If you’ve ever longed for more information about Jane Austen’s life but haven’t time to visit the library, you are in luck! Many full length biographies of Austen’s life are available to read or download online with little or no cost. Reviews of these works can be found on JASA’s website.
A Memoir of Jane Austen by Her Nephew
The first Jane Austen Biography by James Edward Austen-Leigh (1798-1874, son of James Austen, Jane’s oldest brother) was written in 1870. Austen-Leigh had the benefit of not only knowing his famous Aunt, but also being privy to family memories and stories. Jane’s brother Henry had written a brief biographical forward in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, but this was the first complete book dedicated to her life. Though not completely unbiased, this work provides much of what we know of Jane’s life, including the infamous “squeaking door” vignette. La Brocca offers it here, for free download or online perusal.
Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends
This biography by Constance Hill was first published in 1901. It’s 23 chapters are available to read online free of charge, courtesy of “In Celebration of Women Writers”, hosted by The University of Pennsylvania.
Jane Austen and her Times
First Published in 1905, this is one of the early biographies of Jane Austen. Many of the Austen biographies available online were written by women and this work, by Geraldine Edith Mitton is no exception. Cathy Dean has provided the complete text (19 chapters and two appendix pages) along with the original 21 illustrations on her Jane Austen E-texts page.
Another complete biography of Jane Austen, available from Jane Austen E-Texts. This work, by “To Jane Austen” author W. O. Firkins was published in 1920 and is made up of three principle parts: Part I–The Novelist, Part II–The Realist, Part III–The Woman.
The ultimate Jane Austen Website, the Jane Austen Information Page, a part of the Republic of Pemberly and pet project of Henry Churchyard, this site contains a magnificent overview of Austen’s life, complete with known family portraits, family trees, location photos and more.
An in-depth biography of Jane Austen by Elizabeth Jenkins, published in 1949, is available online from Questia. Its 22 chapters can be previewed in part for free and read in whole with the purchase of a membership. Membership also allows access to other Austenesque works on their site such as Jane Austen’s Letters
by Jane Austen, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family, and Her Critics, by R. Brimley Johnson, Jane Austen: Facts and Problems by R. W. Chapman, Jane Austen and Her Art by Mary Lascelles and many othe works. You can listen to a free sample of Jenkin’s book and the opportunity to download it in full, visit Audible.com.
Ebookmall is offering not only a Jane Austen biography downloadable in many different formats, but also a plethora of other Austen works. A small fee applies to each purchase.
The New York Times and the Washington Post offer free chapters and reviews of both Jane Austen: A Life by David Nokes and Jane Austen: A Biography by Claire Tomalin. You can preview the books here by signing in for a complimentary account.
Listen, Download, Preview, Purchase
You can always find numerous Jane Austen related books on Amazon. Many of these books allow you to preview their chapters online and some, like Carol Shield’s Jane Austen, are available to purchase in audio format. This Pulitzer Prize winning biography, part of the Penguin Lives series, is small, but quite effective, touching on the known facts of Austen’s life without reading too much into her works.