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Jon Hunter Spence (July 30, 1945 – June 20, 2011[1][2]) was an American Jane Austen scholar of international standing. His 2003 biography, Becoming Jane Austen, was adapted into a feature film starring Anne Hathaway in 2007.

Jon Hunter Spence
Born(1945-07-30)July 30, 1945
Camilla, Georgia, United States
DiedJune 20, 2011(2011-06-20) (aged 65)
Sydney, Australia
NationalityAmerican (1945–2011)
Australian (2011)
EducationTulane University (MA)
King's College London (PhD)
Alma materUniversity of Georgia
GenreEnglish literature
Jane Austen
Notable worksBecoming Jane Austen
SpouseBetsy McShane (1966–1972)[1]



Spence received a BA in English literature at the University of Georgia, an MA at Tulane University, and obtained a PhD from King's College London.[1] He returned to teach at Georgia, and later taught at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia and Hiroshima University and Doshisha University in Japan.[1] After first visiting a friend in Sydney in 1988 he returned each Christmas until 1998. From 1998 he became a permanent resident of Australia and resided in Double Bay. He was a long-standing member of the editorial board of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, became an Australian citizen in May 2011, and died at his Sydney home in Double Bay the following month.[1][2]


Spence's biography Becoming Jane Austen was published in 2003. University of Wisconsin-Madison English professor Joseph Wiesenfarth noted in a review that the work "is one of the best half-dozen books published on Austen in the last quarter century, at least. It is a remarkably learned book written in a remarkably lucid style and a joy to read. The research is so substantial, wide-ranging, and detailed that any conjecture Spence builds on it has the feel of bedrock itself. His interpretation of Jane Austen’s character and personality as well as of her fiction impresses the reader with his long and intimate acquaintance with the writer and her works."[3] Wiesenfarth also observed that the book must have required "research in dusty, neglected archives" which he believed then led to "polished and penetrating readings of Austen’s novels along with an evocation of their author’s character".[3]

Becoming Jane Austen was the detailed scholarship which provided the inspiration for the film Becoming Jane which appeared in 2007 and on which he was a consultant.[2][4]


  • A Century of Wills from Jane Austen's Family, 1705–1806 (2001) (editor)
  • Becoming Jane Austen (2003 & 2007)[5]
  • Jane Austen's Brother Abroad: The Grand Tour Journals of Edward Austen (2005) (editor)


  1. ^ a b c d e "Austen expert 'the best of company'". The Sydney Morning Herald. July 30, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Jon Spence". The Daily Telegraph. July 13, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Wiesenfarth, Joseph (Winter 2003). "Spence, Becoming Jane Austen". Archived from the original on June 26, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  4. ^ Williams, Sally (February 17, 2007). "Not so plain Jane". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
  5. ^ "Becoming Jane Austen (9781847250469): Jon Spence: Books". Retrieved February 13, 2012.

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