Education in Austen's Time

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Education in Austen's Time

By | Feb. 2013
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Jane Austen
In the 18th century English society in which Jane Austen lived, the male members of a family were given educational opportunities that were not always afforded to the ladies of the household. Fortunately for Austen, she was born into a family that valued education to both sons and daughters, and she was encouraged by her family to produce literature. Born in Hampshire England in the parish of Steventon, she was the daughter of Reverend George and Cassandra Leigh Austen. She came into the world on December 16, 1775 and was the sixth child in a family of five boys and two girls. Reverend Austen was a refined and successful clergyman who fostered education in his family so Jane and her siblings received most of their schooling at home. Reading and play acting were favorite past times of the children, so Jane began her writings at an early age, and at times used them for family entertainment. Some of her earliest writings were Eleanor and Marianne and Lady Susan both written in 1795. In 1796 she wrote First Impressions. From 1797 to 1798 Austen wrote three novels; Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811 and it is the story of two sisters and their romantic adventures. Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813 and tells the tale of the five Bennett sisters and their search for husbands. Northanger Abbey was published in 1818 and was a satire of the popular gothic romances of the era.

In 1801, the Austen family moved to Bath and in 1805 Reverend Austen died. The family left Bath for Clifton in 1806 and then to Castle Square, Southampton in 1807. In 1809, they settled at Chawton Hampshire in a home owned by Jane’s brother Edward. By 1811, after a period of unproductiveness, Jane quickly created three new novels; Mansfield Park in 1811, Emma in 1814 and Persuasion in 1815, all of which deal with romantic entanglements of strongly characterized heroines.

Although Jane Austen wrote of...