The life and times of Jane Austen

A potted history of one of our greatest literary influences.

Two centuries after her death, Jane Austen remains one of the most beloved novelists in the English language. Since their publication, her novels have never been out of print and, despite there only being six, the list of adaptations seems endless—few authors can boast such literary influence.

For dedicated Janeites, her 2017 anniversary is the perfect excuse to talk of nothing else.

Famous fans of Austen

‘One of my most vivid memories of reading any book is standing at a bus stop completely engrossed in the last chapters of Persuasion. I was so tied up in the story, I let two buses go by. Jane Austen was a supreme storyteller and, as E. M. Forster lamented in a sort of drooping, regretful voice: “Yes–oh dear, yes–the novel tells a story.” Few have ever done it better ’
Philip Pullman, author

‘Jane Austen is the greatest ever romantic novelist, who, in Mr Darcy and Mr Knightley, created ultimately desirable heroes. She is also one of the funniest writers because, like Proust, she has perfect pitch class-wise and has affection for even the most ludicrous characters, such as Mrs Elton and Mr Collins. As one of her most endearing characters, Mr Bennet, points out: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” ’
Jilly Cooper, author

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‘I adore Jane Austen’s novels. She has been my favourite writer since I read Mansfield Park when I was 14. Reading her novels is like sipping a warm, comforting brandy – with just a hint of pepper and spice ’
Paula Byrne, author and Jane Austen biographer

Jane Austen Timeline

December 16, 1775

Austen is born at the Steventon rectory in Hampshire, the seventh of eight children born to George and Cassandra Austen


She begins to write short stories and poems, now referred to as the Juvenilia


Austen begins early versions of her novels, including First Impressions, which later became Pride and Prejudice


The family moves to Bath for her father’s health. She sells her manuscript, Susan, to a publisher for £10, but it isn’t published


Austen’s father dies. With little income, she, her mother and her sister move house frequently in the following years


Her brother Edward offers them a cottage in the grounds of his Chawton estate


At Chawton, Austen completes and publishes four novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma


She falls ill, but manages to finish another novel, The Elliots

July 18, 1817

Having moved to be near her doctor, Austen dies in Winchester and is buried in the cathedral

December, 1817

Her brother Henry arranges the posthumous publication of Persuasion (originally The Elliots) and Northanger Abbey (originally Susan)

Pride and Prejudice at 200

The 200th anniversary of the celebration of the publication of Pride and Prejudice means a glut of events in 2013