Jane Austen: Biography & Contribution as English Novelist

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      Jane Austen was a Georgian era author, best known for her social commentary in novels including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma.

      Jane Austen, (born December 16, 1775, Steventon, Hampshire, Eng. — died July 18, 1817, Winchester, Hampshire) English writer who first gave the novel its distinctly modern character through her treatment of ordinary people in everyday life. Austen created the comedy of manners of middle-class life in the England of her time in her novels, Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (published posthumously, 1817).

Jane Austen (1775-1817) occupies a very unique place in the history of the English novel. She made fun of the passion for the novels of terror which continued to prosper in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Jane Austen


      Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, England. While not widely known in her own time, Austen's comic novels of love among the landed gentry gained popularity after 1869, and her reputation skyrocketed in the 20th century. Her novels, including Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, are considered literary classics, bridging the gap between romance and realism.

      The seventh of eight children of a rural clergyman respected for his learning and literary taste, Jane Austen, born at Steventon, Hampshire, on December 16, 1775, was the second daughter in a vigorous, able and affectionate family. Two of her brothers followed their father to Oxford and into the Church, and two others rose to be admirals in the Navy. Except for brief schooling in Oxford, Southampton, and Reading, which ended at the age of nine, she was educated at home, where she learned French, a smattering of Italian, some history and, in addition to Shakespeare and Milton, gained a thorough acquaintance with the essayists, novelists and poets of the eighteenth century.

      Always somewhat shy but lively and witty, Jane Austen developed into a young lady of cultivated manners and pleasing appearance, who at balls and assemblies enjoyed her share of masculine attention. A brief but genuine romance with a young man whose identity is uncertain ended suddenly with his death. When she was nearly twenty-seven, she accepted, and the next day rejected, the proposal of Harris Bigg-Wither, a friend of long-standing, whom she realized she did not love. Aside from writing, Jane Austen devoted her life to domestic duties and household affections, and especially to being the companion and confidant of numerous nieces and nephews, who found her unfailingly kind, sympathetic and amusing.

      Having spent the first twenty-five years of her life in the rectory at Steventon, she removed in 1801, upon her father’s retirement, with her parents and sister Cassandra to Bath. After her father’s death in 1805 and a sojourn of three years in Southampton, she settled with her mother and sister in a cottage belonging to her brother Edward at Chawton, Hampshire, where she resided until two months before her death. Here, working mainly in the general sitting room, she composed the final drafts of all her major works, hurriedly slipping the small sheets under the blotting paper if a visitor or servant appeared. In 1816 her health began to fail; and in May, 1817, she and Cassandra moved to Winchester for adequate medical attention. Despite weakness and pain, she remained cheerful to the end. Dying peacefully on July 18, 1817, aged forty-one, she was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

      Jane Austen’s novels, the first published when she was thirty-five and followed by five others in as many years, were the final fruits of an early and painstaking apprenticeship to literature. Three small volumes of Juvenilia, Volume the First (1933), Love and Friendship (1922), and Volume the Third (1951), written by the time she was eighteen years old and bearing witness to her youthful talent for mimicry and burlesque, also contain her first serious piece, “Catharine, or the Bower,” probably a literary ancestor of Northanger Abbey. Her first completed novel, First Impressions (the lost original of Pride and Prejudice), began in October, 1796, and finished in August, 1797, her father offered to a publisher without success. In November, 1797, she started Sense and Sensibility and in that year and the next wrote Northanger Abbey, a revised version of which, entitled Susan, she sold in 1803 for ten pounds to the publisher Crosby, who advertised but failed to publish it; finally retrieved it in 1816, an amended text appeared posthumously in 1818. The Watsons (1871, 1927), a fragmentary progenitor of Emma, and Lady Susan (1871, 1925), a biting epistolary satire, probably the germ of Mansfield Park, have survived in manuscripts written on paper watermarked 1803 and 1805 respectively. Extensively revised or re-written in 1809-1811, Sense and Sensibility was published on October 31, 1811. Favourably received, the edition sold out in less than two years and brought its author one hundred forty pounds. Pride and Prejudice appeared in 1813, Mansfield Park, in 1814, and Emma in 1815 (dated 1816). Persuasion was issued with Northanger Abbey in 1818, and by that date, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park,
had reached a second edition, Pride and Prejudice a third. She was engaged upon the rough draft of the early chapters of a new novel, Sandition (1925), only a few weeks before she died.

      Far ahead of her time in the techniques of narration, especially in the control of point of view, Jane Austen, through her fidelity to life, her delineation of character, and her ironic insight, produced sophisticated comedy unsurpassed in the English novel. Entertainment, however, was not her sole aim. Primarily a moral writer striving to establish criteria of sound judgement and right conduct in human relationships, she inculcates the related virtues of self-awareness and unselfishness.

      Northanger Abbey, the earliest of the major novels in chronological order of composition, while revealing its kinship to the Juvenilia by depending for much of its humor upon burlesque of the Gothic novel, offers much more than mere parody. The education of its callow heroine, Catherine Morland, by examples of the discrepancy between appearance and reality, typifies Jane Austen’s method and illustrates her penchant for proportion and symmetry in both literature and life. Although Sense and Sensibility also contains an element of literary satire—upon the current novel of feelings—it is essentially a paradigm of the proper balance between self-control and emotion. Pride and Prejudice scintillating of her novels and long the popular favorite among them, provides in Elizabeth Bennet one of the most delightful heroines of fiction. She and Darcy eventually overcome first impressions (note the original title) distorted on both sides by pride and prejudice. With its high proportion of dialogue and with the ironic commentary shifted from the author to a character within the story (Mr. Bennet), this hook represents the apex of her dramatic act. Convinced that Pride and Prejudice were too playful, she tended to the opposite extreme with Mansfield Park, where her irony is chastened and her censure of worldly values borders on didacticism. Emma, Jane Austen’s masterpiece and profoundest moral comedy, is a study in the self-delusions of vanity. Unified in time (a cycle of one year) and place (Highbury and its environs), the beautifully concentric action revolves, as the title implies, around a dominant heroine, who having every advantage in life, is a victim only of herself. Persuasion, more patently infused with emotion than is customary with Jane Austen, but saved from sentimentality by the full play of her wit, examines, through the person of Anne Elliot, aged twenty-seven, the author’s only mature heroine, the conflicting claims of prudence and true love.

      Jane Austen’s style - unadorned, concise, flexible, and animated is the ideal instrument for her art. Her dialogue, without resorting to slang or obvious tags, shows a precise ear for individual and revealing rhythms of speech. Her ironic detachment and technical skill have established her reputation with modern critics, but the deftness with which she pleases and instructs has endeared her works to generations of readers.

Early Life

      Jane Austen was born in the Hampshire village of Steventon, where her father, the Reverend George Austen, was rector. She was the second daughter and seventh child in a family of eight: six boys and two girls. Her closest companion throughout her life was her elder sister, Cassandra, who also remained unmarried. Their father was a scholar who encouraged the love of learning in his children. His wife, Cassandra (nee Leigh), was a woman of ready wit, famed for
her impromptu verses and stories. The great family amusement was acting.

      Jane Austen's lively and affectionate family circle provided a stimulating context for her writing. Moreover, her experience was carried far beyond Steventon rectory by an extensive network of relationships by blood and friendship. It was this world—of the minor landed gentry and the country clergy, in the village, the neighborhood, and the country town, with occasional visits to Bath and to London—that she was to use in the settings, characters, and subject matter of her novels.

      Her earliest-known writings date from about 1787, and between then and 1793 she wrote a large body of material that has survived in three manuscript notebooks: Volume the First, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third. These contain plays, verses, short novels, and other prose and show Austen engaged in the parody of existing literary forms, notably sentimental fiction. Her passage to a more serious view of life from the exuberant high spirits and extravagances of her earliest writings is evident in Lady Susan, a short novel in letters written about 1793-94 (and not published until 1871). This portrait of a woman bent on the exercise of her own powerful mind and personality to the point of social self-destruction is, in effect, a study of frustration and of woman's fate in a society that has no use for woman's stronger more "masculine," talents.

      In 1802 it seems likely that Jane agreed to marry Harris Bigg-Wither, the 21-year-old heir of a Hampshire family, but the next morning changed her mind. There are also a number of mutually contradictory stories connecting her with someone with whom she fell in love but who died very soon after. Since Austen's novels are so deeply concerned with love and marriage, there is some point in attempting to establish the facts of these relationships. Unfortunately; the evidence is unsatisfactory and incomplete. Cassandra was a jealous guardian of her sister's private life, and after Jane's death she censored the surviving letters, destroying many and cutting up others. But Jane Austen's own novels provide indisputable evidence that their author understood the experience of love and of love disappointed.

      The earliest of her novels, Sense and Sensibility, was begun about 1795 as a novel in letters called "Elinor and Marianne" after its heroines. Between October 1796 and August 1797 Austen completed the first version of Pride and Prejudice, then called "First Impressions." In 1797 her father wrote to offer it to a London publisher for publication, but the offer was declined. Northanger Abbey, the last of the early novels, was written about 1798 or 1799, probably under the title "Susan." In 1803 the manuscript of "Susan" was sold to the publisher Richard Crosby for £10. He took it for immediate publication, but, although it was advertised, unaccountably it never appeared.

      Up to this time, the tenor of life at Steventon rectory had been propitious for Jane Austen's growth as a novelist. This stable environment ended in 1801, however, when George Austen, then aged 70, retired to Bath with his wife and daughters. For eight years Jane had to put up with a succession of temporary lodgings or visits to relatives, in Bath, London, Clifton, Warwickshire, and, finally. Southampton, where the three women lived from 1805 to 1809. In 1804 Jane began The Watsons but soon abandoned it In 1804 her dearest friend, Mrs. Anne Lefroy; died suddenly, and in January 1805 her father died in Bath.

      Eventually, in 1809, Jane's brother Edward was able to provide his mother and sisters with a large cottage in the village of Chawton, within his Hampshire estate, not far from Steventon. The prospect of settling at Chawton had already given lane Austen a renewed sense of purpose, and she began to prepare Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice for publication. She was encouraged by her brother Hemy who acted as go-between with her publishers. She was probably also prompted by her need for money. Two years later Thomas Egerton agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility, which came out, anonymously, in November 1811. Both of the leading reviews, the Critical Review and the Quarterly Review, welcomed its blend of instruction and amusement. Meanwhile, in 1811 Austen had begun Mansfield Park, which was finished in 1813 and published in 1814. By then she was an established (though anonymous) author; Egerton had published Pride and Prejudice in January 1813, and later that year there were second editions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Pride and Prejudice seem to have been the fashionable novel of its season. Between January 1814 and March 1815, she wrote Emma, which appeared in December 1815. In 1816 there was a second edition of Mansfield published, like Emma, by Lord Byron’s publisher, John Murray. Persuasion (written August 1815, August 1816) was published posthumously, with Northanger Abbey, in December 1817.

      The years after 1811 seem to have been the most rewarding of her life. She had the satisfaction of seeing her work in print and well-reviewed and of knowing that the novels were widely read. They were so much enjoyed by the Prince Regent (later George IV) that he had a set in each of his residences; and Emma, at a discreet royal command, was "respectfully dedicated" to him. The reviewers praised the novels for their morality and entertainment, admired the character drawing, and welcomed the homely realism as a refreshing change from the romantic melodrama than in vogue.

      For the last 18 months of her life, she was busy writing. Early in 1816, at the onset of her fatal illness, she set down the burlesque Plan of a Novel, According to Hints from Various Quarters (first published in 1871). Until August 1816 she was occupied with Persuasion, and she looked again at the manuscript of 'Susan' (Northanger Abbey).

      In January 1817 she began Sanditon, a robust and self-mocking satire on health resorts and invalidism. This novel remained unfinished owing to Austen's declining health. She supposed that she was suffering from bile, but the symptoms make possible a modern clinical assessment that she was suffering from Addison's disease. Her condition fluctuated, but in April she made her will, and in May she was taken to Winchester to be under the care of an expert surgeon. She died on July 18, and six days later she was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

      Her authorship was announced to the world at large by her brother Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. There was no recognition at the time that regency England had lost its keenest observer and sharpest analyst; no understanding that a miniaturist (as she maintained that she was and as she was then seen), a "merely domestic" novelist, could be seriously concerned with the nature of society and the quality of its culture; no grasp of Jane Austen as a historian of the emergence of regency society into the modern world. During her lifetime there had been a solitary response in any way adequate to the nature of her achievement: Sir Walter Scott's review of Emma in the Quarterly Review for March 1816, where he hailed this "nameless author" as a masterful exponent of "the modern novel" in the new realist tradition. After her death, there was for long only one significant essay, the review of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in the Quarterly for January 1821 by the theologian Richard Whately. Together, Scott's and Whstely’s essays provided the foundation for serious criticism of jane Austen: their insights were appropriated by critics throughout the 19th century.

Death and Legacy

      In 1816, at the age of 41, Jane started to become ill with what some say might have been Addison's disease. She made impressive efforts to continue working at a normal pace, editing older works as well as starting a new novel called The Brothers, which would be published after her death as Sanditon. At some point, Jane's condition deteriorated to such a degree that she ceased writing. She died on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, Hampshire, England.

      While Austen received some accolades for her works while still alive, with her first three novels garnering critical attention and increasing financial reward, it was not until after her death that her brother Henry revealed to the public that she was an author.

      Today, Austen is considered one of the greatest writers in English history, both by academics and the general public. In 2002, as part of a BBC poll, the British public voted her No. 70 on a list of "100 Most Famous Britons of All Time." Austen's transformation from little-known to internationally renowned author began in the 1920s, when scholars began to recognize her works as masterpieces, thus increasing her general popularity. The Janeites, a Jane Austen fan club, eventually began to take on wider significance, similar to the Trekkie phenomenon that characterizes fans of the Star Trek franchise. The popularity of her work is also evident in the many film and TV adaptations of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, as well as the TV series and film Clueless, which was based on Emma.
Austen was in the worldwide news in 2007, when author David Lassman submitted to several publishing houses a few of her manuscripts with slight revisions under a different name, and they were routinely rejected. He chronicled the experience in an article titled "Rejecting Jane," a fitting tribute to an. author who could appreciate humor and wit.

Literary Works

      Ever fascinated by the world of stories, Jane began to write in bound notebooks. In the 1790s, during her adolescence, she started to craft her own novels and wrote Love and Friendship, a parody of romantic fiction organized as a series of love letters. Using that framework, she unveiled her wit and dislike of sensibility or romantic hysteria, a distinct perspective that would eventually characterize much of her later writing. The next year she wrote The History of England..., a 34-page parody of historical writing that included illustrations drawn by Cassandra. These notebooks, encompassing the novels as well as short stories, poems and plays, are now referred to as Jane's Juvenilia.

      Jane spent much of her early adulthood helping run the family home, playing piano, attending church, and socializing with neighbors. Her nights and weekends often involved cotillions, and as a result, she became an accomplished dancer. On other evenings, she would choose a novel from the shelf and read it aloud to her family occasionally one she had written
herself. She continued to write, developing her style in more ambitious works such as Lyndy Susan, another epistolary story about a manipulative woman who uses her sexuality, intelligence and charm to have her way with others. Jane also started to write some of her future major works, the first called Elinor and Marianne, another story told as a series of letters, which would eventually be published as Sense and Sensibility. She began drafts of First Impressions, which would later be published as Pride and Prejudice, and Susan, later published as Northanger Abbey by Jane's brother, Henry, following Jane's death.

      In 1801, Jane moved to Bath with her father, mother and Cassandra. Then, in 1805, her father died after a short illness. As a result, the family was thrust into financial straits; the three women moved from place to place, skipping between the homes of various family members to rented flats. It was not until 1809 that they were able to settle into a stable living situation at Jane's brother Edward's cottage in Chawton.

      Now in her 30s, Jane started to anonymously publish her works. In the period spanning 1811-16, she pseudonymously published Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice (a work she referred to as her "darling child," which also received critical acclaim), Mansfield Park and Emma.


      Jane Austen's three early novels form a distinct group in which a strong element of literary satire accompanies the comic depiction of character and society.

      Sense and Sensibility tells the story of the impoverished Dashwood sisters. Marianne is the heroine of 'sensibility'—, i. e., of openness and enthusiasm. She becomes infatuated with the attractive John Willoughby; who seems to be a romantic lover but is in reality an unscrupulous fortune hunter. He deserts her for an heiress, leaving her to learn a dose of 'sense' in a wholly unromantic marriage with a staid and settled bachelor, Colonel Brandon, who is 20 years her senior. By contrast, Marianne's older sister, Elinor, is the guiding light of 'sense' or prudence and discretion, whose constancy towards her lover, Edward Ferrars, is rewarded by her marriage to him after some distressing vicissitudes.

      Pride and Prejudice describe the clash between Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman, and Fitz William Darcy, a rich and aristocratic landowner. Although Austen shows them intrigued by each other, she reverses the convention of "first impressions": "pride" of rank and fortune and "prejudice" against Elizabeth's inferiority of family hold Darcy aloof; while Elizabeth is equally fired both by the "pride" of self-respect and by "prejudice" against Darcy's snobbery. Ultimately; they come together in love and self-understanding. The intelligent and high-spirited Elizabeth was Jane Austen's own favorite among all her heroines and is one of the most engaging in English literature.

      Northanger Abbey combines a satire on conventional novels of polite society with one on Gothic tales of terror. Catherine Morland, the unspoiled daughter of a country parson, is the innocent abroad who gains worldly wisdom: first in the fashionable society of Bath and then at Northanger Abbey itself, where she learns not to interpret the world through her reading of Gothic thrillers. Her mentor and guide is the self-assured and gently ironic Henry Tilney; her husband-to-be. In the three novels of Jane Austen's maturity; the literary satire, though still present, is more subdued and is subordinated to the comedy of character and society.

      In its tone and discussion of religion and religious duty, Mansfield Park is the most serious of Austen's novels. The heroine, Fanny Price, is a self-effacing and unregarded cousin cared for by the Bertram family in their country house. Fanny emerges as a true heroine whose moral strength eventually wins her complete acceptance in the Bertram family and marriage to Edmund Bertram himself, after that family's disastrous involvement with the meretricious and loose-living Crawfords.

      Of all Austen's novels, Emma is the most consistently comic in tone. It centers on Emma Woodhouse, a wealthy; pretty; self-satisfied young woman who indulges herself with meddlesome and unsuccessful attempts at matchmaking among her friends and neighbors. After a series of humiliating errors, a chastened Emma finds her destiny in marriage to the mature and
protective George Knightley, a neighboring squire who had been her mentor and friend.

      Persuasion tells the story of a second chance, the reawakening of love between Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth, whom seven years earlier she had been persuaded not to marry. Now Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars with prize money and the social acceptability of naval rank; he is an eligible suitor acceptable to Anne's snobbish father and his circle, and Anne discovers the continuing strength of her love for him.

      Jane Austen occupies a very unique place in the history of the English novel. She made fun of the passion for the novels of terror which continued to prosper in the first half of the nineteenth century. A direct literary descendant of Addison, Goldsmith and Miss Burney, and an admirer of Cowper and Crabbe, she produced between 1796 and 1816, during the wars against the French Revolution and Napoleon works that for calmness, delicacy and grace has no rival in the whole of English literature. She lived a quiet, sheltered existence and was curiously immune from the great movements of her time. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars swept by her without comment. In the half dozen novels she wrote, this daughter of a Hampshire rector set herself to study the ways of feminine affection, the delicacies and distresses of young passionate hearts, their mistakes and their sorrows in first love. She limited her writing to the 'comedy of sex'. What diverted her most were "follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies." Around the young ladies she placed with a lively thought restrained sense of comedy the various figures of the gentlefolk of a country neighbourhood. Within the narrow limits she set for herself, she achieved a finished realism, with qualities of the highest wit and elegance.

      When Jane Austen was only twenty-one years of age, she completed her first novel Pride and Prejudice which is considered by many as her masterpiece. This novel was originally called First Impressions (1796). In the next year she wrote Sense and Sensibility in its present narrative form and in 1798 she completed her third novel, Norhanger Abbey, a satire on the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe. The composition of the next set of three novels takes up to a latter stage of Jane Austen's life. Between the years 1811 and 1816, three more novels were written - Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. Ten months after the writing of her last completed novel, Persuasion, her uneventful life ended. Before she died, four out of six novels had been published, only Nothanger Abbey and Persuasion being published posthumously in 1816. Though the public at large failed to recognise her merits immediately, yet discerning readers like Sir Walter Scott have spoken of her with regard and affection.

      Jane Austen is indeed a curious figure in the history of the English novel. She evolved an artistic pattern of her novels and was curiously alert to the novel as art form even before the Victorian age when novel as an art form came to be established. Henry James and Max Beerbeohm hailed her as the first modern novelist. But there are others like Mark Twain who decried her novels. It must however be said that Jane Austen achieved perfection as a miniaturist in fiction. In pure technical excellence, many of her novels are unsurpassed. In the construction of plot, in the development of characters and in the artistic display of dramatic situations, she ranks among the great masters. Bradley says of her : "Nobody ever opened a novel or managed an exposition better than Jane Austen, who would deserve immortality if she has written only the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice." Scott was slipshod in the construction of his novels, even Victorian novelists like Dickens, Thackeray and George Eliot were careless and prolix in the construction of their novels. There are authorial intrusions, supernumerary characters and extravagant situations in their novels. But Jane Austen's novels are remarkable for their taut and coherent structure and dramatic skill. There are no digressions, no intrusions by the author. Instead we are offered a life-like impression in which the movement of time is controlled. Secondly, there is the all - pervasive point of view, never obtrusive, but ironical and humorous in the best sense of the term. She looks at the manifold follies of life with a kindly smile of tolerance and it is this attitude that links her with the greatest masters like Chaucer and Shakespeare.

      It has been said of her novels that she never moved out of parlour. The world of her novels is, limited geographically, socially and even morally. Her characters do not move out of their country. The highlights of the life portrayed are little visits, morning calls, weddings, shopping expeditions. The climax of excitements is a ball, and the most terrible social scandal is an elopement. Her characters are all taken from the middle class ; the leaders of fashion do not appear in her pages ; the lower classes are likewise absent. We do not see extremes to love and hate, of righteousness and evil. She has no morbid hankering after splendid villains. Everything moves along in a placid groove. With "the heart of humming bird and a head as hard as a hailstone, she could never portray passion. Her novels are preoccupied with the business of making matches for her heroines. The plots are formalised into a pattern of which the purpose is match-making The heroine after a few false starts meets the right man, and a series of misunderstandings and frustrations proceeds to delay but never to prevent their union. She employs the dramatic form evolved by Fielding, but she refines it and gives it perfection. She catches the dynamic moment which precipitates the crisis and then within the scope of her psychology allows the donouement to proceed according to plan.

      Jane Austen stands apart, a solitary figure in her own age. The exciting movements of her age did not affect her. But she has her place secure for all time to come. Many neglect her; a few tuna her tiresome; but some venture to censure her as cynical, But to those who have discovered her works are precious and peerless. As an artist her fame is established. Her dramatic form has influenced Henry James who is the first exponent of the art of the novel. The taut coherent structure of her novels is set up as a contrast to the 'loose baggy monsters' of the Victorian novels. The single point of view technique has been first essayed by Jane Austen. The characters and situations in Pride and Prejudice are looked at from the point of view of Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of the novel, while Emma's point of view is the unifying factor of the events and characters in Emma. Thus the loss in the representation of life is amply compensated for by the gain in excellence of style and technique.

      Jane Austen is the painter of the everyday life - she saw around her and romance very rarely enters into her work (there is the only one elopement in Pride and Prejudice). Thus there is an intense realism in her novels. The pictures of domestic life in the countryside are the subjects she deals with in her four or five great novels. And she herself says, "I could not more write a romance than an epic poem." She deals with no social problem, like the later women novelists. Thus within the small compass of life, she works with unfailing art. It is said that "given two inches of ivory she works well", but if she ever takes up high romance she fails. Her minute observation of life, her quiet and delicate humour and irony, her wonderful insight into human character which helps her create living characters give the main charms to her novels. "Her female characters are almost unexceptional in perfection of finish". As the creator of domestic novel, she has a high place in the history of English fiction. Her position in the history of English novel is remarkable because she evolved a stringent dramatic pattern in her novels. Her novels have technical perfection which was something unusual in the age when the novel was yet to be established as form of art. She introduced the single point of view technique which was adopted as the fictional technique in the modern period by such writers as Henry James and Conrad.


      Although the birth of the English novel is to be seen in the first half of the 18th century in the work of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Henry Fielding, it is with Jane Austen that the novel takes on its distinctively modern character in the realistic treatment of unremarkable people in the unremarkable situations of everyday life. In her six novels —and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion—created the comedy of manners of middle-class life in the England of her time, revealing the possibilities of "domestic" literature.

      Her repeated fable of a young woman's voyage to self-discovery on the passage through love to marriage focuses upon easily recognizable aspects of life. It is this concentration upon character and personality and upon the tensions between her heroines and their society that relates her novels more closely to the modern world than to the traditions of the 18th century. It is this modernity, together with the wit, realism, and timelessness of her prose style; her shrewd, amused sympathy; and the satisfaction to be found in stories so skillfully told, in novels so beautifully constructed, that helps to explain her continuing appeal for readers of all kinds. Modern critics remain fascinated by the commanding structure and organization of the novels, by the triumphs of technology that enable the writer to lay bare the tragicomedy of existence in stories of which the events and settings are apparently so ordinary and so circumscribed.

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