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Jane Austen | Biography

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Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, England, on December 16, 1775. She was the seventh child and second daughter of Cassandra and George Austen. Though her father was orphaned at a young age, a well-to-do uncle paid for his education at Oxford, allowing him to pursue a respectable position in society as a member of the clergy. The Austens were a close-knit family who fostered an environment of creativity and learning. As a youth, Jane read books from their father's well-stocked library, and the siblings wrote and performed their own plays.

When Austen was in her early 20s, she wrote a novel called First Impressions. This was the basis for the book that eventually became Pride and Prejudice. Austen's father submitted First Impressions to a publisher, but it was rejected. Austen later revised the manuscript and changed the title. The English publisher, T. Egerton, released the book in three volumes in 1813—without identifying her as its author. The first printing of the book sold out. That year, a second edition was published, followed by a third in 1817.

Pride and Prejudice is Austen's most popular novel, and her personal favorite. In fact, she called it "my own darling child" and talked about its characters as real people. Through her lively protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, and the family, friends, and social acquaintances in her orbit, Austen's novel explores themes of class, reputation, and love. Many of Austen's novels received critical recognition during her lifetime. However, it was only upon her death that her brother Henry revealed her authorship.

That death occurred on July 18, 1817, when Austen was 41. She is buried at Winchester Cathedral. Despite the enormous and continuing popularity of her books, her tombstone makes no mention of her role as a writer.

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