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Getting To Know Jane Austen

February 17, 2013
As preparation for writing about Globe Theatre’s production of Pride And Prejudice, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research lately on the life and times of Jane Austen. Fact is, I have collected way more information than I’m going to need. I was about to purge it from the files when the thought occurred to me that maybe I could pass it along to you as a trivia package instead. So, here goes.

* In childhood, Austen’s nickname was Jenny.
* Austen spoke French fluently, and also studied Latin in her youth.
* Austen’s brothers Francis William and Charles John were admirals in the Royal Navy.
* Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote and published A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869.
* While attending boarding school at the age of eight, Austen contracted typhus and nearly died.
* At the age of 20, Austen fell in head over heels in love with Tom Lefroy, whose family found her unsuitable and thought he should marry a woman with more money.
* After the aborted romance with Tom Lefroy, Austen came close to wedlock only once and only briefly. She received a marriage proposal from a longtime friend, Harris Bigg-Wither, and although she accepted the offer at first, she reconsidered overnight and retracted her acceptance the following morning.
* Like U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Austen suffered from Addison’s disease, a disorder whose symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, and a feeling of light-headedness.

Pride and Prejudice was submitted to a publisher and rejected under its original title, First Impressions.

* Austen thoroughly enjoyed visiting Lyme (now called Lyme Regis) and wrote about it affectionately in her personal letters and in Persuasion.
* Bath is the scene for at least part of the story in two of Austen’s novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.
* At the time it was sold to its publisher, one of Austen’s novels was titled Susan. It was renamed Catherine, because another book called Susan had just been published, and eventually it was christened Northanger Abbey.
* With the exception of Pride And Prejudice, all of Austen’s novels were published on commission.
* Austen’s novels have been in print continuously since 1833.
* In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price’s favourite form of exercise was riding the mare that was purchased for her by Edmund.
* The wealthiest gentlemen in Austen’s novels were Mr. Rushworth (Mansfield Park, 12,000 pounds a year), Mr. Darcy (Pride And Prejudice, 10,000), Mr. Bingley (Pride And Prejudice, 5,000) and Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park, 4,000).
* Austen died on July 18, 1817, at the age of 41. She had settled in Winchester to be closer to her physician, and was buried in Winchester Cathedral.
* Austen died in the arms of her sister Cassandra.
* Austen left behind an unfinished novel with the working title of The Brothers. It was completed by several so-called “continuators,” including her cousin Anna, and was published as Sanditon.
* In Sanditon, Austen pokes fun at hypochondriacs.
* During her lifetime, Austen was hardly a well-known author by name. Sense and Sensibility was “By A Lady,” and later works were credited as “By The Author of Sense and Sensibility” or “By The Author of Pride and Prejudice.”
* Although Austen wished to remain anonymous as an author, her brother, Henry, was so proud of her accomplishments that when he heard others speaking of Pride and Prejudice he declared that it had been written by his sister.
* The second edition of Mansfield Park sold so poorly that Austen actually incurred a loss of over 180 pounds.
* All told, Austen earned 631 pounds from her novels, which wasn’t exactly a fortune, even in those days.
* Austen spent about 20 pounds a year on clothing.
Who knew? Not me. Did you?
Pride and Prejudice runs from March 6 – 24, 2013. Visit the Globe Theatre website for more details, cast information, and to purchase tickets.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at

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