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Introduction

Watercolour-and-pencil portrait of Jane Austen

Jane Austen (/ˈɒstɪn, ˈɔːs-/; 16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism, humour, and social commentary, have long earned her acclaim among critics, scholars, and popular audiences alike.

With the publications of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript, a short epistolary novel Lady Susan, and another unfinished novel, The Watsons. Her six full-length novels have rarely been out of print, although they were published anonymously and brought her moderate success and little fame during her lifetime.

Selected article

Jane Austen (1775–1817) lived her entire life as part of a family located socially and economically on the lower fringes of the English gentry. The Rev. George Austen and Cassandra Leigh, Jane Austen's parents, lived in Steventon, Hampshire, where Rev. Austen was the rector of the Anglican parish from 1765 until 1801. Jane Austen's immediate family was large and close-knit. She had six brothers—James, George, Charles, Francis, Henry, and Edward—and a beloved older sister, Cassandra. Austen's brother Edward was adopted by Thomas and Elizabeth Knight and eventually inherited their estates at Godmersham, Kent, and Chawton, Hampshire. In 1801, Rev. Austen retired from the ministry and moved his family to Bath, Somerset. He died in 1805 and for the next four years, Jane, Cassandra, and their mother lived first in rented quarters and then in Southampton where they shared a house with Frank Austen's family. During these unsettled years, they spent much time visiting various branches of the family. In 1809, Jane, Cassandra, and their mother moved permanently into a large "cottage" in Chawton village that was part of Edward's nearby estate. Austen lived at Chawton until she moved to Winchester for medical treatment shortly before her death in 1817. (more...)

Selected biography

Elinor Dashwood is a fictional character and the main protagonist of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility.

In this novel, Austen analyses the conflict between the opposing temperaments of sense [logic, propriety, and thoughtfulness, as expressed in Austen's time by neo-classicists], and sensibility [emotion, passion, unthinking action, as expressed in Austen's time by romantics]. In this conflict, Elinor, a reserved, practical, and thoughtful young woman who embodies the "sense" of the title, is juxtaposed to her flightly younger sister Marianne who embodies "sensibility". Elinor appears to be vaguely based on the author's older sister, Cassandra Austen.

Elinor is described as possessing a coolness of judgement and strength of understanding which qualifies her to be her mother's frequent counsellor, and sometimes she shows more common sense than her mother, whose judgment is shown to be flawed by her exaggerated notions of romantic delicacy. Her mother is more often preoccupied with Marianne and her problems. Although Austen writes that Elinor's feelings are just as passionate and deep as Marianne's, she knows how to govern them better, as she is more aware of the demands society makes upon women and more prepared to compromise. She is described as having a delicate complexion, regular features, and a remarkably pretty figure—although less striking than Marianne, more "correct"—which Austen uses as a good overall summary of their characters as well as their physical appearance. (more...)

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