Romantic author Jane Austen lived from Dec. 16, 1775, to July 18, 1817. Publishing four novels in her lifetime, and two more novels posthumously, Austen garnered little praise during her own life. Since her death, however, she has become known for her popularity with both the literary elite and the common reader.
The first editions of her novels were published anonymously, though as a minor member of landed gentry class Austen's authorship was an open secret amongst her peers. The anonymous publication brought her little fame but did provide her with a personal income. Many high-profile people were fans of her work, including the prince regent, the future King George IV, to whom her novel "Emma" is dedicated. After her death in 1817, Austen's brother and literary agent, Henry, published two of her novels posthumously. Included in the preface is the "Biographical Notice of the Author," which publicly announces Austen's authorship of her novels.
"A Memoir of Jane Austen," a Biography
Austen's popularity exploded after her death on the publication of her biography, "A Memoir of Jane Austen." Published by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh in 1869, the biography focused on "good quiet Aunt Jane." This portrayal of his aunt is upheld by the rest of the family for the rest of their lives. As Austen's popularity grew the family burned and censored letters, and much of her known biographical information has been filtered through her family.
During the late 1800s, after the publication of her biography, Austen began attracting scholarly research and literary analysis. To differentiate themselves from the general population of fans, scholars who were interested in Austen's works began referring to themselves as Janeites. Over time, however, this term has become co-opted by non-scholarly fans of the author and has become known as a term for dedicated fans.
Due to the early scholarly work of Janeites and the continued literary research into her novels, Austen is now an accepted pillar of English literature. Her work is seen as subversive to the patriarchal culture of Victorian era, and research into her novels, life and her impact on later authors continues today.
Austen's works have been adapted into multiple formats including plays, films, television serials and graphic novels. Each of her novels has been adapted into multiple films and her life and work have become cultural touchstones, appearing as pop cultural references in other unrelated works. Fans have written sequels, prequels and supernatural adaptations of her novels, reinforcing her status in English and American popular culture.
- Brandeis University: Jane Austen Biography
- The Jane Austen Society of North America: About Jane Austen
- Austen.com: Jane Austen novels, fan fiction, and more
- "Speaking of Silence: Speech and Silence as a Subversive Means of Power in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility"; Persuasions On-line; Michal Beth Dinkler; 2004
- "The Purity of Jane; or, Austen's Cultural Importance in Nineteenth-Century America."; Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal; D. Michael Kramp; 2000
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