ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, to Rev. George Austen and the former Cassandra Leigh in Steventon, Hampshire, the seventh of eight children. Like the central characters in most of her novels, the Austens were a large family of respectable lineage but no fortune; her father supplemented his "living" — his clergyman's income — by farming. This lively and cheerful family frequently passed their evenings in novel-reading, charades and amateur theatrics. Among her siblings, her sister Cassandra, three years older, was her lifelong friend and confidant.
In her early writing, Austen began to define the limits of her fictional world. From the first, there was a steady emphasis on character as she consciously restricted her subject matter to a sphere made up of a few families of relatives with their friends and acquaintances. She deliberately limited what she wrote about, and her work gains intensity and beauty from its narrow focus. In her books, there is little connection between this upper-middle class world and the strata above or below it, or consciousness of events external to it. It is, in fact, the world in which typical middle-class country people lived in early nineteenth-century Britain. The family is at the core of this setting and thus the maneuverings that lead to marriage are all-important, because matrimony supplies stability, along with social and economic continuity.
Austen lived the last eight years of her life in Chawton. Her personal life continued to be limited to family and close friends, and she prized herself on being a warm and loving aunt as much as being a successful novelist. A sudden illness, possibly Addison's disease, made her stop work on the novel Sandition, and she died in 1817.
News of a wealthy young gentleman named Charles Bingley has rented the manor of Netherfield Park causes a stir in the nearby village of Longbourn, especially in the Bennet household. The Bennets