Jane was born during a particularly cold winter on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire.
She was the daughter of the Reverend George Austen and Cassandra Austen, and was born at Steventon Parsonage on 16 December 1775. The seventh of eight children, she grew up in a happy and close-knit family. Her brothers (two clergymen, two admirals, and one adopted by wealthy relations) inspired her stories, as well as the many people she met on her many visits to London and Godmersham, Kent.
She 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 (1811) went into print, soon followed by Pride and Prejudice (1813), which she called ‘my own darling child’.
Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice both revolve around sisters, and Jane’s loving alliance with her only sister Cassandra lasted all her life. Both Jane and Cassandra had romances. Like Jane’s heroines, they refused to marry for the sake of marriage. They remained single, supporting their mother after the death of their father in 1805.
In 1809, Jane moved with her mother and her sister, as well as their friend Martha Lloyd to Chawton, a tranquil Hampshire village. Chawton Cottage was given to them by Jane’s wealthy brother Edward. It was here than Jane spent her happiest years, and once again began writing. All six of her novels date in their finished form from this period.
Mansfield Parkwas published in 1814 and Emma, with its heroine whom Jane half-jokingly predicted ‘no one but myself will much like‘, followed in 1815.
Jane died, aged only 41, on 18 July 1817 in Winchester, leaving Persuasion and her Gothic satire Northanger Abbey to be published later that year.
You can read more about the life of Jane Austen here at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.