Today in History: 1817 The Greatest Social Commentator Passed Away


On this day in 1817, Jane Austen died, at the age of forty-one. She had been increasingly ill over the previous year and a half, probably from a hormonal disorder like Addison’s Disease. Austen’s devoted older sister, Cassandra, inherited all the author’s papers, and she immediately began to edit and polish. Austen’s gravestone referred to “the benevolence of her heart” and “the sweetness of her temper” — though it did not identify her as being the author of her anonymously-published novels — and Cassandra began to expurgate the letters accordingly.  It is one of the greatest literary mysteries, what exactly did she change?  What were the missing pages?  Was Jane Austen a little more Isabella Thorpe than we know?

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