Jane Austen: A Life in Books

Jane Austen is a much-loved author. This is a truth that is, as she would say, universally acknowledged. Jane began writing at a young age what would be called her Juvenilia. A compilation she eventually created of her early poems, stories, and plays written for her family. However, she eventually would turn her passion into published works.

Throughout her books, from Pride and Prejudice to Emma, Jane’s narrators offer a good deal of social commentary on the customs of the time. While there is an ongoing debate on whether her books are, in fact, romance novels or just social commentary, I believe that any book can be a multitude of things. Jane was writing, for the most part at least, about the social customs surrounding courtship and marriage. These rules were something that, although she never married herself, all young people would have been familiar with. And so, in reading her books, they would have also been familiar with the woes, heartbreaks, and joys in some cases that the characters go through in each of the books. The marriage plot was expected in books for them to sell. Romance novels were then and are still not exactly looked at in the best light. Usually by those who don’t read them.

By 1815, although Jane had never put her name in her books, she was slowly beginning to be known as their author. Jane enjoyed the fame as her books began to sell out multiple times over. One of her many fans was the Prince Regent who “suggested/ requested” a dedication in her next book. So in her next book, Emma, he got his dedication. Jane was “never, in fact, persuaded that His Highness actually read Emma or had any notion of her “exquisite touch.” Her final finished book was Persuasion (although she did revise Northanger Abbey at this time, too). It was somewhat different from her other books; an older female character than usual and the storyline didn’t follow her normal patterns either. She seemed to be revising her style somewhat but she was also beginning to have failing health at this time. She had started working on Sanditon but it was left unfinished when she died. Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published after her death.

“Her legacy is not a piece of reportage from the society of a particular past, but a wise and compelling exploration of human nature.” Jane Austen’s books are still read today and her characters are vibrant creatures that are just as interesting today as when she first wrote them. It may take a little more for us to understand today when we read them than it did for contemporary readers who would have been familiar with what she was writing about.

A note to readers: I plan to have more in this later but probably after the new year. if you read the next post you will see partially why this post has had such a delay. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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