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Welcome to Jane Austen Detectives


Follow us on our journey as we unravel the world of Jane Austen - her life, food, medicine and her social position in Georgian England. Jane Austen Detectives visit the homes and places known to Jane researching and interviewing experts. Our hands-on approach enables us to understand more about Jane Austen's life in Georgian society as well as gaining new threads of meaning in her novels.


We want to bring you the latest news, interviews and events as well as access to an interpretation of recipes from the exclusive Knight Family Cookbook. We also have a vast blog section of articles that cover a range of Jane Austen topics. Join in the conversations, add comments or write your own review. We would love to hear from you. Also, make sure you have a look in our corner shop and discover more about our Hampshire artists and designers who have created handcrafted Austen-inspired artwork and designs.


Our current television project

FOOD FOR THOUGHT is a television series concept that blends the iconic masterpieces of a classic literary author with the talents of a major chef. Please check out this five-minute "Recipe with Sizzle" that best presents the idea:


The series features well-known works of the author and the popular foods of that era, along with a brief biography of the chef and his or her philosophies and current activities. These elements all come together as the chef creates a special meal based on his or her impressions of the author. The feast is shared at an event with key personalities invited to participate.


This series concept has been created by Ester Davies, Patrick Nagle and Catherine O'Sullivan Shorr. To find out more about the series please and Planet Group Entertainment whom we are working on this project with, please click here

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Frequently asked Jane Austen questions

Where did Jane Austen live?

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire, England, to Reverend George Austen, the rector at Steventon, and Cassandra Leigh Austen. At seven, she was sent to a boarding school in Oxford with her sister Cassandra, but both girls returned about a year later, after contracting typhoid. From 1785 to 1786, both girls briefly attended the Reading Ladies Boarding School, but financial concerns forced them to leave.


They were subsequently educated at home. After Jane’s six brothers had left home, Jane, Cassandra and their parents moved to Bath in 1801, which Jane was not fond of missing her childhood home and disliking the claustrophobia of town.


Following the death of Jane’s father in 1805, the sisters and their mother moved to Southampton, and then to a cottage in Chawton in July 1809. Here, Jane was happier and more productive; it was while she lived at Chawton that her first four novels were published. Following her death on 18th July 1817, Jane was buried at Winchester Cathedral, and her final two novels were published posthumously in December 1817.

What did Jane write? 

While we can assume Jane wrote extensively throughout her lifetime (she was certainly a keen letter writer, particularly to her sister Cassandra), what have survived are six full novels, one short novel, two unfinished novels, and a collection of Juvenilia. Best known are her completed, full-length novels:

Sense and Sensibility (1811), originally entitled Elinor and Marianne, follows the fortunes of the Dashwood family as they are forced to leave their home after the death of their father. The difference between quiet, sensible older sister Elinor and tempestuous younger sister Marianne

Pride and Prejudice (1813), originally entitled First Impressions, is Jane’s best known work. It tells the story of the Bennet family, particularly Mrs Bennet’s efforts to ensure her five daughters – Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia – secure good marriages. The arrival of the wealthy Mr Bingley and the even wealthier Mr Darcy causes uproar in their small village, and Darcy and Elizabeth begin a romance that has become legendary in English literature.

Mansfield Park (1814) follows the young protagonist, Fanny Price, as she is sent to live with her far wealthier relatives, the Bertrams. The equilibrium of the household is upset with the arrival of Henry and Mary Crawford, and Fanny must make serious decision about her future.

Emma (1815) is named for its polarising heroine, the ‘handsome, clever and rich’ Emma Woodhouse, who delights in playing matchmaker and whose wild imagination causes strife in the lives of those around her.

Northanger Abbey (1818) is at its heart a satire of the sensationalist Gothic novels that its heroine, Catherine Morland, relishes. Catherine’s quiet life is thrown into chaos when she visits Bath, befriends vibrant, playful Isabella Thorpe, and receives an invitation to the mysterious ancestral home of the Tilneys, Northanger Abbey.

Persuasion (1818), Austen’s final full-length novel, begins 8 years after its heroine, Anne Elliot, refused the proposal of naval officer Frederick Wentworth on the advice of her aunt, due to his low rank and poor financial prospects. Now 27 and still un married, Anne is filled with regret at her choice when she re-encounters Wentworth, now a highly respected and successful captain.

Lady Susan (1805) is a short novel that follows the titular Lady Susan in her search for husbands for herself and her daughter Frederica.

The Watsons (1804), chronicling the complicated relationship between four sisters, and Sanditon (1817), about a young woman’s adventures in a newly-formed seaside town, were left unfinished after Austen’s death in 1817.

Austen’s Juvenilia is a collection of short stories, plays and poems, including the satirical novella Love and Freindship.


When did Jane write her novels?

Jane’s novels were often published long after she completed them, and her earliest published novels were often finished far later than those published later.

Her Juvenilia was written between 1787 and 1798, but not published until 1933.

Lady Susan has been estimated to have been written around 1793 – 1794, but was not published until 1871.

The first draft of Sense and Sensibility was written around 1797, and originally titled Elinor and Marianne. It was published on 30 October 1811.

Pride and Prejudice, originally titled First Impressions, was written between October 1796 and August 1797. It was heavily revised from 1811 to 1812, following the publication of Sense and Sensibility, and the title was changed before its publication on 28 January 1813.

Northanger Abbey was written between 1798 and 1799, and originally titled Susan. Austen began revising it throughout 1817, including changing the heroine’s name, and subsequently retitling it Catherine. The final title, Northanger Abbey, is likely to have been chosen by Austen’s brother Henry when he published the novel in December 1817, following Austen’s death in July 1817.

The Watsons was begun in 1803 and abandoned sometime around 1805. The incomplete novel was published in 1871.

Mansfield Park was written between February 1811 and the summer of 1813, and published on 19 May 1814.

Emma was written between 1814 and 1815, and published soon after, in December 1815. This was Austen’s final novel to be published before her death.

Persuasion was written between 1815 and 1816, while Austen was suffering from the illness that would claim her life in July 1817. Like Northanger Abbey, it was published by Henry Austen in December 1817.

Sanditon was written between January and March 1817, and first published alongside The Watsons in 1871.


Did Jane publish under her own name?

Although some female authors of Jane’s time did publish under their own names, writing novels was still not a particularly respected profession at the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Jane published anonymously; Sense and Sensibility was published as being written ‘by a Lady’, and Pride and Prejudice ‘by the author of Sense and Sensibility’. Mansfield Park and Emma were similarly published anonymously. Her family did know her as the author, but the general public did not.

All of Jane’s novels were at least somewhat successful, and it was alongside the posthumous publications of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in December 1817 that Henry Austen published a eulogy identifying Jane as the author of the novels.


Who was Jane Austen's family?

Jane Austen, born in 1775, was the seventh of eight children. She was the daughter of Rev. George Austen and Cassandra Leigh.

Jane had one sister, Cassandra, who was born in 1773. Neither Cassandra nor Jane married and the sisters enjoyed a close relationship and would write frequently when they were away from one another. Jane had six brothers: James (1765–1819), George (1766–1838), Edward (1768–1852), Henry Thomas (1771–1850), Francis William (Frank) (1774–1865), and Charles John (1779–1852).

Little is known about Jane's brother George, who is believed to have suffered from health problems. He did not live with the Austen family but instead was cared for in the Hampshire village of Monk Sherborne. Both Francis and Charles Austen were Admirals in the Royal Navy.


Edward Austen was adopted by the Knight family in the 1780s and he became heir to property in Steventon and to the Chawton and Godmersham estates.


James Austen followed in his father's footsteps and became a curate. Henry Austen, who helped Jane to publish her work, worked in banking and later as a minister.


What was Jane's everyday life like?

Jane Austen, as an unmarried woman, spent her days with her family. After waking, it was common for women like Jane to practice accomplishments such as playing the piano or completing tasks such as writing letters.


Jane and her sisters would sometimes complete craft projects, such as making quilts. She would often sew and read aloud. Occasionally, Jane would make short visits such as to Bath or Lyme and enjoyed attending balls which were mainly located in the Hampshire area.


Along with Cassandra, when living in Steventon Jane would visit the nearby town of Alton to go shopping. She enjoyed days out with her family to many different locations in Hampshire including the New Forest and Netley Abbey.


When did Jane Austen die?

Jane Austen died on the 18th of July, 1817, at the age of 41. She moved to College Street in Winchester to be closer to her doctor as her health declined in the final weeks of her life. The cause of her death has not been confirmed, although research suggests that she suffered from tuberculosis or Addison's disease. Her funeral took place on the 24th of July at Winchester Cathedral, where she was buried.


Was Jane a popular writer in her own time?

Jane Austen's popularity grew after her death as, during her lifetime, her works were published anonymously.


Two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously. However, contemporary reviewers were generally positive about her works and her novels sold well. Sense and Sensibility, which was published in 1811, was an instant success and its full print run of 750 sold out by 1813.


Mansfield Park, which was published in 1814, made Austen more money than any other novel published in her lifetime and yielded over £320 with a print run of 1250.

Who inspired Jane Austen?

Although Jane Austen was a literary pioneer herself, she clearly drew inspiration from the world around her – both literary and otherwise.


It’s known that Jane used Circulating Libraries – a place where books could be borrowed for a fee – and borrowed books from friends, reading heavily from an early age. Authors that definitely have inspired Austen include satirist Samuel Johnson, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding and Walter Scott. However, clear textual influences on Austen’s work come from female authors, with Ann Radcliffe and her Gothic novels forming part of the inspiration for Northanger Abbey, and it is known that Jane was an admirer of contemporaries Frances Burney and Maria Edgeworth.


It’s also known that Jane took inspiration from her family too. Jane’s mother was known to write poetry, and her sister Cassandra inspired much of Austen’s early writing. As fans of Becoming Jane might already believe it is also suggested that Tom Lefroy, Jane’s first love and later Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, inspired Pride and Prejudice, as she is known to have begun the novel several months after their brief encounter.


Regardless of where Austen got her inspiration from, though, we know that her texts are hugely important in their own right..

Why is Jane Austen so important?

From a literary perspective alone, Jane Austen is hugely significant. Bringing techniques such as free indirect discourse into the literary domain, as well as popularising the satirical romance novel, Austen has provided generations of writers with inspiration. This is clear through authors who’ve drawn on Austen’s style, as well as those who’ve reworked Austen’s legendary texts into their own. Authors such as J.K. Rowling have cited Austen among their favourite writers, and her appeal endures into the twenty-first century.


Jane’s appeal also extends to film and television. Countless adaptations of her work have appeared - particularly of Austen’s most famous text Pride and Prejudice – and have formed part of the public consciousness.


These haven’t just been simple retellings of Austen’s stories, but have also seen Austen’s work changed for a modern audience, like Amy Heckerling’sClueless. Modern versions of Jane’s texts have been brought to a whole new community, and Jane Austen fans are created every day. Film and television has also sought to tell Jane’s own story, too, letting the author herself becomes the central character in Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets.


All of these different versions prove that Jane Austen’s work and ideas endure in our world, and only go to show that she continues to remain an important part of our cultural heritage to this day.

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