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Jane Austen's Family Timeline

Posted: 5th May 2015
Jane Austen's Family Timeline

Jane Austen's Family Timeline

Martha Lloyd 1765-1843
 

Martha Lloyd 1765-1843Martha Lloyd was a very close friend of Jane Austen and her family, and her life was intertwined with the Austens’ from the time she lived with the Austen women in Bath to her marriage to Francis Austen in 1828.

Her position in the Austen household held a curious balance between trusted friend and housekeeper. After her father’s death, the Reverend Austen had allowed Martha, her mother and sisters to live in his disused parsonage at Deane near Steventon, fostering the strong friendship between his daughters and the Lloyd girls, but also making the family beholden to him, which may explain Martha’s semi-subordinate position in the Austen women’s household later on.

Martha is known to have been a diligent housekeeper, and she collected the recipes which later were compiled into The Jane Austen Household Book.

 

Charles Austen 1779-1852
 

charles Austen

Jane Austen’s youngest brother was another peripheral member of the Austen household. Like his brother Frank, he joined the Naval Academy as a Midshipman at the age of 12.

Although his career in the Navy was not as distinguished as his brother’s, he attained the rank of Rear-Admiral. Seven years of his professional life were spent in the West Indies, where he married and had a child.

 

 

Francis Austen 1774-1856
 

Francis Austen 1774-1856

Francis, called Frank, joined the Navy at the age of 12, starting a career which ended with his receiving a knighthood and attaining the position of Admiral of the Fleet.Although he just missed involvement in the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson knew him and once referred to him as ‘an excellent young man’. 

Although in a smaller way than Edward or Henry, Frank also extended a helping hand to his mother and sisters after his father’s death. His marriage took place just when the Austen women’s position in Bath was at its lowest point, and allowed him to invite his mother and sisters, and their loyal friend Martha Lloyd, to join his new household in Southampton. They would be able to bear his wife, Mary, company whilst he was at sea. 

The arrangement proved satisfactory, and the Austen women remained in Southampton with Frank for two years.When Frank had to move his wife and young child to the Isle of Wight, his mother and sisters went to stay with Edward in Kent. 

Mary died in 1823, and Frank married Martha Lloyd in 1828. His daughter Catherine would later write the first completion of her aunt’s unfinished novel The Watsons.

 

 

Henry Austen 1771-1850
 

Henry Austen 1771-1850

Of all Jane Austen’s relatives, her brother Henry was the most instrumental in helping her publish her work, making arrangements for the publication of her first three novels, and allowing her to stay with him in London when she had to do business with her publishers.

His career path was erratic, starting with a brief spell in the military followed by an attempt at banking. His bank failed at the time Jane Austen was independently superintending the publication of Emma. Bankrupt, Henry took Holy Orders and succeeded his brother James as rector of Steventon, later becoming curate at Chawton.

Henry and his wife Eliza extended their hospitality to many members of the Austen family. Since both suffered from poor health and a stay at the seaside was recommended to them for medical reasons, they were the ones who took Jane Austen to visit Lyme Regis, which inspired a large part of Persuasion.

As he had facilitated the publication of her first three novels, Henry also ensured the publication of Jane Austen’s last two completed novels to be published, Northanger Abbeyand Persuasion. He was the author of the biographical preface of these novels, published together after Jane Austen’s death.

 

 

Edward Austen-Knight 1767-1852
 

Edward Austen-Knight 1767-1852

Although he did not belong to the Austen household, being a favourite of his father’s wealthy connections Thomas and Catherine Knight who formally adopted him at the age of 16, Edward was a generous brother whose assistance proved invaluable to the Austen women after Mr Austen’s death.

Edward took the surname of his adoptive parents, and inherited their estates in Kent and at Chawton. Both of his sisters frequently visited him at his principal residence, Godmersham in Kent. It is thought that one of her long stays there inspired Jane Austen to write Pride and Prejudice, as she began to write First Impressions, her first draft of the novel, soon after her return. 

Edward married Elizabeth Bridges, a lively woman who was well liked by the Austens. Their children included Jane Austen’s favourite niece Fanny Knight, whose son edited the first collection of Jane Austen’s letters. Elizabeth died in childbirth in 1808, and following her death Edward lived primarily in Chawton House. As this was now his primary residence, he offered his mother and sisters Chawton Cottage to live in. The Austen women returned to Hampshire in 1809 and were frequent visitors to Edward’s family atChawton House.

Memorials to Edward and his wifeand to his adoptive parents survive in the church at Godmersham.

 

 

George Austen 1766-1838
 

George Austen 1766-1838

Little is known about Jane Austen’s second brother. He was part of the Steventon household for the first years of Jane Austen’s life, and letters indicate that she knew and remembered him.

In 1779, however, he was sent away to live with a farming family, the Culhams, in Monk Sherborne. The Culham family also cared for Jane Austen’s uncle, Thomas Leigh.

Researchers have speculated that George may have been deaf, and/or have had learning disabilities. A reference in one of Jane Austen’s letters about talking to a deaf man ‘with her fingers’ is thought to refer to the way she had been used to communicating with George. George never returned to live with his family, and his later life remains undocumented.

 

 

James Austen 1765-1819
 

James Austen 1765-1819

Although James was a brightscholar, distinguishing himself at university, there seems to have been some distance between him and Jane Austen. His succession of his father as rector of Steventon, however, did preserve a strong tie with Jane Austen’s birthplace, allowing her to continue to visit the neighbourhood.

His first wife died at a young age, leaving two-year-old Anna, who was one of Jane Austen’s favourite nieces. James remarried Mary Lloyd, the sister of the Austens’ family friend Martha Lloyd. Both of James and Mary’s children recorded their memories of their aunt; their son James Edward publishedher first biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, in 1869.

 

 

Cassandra Leigh 1739-1827
 

Cassandra Leigh 1739-1827

Jane Austen’s mother’s family had wealthy connections, but Cassandra Leigh’s father was a curate belonging to a poorer branch of the family. She was clever and well-educated, and her habit of writing comic verses to amuse friends and family very probably inspired Jane Austen’s writing. 

Jane Austen’s mother’s family had wealthy connections, but Cassandra Leigh’s father was a curate belonging to a poorer branch of the family. She was clever and well-educated, and her habit of writing comic verses to amuse friends and family very probably inspired Jane Austen’s writing. 
Cassandra Leigh and George Austen met when Cassandra was visiting her uncle, Master of Balliol College, Oxford, when George was a student at the university. They married in Bath in 1764. 

There was a close bond between Mrs Austen and her daughters: they shared many interests, and seem to have lived together very harmoniously after Mr Austen’s death. The patchwork quilt made by the three women, now on display at Chawton Cottage, bears witness to their closeness and cooperation.

 

 

Reverend George Austen 1731-1805
 

Reverend George Austen 1731-1805

Throughout Jane Austen’s early life, her father was Rector of the quiet parish of Steventon in rural Hampshire. The living included a working farm, allowing the family to be largely self-sufficient

The Reverend Austen was a highly educated man, and supplemented his income by tutoring the sons of the local gentry. He allowed both of his daughters access to his extensive library, which helped Jane Austen develop her literary style and ambition. He recognised his daughter’s talent and helped her take her first steps towards publication , submitting the completed draft of First Impressions (later to become Pride and Prejudice) to the publisher Thomas Cadell in 1797. It is not clear whether Jane Austen knew about her father’s initiative or the manuscript’s rejection by Cadell, but George. 


Austen was not deterred from negotiating the sale of her manuscript Susan (which would become Northanger Abbey) to Crosby & Co. in 1803. Although neither publishing attempt came to fruition, George Austen’s efforts are public testaments to the family’s appreciation and acknowledgment of Jane Austen’s talents. 

The rectory’s self-sufficiency is often cited as an explanation for George Austen’s failure to anticipate the financial demands of life in Bath. Having fond memories of the town where he had courted and married Cassandra Leigh, he made the sudden decision to retire there with his wife and daughters in 1801, uprooting Jane Austen from her beloved Hampshire. His unexpected death in 1805 left his wife and daughters in straightened circumstances , which were not alleviated until they left Bath to live first with Jane Austen’s brother Francis, and finally with her brother Edward who offered them the cottage on the Chawton estate, allowing her to return to her native county.

 

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