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Jane Austen - Novelist: 1775-1817

Jane Austen lived her entire life as part of a small and close-knit family of six brothers and one sister, on the lower fringes of the English gentry. Her father was vicar of two rural parishes in Hampshire. Her brother Henry was a banker for a time and his large circle of friends and acquaintances in London included bankers, merchants, publishers, painters, and actors. This provided Jane with a view of social worlds she would not otherwise have had contact with.

Several failed attempts were made to have her books published, first by her father in 1797 and then by her brother Henry. Henry was finally successful with Sense and Sensibility in 1811. Reviews were favourable and the novel became fashionable among opinion-makers and the edition sold out by mid-1813. During Jane's lifetime, because she chose to publish anonymously, her works brought her little personal fame. Afer her death, her brother Henry contributed a Biographical Note which for the first time identified his sister as the author of the novels. In 1832, publisher Richard Bentley purchased the remaining copyrights to all of Austen's novels and in 1833 he published the first collected edition of Jane's works. Since then, Jane Austen's novels have been continuously in print.

Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction set among the gentry have earned her a place as one of the most widely read and most beloved writers in English literature. Amongst scholars and critics, Austen's realism and biting social commentary have cemented her historical importance as a writer.

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