Jane Austen was an English romance fiction novelist and author of the so-called "novels of manners." She published four novels during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815).
Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, England, on December 16, 1775, the daughter of George Austen, a rural parish priest. All her life Austen lived in a close-knit family belonging to the lower classes of the English landed gentry.
Between 1783 and 1786, along with her sister Cassandra, Jane attended schools in Oxford, Southampton, and Reading.
Then their father took over their home education. He skillfully guided their reading and instilled in the girls good literary taste, teaching them to love classical authors.
Jane Austen began writing at age 14.
Her work is traditionally divided into two periods, separated by more than ten years. The early period (the second half of the 1790s) includes the novel Northanger Abbey, which parodied the then fashionable "gothic" stories, and the first versions of two of Austen's most famous works — Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Both of them were subsequently subjected to repeated and profound revisions.
The later period saw the writing of Austen's last three completed novels, Mansfield Park, Emma, and The Reason.
Pride and Prejudice, which appeared in three editions during her lifetime, brought her fame. Richard Sheridan, the playwright, called it one of the cleverest things he'd ever read. The novel Sense and Sensibility was also widely acclaimed by critics. Two more novels were published during the writer's lifetime.
All of Austen's novels during her lifetime were published anonymously, on behalf of a certain "lady," though authorship was no secret.
In a letter to Austen in 1815, Walter Scott compared her works to ivory miniatures.
Austen's novels deal mainly with provincial life and the manners of her English contemporaries and are emphatically psychological. At the same time, she has almost no descriptions of the appearance of the characters, their clothes, or the decorations of their homes, and almost no scenery, but a lot of dialogue.
Austen's style is understated, and her language is clear and simple. She avoided complicated constructions, cliches, meaningfulness, and "poetic" epithets, at length editing her texts and achieving concise expressiveness.
The main feature of Austen's novels — is the finest irony, reaching up to the satirical grotesque in the images of snobs, hypocrites, and idlers. The writer even managed to enrich the English language with a new word: the name of the priest Collins became a nickname for high-sounding and insincere messages.
Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, where she had been treated for Addison's disease. Before she died, she did not have time to finish her last novel, Sanditon.
Jane Austen's work was not truly understood by her contemporaries, nor by the end of the nineteenth century. Critics objected to the "truth of life, not illuminated by the light of imagination," and the lack of "genuine" feelings. Only in the XX century, when the genre of the novel experienced significant changes, Austen's work has been recognized. This is associated primarily with the maximum, for those days, objectification of the narrative, with a desire to abandon direct instruction, forcing the characters to live their own lives, independent of the author.
Jane Austen is still rightfully considered the "first lady" of English literature. Her works are obligatory for studying in all colleges and universities in Great Britain.
Austen's works turned out to be very cinematic. There are numerous film adaptations of her novels. These include the Oscar-winning Ang Lee film, Sense and Sensibility (1995) and the French-British film Pride and Prejudice (2005) starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.
In 2013, Austen's works were featured on a series of British postage stamps issued by the Royal Mail to commemorate the bicentennial of the publication of the novel Pride and Prejudice.