Some Things To Know About The Wonderful Jane Austen

13 June 2023
By Sarah Angela Almaden
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Two words: Jane Austen. Now, you don’t need anything fancy to know who this handsome and clever British novelist is, and that’s probably because you’ve already heard of her, read some of her writing, or even seen some of her works. Remember the book Pride and Prejudice that you were once required to read back in high school? There’s even that BBC TV series called Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as the ever-so-famous Mr. Darcy, and a 2005 film version of the same title with Keira Knightley as the high-spirited Lizzie Bennet. How about the 2020 period movie Emma with Anya-Taylor Joy playing Emma Woodhouse? BTW, there’s also a 1996 version of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow as the titular character Emma Woodhouse. And the 2022 Netflix adaptation of Persuasion with Dakota Johnson and Henry Golding, ever watched it?

Well, the aforementioned titles are only a few of Austen's timeless stories that have been adapted on screen. And if you haven’t heard, read, or seen any of those, give it a try if you have time. One thing you should remember — these works are adaptations, so some instances of the stories might not be total carbon copies. Hmmm. What else should you know about our dearly beloved Jane Austen other than the relatable characters and picturesque worlds she’s created for us to indulge? Read on!

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University of Texas Libraries

  1. Jane was one of the eight Austen children. She had one older sister, Cassandra, and six brothers: James, George, Charles, Francis, Henry, and Edward.
  2. Jane and her siblings were only breastfed for 3 to 4 months by their mother. Then, they were sent to the village to be looked after by “the good women.” There, they learned how to walk and talk and use the bathroom until they returned home at the age of 2.
  3. She was sent to a boarding school with her sister and best friend, Cassandra. The sisters went to Reading Abbey Girls’ School sometime in 1785 but went back home in 1786 because their family could no longer pay the boarding school tuition.
  4. She and her sister both caught typhus fever in 1783. The girls almost died too, but thankfully their parents managed to save them.
  5. Austen published her novels anonymously. She credited her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, by A Lady. Then, her later works were published under “the Author of Sense and Sensibility.”
  6. She brewed her specialty beer called “Spruce beer.” Her concoction was made with molasses so it had a bit of a sweeter taste to it. Jane said in a letter she wrote to her sister Cassandra which can be found on the Jane Austen fan page: “It is you, however, in this instance, that have the little children, and I that have the great cask, for we are brewing spruce beer again…”
  7. She lived with a guy named John Wallop, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth, who was rumored to have drunk the blood of her family's housemaids.
  8. She has been cited in at least 27 written legal decisions. Most of the time the opening line from Pride and Prejudice is frequently used to discuss issues with relationships or class differences.
    For example, in a 2008 tax court, the sentence was rewritten as: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a recently widowed woman in possession of a good fortune must be in want of an estate planner."
  9. Jane wrote about 3,000 letters, but only 160 survived because Cassandra, her sister, censored or destroyed the rest after Jane passed away to safeguard the Austen family's social image.
  10. Even though Austen never got married, she had her fair share of two romances and one unsuccessful marriage proposal. Her first romance began in the winter of 1795 with an Irishman named Tom LeFroy who had the means to support Austen but wasn't interested in marrying the daughter of a cleric of the Church of England. Her second dalliance was approved by her sister and was known as a “seaside romance." Sadly, before the two lovebirds were able to revive their romance, the man who was rumored to go by the name of Blackall passed away.
    At the age of 27, she also received a marriage proposal from a family friend called Harris Bigg-Wither. Jane initially accepted the offer (because how could she turn away this proposal when she’s having financial problems), but she ended up rejecting his proposal because she realized that she was miserable with that decision.
  11. Believe it or not, Jane actually served in the military during the Napoleonic Wars. She was a senior officer in the 4th Women’s Battalion, King’s Royal Hussars.
  12. Austen first entitled Pride and Prejudice as First Impressions, but she changed it after reading the three-word phrase “pride and prejudice” in the final paragraph of Fanny Burney’s Book 1782 novel called Cecilia. The final paragraph mentioning “pride and prejudice” from Cecilia goes: "The whole of this unfortunate business," said Dr Lyster, "has been the result of pride and prejudice. [...] if to pride and prejudice you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to pride and prejudice you will also owe their termination."
  13. When her health started declining, Jane made a will and mentioned only three people in the document. She cited that most of her fortune goes to her heir Cassandra, who is also her sister. She even mentioned she left a sum of money for her brother Henry Thomas, and his wife’s secretary and cook Madame Bigeon.