Her Literary Reputation
Jane Austen was much too critical to resort to the plot devices of popular fiction. It is not surprising therefore that she never received public acclamation comparable to that bestowed on the author of the Waverley Novels, or reached the reading masses as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte did. Her anonymity and avoidance of publicity did nothing to increase interest in her works, and it should be remembered that only four of her novels appeared in her lifetime, the first less than six years before her death. Her first publisher seems to have been unduly cautious, and it is significant that John Murray, her second, produced not only her new novel, Emma, but a second edition of Mansfield Park soon after undertaking the publication of her work. Sense and Sensibility appeared in French in 1815; Mansfield Park, in 1816. The same year Emma was published in London, Paris, and Philadelphia. All her novels were translated and published in France within a few years of their publication in England. Clearly, though not destined to be a popular author, Jane Austen was soon marked for distinction; and such has in the main been the tenor of her success ever since. Her novels have always been in demand among discerning readers of all classes. Changes of taste have never damaged her reputation very seriously.
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