10 Facts Most People Do Not Know About Jane Austen

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  1. It has often been noted that Jane Austen makes no mention of the Napoleonic wars in any of her novels, even though they were being waged at the time of writing.  Yet Austen herself was a senior officer in the 4th Women’s Battalion, King’s Royal Hussars and saw active service at Ulm in 1805.
  2. Lifelong fans of Jane Austen’s work include Radio 1’s Chris Moyles, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, Rick Parfitt of Status Quo and Big Brother star Jade Goody.  “To my mind, she has an exquisite understanding of the complexities and nuances of human relationships,” argued Moyles on last week’s Time for Austen slot of his popular breakfast show.
  3. Little is known about the life of Jane Austen. Her life is notable for its singular lack of events.
  4. In her lifetime she completed six novels, including Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. Four of them were published before her death.
  5. In 1783, Jane Austen and her older sister Cassandra went to be educated by their aunt Ann Cooper Cawley, the widow of the head of an Oxford college. From there, they went on to Abbey School, a boarding school for girls. Apart from these years, Austen was educated by her father.
  6. Finances forced the Austens to leave Steventon for Bath, a change that upset Austen greatly. Some biographers assert that the situation hurt her writing, as she did not have a private place in which to write and was forced in Bath to socialize more than before.
  7. Austen is known for writing about the propriety of Regency women; however she herself was not all that proper.  In Bath, Austen spent time with a known adulterer, who made better conversation than others provided in the superficial spa town — and who had a fashionable open carriage. Their meetings distressed her aunt, but provided Austen with more fodder for teasing her sister: “There is now something like an engagement between us and the Phaeton, which to confess my frailty I have a great desire to go out in.”  Another romantic faux pas occurred when Jane Austen accepted a marriage proposal only to revise her decision the next morning. The suitor, Harris Wither, was six years younger than she, ill-mannered, and quick-tempered. Surprised by the proposal, she accepted on the spot, knowing that his wealth and position would mean security for her family. Nonetheless, after a sleepless night spent considering her life as the future Mrs. Wither, she called off the engagement, creating something of a scandal and putting a lasting strain on the relationship between their two families.
  8. When her father died in 1805, Austen ceased work on a novel she’d begun entitled The Watsons. It was the only time in her life that she was not writing or revising something. After only a few months, however, Austen returned to a novella she’d begun earlier, Lady Susan.
  9. In 1805 Jane Austen’s father passed away and Jane her sister Cassandra and her stepmother went to live with her brother Frank’s family in Southhampton. Then in 1809 Jane moved to Chawton with her mother and sister. This home was a cottage situated on the estate of her now wealthy brother Edward. It was in Chawton that Jane wrote her later novels.
  10. The cause of Jane Austen’s death has not been confirmed but there are some theories. The most accepted theory is that Jane Austen died of Addison’s disease, which at the time had not been identified. Carol Shield, her biographer, put another modern theory forth. This theory suggests that Jane Austen died of breast cancer.
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7 Comments

  1. Again, a few facts I never knew. I did not know she served her country during the Napoleonic wars. Just so you know, Jane Austen’s death has been attributed to bovine tuberculosis, a common infection at a time when milk was not pasteurized, on heated to destroy deadly bacteria. Many of her symptoms before her death are relatively unknown, and perhaps this is why diagnosis of her dying ailment is so difficult. Again, so little is known about her.

    • Yes, she did a fabulous job exposing the social ineptitude of her neighbors but never revealed much about herself.

  2. Are you just getting into Jane Austen’s works or have you been a fan of them for a long time?

    • Oh I have loved Austen since I was in middle school. I actually started with the only Jane Austen book I’ve never read.

      • Which one was that?

      • Northanger Abbey. I am attempting to read 100 classics. The list is on the main page. I’m going from Austen to War of the Worlds, it should be an interesting switch.

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