on one occasion ranked
her with Shakespeare, Cervantes,
and Henry Fielding as
among "the fine painters of life".
of James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869 introduced Austen to a
wider public as "dear aunt Jane", the respectable maiden aunt. Publication
of the Memoir spurred the reissue of Austen's novels-the first popular
editions were released in 1883 and fancy illustrated editions and collectors'
sets quickly followed. Author and critic Leslie Stephen
described the popular mania that started to develop for Austen in the 1880s as
Austenolatry". Around the turn of the century, members of the literary
elite reacted against the popularization of Austen. They referred to themselves
as Janeites in order
to distinguish themselves from the masses who did not properly understand her
works. For example, James responded negatively to what he described as "a
beguiled infatuation" with Austen, a rising tide of public interest that
exceeded Austen's "intrinsic merit and interest".
During the last
quarter of the nineteenth century, the first books of criticism on Austen were
published. In fact, after the publication of the Memoir, more criticism
was published on Austen in two years than had appeared in the previous fifty.
important works paved the way for Austen's novels to become a focus of academic
study. The first important milestone was a 1911 essay by Oxford Shakespearean scholar A. C. Bradley, which is "generally regarded as the
starting-point for the serious academic approach to Jane Austen". In it,
he established the groupings of Austen's "early" and "late"
novels, which are still used by scholars today. The second was R. W. Chapman's
1923 edition of Austen's collected works. Not only was it the first scholarly
edition of Austen's works, it was also the first scholarly edition of any
English novelist. The Chapman text has remained the basis for all subsequent
published editions of Austen's works. With the publication in 1939 of Mary
Lascelles's Jane Austen and Her Art, the academic study of Austen took
hold. Lascelles's innovative work included an analysis of the books Jane Austen
read and the effect of her reading on her work, an extended analysis of
Austen's style, and her "narrative art". At the time, concern arose
over the fact that academics were taking over Austen criticism and it was
becoming increasingly esoteric-a debate that has continued to the beginning of
the twenty-first century.
In a spurt of
revisionist views in the 1940s, scholars approached Austen more sceptically and
argued that she was a subversive writer. These revisionist views, together with
F. R. Leavis's and Ian Watt's
pronouncement that Austen was one of the great writers of English fiction, did
much to cement Austen's reputation amongst academics. They agreed that she
Fielding's and Samuel Richardson's] qualities
of interiority and irony, realism and satire to form an author superior to both".
The period since World
War II has seen more scholarship on Austen using a diversity of
critical approaches, including feminist theory, and
perhaps most controversially, postcolonial
theory. However, the continuing disconnection between the popular
appreciation of Austen, particularly by modern Janeites, and the
academic appreciation of Austen has widened considerably.
prequels, and adaptations of almost every sort have been based on the novels of
Jane Austen, from soft-core pornography to fantasy. Beginning in the middle of
the nineteenth century, Austen family members published conclusions to her
incomplete novels, and by 2000 there were over 100 printed adaptations. The
first film adaptation was the 1940 MGM production of Pride and Prejudice
Olivier and Greer
Garson. BBC television
dramatisations, which were first produced in the 1970s, attempted to adhere
meticulously to Austen's plots, characterisations, and settings. Starting with Emma Thompson's film of Sense and Sensibility and the BBC's immensely
popular TV mini-series Pride and Prejudice, a great wave of
Austen adaptations began to appear around 1995.
scripts that use the general storyline of Austen's novels but change or
otherwise modernise the story also became popular at the end of the twentieth
century. For example, Clueless
Heckerling's updated version of Emma, which takes place in Beverly Hills, became
a cultural phenomenon and spawned its own television series.
2. Practical part II. J. Austen’s literary art and its role in English
Austen's era, novels were often depreciated as trash; Coleridge's opinion was
that "where the reading of novels prevails as a habit, it occasions in time
the entire destruction of the powers of the mind". But Jane Austen once
wrote in a letter that she and her family were , and in her
novel Northanger Abbey she
gives her "Defense of the Novel" (even though she is also making fun
of the of
many novels of the era throughout Northanger Abbey).
It has been
pointed out that most novel-writers and the majority of novel readers were
women (thus in Jane
Austen calls a
"sister author"), while the , would all
have been men. So in Jane Austen's day, novels actually had something of the
same reputation that mass-market romances do today.
of the friendship between Catherine [Morland] and Isabella was quick as its
beginning had been warm... and if a rainy morning deprived them of other
enjoyments, they were still resolute in meeting in defiance of wet and dirt,
and shut themselves up, to read novels together. Yes, novels; - for I will not
adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of
degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of
which they are themselves adding - joining with their greatest enemies in
bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting
them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel,
is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of
one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect
protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure,
and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which
the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although
our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those
of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has
been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as
many as our readers. And while the abilities of the
nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects
and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, , and , with a paper
from the Spectator, and a
chapter from ,
are eulogized by a thousand pens, - there seems almost a general wish of
decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of
slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend
them. "I am no novel-reader - I seldom look into novels - Do not imagine
that I often read novels - It is really very well for a novel." - Such is
the common cant. - "And what are you reading, Miss - -?" "Oh! it
is only a novel!" replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with
affected indifference, or momentary shame. "It is only CeciliaCamillaBelinda";
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. Now, had the same young lady
been engaged with a volume of the Spectator, instead
of such a work, how proudly would she have produced the book, and told its name;
though the chances must be against her being occupied by any part of that
voluminous publication, of which either the matter or manner would not disgust
a young person of taste: the substance of its papers so often consisting in the
statement of improbable circumstances, unnatural characters, and topics of
conversation which no longer concern anyone living; and their language, too,
frequently so coarse as to give no very favourable idea of the age that could
1688-1744, a poet. Not a favorite of Marianne Dashwood's in Sense and Sensibility.
1664-1721, a poet and diplomat.
A series of
essays originally published 1711-1712. Jane Austen attacks this favorite of the
literary elites as being open to much the same accusations which the elites
make against popular novels.
pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can,
impatient to restore every body, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable
comfort." - Mansfield Park
read [Byron's] The Corsair,
mended my petticoat, and have nothing else to do." - Jane Austen,
limited her subject-matter in a number of ways in her (though her
her letters often did not conform to these limitations; that she knew about a
number of things she did not choose to treat in her novels can also be seen
from her glancing allusions to such topics as ). Many of
these limitations are due to her artistic integrity in not describing what she
herself was not personally familiar with (or in avoiding clichéd plot
devices common in the literature of her day).
handles the (conventionally masculine) topic of politics.
She never uses
servants, small tradesmen, cottagers, etc. as more than purely incidental
characters. Conversely, she does not describe the high nobility (the highest
ranking "on-stage" characters are ), and (unlike
present-day writers of modern "Regency" novels, or some of her
contemporaries) she does not describe London high society.
herself to the general territory that she herself has visited and is familiar
with (more or less the southern half of ). (See her )
In her novels
there is no violence (the closest approaches are the duel between Colonel
Brandon and Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility,
in which neither is hurt, and the indefinite menacements of the Gypsies towards
Harriet Smith and Miss Bickerton in Emma), and no crime
(except for the poultry-thief at the end of Emma).
She never uses
certain hackneyed plot devices then common, such as mistaken identities,
doubtful and/or aristocratic parentage, and hidden-then-rediscovered wills. In Emma, Harriet
Smith's parentage is actually not very mysterious (as Mr. Knightley had
suspected all along). Jane Austen had exuberantly parodied this type of plot in
Henry and Eliza, one
of her :
husband:] "Four months after you were gone, I was delivered of this Girl,
but dreading your just resentment at her not proving the Boy you wished, I took
her to a Haycock and laid her down. A few weeks afterwards, you returned, and
fortunately for me, made no enquiries. Satisfied within myself of the wellfare
of my Child, I soon forgot that I had one, insomuch that when we shortly afterward
found her in the very Haycock I had placed her, I had no more idea of her being
my own than you had."
In Jane Austen's works there is hardly any male sexual predation or
assaults on female virtue - a favorite device of novelists of the period (even
in a novel such as Evelina, which has no rapes or abductions to
remote farmhouses, this is a constant theme). The only possible case is the
affair between Willoughby and the younger Eliza Williams in Sense and Sensibility
(about which little information is divulged in the novel) - since of Pride and Prejudice
and Maria Bertram of Mansfield Park more
or less throw themselves at and
Henry Crawford respectively. Also, the elder Eliza Williams in Sense and Sensibility
is more likely tempted astray because she is a weak personality trapped in a
wretchedly unhappy marriage (remember that almost the only grounds for was the
wife's infidelity), rather than because of any extraordinary arts or
persuasions used by her seducer. And finally, whatever the complex of motives
involved in the Mrs. Clay-Mr. Elliot affair in Persuasion, it can
hardly be regarded as the seduction of a female by a sexually predatory male. In
Jane Austen's last incomplete fragment, Sanditon, it is true
that likes to think of himself as a predatory male, but he is
described as such an ineffectual fool that it is difficult to believe that he
would have accomplished any of his designs against the beauteous Clara
Brereton, if Jane Austen had finished the work.
Note that all
these affairs take place entirely "off-stage" (except for a few
encounters of flirtation between Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford, long before
she runs away with him), and are not described in any detail.
No one dies
"on stage" in one of her novels, and almost no one dies at all during
the main period of the events of each novel (except for Lord Ravenshaw's
grandmother in Mansfield Park and
Mrs. Churchill in Emma).
that occur (
in Pride and Prejudice
and Louisa Musgrove's in Persuasion) are not
milked for much pathos (Marianne's in Sense and Sensibility
is a partial exception, but Marianne is condemned for bringing her illness on
herself). And Mrs. Smith in Persuasion (who
takes a decidedly non-pathetic view of her own illness) pours cold water on
Anne Elliot's ideas of the "ardent, disinterested, self-denying
attachment, [...] , fortitude,
patience, resignation" to be found in a sick-room. And in Sanditon, written while
she was suffering from , Jane
Austen made fun of several hypochondriac characters.
"Mrs. F. A.
has had one fainting fit lately; it came on as usual after eating a hearty
dinner, but did not last long." - Jane Austen,
The only person
who actually faints in one of Jane Austen's novels is the silly Harriet Smith
of Emma (since one
rather suspects the genuineness of the "fainting fit" that Lucy
Steele is reported to have been driven into by the furious Mrs. John Dashwood,
after the discovery of Lucy's engagement to Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility).
On three occasions, Fanny Price of Mansfield Park
imagines to herself that she is on the point of fainting, and once Elinor
Dashwood thinks that her sister Marianne is about to faint, but neither Fanny
or Marianne ever does. And Elinor Dashwood, at one critical moment in Sense and Sensibility,
feels herself to be "in no danger of an hysterical fit or a swoon".
parsimony in faintings in her novels does not apply to her , where she
mocks the propensity to faint of the conventional novel-heroine of the day. So
Elfrida in Frederic & Elfrida
"fainted & was in such a hurry to have a succession of fainting fits,
that she had scarcely patience enough to recover from one before she fell into
Jane Austen hardly ever quotes from a conversation between men with no women
present (or overhearing). However, despite some assertions that she never includes such dialogue, there is at least
in Mansfield Park. (A
less clear possibility is Sir Thomas Bertram's chiding of his son Tom when he
has to sell the Mansfield clerical "living", in Chapter 3 of Mansfield Park)
She is also
sparing of describing the internal thoughts and emotions of male characters (thus
in Pride and Prejudice,
much of admiration
expressed by means of convenient conversations with ).
She is very
sparing with (except
to some degree in her last novel, Persuasion).
She tends to glide over the more
passionately romantic moments of her characters, not describing closely lovers'
embraces and endearments. So in the marriage proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice
the quoted dialogue breaks off just before the critical point, giving way to
the following report: . Similarly
in Emma: "She
spoke then, on being so entreated [with a proposal]. What did she say? Just
what she ought, of course. A lady always does." In fact Jane Austen had
something of an aversion to sappy language; thus in Pride and Prejudice
she has Mrs. Gardiner (in
fact, the very same expression "violently in love" that Austen saw
fit to fob us off with later in the novel in the proposal scene!). Even in her
more "romantic" last novel Persuasion, she
still ruthlessly cut out Wentworth's line "Anne, my own dear Anne!" from
her , and
replaced it with less pointed narration in the final version of the text; and
she almost makes fun of her heroine Anne Elliot:
musings of high-wrought love and eternal constancy could never have passed
along the streets of Bath, than Anne was sporting with from Camden Place to
Westgate Buildings. It was almost enough to spread purification and perfume all
And in a letter
of November 8th 1796, Jane Austen wrote "I have had a... letter from
Buller; I was afraid he would oppress me with his felicity & his love for
his wife, but this is not the case; he calls her simply Anna without any
And Jane Austen
never even mentions lovers kissing (an important moment in Emma is when Mr. Knightley
fails to kiss Emma's hand), though
Willoughby does kiss a lock of Marianne's hair in Sense and Sensibility.
And Mr. Knightly touches Emma, causing a "flutter of pleasure" in Emma (though they
are not yet acknowledged lovers at this point).
See a (non-academic)
Pride and Prejudice.
also famously .
One minor but
interesting point is that, though Jane Austen never used a Jewish character, or
discussed Judaism in any way in her writings, she manages to strike a blow against
anti-Semitism anyway - her sole mention of Jews is the phrase "as rich as
a Jew", used repetitively in Northanger Abbey by
John Thorpe (one of the most obnoxious and ridiculous characters in all her
novels); significantly, the heroine Catherine Morland does not at first
understand what he means.
always had her admirers, Jane Austen was not the most popular or most
highly-praised novelist of her era (none of her novels were reprinted in English
between 1818 and 1831), and she was not generally considered a great novelist
until the late nineteenth century (). During
her lifetime, boosted
Jane Austen through his review of Emma, but nowadays
it is Jane Austen who is used to boost Sir Walter Scott - Jane Austen's
comments () on
Scott's Waverley have been used
as a back cover blurb for recent reprintings of Scott's novel.
One thing that
many contemporary readers felt to be lacking in Jane Austen's novels was their
failure to be `instructive' (i. e. to teach a moral), or `inspirational' (that
is "to elevate mankind by their depiction of ideal persons, even in
defiance of the known realities of ordinary life" - , p.14). Jane
Austen makes fun of such didactic tendencies in her ending to Northanger Abbey:
"I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the
tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny or reward
filial disobedience." In her last work (Sanditon), she has a
very foolish character () criticize novels
like those she herself writes as "vapid tissues of Ordinary occurrences
from which no useful Deductions can be drawn". Jane Austen also once said
(in ) that
"pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked", and she satirized the
frequent lack of realism in the literature of the day in her Plan of a Novel:
"there will be no mixture... the Good will be unexceptionable in every
respect - and there will be no foibles or weaknesses but with the Wicked, who
will be completely depraved and infamous, hardly a resemblance of Humanity left
in them". What many other contemporary readers did admire in Jane Austen's
novels was their plausibility and depiction of real life - as opposed to the
sensationalism, unlikely meetings between long-lost relatives, villainous
aristocratic would-be ravishers, etc. that were the stock in trade of much of
the literature of the period.
Thus one Anne
Romilly wrote in 1814 that
"Mansfield park... has
been pretty generally admired here, and I think all novels must be that are
true to life which this is... It has not however that elevation of virtue,
something beyond nature, that gives the greatest charm to a novel."
In the Opinions of Mansfield Park,
Jane Austen recorded the comments of one Lady Gordon:
novels you are amused for the time with a set of Ideal People whom you never
think of afterwards or whom you the least expect to meet in common life,
whereas in Miss A----'s works, & especially in M [ansfield] P [ark] you
actually live with them, you fancy
yourself one of the family; & the scenes are so exactly descriptive, so
perfectly natural, that there is scarcely an Incident, or conversation, or a
person, that you are not inclined to imagine you have at one time or other in
your Life been a witness to, borne a part in, & been acquainted with."
In a letter of
May 1813, soon after the publication of Pride and Prejudice,
Annabella Milbanke (later Lady Byron) wrote in a letter that
finished the Novel called Pride and Prejudice,
which I think a very superior work. It depends not on any of the common
resources of novel writers, no drownings, no conflagrations, nor runaway
horses, nor lap-dogs and parrots, nor chambermaids and milliners, nor
rencontres [duels] and disguises. I really think it is the most probable I have ever read. It is not a
crying book, but the interest is very strong, especially for . The
characters which are not amiable are diverting, and all of them are
In 1815 one
William Gifford wrote
for the first time looked into P. and P. ; and it
is really a very pretty thing. No dark passages; no secret chambers; no
wind-howlings in long galleries; no drops of blood upon a rusty dagger - things
that should now be left to ladies' maids and sentimental washerwomen."
wrote her books at the dawn of the nineteenth century, when vast social changes
were already encroaching on the way of life she so loved and rendered with such
exquisite artistry. We read her books today on the cusp of a new century, with
an unfathomable world creeping up on us, too--one globally interconnected,
technologically complex, economically uncertain. Perhaps we find on Austen's
rural estates and in her charming, insular society the same peace and pleasure
she found there; and an analogue for the simpler, more circumscribed world of
our own childhoods, itself passing quickly away into history.
The time in which Jane Austen wrote her
novels was a period of great stability just about to give way to a time of
unimagined changes. At that time most of England's population (some thirteen
million) were involved in rural and agricultural work: yet within another
twenty years, the majority of Englishmen became urban dwellers involved with
industry, and the great railway age had begun. Throughout the early years of
the century the cities were growing at a great rate; the network of canals was
completed, the main roads were being remade. Regency London, in particular,
boomed and became, among other things, a great centre of fashion. On the other
hand, England in the first decade of the nineteenth century was still
predominantly a land of country towns and villages, a land of rural routines
which were scarcely touched by the seven campaigns of the Peninsular War
against Napoleon. But
if Austen's age was still predominantly one of rural quiet, it was also the age
of the French Revolution, the War of American Independence, the start of the
Industrial Revolution, and the first generation of the Romantic poets; and Jane
Austen was certainly not unaware of what was going on in the world around her. She
had two brothers in the Royal Navy and a cousin whose husband was guillotined
in the Terror. And although her favourite prose writer was Dr. Samuel Johnson,
she clearly knew the works of writers like Goethe, Worsdworth, Scott, Byron,
Southey, Godwin and other, very definitely nineteenth-century, authors.
1870-1940", The Jane Austen Companion, 102.
Lascelles, 2; for
detail on "lower fringes", see Collins, ix-x.
4-5; MacDonagh, 110-28; Honan, 79, 183-85; Tomalin, 66-68.
Litz, 3-14; Grundy, "Jane Austen and Literary
Traditions", The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, 192-93; Waldron,
"Critical Responses, Early", Jane Austen in Context, p.83,
89-90; Duffy, "Criticism, 1814-1870", The Jane Austen Companion,
93-94. Litz, 142.
66-75; Collins, 160-161.
Honan, 124-27; Trott,
"Critical Responses, 1830-1970", Jane Austen in Context, 92.
Fergus, "Biography", Jane Austen in
Le Faye, "Letters", Jane Austen in
Le Faye, A
Family Record, 270; Nokes, 1.
Le Faye, A
Family Record, 279.
Jane Austen in Context, 3-4. Honan,
Honan, 11-14; Tucker, "Jane Austen's Family",
The Jane Austen Companion, 143.
13-16, 147-51, 170-71; Greene, "Jane Austen and the Peerage", Jane
Austen: A Collection of Critical Essays, 156-57; Fergus, "Biography",
Jane Austen in Context, 5-6; Collins, 10-11.
estimates that when George Austen took up his duties as rector in 1764,
Steventon comprised no more than about thirty families. Collins, 86.
14, 17-18; Collins, 54.
"Biography", 3; Tomalin, 142; Honan, 23, 119.
MacDonagh, 50-51; Honan, 24, 246; Collins, 17.
Le Faye, Family Record, 22.
Tucker, "Jane Austen's Family", 147; Le
Faye, Family Record, 43-44.
Family Record, 20.
Le Faye, Family Record, 27.
Tomalin, 7-9; Honan,
21-22; Collins, 86; Le Faye, Family Record, 19. Le Faye and Collins add
that the Austens followed this custom for all of their children.
Le Faye, Family
Record, 47-49; Collins, 35, 133.
Tomalin, 9-10, 26, 33-38, 42-43; Le Faye, Family
Record, 52; Collins, 133-134.
Le Faye, "Chronology",
2-3; Grundy, "Jane Austen and Literary Traditions", 190-91; Tomalin,
28-29, 33-43, 66-67; Honan, 31-34; Lascelles, 7-8. Irene Collins believes that
Austen "used some of the same school books as the boys" her father
tutored. Collins, 42.