I was fortunate the have some really great teachers and professors who showed me just how completely awesome she and her novels are — not to mention totally relevant to today’s readers.
Here are some highlights on Jane Austen to kick things off.
Stats: Born Dec. 16, 1775; died July 18, 1817. (Only 41!)
Lived in Steventon, England, with her parents, six brothers and one sister, Cassandra. (Random fact: Cassandra Clare’s pen name is partially derived from Cassandra Austen.) At age 25, her father suddenly relocated the family to Bath (resort town famous for its Roman baths). She hated it. Nine years later, her father suddenly dies. She, her mom and sister move in with one of her brothers in Chawton.
She dies a slow death from: Addison’s Disease; Hodgkin’s lymphoma; or bovine tuberculosis (no one is sure). She is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
BFF: By far, her sister Cassandra was her BFF. They played together, went to boarding school together, wrote and illustrated small books and performed plays together, etc. Their close friend (and future SIL) Eliza de Feuillide coordinated the plays. Austen even dedicated a piece in her Juvenilia to her.
Crushes: You think Taylor Swift is the only one to talk about her relationships in her art? Think again. A neighbor’s nephew, Tom Lefroy, took a fancy to Jane, but since Jane’s family was relatively poor, his family sent him away to sever the relationship. Many believe he is the inspiration for Mr. Darcy.
Later, she accepted the proposal of a Harris Bigg-Wither, who is described as “a large, plain-looking man who spoke little, stuttered when he did speak, was aggressive in conversation, and almost completely tactless.” She dumped him the next day. You can bet there are a number of characters that bear a resemblance!
More: If you want to know more, there are hundreds of biographies, but I recommend 2007’s “Becoming Jane,” a (mostly) biographical movie starring Anne Hathaway as Jane and James McAvoy as Tom Lefroy.