March 27, 2023

World-renowned British writer of neoclassical fiction, Jane Austen was an author of the late 1700s and early 1800s. She spent a mostly quiet life, not particularly eventful, and did not leave many works: in fact, among his writings there are only 6 novels, 3 short stories, 5 other works and a collection in three volumes (“Juvenilia”). Despite a smaller production than other authors, Austen is still today one of the most celebrated writers in the world.

A woman’s life was therefore mostly tied to the four walls of a house (whether it was a cottage or an imposing residence with hectares and hectares of parkland, it makes no difference). Continue to read and find out more about Jane Austen.

Jane Austen’s life

Jane Austen was born in 1775 in Steventon in southern England. She was the daughter of an Anglican pastor and her family was very large: she was in fact the penultimate of eight children, six boys and two girls. She bonded particularly with her sister Cassandra, with whom she spent much of her life.

She received a family education: her father taught her French, the basics of the Italian language and literature.

Later Austen and her sister furthered their education first at Oxford and then at Southampton. The two girls also attended Abbey School in Reading.

Returning home she devoted herself to writing “Juvenilia”, a work in three volumes which contains stories, drafts of novels and parodies of the literature of the time.

Subsequently, between 1795 and 1799 he began writing and sketching what would later become his most famous works. In fact, the drafting of “First Impressions”, a draft of “Pride and Prejudice“, and “Elenoir and Marienne”, which later became “Sense and Sensibility”, dates back to this period.

Her father, impressed by Jane’s literary skills, attempted to have her writings published, however they were not very successful among publishers and were not published.

Following his father’s death in 1805, he moved with his mother and sister first to Southampton and later to Chawton. It was here that a publisher, Egerton, decided to publish “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813. The novel was immediately a huge success and the same happened for “Mansfield Park”, published in 1814. Later “Emma” was also published in 1815, which represents the last novel published while Austen was still alive. “Persuasion” and “Northanger Abbey” were published posthumously after the writer’s death.

Initially her novels were published anonymously and only after the publication of “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion” did her brother reveal the author’s identity to the public.

Not much is known about Jane Austen’s private and sentimental life, what is known is that she never left her family and died unmarried.

The society

A first aspect to underline is that of sociality. Austen lived in an age and in a social stratum in which, in the absence of other entertainment, conversation, meetings, walks in company, visits to friends and neighbors were the most important part of daily life. Movements from one part of the city or the countryside to another naturally took place in a carriage (owning a family one, or even an individual one, was the prerogative of the wealthier classes), and the most sensational and most awaited events were the dances. During the dances, which we could say are the great social protagonists of Jane Austen’s literature, new friends were made, we had fun until late at night, and especially young women had the opportunity to find a husband. In a society where female freedom was limited to the point that a woman was not allowed to walk alone in the city or write a letter to a man who was not a relative or boyfriend, dances were an extraordinary opportunity to make herself known and, in the long run, to get married. And marriage was the only escape for an upper-middle-class woman, who could not work and earn a living on her own, could only rarely own property, and always needed male protection to maintain her good reputation.

Jane Austen’s choice to “live from her own pen” by refusing marriage and therefore the natural destiny of women of her time gave rise to serious difficulties: it was her brothers, especially Edward, who always had to provide for the maintenance her, of his sister Cassandra (she too never married following the death of her boyfriend) and of her widowed mother. Edward and Frank Austen had to get them a home after their father’s death and ensure their survival; and her brother Henry undertook to negotiate with the publishers the publication of Jane’s works, as she was not permitted to do so herself.

Women in the time of Jane Austen

A woman’s life was therefore mostly tied to the four walls of a house (whether it was a cottage or an imposing residence with hectares and hectares of parkland, it makes no difference). We have to imagine these women dressed in more or less simple clothes depending on the occasion, but generally all designed according to the imperial fashion introduced in France by Josephine Bonaparte; and we see them busy drawing, embroidering, singing, playing the piano, reading. Jane Austen played very well, read a lot, knew French well, didn’t draw, but she was a cross-stitch enthusiast. And among her favorite “pastimes,” of course, was one that made her famous: writing.

Jane Austen books

Six novels have been published:

Among the short stories and other works:

  • Lady Susan
  • Sanditon
  • The Watsons
  • Sir Charles Grandison
  • Novel project
  • Poems
  • Prayers
  • Letters
  • Juvenilia

The short life was spent entirely in England: Austen never left it, not even for a trip abroad, but she had the opportunity to travel and visit her country to a certain extent, especially in the southern area. Hampshire, where he was born and died, is a county on the English south coast characterized by a hilly hinterland that descends gently to the sea and favored by a rather mild climate compared to the habits of the British Isles. Jane Austen lived in this quiet, wooded landscape – and she loved it dearly – until 1801, when her father, George Austen, decided to move the family to the beautiful spa town of Bath. Bath is a highly symbolic place for Austen’s fiction as parts of her last published novels are set there; but the writer did not find herself very comfortable there, because it was excessively noisy, chaotic, and inhabited by particularly frivolous people.

Persuasion Jane Austen

Persuasion, which is considered by many to be the most “autumnal” of Jane Austen’s novels. In fact, the descriptions of the season found in the book are beautiful and highly symbolic, such as: “Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves, and withered hedges.” [The pleasure that Anne derived from the walk must have been drawn from the exercise and the beautiful day, from the sight of the last smiles of the year on the reddish leaves and the now withered shrubs].

Let’s get to the plot. We are in Somersetshire. Due to the financial imprudence of her father, Mr Elliot, Anne is forced to leave her beloved home of Kellynch Hall for Bath. The house is rented to the brother-in-law of Anne’s former love, Captain Wentworth, awakening painful memories in her. Seven years before her, Anne had rejected Wentworth’s offer of marriage because she was persuaded by a close friend of her dead mother, Lady Russell, who distrusted the young sailor’s low income.know-JA-Persuasion Throughout the story Anne has the opportunity to frequently meet Wentworth, who in the meantime has become a wealthy officer and who has not forgotten the wrong he suffered. To her great distress, Anne watches her old love gradually fall in love with the young Louisa Musgrove. During a trip by all the main characters to the seaside town of Lyme Regis, Louisa has a terrible accident for which Wentworth feels responsible; the engagement between the two now seems done, and Anne is almost ready to forget. But other events will still have to happen and change the course of history.

Jane Austen movies

Based on “Pride and Prejudice”:

  • Pride and Prejudice – 1940 motion picture
  • Pride and Prejudice – 2005 cinematic film
  • Pride and Prejudice – 1938 television film
  • Pride and Prejudice – 1952 television series
  • Pride and Prejudice – Italian-language television drama from 1957
  • Pride and Prejudice – 1958 television series
  • De vier dochters Bennet – German language adaptation from 1961
  • Pride and Prejudice – 1967 television series
  • Pride and Prejudice – 1980 television series
  • Pride and Prejudice – 1995 television series

Based on “Sense and Sensibility”:

  • Sense and Sensibility – 1995 film
  • Sense and Sensibility – 1971 television series
  • Sense and Sensibility – 1981 television series
  • Sense and Sensibility – 2008 television series

Based on “Mansfield Park”:

  • Mansfield Park – 2000 cinematic film
  • The Metropolitan film – 1990 cinematic film. Contemporary adaptation set in Manhattan
  • Mansfield Park – 1983 television series
  • Mansfield Park – 2008 television film

Based on “Emma”:

  • Emma – cinematic film from 1948
  • Emma – cinematic film from 1996
  • Emma. – cinematic film of 2020
  • Girls in Beverly Hills – 1995 cinematic film, partially inspired by the work of Austen
  • Emma – 1960 television series
  • Emma – 1972 television series
  • Emma – 1996 TV movie
  • Emma – 2009 television miniseries

Based on “Persuasion”:

  • Persuasion – 1995 cinematic film
  • Persuasion – 1960 television series
  • Persuasion – 1971 television series
  • Persuasion – 2007 television series
  • Persuasion – 2022 cinematic film

Based on “Nothanger Abbey”:

  • Northanger Abbey – 1986 television film
  • Northanger Abbey – 2007 television film

Based on the life of Jane Austen:

  • Becoming Jane – semi-biographical film about the early life of Jane Austen from 2007
  • I, Jane Austen – 2007 television film which narrates the last years of the author’s life

Jane Austen siblings

Penultimate of eight children, six boys and two girls (James, George, Edward, Henry Thomas, Francis William, Charles John, Jane and Cassandra Elizabeth), she was particularly close to her sister Cassandra (who, like the author, will never marry ), with whom she maintained a close correspondence which was mostly destroyed. Cassandra, as well as her sister, was also her best friend.

Jane Austen death

The causes of Jane Austen’s mysterious death at the age of 41 have piqued the curiosity of English literature scholars for decades: a hormonal disease? A cancer? Complications that arose after drinking raw milk? A new investigation conducted by the British Library raises a much more sinister hypothesis, hitherto relegated to fiction: arsenic poisoning. Researchers at the library worked with London-based optometrist Simon Barnard to examine three pairs of glasses believed to have belonged to the author of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and which show that her vision deteriorated sharply in the final years of her life.

Before describing the three illnesses that likely caused Jane’s death, I’m going to list the symptoms she notes in letters in the last year of her life:

  • September 8, 1816, letter to Cassandra, complains of back pain
  • 16 December 1816, letter to James Edward Austen, complaining of weakness
  • January 23, 1817, letter to Caroline Austen, growing weakness
  • January 24, 1817, letter to Alethea Bigg, biliary attacks
  • February 20, 1817, letter to Fanny Knight, rheumatism and particularly pain in the knee
  • February 6, 1817, letter to Fanny Knight, hyperpigmentation on face and fever
  • April 6, 1817, letter to Charles Austen, fever and bilious attacks
  • May 22, 1817, letter to Anne Sharp, growing weakness

The three most likely diseases are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Addison’s disease and gastric adenocarcinoma.

For non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma which is a tumor of the lymphatic system, the main symptoms are:

  • painless enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and groin
  • fever
  • exhaustion
  • weight loss
  • abdominal pain and swelling
  • chest pain
  • persistent itching
  • cough/difficulty breathing

Addison’s disease causes progressive hypofunction of the adrenal cortex and immunosuppression.

It usually appears following a serious infection such as tuberculosis, the symptoms are:

  • hyperpigmetation (especially in the most exposed parts of our body)
  • anorexia, nausea and vomiting
  • asthenia (general weakness)
  • severe abdominal pain
  • peripheral vascular collapse
  • kidney block

As for gastric adenocarcinoma (stomach cancer), which attacks the gastric mucosa, we have the following symptoms:

  • dyspepsia (difficulty in digestion)
  • heartburn
  • feeling of fullness
  • nausea and vomit
  • presence of blood in the stool
  • weight loss
  • difficulty in swallowing

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