Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English author who lived in the late 18th/early 19th century and wrote six novels between 1790 and 1817 before dying at the age of 41. Her books were published anonymously during her lifetime, but she is now one of the most famous authors in the English language.
Her novels are written with wit and frequent irony, and all follow a similar formula: gentlewoman sooner or later falls in love with man but can't marry him because he's engaged to someone else/he's in love with someone else/etc. Often there are cads to tempt her as well, but ultimately she ends up with the good guy who won't steal all her money or abandon her somewhere. There's far more variety among her heroines in terms of personality, though. She specialized in two types: the lively, witty, restless heroine who never fears to speak her mind (Elizabeth Bennet, Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse); and the quiet, Stoic Woobie who rarely if ever speaks her mind since everyone misjudges her anyway (Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, Anne Elliot).
Despite being nominally romance novels, and writing in a period that overlapped with Romanticism, Austen's works are not classified as Romantic-with-a-capital-R. Austen strikes a balance between Romanticism and Enlightenment - her happy endings are born of social harmony as well as warmth of feeling.
Austen is well-known for her wit, satire, and proto-feminism; serious critics consider her to be the equal of Cervantes, Milton, and Shakespeare. Virginia Woolf called her the first truly great female author, and the first good English author to have a distinctly feminine writing style. Rex Stout considered her the greatest English writer ever—yes, even above Shakespeare. Heady praise from a man who claimed to have previously believed that men did everything better than women.
Jane Austen also has the distinction of being one of the few classic authors beloved by both the academy (her novels are a popular choice for School Study Media) and popular culture, thanks to the devoted Austen fan community who call themselves "Janeites." Her novels are also frequently adapted into films, especially Pride and Prejudice and Emma (which was also the inspiration for Clueless).
She ended at #70 in One Hundred Greatest Britons.
The novels, in order of publication:
- Sense and Sensibility
- Pride and Prejudice
- Mansfield Park
- Northanger Abbey
- Lady Susan - an early Epistolary Novel published by her nephew in 1871
- Love and Freindship (novella) - a posthumously published parody of contemporary romance novels.
Persuasion was published posthumously by her brother in a volume along with Northanger Abbey, although the latter was actually the first she completed (Jane herself often wondered why its initial publisher paid for the book and then didn't publish it). There's also lots of juvenalia that she probably didn't expect anyone to read (outside her closest family), let alone publish, and two unfinished novels called The Watsons, which she abandoned in the wake of her father's death, and Sanditon, left unfinished by her own death.
Appearances in other media:
- This◊ Hark! A Vagrant comic.
- The film Becoming Jane is loosely based on her life.
- TV movie Miss Austen Regrets portrays her later years.
- She's in Hell in Old Harry's Game.
- She appears in Saints Row IV, of all games, as the narrator. Both the Boss and Zinyak are also stated to be fans of hers.
- From 2017, she will appear on the UK £10 banknote, replacing Charles Darwin.
Works by Jane Austen (other than those with their own page) contain examples of:
- Accomplice by Inaction: In the unfinished The Watsons, the eldest brother Robert lets his sisters live in relative poverty, except the one he invites home.
- Draco in Leather Pants: An in-universe example with Sir Edward Denham in Sanditon:With a perversity of judgement, which must be attributed to his not having by Nature a very strong head, the Graces, the Spirit, the Sagacity, and the Perseverance, of the Villain of the Story outweighed all his absurdities and all his Atrocities with Sir Edward. With him, such Conduct was Genius, Fire and Feeling. It interested and inflamed him; and he was always more anxious for its Success and mourned over its Discomfitures with more Tenderness than could ever have been contemplated by the Authors.
- Fan Community Nicknames: "Janeites".
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Perhaps most evident in her unfinished novel The Watsons.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Charlotte Heywood in Sanditon.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: In Sanditon, Mr. Parker treats the rival seaside town of Brinshore as one.
- Word of God: The futures of many of the characters, particularly secondary characters, are left unexplained in the stories. Fortunately for us, Austen had several nieces and nephews who were big fans of Aunt Jane's writing, and the letters she wrote to them explain what happened to several characters after the ends of the books.