• The eighteenth century was the age in which the novel was
established as the most outstanding and enduring form of
literature. The periodical essay, which was another gift of this
century to English literature, was born and died in the century,
but the novel was to enjoy an enduring career. It is to the credit of
the major eighteenth-century novelists that they freed the novel
from the influence and elements of high flown romance and
fantasy, and used it to interpret the everyday social and
psychological problems of the common man. Thus they
introduced realism, democratic spirit, and psychological interest
into the novel— the qualities which have since then been
recognized as the essential prerequisites of-every good novel and
which distinguish it from the romance and other impossible
• Various reasons can be adduced for the rise and popularity of the
novel in the eighteenth century. The most important of them is that
this new literary form suited the genius and temper of the times. The
eighteenth century is known in English social history for the rise of
the middle classes consequent upon an unprecedented increase in the
volume of trade and commerce. Many people emerged from the
limbo of society to occupy a respectable status as wealthy burgesses.
The novel, with its realism, its democratic spirit, and its concern with
the everyday psychological problems of the common people appears
to have been specially designed both to voice the aspirations of the
middle and low classes and to meet their taste. Moreover, it gave the
writer much scope for what Cazamian calls "morality and
sentiment"-the two elements which make literature "popular."
• Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist
whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a
place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature. Her realism,
biting irony and social commentary have gained her historical importance
among scholars and critics.
Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower
fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father
and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of
her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic
apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years into her thirties. During this
period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary
novel which she then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three
major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the release of
Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park
(1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She
wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published
posthumously in 1818, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon,
but died before completing it.
• The seventh child of George Austen and Cassandra Leigh Austen, Jane
Austen was born in Steventon, a village in southern England in 1775.
• Her father George Austen, a clergyman, also ran a school for boys in the
family home and parsonage to supplement the family's income.
• Cassandra Leigh Austen was from a higher social rank than her husband
and gave Jane Austen the sense of social class that underlies many of
her novels. She did not seem to regret the fall in social standing,
however, and was a cheerful wife and mother to the family.
• For her first love, Austen got a story worthy of one of her novels -- one
that in fact has certain things in common with that of Marianne
Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. The object of her love, Tom Lefroy,
was the Irish nephew of her close friend Anne Lefroy. Knowing that
Tom would lose his inheritance if he married a "nobody," Anne Lefroy
hurried Tom out of the county when the romance came to her attention.
(Tom later became the Chief Justice of Ireland.)
• Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half
of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century
realism. Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the
dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and
economic security. Her work brought her little personal fame and
only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, and by the 1940s
she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English
writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of
• As critic Gary Kelly has observed, "Jane Austen is one of the few
novelists in world literature who is regarded as a 'classic' and yet is
widely read." Though her novels were by no means
autobiographical, the facts of her life do shed light on her fiction --
and more importantly, they offer aspiring writers one model of
how great works of literature are created.
• Jane Austen's Writing Style, By: Aysha Schurman
• Jane Austen writing tends to be witty and romantic. Though
her name never appeared on her published books during her
life, Austin's works rose to fame after her death in 1817. In
fact, her popular books, such as Pride and Prejudice, have
never gone out of print. She is now considered one of
England's most famous novelists.
• Austen's writing style is a mix of neoclassicism and
romanticism. Neoclassicism encourages reason and restraint in
writing. It is logical and follows a structured form.
Romanticism encourages passion and imagination in writing. It
is emotional and follows a flowing form. Mixing these two
styles may seem impossible, but layering neoclassicism and
romanticism together was one of Austen's strong talents.
• Austen used her sharp and sarcastic wit in all of her writing.
She could come up with a powerful and dramatic scene on one
page and lead it into a biting and satirical scene on the next
page. Her high intelligence and impressive education allowed
her to slip deep and meaningful insights into her words,
regardless if the topic was romance or politics.
• Austen never focused on scenery or stage setting in her
novels. She laid out the basics and allowed the resulting
dialogue to explain the details in a natural manner. This
technique was rather rare for Austen's time. Most of her
contemporary authors could include chapters of text just to
describe a stone bridge. The lack of indulgent details
displays the basic neoclassic style Austen preferred to
follow when it came to descriptive passages.
• Austen may have used neoclassicism as her primary writing style ( an emphasis
on logic, common sense, properness and adequate performance in society), but
she added a romantic touch when it came to her characters. Austen's dialogue can
range from sharp and witty to poetic and emotional. Her characters' words and
actions build up slowly to create a vivid picture of each person. She focuses
heavily on the art of conversation and allows it to display the growth and
development of the main characters
• Jane Austen's characters are obsessed with marriage because everybody in
Regency England was obsessed with marriage. For virtually all of English
history, marriage had been an economic transaction, one arranged for the
financial benefit for the families involved without much regard to the couple's
feelings (or lack thereof) for one another. Suddenly, during the late eighteenth-
and early nineteenth-century period in which Austen lived, people began
wondering if it might be okay to factor love into the equation as well, making
matters all the more complicated.
• Jane Austen knew all too well how marriage defined a woman's
life. She never married, and as a result was dependent most of her
life on the charity of her brothers. She fit her writing into the
otherwise dull daily routine of chores, visits, and "respectable
activities" expected of a middle-class lady. She didn't even get to
put her own name on her books—the four novels she published
during her lifetime were described only as being written "By a
Lady." Still, from this perch of relative obscurity she managed to
make some of her era's sharpest (and funniest) observations on
human behavior, most of which still apply today.
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