DEAD: Jane Austen

DEAD: ON THIS DATE

Jane Austen (aged 41)
English novelist

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen’s plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism, humour, and social commentary, have long earned her acclaim among critics, scholars, and popular audiences alike.

DEATH: Austen made light of her condition, describing it as “bile” and rheumatism. As her illness progressed, she experienced difficulty walking and lacked energy; by mid-April she was confined to bed. In May Cassandra and Henry brought her to Winchester for treatment, by which time she suffered agonising pain and welcomed death. Austen died in Winchester on 18 July 1817, at the age of 41. Henry, through his clerical connections, arranged for his sister to be buried in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral. The epitaph composed by her brother James praises Austen’s personal qualities, expresses hope for her salvation and mentions the “extraordinary endowments of her mind”, but does not explicitly mention her achievements as a writer.

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