Making Sense of Jane Austen

Jane Austen. When you think of Jane Austen what is the first novel that pop into your head? Is it Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma , or one of the many books that Asten has written? Austen grew up being encouraged to read to her heart’s content in her father’s extensive library. Austen and her sister Cassandra were sent to a boarding school to get a more extensive education, but after only there for a short time Austen and Cassandra caught typhus. Austen almost succumbed to typhus fever but proved stronger than the disease. Austen and her sister were later sent home due to financial issues. Once they returned home they stayed with their family from that point forward. She spent most of her adolescence playing the piano, socializing, helping run the family home and reading to her family– sometimes even works of her own.

By 1790, when Austen was just an adolescent girl she, began to write in leather bound notebooks. Writing Love and Friendship, a parody of a romantic fiction novel put together as a series of love letters. “Using that framework, she unveiled her wit and dislike of sensibility, or romantic hysteria, a distinct perspective that would eventually characterize much of her later writing.” ( In 1791 Austen wrote The History of England, a 38 page long  historical parody, and her sister Cassandra drew the illustrations. The notebooks are now referred to as Austen’s Juvenilia, it contains plays, poems, novels, and short stories.

Austen continued to write and build her own writing style. She started writing more ambitious pieces such as Lady Susan, a story about a manipulative woman who uses her charms and sexuatity to have her way with others, Elinor and Marianne, once again told as a series of letters, which would eventually be published as Sense and Sensibility. Austen began drafts of First Impressions, which would later be published as Pride and Prejudice. Lady Susan, would later be  published as Northanger Abbey. Austen, in her 30s now, started to anonymously publish her works. In 1811 through 1816, she pseudonymously published Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. She loved her novel Pride and Prejudice and even referred to it as her “ darling child”.