A Jane Austen Time Line

george-austen411-correction1764-The Reverend George Austen marries Cassandra Leigh. They take up residence at Deane Parsonage in Hampshire.

1765 (to 1819) – Brother James was born. Like his sister, James had literary aspirations, but he never knew even the success than Jane could claim. “Often thought by the family to be the “literary one” (see his poem on Sense and Sensibjames_austen1wility), one of Austen’s brothers James followed in his father’s footsteps attending Oxford university at the age of 14 in 1779. After his ordination in 1787, he and his brother Henry edited a university magazine called The Loiterer, which ran for sixty issues. (Some issues of The Loiterer are available on-line.) After his marriage, he became his father’s curate at Deane, and after his retirement, James took on the duties of the Steventon as well.” (www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-brothers)

1766 (to 1838) – George Austen was born. “Not much is known about young George Austen. Though he lived a relatively long life, characteristic of the Leigh side of the family, he spent the whole of it living with a farming family a few miles from Steventon. Some scholars believe he was mentally retarded, others that he was merely deaf, speculation rising from Jane Austen’s comment that she was fluent in “finger speaking”. Regardless of the cause, George was destined to play little part in the Austen’s brothers and family daily lives.” (www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-brothers/)

edwardknight1767 (to 1852) -Edward Austen was born. Later, he was adopted by Thomas Knight. Because the Knight family had no children, Edward inherited all their property. “Edward was the only Austen brother not to have a profession. Early in the 1780’s he was adopted by Mr. Austen’s Patron, the rich but childless Thomas and Catherine Knight. Instead of going off to University, He was sent on the “grand tour” of continental Europe in 1786-1788, and eventually inherited their estate of Godmersham, Kent, and took the last name of “Knight.” As part of his inheritance, Edward also acquired Steventon and an estate in Chawton. It was a cottage attached to the latter that he made available to his widowed mother and sisters, and here that millions of fans tour each year when they visit “Jane Austen’s Home.” (http://www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-brothers/)

steventon-rectory-engraving1767 – The Austens move to Steventon Rectory. “The village of Steventon lies nestled in a quiet spot between two main routes from Basingstoke: the Andover road at Deane to the north, where stage coaches to and from London halted twice a day, and the Winchester road to the south near Dummer, which was known as Popham Lane. Like Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, Jane was a keen walker and often walked to Popham Lane, where the family collected their letters at what is now known as the Wheatsheaf Inn.

“The late 17th century house, repaired in the 1760s for the Austens’ occupation, had seven bedrooms. Its flat facade was broken up by evenly placed windows, and a trellised porch almost more suited to a cottage formed a centrepiece.

“Outside there were fields where Mr Austen farmed and his wife grew potatoes (at that time quite an innovation), formal gardens with a turf walk, sundial, strawberry beds, and a grassy bank down which the young Jane, possibly enjoyed rolling as a child, like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. There was also a carriage sweep, and a barn used for private theatricals except in winter, when the dining room had to suffice. Later, a double hedgerow with mixed shrubs and wild flowers was added, for use as a private footpath to the church. At the side of the Rectory were chestnut, fir and elm trees. The elms met with a violent end on 8 November 1800, when one of the “great winds” that recurred throughout the 18th century blew down all but one under Jane’s very eyes.” (Steventon – Jane Austen’s Home)

1771 (to 1850) – Jane’s brother Henry was born. It was with Henry’s influence that Jane found her publisher. “Henry was Jane Austen’s favorite brother and the sibling most like her in looks and temperament. He was witty and enthusiastic in whatever he did; the eternal optimhenryaustenist, though success did not always find him. He entered Oxford in 1788 in time to co edit the Loiterer with his brother James. He and James also shared a passion for the same woman, their widowed cousin, Eliza de Feuillide. She eventually chose Henry, 10 years her junior, and they were married in 1797.” (http://www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-brothers/)

cassandrasil1773 (to 1845) – Cassandra Austen is born. “In about 1794, Cassandra became engaged to a former student of her father’s, Thomas Fowle. This engagement carried on for some time as Tom was waiting for a family living in Shropshire to become available. Eventually, he decided to join the military as an army chaplain and was sent to the Caribbean. Unfortunately he contracted Yellow Fever and died there in 1797. It was some time before the Austens heard the news and while Cassandra benefited from an annuity left in his will (she inherited Tom’s savings of £1000 which yielded about £50 per year.) she never recovered from this blow and, like Jane, never married.” (http://www.janeausten.co.uk/cassandra-austen-jane-austens-beloved-older-sister/)

donotcopy1774 (to 1865) – The first of Jane’s sea-faring brothers, Francis, was born. “Francis Austen had, perhaps, the most glorious career of the Austen brothers, serving in the Navy from the age of 12 and eventually achieving Knighthood as Sir Francis Austen and rising to the position of Admiral of the Fleet. Considered by Admiral Nelson to be “an excellent young man”, he narrowly missed involvement in the battle of Trafalgar due to his temporary detachment as captain of a captured French Ship, the Canopus. It is doubtless this connection which gave Jane Austen such an admiration for the men of the Royal Navy. A look at his career proclaims him not only the inspiration for the young Lieutenant William Price in Mansfield Park, but even more so for the unforgettable Captain Wentworth of Persuasion. Even the high points of their promotions stem from the same Battle, The Action off Santo Domingo.” (http://www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-brothers/)

1775 (to 1817)On December 16, Jane Austen is born.

1779 (to 1852) – Charles Austen was born. Charles spent seven years in the British navy’s efforts in the West Indies. “Charles was Jane’s darling little brother, clearly a favorite with both sisters as a boy. Though his career was nowhere near as distinguished as that of his brother, he also joined the Naval Academy as Midshipman at the age of 12 and rose to become a Rear-Admiral. Much to the regret of his family, he was stationed in the West Indies where he remained for seven years straight, returning at the end of that time with a wife and child. It was Charles’ gift of Topaz Crosses to his sisters which inspired a similar scene in Mansfield Park. Charles Austen’s ship, Endymion captured many prizes during the war with France, leaving him a comfortable settlement. He died, at age 75, still on Active Duty, during a naval river-war in Burma.” (http://www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-brothers/

1782 – The first theatrical presentation is performed by the Austen family in their home. Jane is 6 years old at the time.

1783 – Cassandra and Jane Austen are sent to Oxford, England to be educated by a private tutor named Ann Cawley. Both girls contract typhoid fever during an outbreak and return home to Steventon. Jane comes close to dying.

1784 – The Austen family performs Sheridan’s The Rivals.

1785 – Jane Austen enrolls in boarding school at Abbey School in Reading.

1786 – The family’s money runs out and Austen returns to Steventon from boarding school. The rest of her education is completed at home from her father’s voluminous library. Austen lives with her parents and sister for the rest of her life.

1787 – Jane’s formal education ends, and she begins to write short stories and poems that later are collectively referred to as the Juvenilia and consists of three bound notebooks of works. She preserves scraps of her early writing in Volume the First.

1790 – Jane pens Love and Friendship and dedicates the work to cousin Eliza. It is believed that at about this time, she makes the conscious decision to write for profit and become a professional writer.

1793 – The last pieces are added to Volume the Third.  Austen begins Lady Susan, a novella told in the form of a series of letters (epistolary). She works on it for two years. She begins to write and later abandons a short play entitled Charles Grandison or the Happy Man, a six act comedy. Jane also pens the poem “Ode to Pity.” She is 17 years of age. Jane’s nieces Anna and Fanny Austen are born. 

1795 – Jane writes Elinor and Marianne.

1795 December – Austen meets Tom LeFroy, an Irish law student who is the nephew of her neighbor. Austen and LeFroy spend time together during his month-long visit to Steventon. He leaves in January 1796 and soon becomes engaged to someone else, ending whatever relationship they had. Austen writes affectionately of LeFroy to her sister, prompting later speculation that he is the real-life inspiration for her male characters.

1796 – The first of the letters, which were preserved, are dated from this year. For example, in a January letter, Jane writes of flirting with Tom Lefroy, and in an October one, she tells of beginning First Impressions. This work remains her most famous piece (better known as Pride and Prejudice).

1797 – Jane finishes First Impressions. It is offered to the publisher, Cadell, who declines Rev. Austen’s presentation of the manuscript.
Jane decides to revise Elinor and Marianne (Sense and Sensibility).

1798 – Jane completes her revisions of Elinor and Marianne. This revision removed the epistolary point of view and stages the story in the more traditional 3rd person perspective. Jane begins writing Susan, which is later called Catherine and finally Northanger Abbey. Her nephew (and future biographer), James Edward Austen is born.

1799 – Jane finishes Susan. She and her mother visit Bath and stay for some time in Queen Square.  

1800 – Jane’s parents decide to retire in Bath. Jane completes her short story “Sir Charles Grandison or the Happy Man,” as well as Susan

1801 – In January, Jane spends time with her long time friends, Catherine and Alethea Bigg in Hampshire at Manydown Park. In May, Jane’s parents take a lease on 4 Sydney Place in Bath.

1802 – In September, Charles, Jane and Cassandrea visit Godmersham. In late November, Jane again visits with the Bigg sisters at Manydown Park.

1802, December 2 – Harris Bigg-Wither proposes. Just before her 27th birthday, Jane Austen receives her only marriage proposal. A recent Oxford grad named Harris Bigg-Wither proposes to Austen while she is visiting his sisters. Realizing that the marriage would be good for her family’s circumstances, Austen accepts. The next morning, however, she changes her mind and withdraws her acceptance. Bigg-Wither marries two years later; Austen never does.

1803  Susan is sold to publisher Crosby for £10. But the book is never published, and Austen’s family later buys back the rights to the work. The family spends time at Godmersham.

1804 – Jane’s family moves to Green Park Buildings, Bath. They spend the summer months in Lyme Regis. On December 16 (Jane’s 29th birthday), friend and mentor, Madam Lefroy, is killed in a freak horse riding accident.

1805 – Rev. George Austen dies suddenly from an illness on January 21. Jane begins The Watsons, which she soon abandons. Her family moves to 25 Gay Street in the spring and then to Trim Street in the autumn. Her father’s death leaves his wife and sisters financially dependent on his sons. The Austen women first rent a house in Bath, then move in with Jane’s brother Frank and his new wife in Southampton.

1806 – Jane and Cassandra visit Manydown Park in February. In August, they join Mrs. Austen’s cousin in Warwickshire. 

1807 – The Austen women (mother, Jane, and Cassandra) take a house with brother Frank and his wife in Castle Square, Southampton.

1808 – Another visit to the Bigg family comes in January. Brother Edward offers the Chawton cottage to his mother and sisters in October.

1809 – On Wednesday, April 5, Jane writes an angry letter (under the pseudonym Mrs. Ashley Dennis = M.A.D.) to publisher Benjamin Crosby and offers up a revised version of the manuscript for Susan to force Crosby’s hand in publishing the work or returning it to her possession. Crosby claims that no timeline was ever set for the book’s publication and as such Ms. Austen can continue waiting or purchase back the rights to the novel. Without the means to do so, Jane cannot reclaim the rights. In July, the women (Mrs. Austen, Cassandra, and Jane) move into the Chawton cottage.

1810 Sense and Sensibility is accepted for publishing by Thomas Egerton.

1811 – Jane begins writing Mansfield Park. In March, Jane visits Henry and wife Eliza in London. In November, Egerton publishes Sense and Sensibility, whose author is identified on the cover only as “a Lady.” Austen’s name is not attached to any of the novels she publishes during her lifetime.

1812 – Much of the year is spent revising First Impressions. The copyright for First Impressions is sold to Thomas Egerton for publication for the sum of 110 pounds.

1813 – In January, Jane releases Pride and Prejudice. Thanks to numerous resources employed by Thomas Egerton, the novel is an instant success. In late April, Jane leaves for London to attend to an ailing Eliza, who dies three days later, leaving Austen’s brother Henry a widower. By July, Mansfield Park is finished. In October, the first edition of Sense and Sensibility is sold out, and a second printing is ordered.

1814 – Austen begins Emma in the early part of the year. In May, Mansfield Park is published. Although ignored by professional reviewers, the novel is nonetheless a success. The first edition sells out in just six months. Mansfield Park becomes Jane’s most profitable venture to date.

1815 – Jane begins Persuasion. She and Henry negotiate with famed publisher John Murray for the publication of Emma. In November, James Stanier Clarke, the librarian of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), a big fan of Austen’s work, invites her to the prince’s London home and suggests that she dedicate her soon-to-be-published book to him. Austen is not a fan of the prince, but is unable to refuse a request from the future monarch. Emma is published the next month with a dedication to the prince. It is the last novel published in her lifetime.

1816 – In January, Henry Austen purchases the copyright to Susan from Benjamin Crosby. The title is changed to Catherine. Sales of the second edition of Mansfield Park do not meet expectations, negating the earnings from Emma. Sir Walter Scott gives Emma favorable notice in Quarterly Reviews. In March, Henry’s bank venture fails, forcing the Austen family into financial uncertainty and delaying the publications of The Elliots and Catherine. In addition, investments in a venture by brothers Edward, James, and Frank are lost. Austen begins to feel the first signs of a long, progressive illness that saps her energy. She continues to work on two novels, The Elliots (Persuasion) and Catherine (Northanger Abbey), but is delayed by her illness and by financial troubles caused by the failure of her brother Henry’s bank. In May, Cassandra escorts Jane to Cheltenham to seek medical care. In August, Jane finishes Persuasion, rewriting the concluding two chapters for a more satisfying ending. She takes ill shortly afterwards.

May 1817 – A bed-ridden Jane and Cassandra Austen move to Winchester in order to be closer to Austen’s doctor.

1817 – In January, she begins The Brothers (Sanditon), but abandons it in March (with 12 completed chapters) due to her health issues. In April, she pens a short will. In July, Jane Austen dies. She is buried in Winchester Cathedral. Persuasion and Northanger Abbey are published posthumously with a Biographical Notice written by Henry in which he publicly identifies her for the first time as the author of her previous novels. Sales start strong but fall off just as quickly.

1820 – John Murray destroys the remaining unsold copies of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. 

1832 – Richard Bentley purchases all the remaining copyrights to Jane Austen’s works. In December, after a 12 year hiatus of no Austen works in publication, Bentley publishes all of the works in a collection of illustrated five-volume series known as the Standard Novels.

1833 – Bentley publishes the collected works of Jane Austen for the first time. Jane Austen’s novels would never go out of print again.

1869 – Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh publishes a biography of his aunt entitled A Memoir of Jane Austen. The memoir sparks renewed interest in the writer.

1883 – The first popular editions of Austen’s novels are published, sparking Austen fandom that continues to this day. Critic (and father of Virginia Woolf) Leslie Stephens calls her rabid following “Austenolatry.”

Some of the facts included in this list come from Shmoop, while others not cited come from JaneAusten.org.

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Jane Austen Time Line

  1. This has been absolutely fascinating.

  2. justjane1813 says:

    This is wonderful Regina!! Thanks for all your hard work and for sharing!

  3. kfield2 says:

    Loved reading, again, the events of Jane Austen’s life. It is always new to me, no matter what form her lifeline is traded, how short her life was and how much she had to endure. I still cannot get over the fact that Edward didn’t help his mother and two sisters before he gave them the cottage at Chawton. Why did he let his two younger and poorer brothers bear so much of the burden? Henry was in better shape than than Francis and Charles but not nearly as well off as Edward. I know it is speculated that his wife, Elizabeth, didn’t like Jane but she did like Cassandra so why?

    • Jackie says:

      Perhaps part of the answer can be found in In Sense and Sensibility. Edward was not raised by his birth parents and with his siblings, but was adopted by wealthy relatives and inherited their wealth. His relationship to Jane and Cassandra is somewhat analogous to that of John Dashwood his half sisters.

      • Your references to the Dashwoods makes sense, although we must remember that Jane wrote that story long before her father passed and left her, Mrs Austen, and Cassandra in dire straits.

    • True. Henry’s wealth was not stable.

  4. Do you think Jane Austen’s health issues had anything to do with the terrible weather in 1816, the year without a summer, and the cold that continued into 1817?

    • As we do not know exactly what illness took Austen’s life, it would be difficult to say for certain. Nonetheless, the volcanic ash in the air would not add to her health. Also, 1816 was cold and wet.
      Most scholars choose Addison’s disease (not called this until 1848) as the cause of her death. The symptoms of Addison’s disease develop gradually and may become established before they are recognized. The most common ones are fatigue; lightheadedness upon standing or difficulty standing; muscle weakness; fever; weight loss; anxiety; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; headache; sweating; changes in mood or personality; and joint and muscle pains. Some patients have cravings for salt or salty foods due to the loss of sodium through their urine. Hyperpigmentation of the skin may be seen, particularly when the patient lives in a sunny area, as well as darkening of the palmar crease, sites of friction, recent scars, the vermilion border of the lips, and genital skin.
      Others think she succumbed to Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma may present with the following symptoms: painless enlargement of one or more lymph nodes, itchy skin,night sweats, unexplained weight loss, enlargement of the spleen or the liver or both,pain following alcohol consumption – the pain has been described as either sharp and stabbing or dull and aching, back pain,
      Red-coloured patches on the skin, easy bleeding and petechiae due to low platelet count, and low-grade fever.
      Some believe in bovine tuberculosis caught when drinking unpasteurized milk. The disease spreads from the cattle to the person.
      One contributing factor or cause of her death, discovered by Linda Robinson Walker and described in the Winter 2010 issue of Persuasions on-line, might be Brill–Zinsser disease, a recurrent form of typhus, which Austen had as a child. Brill–Zinsser disease is to typhus as shingles is to chicken pox; when a victim of typhus endures stress, malnutrition or another infection, typhus can recur as Brill–Zinsser disease.
      Austen is said to have made light of her condition to others, describing it as “Bile” and rheumatism, but as her disease progressed she experienced increasing difficulty walking or finding the energy for other activities.

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