Jane Austen: Life and Background
Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire, the seventh of the eight children of the Reverend George Austen and his wife Cassandra (née Leigh). This large family lived at the Rectory, in the village of Steventon, which is just off the road from Basingstoke to Andover; apart from the church, very little of the village as Jane Austen knew it now survives. In the pre-railway age, life in a country district would centre very much on the family and the village (just as it does in Emma); but with six brothers and a sister life can hardly have been dull for Jane. Family life was always important to her, and plays a prominent role in her novels, where she repeatedly explores the relationships of parents and children and of siblings. She was fortunate in being born to what Marghanita Laski describes as ‘happy, talented parents and…a pleasant home’, and she enjoyed particularly close relationships with her brother Henry, four years older than herself, and her sister Cassandra, two years older. Another of her brothers, Edward, had, like Frank Churchill in Emma, been adopted by wealthy relatives who were childless and was being brought up as their heir.
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