Jane Austen Basics

Beloved for almost two hundred years, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the afterlife of this classic novelist. New editions of her literary works are being released every year gaining new fans and delighting die-hards.

Portrait of Novelist Jane AustenJane Austen was born December 16, 1775 in Hampshire, England. She was born into an educated family with some grounding in society because her father was a priest. She grew up in a household of seven siblings (George, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, and Frank) all of whom were encouraged to develop a hardiness for reading. Her childhood was divided between the rectory and boarding school. Like most women of her time writing was encouraged in the form of journaling and letters but she took it one step further and began to write stories in her early teens as gifts for family members. With their encouragement she began her profession as a writer creating novels filled with deception, love, acceptance, and of course wit.

Jane Austen published four novels in her lifetime. Two were published after her death by her brother. The novels include: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), Northanger Abbey (1817), and Persuasion (1817). Her novels were published anonymously. All of her novels have been developed into screenplays for television and some for movies. The most loved tends to be Pride and Prejudice both in print and on the screen.

Jane Austen died at the age of forty-one (July 18, 1817) from what is now surmised to be Addison’s disease. Her sister Cassandra was by her side. Jane had never married. Her body is interred at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire, England.

During Jane Austen’s life she witnessed some success from her novels but she never could have imagined the longevity and eventual cult following that exists today. She is readily studied by scholars in colleges and universities while the general public continues to scrumptiously devour her Regency works.

Test your knowledge of Jane Austen.

This piece was initially published 4/29/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Jane Austen Cast List

When you spend time reading Jane Austen’s novels it’s not uncommon for the character lines to blur between novels over the years. Here is a listing of the main (or pivotal) characters from each novel that you can use for reference. Or just to refresh your memory.

BellaOnline has a “printer friendly” tab at the bottom that will take out all the other text around this article. Print it out, fold it up and stick it in one of Jane Austen novels for a handy future reference.

I’ve made the list in order of publication with the main love interests separated from the rest.

Sense and Sensibility

  • Elinor Dashwood (Miss Dashwood)
  • Edward Ferrars
  • Marianne Dashwood
  • James Willoughby
  • Colonel Brandon
  • Lucy Steele
  • Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood

Pride and Prejudice

  • Elizabeth Bennet (Miss Bennet)
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy
  • Jane Bennet
  • Charles Bingley
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bennet
  • Mr Collins
  • George Wickham
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh
  • Mary Bennet
  • Catherine Bennet (Kitty)
  • Lydia Bennet

Mansfield Park

  • Fanny Price
  • Edmund Bertram
  • Sir Thomas Bertram and Lady Bertram
  • Mrs. Norris
  • Henry Crawford
  • Mary Crawford
  • Tom Bertram
  • William Price


  • Emma Woodhouse (Miss Woodhouse)
  • George Knightley
  • Frank Churchill
  • Jane Fairfax
  • Harriet Smith
  • Mr. and Mrs. Weston
  • Mr. and Mrs. Elton
  • Miss Bates
  • Mr. Woodhouse

Northanger Abbey

  • Catherine Morland
  • Henry Tilney
  • General Tilney
  • James Morland
  • Isabella Thorpe
  • John Thorpe


  • Anne Elliot
  • Captain Frederick Wentworth
  • Sir Walter Elliot
  • Elizabeth Elliot
  • Lady Russell
  • Louisa Musgrove

If I left someone out whom you think falls into the “main character” category please let me know. Or if you adamantly think there is someone who I have included that shouldn’t be here let me know that too.

This piece was posted on 3/31/2009 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Lost in Austen Review

Amanda Price is an ardent Jane Austen fan. She is bored with her job during the day and frustrated with her boyfriend Michael at night. In between she “patches” herself up with Jane Austen. One evening she is home alone enjoying yet again the…

The review for Lost in Austen was originally written 12/30/2008 for Literary Fiction, BellaOnline. The full review of Lost in Austen can now be read at Squid Lit.

Jane Austen Action Figure Review

Brief History: Archie McPhee is a retail store in Seattle, Washington that offers a wide variety of pop culture knickknacks for kids and adults. With over 10,000 products it is impossible to name them all, not to mention you probably wouldn’t believe me until you seen them for yourself. They have been in operation since 1983.

Product: Jane Austen Action Figure.

Description: This 5 1/4″ tall action figure is made of hard vinyl and comes with a mini Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice novel, a writing desk and a removable quill pen.

Packaging: The action figure comes securely packaged in a double layer of clear sturdy plastic with cardboard backing. The cardboard backing is printed with Jane Austen facts and quotes from her popular novels.

Price: Each figure sells for $8.95 US.

Shipping: McPhee delivers within the U.S. only. Reasonable charges begin at $4.95.

Comments: I came across this action figure last year and thought it would be a great “cute” gift for any Austen fan and have wanted one for some time but the item obviously didn’t warrant spending $30 plus to have it delivered to Canada. Some months passed and it was still in my mind so I finally asked a dear American friend to order two for me, have them delivered to her and then send them to me with some other things she was sending. I ordered two because one was for my bookshelf and the other was to be used as a prize in a writing group I belong to. Being the good friend that she is, she gifted them to me.

Satisfaction: Despite the round-about way I attained these action figures I’m glad I finally have them. These figures definitely do not fall under the “usable toy” category in which someone could actually play with them. Before I had the rigid packaging open I had broken the Pride and Prejudice book from Jane Austen’s hand. Once out I tried to remove the “removable quill” from her other hand and almost broke that to. I still haven’t taken it out. I haven’t tried to move the arms more than a few millimetres for fear of separating them from her body. Luckily, I didn’t plan on playing with her. I just wanted her for an inspirational ornament for my bookshelf and that function seems to be working out beautifully. My only wish is that the desk actually came with legs like some of the other action figure sets. At the moment it sits propped at her feet. If you’re a Jane Austen fan I don’t think your book collection is complete until you have this action figure standing guard over her works. Just don’t let the kids play with it.

The Jane Austen Action Figure can be found at the Archie McPhee website.

Darcy’s Story Review

Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) classic romance Pride and Prejudice has been a well loved tale since her death. Her writing has been reprinted, studied and immortalized in many films. It was written with its main character Elizabeth Bennet (and her family) as…

This review for Janet Aylmer’s book was first published 5/21/2007 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnine. The full review of Darcy’s Story can now be read at SquidLit.

The Opening Line

Novels, on average, have about 300 pages. At 250 words a page that would make a 75,000 word novel. Regardless of the abundance of words, it’s the first few pages that determine a reader’s interest in a story and whether they will continue to follow the author’s creative world until conclusion. The opening line pulls you in, hopefully piquing your interest.

In our daily reading we don’t give much thought to the opening line. They can be short dialogue, “Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy.” or a luxurious description, “The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.” It can offer hints of things to come, introduce an idea or sum up the whole book. Regretfully it is often overlooked as we delve in, quickly reading over the first few pages to determine the essence and worth of further reading.

Some of the best opening lines obviously come from the classics. This simple opening line in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” sums up the social politics for the characters of this era as well as laying the groundwork for many of the storylines.

I’ve often heard Charles Dicken’s opening line from A Tale of Two Cities quoted and misquoted, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” Instantly we know there is a division of time and knowledge; which later reflects on the two main characters.

Here’s a game for you: Grab a novel off your book shelf right now (maybe something you’ve recently read) and open it up to the first line. Read it. Think about what the author is trying to say? How it relates to what you’ve already read. Did the author give you a clue in the first line? What importance does this first line have to the whole novel? What if this first line never existed?

For the next book you read, instead of whisking through that first line or paragraph give it a little of your time. Read it a few times. Take in what the author is attempting to say with those few words. If first impressions make any difference then don’t ignore them. It doesn’t necessarily make or break a book but there is a reason behind why the author chose those particular words to start with out of the 75,000 possible words he or she wrote.

The Opening Line was first published 1/22/2007 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Books at the Oscars – Drama

This year there are numerous books represented at the Oscars in various categories. Some are true stories and some are fiction. Dramatic movies were not overlooked in the nominations.

Brokeback Mountain – Based on a short story by Annie Proulx (www.annieproulx.com) first published in a collection called Cold Range as well as in The New Yorker. Her official website has a “FAQs” specifically for this story and movie. During the summer of 1969 in the Wyoming Mountains two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist fall in love with one another and have to deal with the consequences of their love and the effects it has on their lives. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal have both been nominated for Oscars. Heath for Actor in a Leading Role and Jake for Actor in a Supporting Role. There are seven other nominations for various categories. Brokeback Mountain is the only one nominated for Best Picture (along with Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich). It wouldn’t surprise me if it won since the short story is considered a “masterpiece” and won both the National Magazine Award and the O. Henry Prize.

Update: Brokeback Mountain won Oscars for music, adapted screenplay, and directing.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Written by Arthur Golden and released in 1997 by Knopf. It was re-released in time for the release of the movie. It is an epic tale following the life of Sayuri, a Japanese Geisha, from childhood when she is first purchased to her unprecedented success. A unique look into 1930s Japan when slavery was an art and one blue-eyed woman’s rise to the status of goddess. Despite superb acting by Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, and Ken Watanabe, the film has only been nominated for (although not surprisingly) art direction, cinematography, and costume design.

Update: Memoirs of a Geisha won Oscars for costume design, art direction and cinematography.

Pride and Prejudice – Written by Jane Austen (1775-1817) in the early 19th century becoming quite popular after her death. The Bennets have five daughters they wish to marry off before the man of the house dies and leaves them penniless. This story focuses specifically on Elizabeth and her sister Jane and their relationship with one another, society and the available men. This is not the first adaptation. In 1996 one was made with Colin Firth (who’s played a Darcy in more than one film). In 1980 one was made with Elizabeth Garvie and in 1939 one was made with Greer Garson. Keira Knightley has been nominated for an Oscar for Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Miss Elizabeth Bennet. This version is also nominated for art, costume and music.

The Constant Gardener – Written by John le Carre (www.johnlecarre.com) and first published in 2000 by Scribner it has been reprinted numerous times. Justin Quayle, a quiet reserved British diplomat who meets, falls in love with and marries Tessa, a flamboyant activist. When she is brutally murdered in Northern Kenya while researching a pharmaceutical company’s dealing with the locals and rumours surface about her loyalty he begins doing his own research. The closer he gets to the truth the closer he gets to his own demise. Rachel Weisz is nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Tessa while Ralph Fiennes is left out in the cold. The film is also nominated for editing, music and screenplay.

Update: The Constant Gardener won an Oscar for actress in a supporting role.

Tsotsi – Initially published in September 1983 and re-released in March. This political drama was written by Athol Fugard. In Soweto, Africa a young man who has spent his short life executing vicious crimes is forced to face the consequences of his actions when he comes into contact with a baby. His own abuse, resulting anger and ultimate release and forgiveness shape him into the man he was meant to become. Tsotsi is nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Update: Tsotsi won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Books at the Oscars:

Originally posted 3/3/2006 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.