English novelist Jane Austen came from a close, lovingfamily and lived a quiet life. Not much biographical information about Austen exists, and much of it comes from letters written to her beloved and only sister, Cassandra, as well as accounts from family members after Austen’s death. Austen was born on December 16, 1775, as the seventh of eight children to Reverend George and Cassandra Austen. Growing up in the English village of Steventon, she was primarily educated at home, where she was surrounded by the books in her father’s library. With her parents’ encouragement, Jane began composing stories in her teens and by her twenties she had completed the first drafts of what were to become Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility
, and Pride and Prejudice
. Through her brother, Edward, who was adopted by a wealthy, childless relative, Austen was exposed to the aristocratic life of the landed gentry. Her incisive observations of such privileged classes and the resulting social commentary are two of the many elements of her romantic fiction that still resonate today. Upon her father’s retirement, the family moved to Bath, and when her father died in 1805, she, her mother, and her sister relocated to a small house in the village of Chawton, courtesy of Edward. It was there in Chawton that Austen worked in relative solitude on her first novel, Sense and Sensibility
, seeing anonymous publication, as “A Lady,” in 1811. Austen went on to publish six completed, full-length novels, still widely read, including Mansfield Park
. In July 1817, she died at the age of forty-one and was buried in Winchester Cathedral, accompanied by an epitaph that doesn’t identify her as an author. Both Northanger Abbey
were published posthumously, and her epistolary novella, Lady Susan
, didn’t see publication until 1871.