The wicked wit of Jane Austen - Iseult Gillespie
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Over the course of her life, Austen published six novels - leaving one unfinished along with shorter works like Love and Friendship
and Lady Susan.
Learn more about her lesser known writings here.
While her fiction centers on relationships, Austen rejected the sentimental style of the gothic romances that were popular at the time. Instead her understated tone, wry wit and close attention to language and behavior are key features of realism. Realists mined everyday life for deeper meaning, and Austen explored the minutiae of the society that surrounded her.
Born in 1755, she was familiar with the social circles reflected in her novels, and spent most of her life at her father’s parish of Steventon. Visit an interactive historical timeline of her life here.
Today, the house Austen lived in for the last eight years of her life is a museum - visit the website here. You can also learn more about Austen’s home life, and the objects Austen surrounded herself, in the unusual biography “Jane Austen at Home” and this feature on what we can learn from it. Find out more about her worldview and beliefs in this radio documentary, then listen to the mysterious story around her last completed novel Persuasion here.
Although she never married, the facts of Austen’s love life are still being debated. She rejected the proposal of the aristocrat Harris Bigg-Wither, and some biographers have ruminated on letters that suggest the death of a romantic interest.
Austen’s men are also intriguing figures who serve as foils to the development of female characters - such as when the philanderer John Willoughby leads Mariane Dashwood astray, only for her to realize her desire for substance as well as style. But Austen was also aware of the slights women suffered at the hands of men, such as when the obsequious Henry dismisses Catherine in Northanger Abbey: “no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.”
Today, Austen remains beloved for her lovable heroines, stinging takedowns and romantic revelations. She has fans in all corners of the world, for many different reasons. Read more of her work to find out what resonates with you.
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