Becoming Jane: The Early Years of Jane Austen


Jane Austen is known globally as one of the most beloved and influential novelists of all time. Her works, such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, have been adapted into numerous television and movie versions, and her books continue to be read and loved by people of all ages. But how did Austen become the literary icon we know today?

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, England. She was the seventh of eight children, with five brothers and one sister. Her father, Reverend George Austen, was a clergyman, and her mother, Cassandra Austen, came from a prominent family. The Austens were avid readers, and Jane and her siblings grew up in a household filled with books and discussions about literature. This early exposure to literature and storytelling would greatly influence Jane’s future work.

It is believed that Jane began writing at a young age, creating stories and plays for her family to enjoy. However, it wasn’t until she was in her early twenties that she began work on her first novel, Sense and Sensibility. The exact date of when she started writing the novel is unknown, as Austen kept her writing a secret from her family. She would often write in the early hours of the morning, before the rest of her family was awake.

In 1795, Jane’s father sent a sample of Sense and Sensibility to a London publisher, but unfortunately, the manuscript was rejected. Undeterred, Jane continued to work on the novel and eventually, in 1811, Sense and Sensibility was published. It was well-received by readers and critics, solidifying Jane’s place as a successful novelist.

Jane’s next novel, Pride and Prejudice, was published in 1813 and was an instant success. This novel, which focused on the societal issues of class and marriage, is often considered to be Austen’s most popular work. It has been adapted into numerous film and TV versions, and the characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have become iconic in literature.

During this time, Jane continued to work on her writing, with the publication of Mansfield Park in 1814 and Emma in 1815. Both novels were well-received, and Jane’s writing style, which focused on social commentary and character development, was praised by critics.

Despite her success as a novelist, Jane never strayed far from her quiet, rural life. She lived with her family in Bath and later Chawton in Hampshire, spending her days writing, reading, and taking walks in the countryside. Her writing routine was a daily ritual, and she would often seek out moments of solitude to focus on her work.

In 1816, Jane’s health began to decline, and she was forced to stop writing. She passed away on July 18, 1817, at the young age of 41. Her death was quickly mourned by her family and close friends, but her legacy continued to live on through her beloved novels.

As years passed, Jane’s popularity continued to grow, and her books gained a wider audience. Despite only publishing six novels in her lifetime, her influence on literature and popular culture is immeasurable. Her witty and satirical observations of society, charming characters, and timeless love stories continue to captivate readers today.

In conclusion, Jane Austen’s early years were shaped by her love for literature and storytelling, and her determination to write and share her stories with the world. Despite facing obstacles and rejection, she persevered and became one of the most celebrated authors in history. Her legacy lives on through her timeless novels, and her impact on literature and culture will continue to be felt for generations to come. As Jane herself once wrote, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” And Jane’s love for writing is evident in every word she penned, making her a true literary icon.