Jane Austen is an author who has been loved and appreciated around the world for over 200 years. Her novels feature some of the most famous heroines and love stories in the history of literature, and, with good reason her books are just as witty, empowering and romantic now as when she first wrote them. Reeling off the names and life stories of her best-loved characters may be easy for some but how much do you know about Jane herself? We've gathered 10 interesting facts that you may not have known about the brilliant Jane Austen...
1. Though she famously never married she was engaged for one night.
During a visit to a friend's house she accepted the proposal of the wealthy Harris Wither, perhaps because she was aware that his money would provide security for her family. But, ultimately, Jane realised a marriage without love wasn't what she wanted and she broke off the engagement the following day.
2. She dedicated Emma to the Prince Regent (though she did so reluctantly).
When her brother Henry fell ill he was treated by a physician who had worked with the Prince Regent. Recognising her as the author of some of the Prince Regent's favourite books, Jane was invited to Carlton House and told that she may dedicate a novel to him. Jane was initially reluctant to do so after hearing of how poorly he treated his wife, but when she became aware it was more of an instruction than a request, she wrote to her publisher to add the dedication at the start of her then latest novel, Emma.
3. She published her novels anonymously but was out of print for 12 years after her death.
Her first published novel was Sense and Sensibility and the only author credit was "By a Lady".
4. She was one of 8 children.
The family were very close-knit, except for her brother George who was sent to live with another family due to health complications. Jane was especially close with her only sister Cassandra and her brother Henry who acted as her literary agent.
5. She had at least 2 romances of her own that we know about.
Despite breaking off her only engagement, Jane did have some great loves to rival those of her heroines. The first was Tom Lefroy but their relationship was sabotaged by his aunt who knew by marrying below him, he would lose his inheritance. The second was a clergyman she met whilst visiting Devon who died tragically young.
6. She's had many famous fans, among them Alfred Lord Tennyson, Winston Churchill and G. K. Chesterton however she's also had some strong critics, the most notable being the author Mark Twain.
Of reading Jane Austen's most well-loved book Mark Twain said, "everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone". We think that's a little extreme but it certainly gets his point across. However, other famous writers and historical figures have praised her work over the years, including Winston Churchill who apparently found comfort and escapism in reading her novels during the toughest days of the Second World War.
7. She started writing short stories and poetry when she was 12 and had completed the first drafts of 3 novels by the age of 23.
Though she had finished the first drafts of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey young, she wouldn't publish any of them for years and Northanger Abbey wasn't actually published until after her death.
8. Jane's works have inspired many modern retellings, including Bridget Jones's Diary and Clueless.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen's stories are simply timeless. Some of the most famous modernised versions of her books include Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary which is a contemporary take on Pride and Prejudice and the film Clueless which takes the story of Emma and updates the setting to an American high school in the 1990s.
9. Jane Austen wrote 6 novels yet collections of her work will often include Lady Susan, an early novella that wasn't published for over 50 years after her death.
The novella is often remarked for being very different from her other books and the title character for being much more devious and manipulative than Jane Austen's other heroines.
10. As little is known about her life, historians and scholars have come up with many different theories about her life and death.
One theory states that she might have died from arsenic poisoning through drinking contaminated water, another suggests Jane Austen may be a female pseudonym for a male writer looking to get more sales and one particularly off-the-wall theory states that Jane Austen's books were actually written by none other than the world-renowned Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare!
Jane Austen is one of the world's best-loved authors and now you know her a little better it seems like the perfect time for Austen marathon! Dig out your copies of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Emma and Sense and Sensibility and get reading these gorgeous stories all about what life was like 200 years ago.