A Family of [eight] children will always be called a fine family, where there are head and arms and legs enough for the number.
Jane was born during a particularly cold winter on December 16, 1775 in Steventon Parsonage, Hampshire.
She was the daughter of the Reverend George and Cassandra Austen, and was the seventh of eight children. She had a happy and close-knit family, with her brothers James, Edward, Henry Thomas, Francis William, Charles John and George who inspired her stories, as well as her sister Cassandra to whom she was particularly close.
Jane started writing at a young age, and her Juvenilia includes dramatic sketches, spoofs and poems. Her sister Cassandra was a talented artist, and painted portraits in Jane’s sketch books. Friends and family circulated her writings and wooed publishers, but it was over a decade before Sense and Sensibility went into print in 1811, soon followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813 which she called ‘my own darling child’.
After spending the first 25 years of her life in Steventon, Jane’s father retired and moved the family to Bath in 1801. Bath inspired Jane’s novels with balls, dancing, gossip and fashion, keeping her busy until her father died in 1805. Due to their reduced circumstances, they had to move to Southampton and live with Jane’s brother Frank and his family. During these unsettled years, they visited friends and family, including her brother Edward who had been adopted by Thomas and Elizabeth Knight. He inherited estates at Godmersham, Kent and Chawton, Hampshire, and took the name Knight.
In 1809, Jane, Cassandra, their mother and close friend Martha Lloyd moved permanently to Chawton Cottage. Set in a beautiful Hampshire village, close to Edward’s estate it was where Jane began writing again, and all six of her novels date in their finished form from this period.
Mansfield Park was published in 1814 and Emma, with its heroine whom Jane half-jokingly predicted ‘no one but myself will much like‘, followed in 1815.
Jane had been ill for about a year when she went to Winchester to seek better medical treatment, renting rooms in College Street. She died aged 41, on 18 July 1817, leaving Persuasion and her Gothic satire Northanger Abbey to be published later that year.
You can read more about Jane’s life in the Jane Austen Quickstep Guide.