Jane Austen: Life and Background
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Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire on 16 December 1775. She was the seventh of eight children of George and Cassandra Austen and she grew up with her brothers and sisters in a warm and secure family atmosphere. She was particularly close to her older sister, Cassandra, whose bedroom she shared and from whom she could not bear to be parted. She also had a favourite brother, Henry, supposedly the most charming of the Austens, who was four years older than Jane and on whom she relied for advice. The surviving correspondence of Jane Austen, which is one of our main sources of information about her life, shows the importance to her of maintaining family contact. Almost all the letters, written from 1796 onwards, are to her sister, brothers and their children and contain the sort of gossip to be found in most families. Similarly, Jane Austen’s novels always deal centrally with family relationships. The bonds between parents and children and brothers and sisters meant a lot to her, and she is harsh in her condemnation of characters (like the Elliots in Persuasion) who are cold-hearted and seem deficient in natural family feeling.
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