(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
“Jane Austen remains the most misunderstood of great English writers . . . Austen’s is an extended, exploratory, dangerously subversive art, and is neither harmlessly decorative nor picturesquely provincial . . . [Irony] is the secret of the perfect self-sufficiency of Pride and Prejudice.”—from the Introduction by Peter Conrad
No novel in English has given more pleasure than Pride and Prejudice. Because it is one of the great works in our literature, critics in every generation reexamine and reinterpret it. But the rest of us simply fall in love with it—and with its wonderfully charming and intelligent heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. And everyone is held fast not only by the novel’s romantic suspense but also by the fascinations of the world we visit. The life of the English country gentry at the turn of the nineteenth century is made as real to us as our own, not only by the author’s wit and feeling but by her subtle observation of the way people behave in society and how we are true or treacherous to each other and to ourselves.
Though the domain of Jane Austen's novels was as circumscribes as her life, her caustic wit and keen observation made her the equal of the greatest novelists in any language. Born the seventh child of the rector of Steventon, Hampshire, on December 16, 1775, she was educated mainly at home. At an early age she began writing sketches and satires of popular novels for her family's entertainment. As a clergyman's daughter from a well-connected family, she had ample opportunity to study the habits of the middle class, the gentry, and the aristocracy. At twenty-one, she began a novel called "First Impressions," an early version of Pride and Prejudice. In 1801, on her father’s retirement, the family moved to the fashionable resort of Bath. Two years later she sold a first version of Northanger Abbey to a London publisher, but the first of her novels to appear was Sense and Sensibility, published at her own expense in 1811. It was followed by Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1816).
After her father died, in 1805, the family moved first to Southampton, then to Chawton College in Hampshire. Despite this relative retirement, Jane Austen was still in touch with a wider world, mainly through her brothers; one had become a rich country gentleman, another a London banker, and two were naval officers. Though her novels were published anonymously, she had many early and devoted readers, among them the Prince Regent and Sir Walter Scott. In 1816, in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised Northanger Abbey. Her last work, Sanditon, was left unfinished at her death, on July 18, 1817. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral. Austen’s identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her brother Henry, who supervised publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 1818.
From the Paperback edition.
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