Jane Austen (1775-1817)
"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?"
In Jane Austen's novels, marriage is everything: the goal of a woman's life, the source of all happiness and satisfaction. But Austen herself never married. She lived with her parents and sister all her life. She enjoyed the attentions of many suitors, and rejected them all.
Jane Austen started writing before the age of 20. Her early work was read aloud to entertain her family. Later, after Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously to considerable success, she wrote in the general sitting room of the family home in Chawton. She didn't want anyone to know of her artistic endeavors, so for privacy she depended on a creaky door between the front door and the office. If she heard the door creak, she would deftly slide the small pieces of paper she wrote on under a blotter. Servants offered to fix the door, but she refused to let them.
In contrast to the popular romantic and heroic books of her day, her subject was domestic manners and the intricacies of courtship in her social set. She brought to bear a keen eye for comic detail and the economic realities that governed their lives. She referred to her own efforts as "the little bit of ivory which I work with so fine a brush as produces little effect after much labour."
In this close attention to the everyday life, she is credited with giving the novel its modern character. Virginia Woolf called her "the most perfect artist among women."
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