Jane Austen 200
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen. To mark the occasion, Hampshire Cultural Trust, Jane Austen’s House Museum and various institutions around the country are holding a special series of events throughout the year. To honour their celebration, this week’s blog is all about the life and work of Jane Austen and the legacy she left behind for generations to come.
Austen’s father, George, was a country clergyman and so she was born in the rectory at Steventon in Hampshire on 16th December 1775. She lived the first 25 years of her life in Hampshire and it is thought that her life there provided her with the inspiration to create many of her most colourful characters and romantic locations. In 1801, following her father’s retirement, the family moved to Bath which also provided inspiration for her works, particularly Northanger Abbey. In 1806 after her father had died, Jane, along with her mother and sister, moved back to Hampshire and finally settled in Chawton. It was here that Austen would spend the next ten years before ill health forced her to go to Winchester for treatment. Not long after arriving at Winchester Jane succumbed to her health problems and died on 18th July 1817 at the age of 41. Although she had many suitors throughout her life she never married, leaving marriage for the pages of her novels.
Jane Austen is one of the best-loved authors in the English speaking world with her works appearing in any ‘must read’ list and on the syllabuses of schools and universities. Although she had been writing from a very young age she did not get her first book published until she was 36.
She is known for the six major novels which she produced - Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey – two of which were published posthumously. 200 years on, her books are still incredibly popular: in no small part to her wonderfully imagined characters which she brought to life in witty, and at times ironic, prose. The way in which she drew upon her real life experiences, such as her incredibly close relationship with her sister Cassandra, makes characters like Elinor and Marianne feel like they really existed. The popularity of her novels has resulted in them being adapted into film, television and theatre performances, such as the one taking place at Westminster Abbey in August.
Jane Austen has her own connection to Westminster Abbey despite not having been buried here. She is memorialised in Poets’ Corner in recognition of her contribution to writing. A tablet of polished Roman stone was unveiled in the Abbey on 17th December 1967 and sits on the wall adjacent to Shakespeare’s memorial.
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