Jane Austen, daughter of the rector of Steventon, in North Hampshire, England, was born there on December 16, 1775, and received her education from her father, a former Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford.
Her life was spent in the country or in country towns, chiefly at the village of Chawton, near Winchester. She died, unmarried, at Winchester on July 18, 1817, and was buried in the cathedral. The novels of Jane Austen may be divided into two groups. The first three–“Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and “Northanger Abbey”–were all written, in first draft, at any rate, between 1792 and 1798. These are the novels composed during the author’s residence at Steventon, which she left in 1801. There succeeded an interval of practically fourteen years (1798-1812), during which time the novelist let her mind lie absolutely fallow. As a natural consequence of the comparatively secluded life which Jane Austen led, the society with which she deals in her novels is a rather restricted one. It is the world of the country gentleman and of the upper professional class. From a very early age Jane Austen had a taste for writing tales, and the first draft of “Sense and Sensibility “–then called “Elinor and Marianne”–was composed as early as 1792. The book was recast under its present title between 1797 and 1798, and again revised prior to its publication in 1811. In addition to the six novels on which her fame is based–all of which were issued anonymously–Jane Austen has to her credit some agreeable “Letters,” a fragment of a story called “The Watsons,” and a sort of novelette which bears the name of “Lady Susan.”