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(Reading time: 4 - 7 minutes)
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Popular Profiles - 04.Jane Austen

Jane Austen is one of the widely read writers in English literature. Her romantic stories mixed with reality and social commentary has earned her special appreciation from readers.

Personal Life:

Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon rectory. In 1783, Jane and her sister, Cassandra were sent to Oxford for education. Later in 1785, Jane attended a boarding school along with her sister. Later, Austen acquired the remainder of her education by reading books, guided by her father and her brothers.

Jane did not marry and stayed with her parents and brothers through out her lifetime. Most of her stories talk about love and affection between sisters, probably because of the impact of her own love and affection to her sister Cassandra.

Her Books:

Writing:

Austen began to write poems, stories, and plays for her own and her family's amusement around 1787. 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. Among these works are a novel in letters titled Love and Freindship.

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.

Between 1793 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 novel as a sexual predator who uses her intelligence and charm to manipulate, betray, and abuse her victims, whether lovers, friends or family.

After finishing Lady Susan, Austen attempted her first full-length novel, Elinor and Marianne. The story was later published in 1811 as Sense and Sensibility.

Austen began work on a second novel, First Impressions, in 1796. She completed the initial draft in August 1797 when she was only 21. This story was later named as Pride and Prejudice, one of her popular novels. 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".

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 and Sensibility.

During the middle of 1798, after finishing revisions of Elinor and Marianne, Austen began writing a third novel with the working title Susan, which was later published as Northanger Abbey.

Around 1815, Austen began to write a new novel she titled The Elliots. This novel was later published as Persuasion. She completed her first draft in July 1816. Inspite of her illness, Austen, rewrote the final two chapters of The Elliots, finishing them on 6 August 1816.

In January 1817, Austen began work on a new novel she called The Brothers. This novel was later titled Sanditon upon its first publication in 1925. She completed twelve chapters before stopping work in mid-March 1817, probably because her illness prevented her from continuing.

Publishing:

In 1797, Jane's father tried to help her in publishing her works by writing to Thomas Cadell, an established publisher in London, to ask if he would consider publishing First Impressions (later Pride & Prejudice) at the author's financial risk. Cadell quickly returned Mr. Austen's letter, marked "Declined by Return of Post".

But later in 1811, through her brother Henry, the publisher Thomas Egerton agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility. 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.

In mid-1815, 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.

Awards, Records and Recognitions:

Beginning in the middle of the 19th 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 starring Laurence 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. In 1995 a great wave of Austen adaptations began to appear, with Ang Lee's film of Sense and Sensibility, for which screenwriter and star Emma Thompson won an Academy Award, and the BBC's immensely popular TV mini-series Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

Death:

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 probably died of bovine tuberculosis, a disease now commonly associated with drinking unpasteurized milk. One contributing factor or cause of her death, discovered by Linda Robinson Walker and described in the Winter 2010 issue of Persuasions on-line, might be Brill-Zinsser disease, a recurrent form of typhus, which she had as a child. Brill-Zinsser disease is to typhus as shingles is to chicken pox; when a victim of typhus endures stress, malnutrition or another infection, typhus can recur as Brill-Zinsser disease.

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, Jane and Cassandra's brother Henry escorted the two of them to Winchester for medical treatment. Austen died in Winchester on 18 July 1817, at the age of 41. Henry, through his clerical connections, 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.

 

References - wikipedia.org 

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