Jane Austen

Jane Austen, author of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Portrait by her sister, Cassandra Austen © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen © National Portrait Gallery, London


Who was Jane Austen?

Jane Austen (1775–1817) was an English novelist and writer, best known for novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Rich in comedy, romance, wit and satire, Austen’s six novels are also pin-sharp reflections of her social and geographical milieu in and around Hampshire, Bath and Dorset. 

Where and when was Austen born?

Austen was born at Steventon Parsonage, Hampshire on 16 December 1775.

Early life and writings

The daughter of a Hampshire clergyman and the seventh of eight children, Austen grew up in a happy and close-knit family, and the careers and families of her brothers (two clergymen, two admirals, and one adopted by wealthy relations) inform her stories. She started writing at a young age, and her juvenilia includes dramatic sketches, spoofs and poems.

Pride and Prejudice and other novels

Friends and family circulated Austen's writings and wooed publishers, but it was over a decade before Sense and Sensibility (1811) went into print, soon followed by Pride and Prejudice (1813), which she called ‘my own darling child’. In his journal, Sir Walter Scott contrasted her ‘exquisite touch’ with his own ‘Big Bow-Wow’ approach, praising the way she made ‘commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment.’[1]

Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice both revolve around sisters, and Austen’s loving alliance with her only sister Cassandra lasted all her life. Both Jane and Cassandra had romances, but, like Austen’s heroines, refused to marry for the sake of marriage. They remained single, supporting their mother after the death of their father in 1805.

In 1809, Austen moved with her mother and her sister to Chawton, a tranquil Hampshire village. There, in a house given to them by her wealthy brother Edward, Austen spent her happiest years. All six of her novels date in their finished form from this period. Mansfield Park was published in 1814 and Emma, with its heroine whom Austen half-jokingly predicted 'no one but myself will much like', in 1815. 

Austen died, aged only 41, on 18 July 1817, leaving the subtle Persuasion and her Gothic satire Northanger Abbey to be published later that year.

Find out more

Further information about the life of Jane Austen can be found via the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

[1] Walter Scott, The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, March 1826.

Related articles

Women writers, anonymity and pseudonyms

Article by:
Greg Buzwell

In the late 18th and 19th centuries, writing as a profession was largely considered an activity unsuitable for women. Greg Buzwell explores the barriers and the lengths that women authors went to in order to publish their work.

Jane Austen’s juvenilia

Article by:
Kathryn Sutherland
Childhood and children's literature, The novel 1780–1832

Professor Kathryn Sutherland explores how Jane Austen’s education and upbringing shaped her childhood writing, and considers the relationship between these early works and her adult novels.

Jane Austen and social judgement

Article by:
Kathryn Sutherland
The novel 1780–1832

Jane Austen’s characters are continually watching, judging and gossiping about others and, in turn, are watched, judged and gossiped about. Professor Kathryn Sutherland explores the ways in which behaviour and etiquette are closely monitored in the novels, and how characters must learn to be skilful readers of those around them.

Related collection items

Related teachers' notes


Austen’s Emma: Social Realism & the Novel

Social Realism in Jane Austen's Emma.

PDF Download Available


Austen’s Persuasion: Status, Rank & Class

Social status and cultural values in Jane Austen's Persuasion.

PDF Download Available


Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Social Judgement

Jane Austen's representation of class in Pride and Prejudice.

PDF Download Available

Related works


Created by: Jane Austen

Jane Austen began writing Emma in 1814 and the novel was published in 1816. The book can be classed as a ...


Created by: Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) final novel was written during a period of failing health, in 1815-16, and published ...