Austen, Jane —novelistwas born on 16 December at the rectory in Steventon, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, the seventh child and younger daughter of George Austen —rector of Deane and Steventon and private tutor, and his wife, Cassandra —youngest daughter of the Revd Thomas Leigh — and Jane Walker d.
When William Austen died less than five years later, the responsibility for George and his sisters Philadelphia — and Leonora — was shouldered by their uncle Francis Austen — George was educated at Tonbridge School at his uncle's expense, and thereafter by a scholarship at St John's College, Oxford.
Returning to Kent renewed George's contacts with his uncle Franciswho by the early s had become an influential figure in county affairs. He easily arranged for George to serve as a curate at Shipbourne, near Tonbridge, and as an assistant master at his old school. Francis Austen purchased two livings adjacent to Steventon, Deane and Ashe, so that George could take on the first to fall vacant this would be Deane in Absent for the first few years, George's move to Steventon in was prompted by his marriage to Cassandra Leighwhom he probably met at Oxford.
Cassandra came from a large family of prosperous clerics and successful Oxford scholars. Her father, a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, was rector of Harpsden, Oxfordshire, and her mother was connected to the wealthy and old-established Oxfordshire family of Perrot. Her younger brother Thomas — was born with a mental disability, and was cared for outside the family circle. They had six sons: James —who became a curate and was rector of Steventon from his father's death; George —who was epileptic, and at six was sent to Cassandra's brother Thomas ; Edward —who in became heir to the property of his second cousin Thomas Knighttook his name, and was the steady benefactor of his mother, brothers, and sisters; Que Hampshire flirt Thomas —militia officer, banker, entrepreneur, and finally clergyman; Francis William Frank Austen — ; and Charles John —who both entered the navy and rose to be admirals.
Their elder daughter, Cassandra Elizabeth —died unmarried as did Jane. With a growing family they moved in to the Steventon rectory, but found that they were living beyond their means. Immediate help came from a legacy left by Cassandra's mother, which her brother, James Leigh-Perrota trustee, released for the couple to invest.
In George decided to take boys ' of good family ' as boarders, preparing them for university, where they would meet a largely classical syllabus. Meanwhile his wife kept a bull and cows and grew vegetables in order to feed their large household. Cheerful and optimistic like her husband, Cassandra lacked formal education but had a homespun wit, and for thirty years managed her domestic world competently and energetically.
Jane Austen was born a month later than her parents expected; like the other Austen children, she was baptized at Steventon rectory on the day of her birth by George Austen.
The formal ceremony took place on 5 April at St Nicholas's Church, which stood on the rising ground behind the rectory. The Austens' resident children divided into two groups. The three eldest boys not counting George commanded respect from the younger ones and were being prepared, like their father and maternal grandfather, for Oxford University.
Edward did not go.
He was adopted instead by Thomas Knight and his wife, Catherineand sent for four years on the grand tour of Europe to qualify him for the life of a landed gentleman in the Austens' native Kent. The younger group, two girls and two boys, formed a companionable and less competitive little community under the effective leadership of the practical, self-confident Cassandrawho from an early age could hold her own in adult company.
Both parents and the trio of older boys seem to have been kind to the little ones, who were all healthy and active. The standard picture of Jane Austen's happy childhood in a pastoral idyll derives from her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh —who with the help of his half-sister Anna Austen later Lefroy; — and sister Caroline Austen — wrote the first extended memoir of the author Edward evoked the big, rather shabby, three-storey house, the kitchen gardens, the farmyard, and a grassy bank down which children could roll.
In the evenings the parents ed their children in board games, card games, puzzles, and charades. From time to time they entertained neighbours—and when the boarders were absent, house guests—to dinner. Both adults and children enjoyed dancing afterwards.
When on their own they read aloud, often novels, to the circle before bedtime. Nothing is said que Hampshire flirt the Memoir of Jane's performances of her juvenilia. Mrs Austen and the two girls sewed dresses for themselves, shirts for the brothers. From to there were theatricals, almost without exception comedies then in the stage repertory, invariably produced by James. The Memoir reveals that the family could be obtuse about the two sisters, though more perspicacious in the case of the brothers.
Mrs Austen almost always spoke of ' the girls ' as a pair or, if forced to single out Janementioned her attachment to her sister. Anna Lefroy remembered her grandmother saying that ' if Cassandra were going to have her head cut off, Jane would insist on sharing her fate ' Austen-LeighMemoirchap.
George and Cassandra Austen valued family cohesion, which led them to indulge the very young Jane in her reluctance to be parted from her sister. As Cassandra grew up, this was sometimes difficult for Jane herself. Chronically shy in early adolescence, she compensated by remaining silent, or by showing off, speaking affectedly, and conspicuously flirting. Observers commented on her unpredictability in public, to which Jane lightly confessed in the earliest of her letters to Cassandra that survive.
The family barely referred to her awkwardness in society. On the contrary, one former member recalled that while Cassandra ' had the merit of having her temper always under command ', Jane had ' the happiness of a temper that never required to be commanded '. Cassandrawho knew her best, received letters in which Jane sounded dissatisfied with her lot, impatient, angry, or unhappy: ' Theo … came back in time to shew his usual, que Hampshire flirt, harmless, heartless Civility ' Letters; ' the Lances … live in a handsome style and are rich, and she [ Mrs Lance ] seemed to like to be rich … she will soon feel therefore that we are not worth her acquaintance ' ibid.
Serious, judicious, and familial, Jane's nephew Edward saw his aunt and her talent for writing as part of a rounded family achievement. Their scholarly father educated his daughters as well as his sons, and the older brothers discussed books with the younger children. Edward commented that ' she certainly enjoyed that important element of mental training, associating at home with persons of cultivated intellect ' Austen-LeighMemoirchap. Even so, in springat the very age when Jane could read for herself, her parents dispatched their daughters and their cousin Jane Cooper to Oxford to be tutored, with apparently little aptitude, by Mrs Ann Cawleythe widow of a former principal of Brasenose College and a sister of the Revd Dr Edward Cooper Mrs Austen's kinsman by marriage.
Jane did not get on well with Mrs Cawley.
In the girls' second term summer to autumnwithout informing their parents, she moved her pupils to Southampton, presumably to economize. The sea port was in the grip of an epidemic, probably typhoid, which all three girls caught. After Jane Cooper managed to get a message home, the two mothers came to fetch their daughters away.
The girls recovered, but Mrs Cooper caught the disease and died on 25 October Despite this miserable experience, after they had spent a further year at home George Austen decided that his daughters should attend the Abbey House School, Reading, from spring to December It was a boarding-school patronized by wealthy merchants and tradesmen, and in the mornings offered instruction in English including spelling but not punctuationFrench, some Italian, history, and needlework.
There were dancing classes, and some special end-of-half-year events such as theatricals and recitations, which the headmistress organized tly with the ading boys' school, Valpy's. But other Abbey House girls afterwards best remembered the school for its long leisurely afternoons, allowing visits to the nearby lending library, which catered adeptly for the tastes and imaginations of girls and que Hampshire flirt women by way of romance, adventure, and much male greed and villainy. In his Memoir of Jane AustenEdward Austen-Leigh planted the tradition, subscribed to by most twentieth-century critics and biographers, that Austen the novelist was substantially created at home.
It is probably true that the clarity, sharpness, and wit of the prose of Austen's juvenilia indicate attentive reading in the century's stylists, a good ear for the balance of a sentence, and sound regard for verbal economy.
Her seniors did right by her on these counts, but they cannot have done everything. Austen's que Hampshire flirt in contemporary popular fiction began at school and was equally fundamental. At the Abbey House School she amused herself as her socially mixed classmates did in following the adventures and trials of modern woman, as these were purveyed most readily and cheaply in a handful of specialist magazines, such as George Robinson's monthly miscellany, the Lady's Magazine established In his first issue Robinson boasted that he catered for the widest possible range of taste, status, and income, from a duchess to a newly literate housemaid.
In each issue from a quarter to a third que Hampshire flirt the space was likely to be occupied by fiction, much of it sent in by readers, who might set their narratives in stylized exotic worlds or in common domestic life among the middling sort. But the standard plotline for most longer fiction, whether published in multi-volume book form or serialized in a magazine, was the courtship of lovers of unequal rank and means, involving the woman particularly in picaresque adventures and trials, with a happy ending always in jeopardy from the economic and social differences between the protagonists.
Austen's first three novels conform to these archetypal features of the fiction of the s and s. At the age of eleven, however, Jane Austen was not concerned with novels but with reinstating herself among the people and activities of the crowded rectory at Steventon. In December Jane and Cassandra left school for good, to find a household populated with exotic visitors.
Their father's sister Philadelphia Hancock had brought to Steventon her year-old daughter Eliza — who, by her marriage inhad become Comtesse Eliza de Feuillide. With a trust set up for her as by Warren Hastingsgovernor-general of Bengal and a friend of her parents, Eliza was able to lead an independent life in Paris, London, and the English resort towns of Bath and Tunbridge Wells.
But, family-minded like other AustensEliza also became over the next decade a frequent visitor to Steventon and a powerful influence on her cousins, the girls as well as the boys. Her hospitality in the West End houses she rented, her tireless mobility, and her appetite for flirtation were never more in evidence than in the year in which she made plans for an ambitious theatrical programme at Steventon the following Christmas, Eliza was already well briefed in the playwright Hannah Cowley's recent London stage successes, beginning with The Belle's Stratagemwhich had two vigorous and intelligent female roles, and an undoubtedly feminist message.
Unfortunately Eliza's plans included an acting part for a Kent cousin of about her own age, Philadelphia Phila Walterwho positively refused to act. She was taken at Steventon to have an objection to the particular play, or to acting on principle. Eliza with her customary amiability gave up her choice of play, and a safe old favourite, Susanna Centlivre's The Wonder: a Woman Keeps a Secretwas chosen instead, with James producing, Henry the leading man, and Eliza the leading woman. By comparison with the jealous resentments of the Bertram family in Mansfield Parkthe Steventon theatricals of appear to have passed off decorously, except that Cassandra and Jane were on hand to observe Eliza flirting finely with both James and Henry during the rehearsals and performances of a mildly saucy play.
The following year was busy theatrically, but it was also the last season, because all the brothers but Charles had left home. James Townley's rumbustious High Life below Stairs and Isaac Bickerstaff's farce The Sultana likely future source for Pride and Prejudicefollowed at the end of the year. The first of the three projects parodies the exaggerated conventions and rhetoric of John Dryden's heroic dramas, and, in a new contemporary version, ends with a battle scene in which the entire cast dies, orating as they fall.
The other two have popular settings and situations: servants take on the roles of their masters; or an Englishwoman, finding herself a captive in a harem, cheekily teaches que Hampshire flirt sultan how to become agreeable to his subjects. Traces of the knockabout humour, caricature, and mockery calculated to please adolescent schoolboy boarders are evident in the plays put on in largely for their amusement, but Cassandra and Jane also took part.
From early to June Jane wrote a large of sketches, burlesque playlets which may have been acted by others or by herselfepistolary novellas, and short picaresque adventures.
Usually they were dedicated to a member of the household. Those she wished to keep she copied into three blank copy-books given to her by her father, which she named 'Volume the First''Volume the Second'and 'Volume the Third'. The twenty-seven pieces in these copy-books resemble exercises in many kinds of literary form, and they had a function, since they were read out to or more likely performed for the family audience by the author, who was, according to her brother Henrya confident speaker and a natural comic.
Unfortunately there is no direct description of her performances, and since none is dedicated to boarders it seems likely that they were excluded. All the same, boarders were taken in at Steventon untiland the presence in the house of adolescent boys, as well as her youngest brother, Charlesis worth considering as an almost certain influence on her early writing. The juvenilia are full of self-confident and errant young women: Laura, Elfrida, Alice, the ' Beautifull Cassandra ' a milliner's daughterque Hampshire flirt Charlotte Lutterell at Lesley Castle.
There is something of Austen herself in all the heroines of her mature novels, and, surely, also in the bold, energized adventuresses of the juvenilia. It may be her physical appearance that is conveyed, or her coolness and cynicism.
Rebelliousness and an anti-social impatience are qualities she confesses to in her correspondence with Cassandraand seems to identify with in Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. This intolerance of mediocrity is also the offence committed by Emma Woodhouse, ' the heroine whom no one but myself will much like ' Austen-LeighMemoirchap. These brief hints are recognizable by readers as self-portraiture and are enjoyed for this reason.
An obvious case is Alice Johnson of 'Jack and Alice'a heroine maddeningly badgered by Lady Williams because she has unfashionably full red cheeks, like Austen's own.