As we wrote in our first post on our November 2015 meeting, our topic was to try to ascertain who Jane Austen really was. Most attendees looked at the topic from different angles. This post contains the final contributions.
Jane Austen was a precocious genius, strongly supported by her family, who was single-minded and determined about her writing but who was also very shy – a very private person.
Her brother Henry was so proud of her achievements when Pride and Prejudice was published that he gave away her identity. “The truth is that the secret has spread so far as to be scarcely the shadow of a secret now…I am trying to harden myself. After all, what a trifle it is in all its bearings, to the really important point of one’s existence even in this world.” Jane wrote.
Her powers of observation made her an astute judge of character and she used this skill to create memorable characters which is interesting in light of the fact she suffered from weak eyesight “and could not work or read for long together” according to her niece Caroline.
Because Jane was satirical, some thought of her as judgemental. One of her nieces, possibly Marianne according to Jane Aitken Hodge, said: “She was in fact one of the last people in society to be afraid of, I do not suppose ever in her life said a sharp thing. She was naturally shy and not given to talk much in company, and people fancied, knowing she was clever, that she was on the watch for good material for her books from their conversation. Her intimate friends knew how groundless was the apprehension and that it wronged her.” Obviously this niece was not aware of her letters.
What she was really like will always remain a mystery, partly because her family, especially Cassandra, was so protective of her image. They saw her in a different way to the public at large and we must never forget how different her world was from ours as was the position of women two hundred years ago.
I looked at Jane Austen from the astrological point of view, and shared this link with the group. It’s not necessarily the best or most detailed analysis, but provided a manageable introduction to the topic for the meeting.