The Romance and Respect of Jane Austen's World

Jane Austen was the talented home-schooled daughter of a clergyman / teacher, and one of seven children, who captured and portrayed her youth in England, using it to frame her imaginative and romantic stories, many mirroring the events of her own family.

Jane frequently mentioned the historic city of Bath in Somerset county in her writings, a place of culture where high society took their leisure. Two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are mostly set there. Her legacy of residence and writings there makes it fitting that this city with a Roman history and beautiful Georgian architecture is home to the Jane Austen Centre on 40 Gay Street.

A Unique Perspective

Austen was strongly influenced by her protected life at home with her only sister Cassandra, and saw the outside world through the eyes of her five brothers. Frank and Charles were both officers in the Royal Navy. Henry became a clergyman, and James a banker. Young Edward was adopted by and named the heir of wealthy cousins, the Knights.

After her father's death when Jane was in her late twenties, the sisters and their widowed mother went to live with Mrs. Austen's close friend, Martha Lloyd, with support from Austen's brothers. Later, they moved to Southampton in 1806 to share a home with Frank's family.

Austen's visits to Henry's London home exposed her to art and the theater, as well as social events of the time. Edward had inherited the Knights' estate in Kent, and Austen and her sister later moved there to enjoy the privileged life of high society. If this all sounds familiar, you only need to read Austen's novels to see the same names and portions of this scenario penned into several of her major works.

Authorship Went Unacknowledged

Jane Austen wrote six novels at a time when women were not considered worthy of being published, so initially none of them bore her name. She also wrote many other works, finished and unfinished, her first being Lady Susan, a story presented in a series of letters, and later The Watsons (unfinished). At age 35 she produced her best known works, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, with the author identified merely as "a Lady". None have ever been out of print and are available in many modern editions.

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously by her brother Henry, finally identifying her as the author; and for the first time in one of her novels, there was a note that she was also the author of the other four, which were, by this time, very popular. Another fragment of her writing exists called Sanditon, started shortly before her death but remained unfinished.

Manners and Respect

As a young protected female who always lived with her family in a relatively gentle and gracious societal environment, there is a sweet na