The Jane Austen Files by Helen Amy
After the publication of my book Jane Austen In Her Own Words & The Words of Those Who Knew Her I was asked to compile a volume containing all the Austen family biographical material which I had used. I was also asked to trace the development of the biographical knowledge of Jane Austen's life.
Although she is one of England’s greatest and best-loved novelists whose works are still widely read nearly two centuries after her death, it was not until the 1860’s that Jane was recognized as a great writer.
As Jane’s popularity grew readers wanted to know more about her and people began to flock to her grave in Winchester Cathedral. There was no indication on her gravestone that Jane was a famous writer and a puzzled verger was heard to ask “Is there something particular about that lady?”
The first biography of Jane's was written by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, partly to satisfy the growing curiosity about her. His memoir of Jane, which was published in 1869, sold so well that it was soon followed by a second edition.
As the interest in Jane continued to grow, her letters and further biographical material were published by later generations of the Austen family. My book, which also contains forty-three illustrations, brings these memoirs, letters and a family diary together in one volume. As well as showing how knowledge of this much loved author has developed over time, this book also opens a fascinating window on the England in which she lived and set her novels*. It will be of interest to students of English literature and all those who love Jane Austen's works.
*My current project is a highly illustrated book about Jane Austen’s England.