Little known trivia about the beloved author of Pride and Prejudice
Called Janeites since 1896 and Austenites since 1903, Jane Austen’s devoted fans are some of the most loyal and passionate of any author’s. Once you read theses facts about the acclaimed English novelist, you’ll see what these Austen aficionados are talking about.
Jane Austen was clearly a woman of many words–so many words that she even created a few of her own. The Oxford English Dictionary has credited Austen as the first recorded author of over 40 previously unused terms such as ‘doorbell,’ ‘spongecake,’ and ‘dinner-party.’
Image credit: Sponge Cake Recipe at Baker in Disguise
As a young girl, Jane Austen grew up in a household that encouraged reading and writing. She began drafting her own novels by the time she was 15 and had finished three original versions of Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice by age 23.
Just as Pride and Prejudice is about young women of gentile poverty trying to find husbands, Jane Austen was no stranger to their plight. At age 20, she had engaged in an ongoing flirtation with a man named Tom Lefroy. However, Austen’s social status was not high enough according the Lefroy family, who separated to the young lovebirds. Lefroy was shortly thereafter engaged to a woman with a large family fortune and Austen was left heartbroken, writing her sister, “At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy….My tears flow as I write this, at this melancholy idea.”
James McAvoy as Tom Lefroy in ‘Becoming Jane’ (2007)
In her lifetime, all of Jane Austen’s works were published anonymously. Sense and Sensibility, her first published novel, was simply credited as “By A Lady.” Her next book, Pride and Prejudice, was merely attributed to “The Author of Sense and Sensibility.”
Due to her choice of anonymity, she never achieved personal recognition for her works outside of family and friends. However, as literary critic Richard Blythe aptly notes, the anonymity suited her because “literature, not the literary life, was her intention.“
Have you ever read Jane Austen’s 1796 novel First Impressions? Chances are you have….just under a different title. First Impressions was the working title of the perennial classic, Pride and Prejudice. What is even more surprising is that when Jane’s father sent the manuscript to Thomas Cadell, an established publisher in London, Cadell returned it, stamped with ‘Declined by Return of Post.’ It was a decision that Cadell would regret for the rest of his life, as Pride and Prejudice has sold 20 million copies since it was first published in 1813. Just as its famous first line states, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is one our favorites.
There you have it–five facts about one of the most important literary voices in history. Jane Austen not only shaped English romantic literature, but she did so in an era of immense social and artistic change. So go, head to the library, and get lost in Austen.
If you’re looking for more information about Jane Austen and her work, check out these great sites:
Image credit: Jane Austen Society Louisville