Jane Austen Novels Books Life and Times
JANE AUSTEN – A LIFE IN TWO WORLDS?
It is truth universally acknowledged that the author of these opening words, which are among the most famous in English literature, is perhaps the greatest writer the English language, indeed any language, has known, bar Shakespeare.
One might find it hard to think of a time when Jane Austen’s novels was not a byword for romantic fiction, and Pride & Prejudice, where the above quote derives, the last word on it. But there was, of course, such a time and this lasted up until the early years of the nineteenth century.
Once her novels began to be published, however, they came at a rate that would make Stephen King proud: Sense & Sensibility (1811); Pride & Prejudice (1813); Mansfield Park (1815); and Emma (1816). Add to this quartet the posthumous publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 1818, a year after Austen died, and it becomes one of most impressive canons of any writer.
For all the popularity of the novels during her lifetime, however, it was not until after her death that Jane Austen’s name became widely attached to them, having originally published them under the pseudonym A. Lady. And it is not until the last two decades has she achieved the world prominence reserved normally for pop stars and screen idols.
The question still remains though as to what exactly makes Austen so immensely popular in the modern day. The television and film adaptations have gone a long way, of course, but the fact remains that her books were being read, enjoyed and acclaimed more than a century before the first screen outing ever appeared.
At the end of the day then, it is most likely the romantic storylines, strong female characters, biting irony and social commentary which have so enchanted readers, although where as these aspects might reflect the preoccupations of her inner world, they do not echo those of the outer one she lived in.
Born a few months before the American Declaration of Independence and living long enough to experience the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo and its immediate aftermath, the world within which Jane Austen lived and wrote was a period of constant revolution, conflict and upheaval.
And yet, and this may be the key to why her writing remains so popular today, when immersed in the pages of her novels, nowhere does one get a sense of the world outside the stories; and for this, the reader is no doubt eternally grateful.