By Ashley Kath-Bilsky
Still, there are some glimpses into her past that help to formulate an image of Jane. Born on 16 December 1775, the second daughter of George and Cassandra Austen, Jane had six brothers and one older sister named after their mother.
Cassandra and Jane (very much like Elizabeth and Jane Bennett in Pride & Prejudice) were devoted sisters as well as best friends and confidantes. In fact, it can be said that no one more staunchly protected the future legacy of Jane's literary works and the privacy of her personal life than her beloved sister. Their bonds of loyalty and love were forged in childhood and continued even after Jane's untimely death at the age of forty-one. As little girls they both contracted typhus and almost died. And years later when Jane demonstrated an interest in writing, Cassandra as well as the entire Austen family encouraged her pursuit. What began as poems and plays to entertain the family evolved into the creation of literary classics that continue to be read by millions throughout the world.
Without question, to the 21st century world, Jane Austen has become such a respected, beloved, and iconic literary figure that her books are published in 47 different languages throughout the world. Films, merchandise, museums, and organizations such as the Jane Austen Society of North America have been created to continue to study and support the work of this author. Her image can now be seen on the £10 note in the United Kingdom. Most recently, a turquoise and gold ring belonging to Jane created a storm of controversy when it was sold at auction to American singer Kelly Clarkson (who wanted to bring her prize back to the United States). Immediately, the United Kingdom Culture Minister placed an export ban on the piece.
Obviously, there is a fascination about the woman herself, but from a literary viewpoint, what is it about Jane Austen that continues to captivate readers, and has generated such a devoted following?
One could simply say her novels stand apart -- and continue to thrive today in the marketplace -- because of her literary voice, her remarkably descriptive narrative, the crafting of her plots, and the unique and diverse characters she created -- some of whom have become iconic quintessential heroes and heroines in the 21st century.
Jane Austen remains the unparalleled voice of an era. She encapsulated through her writing not just the beauty and elegance of the Regency period, but also provided a rapier-edged honesty and insightful commentary on society itself.
Her undeniable firsthand perspective as a woman living in the Regency era became, in itself, a wondrous magnifying glass into a world her readers could both see and understand. This attention to detail continues to inspire writers of historical fiction, and kindles within their hearts the importance of research and accuracy regarding the time period in which their book is set. For authors whose work takes place in the Regency period, there is an added burden to maintain the Austen standards of excellence, accuracy, and integrity that readers of this period not only love, but know so well.
Yet, it is important to remember that Jane Austen was not writing a historical work of fiction. She wrote about the time in which she lived and did so with such an attention to detail that she provided future generations, including scholars, with a wondrous glimpse into the Regency period.
The same reaction would apply to any work of fiction where the reader is pulled out of the story either because the plot is not feasible or the author failed to do proper research. For example, in a contemporary suspense thriller, the type of equipment and/or forensic testing utilized to investigate a crime scene or solve a crime must be accurate; the plot not far-fetched or unrealistic that the reader will be pulled out of the story.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed my tribute to Jane Austen and her legacy. ~ AKB