Many scholars, critics, and everyday people erroneously label the great novelist Jane Austen as a Victorian. Instead, as chronology dictates, Austen composed the bulk of her ever-poignant novels during what is known as the Regency Period in England (1811-1820). Her first novel, Northanger Abbey, however, was written during the last years of the Eighteenth Century, which saw the rise of the English novel.
On December 16, 1775, the literary world would be forever changed by the birth of a baby girl. The proud parents were Reverend George Austen and Mrs. Cassandra Austen…the baby was to be Jane Austen. There is no doubt that Austen’s rich and colorful childhood in Steventon, Hampshire, filled with childhood plays, stories, and books, influenced and fostered her writing.
Austen began writing her first book at the age of 23; this book was Northanger Abbey, a parody of the Gothic genre, which had steadily been gaining popularity since its inception in 1764 with the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.
At the age of 26, Jane and the rest of the Austen family, as a result of her father’s retirement from the Anglican clergy, took up residence in the resort town of Bath. Coincidentally, many of Austen’s novels are fully or partially set in this social venue.
Jane would again relocate after her father’s death in 1805. She, her mother, and her sister Cassandra, who was her ever-present companion, resided in Southampton with her brother Frank and his family. After only a few short years here, the Austen ladies finally settled with Edward Austen, Jane’s brother. Edward possessed an estate in Chawton. This was to be Jane’s final move before her untimely death.
Austen continued writing, eventually producing 6 novels, all of which are staples of classic literature. Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, was published posthumously in 1818. Jane passed away on July 18, 1817 due to failing health.
Despite the fact that Austen was only 41 when she died, she managed to create an impressive and lasting contribution to literature. All of her novels have been transformed into pieces either for television or film. Her novels are still taught in high schools and universities around the world. It is Austen’s ability to not only investigate and probe humanity, but her tact for articulating her finds that has and will sustain her works.