Jane Austen's moving depiction of wild emotions and bitterly suppressed feelings tells the tale of two sisters
Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile, Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love – and its threatened loss – the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.
Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon, near Basingstoke, the seventh child of the rector of the parish. She lived with her family at Steventon until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801. After his death in 1805, she moved around with her mother; in 1809, they settled in Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire. Here she remained, except for a few visits to London, until in May 1817 she moved to Winchester to be near her doctor. There she died on 18 July 1817.
Jane Austen was extremely modest about her own genius, describing her work to her nephew, Edward, as 'the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory, on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour'. As a girl she wrote stories, including burlesques of popular romances. Her works were published only after much revision, four novels being published in her lifetime. These are Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). Two other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously in 1817 with a biographical notice by her brother, Henry Austen, the first formal announcement of her authorship. Persuasion was written in a race against failing health in 1815-16. She also left two earlier compositions, a short epistolary novel, Lady Susan, and an unfinished novel, The Watsons. At the time of her death, she was working on a new novel, Sanditon, a fragmentary draft of which survives.