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Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born in 1775 in the Hampshire village of Steventon in southern England. The seventh child of a country clergyman, she grew up in a warm and lively household. Her formal education ended at age nine, but she continued to study at home, taking advantage of her father's extensive library. A sharp observer of human nature, in her early teens she began writing plays and literary parodies to entertain her family. She started writing novels in her 20s and finished early versions of three of them (Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice) by 1798.

In 1801 she moved with her parents and sister to the resort town of Bath, where four years later her father died. Austen then lived with her mother and sister, Cassandra, in temporary lodgings or with relatives until 1809, when her brother Edward offered them Chawton Cottage on his estate in Hampshire. From this point she flourished as an author. She revised the novels that she had written earlier and in 1811 published Sense and Sensibility at her own expense. Pride and Prejudice came out two years later, followed the next year by Mansfield Park. Although Austen insisted on publishing her work anonymously, she took great pleasure in the popular and critical success of her novels.

Sir Walter Scott was among her admirers, as was the Prince Regent (later King George IV), to whom she dedicated Emma (in response to a thinly veiled request conveyed by the prince's chaplain). In 1816 Austen became ill (it is now believed that she suffered from Addison's disease). She died in 1817 and was buried in Winchester Cathedral. Her brother Henry supervised the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey and revealed her identity.