Also by a Lady.
2017 celebrates 200 years since Jane Austen's death and for those who are just discovering Austen, like me, it might come as a shock that for an author that is still so relevant two centuries after her death she had little recognition while still alive . Her first book, Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously – By a Lady – in 1811 and received two brief and polite reviews. Pride and Prejudice, that to date features in every "must read" and "most loved" book list, was first published in 1813 and brought her little fame during her lifetime.
Jane Austen's reputation only started to change when, in 1869, her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote 'A Memoir of Jane Austen' introducing her to a new...
audience of Victorians that soon became fascinated, first with her exemplary and quiet life and then, by her novels.
Her novels are marked by sly wit and cynicism, something that is unusual for her time. Her characters were strong, witty women, making her a subtle feminist – she was one of the first authors to advocate that women should marry for love and not to increase social standing or money, she highlighted that women couldn’t inherit wealth, leaving many destitute on their husbands’ deaths and gave female characters the right to be happy too.
Jane Austen wasn't held in high regard by other pioneers in the history of English Literature and many thought that the limitation to the small world and small concern of her characters made her small scale and parochial. However, by sticking to what she knew she elevated the trivial to an art, showing that an author doesn't have to go to big, topical or historical themes but that there is plenty of human material right in front of them.
I have to confess that after a disastrous attempt with Pride and Prejudice - I honestly think now that the buzz and noise of a Market doesn't agree with some books - I have jumped straight into Emma and was delighted and highly entertained throughout, having fallen, as a first reader through the gaps of this "comedy of mysteries and puzzles which challenges the reader's perspicacity quite as much as the heroine's". But after reading more about Jane Austen to write this little piece I feel ready and encouraged to try Pride and Prejudice again.
Two-hundred years! It made me think of the progress made for women since Austen's time in Regency Society but also hope that it won't take so long to close the gaps that still exist between men and women today. Besides the commemorations 2017 will also see Jane Austen as the face of the new £10 note, and that in itself is a reason to celebrate.