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Jane Austen's Works

It is a source of everlasting regret to Austen aficionados that her oeuvre is so small, and even though few doubt that her influence upon English literature is a great as, say, Charles Dickens, equally few people doubt that it was only her untimely death at the age of just 42 that prevented her from becoming as prolific an author as Dickens.

At the simplest level, it is possible to divide Jane Austen's work into three broad categories: juvenilia, novels and letters. Of course, such a division is a gross simplification, and any meaningful analysis will go far deeper than this.

All Jane Austen's juvenilia were written while the family was still living at Steventon. The most famous pieces are "Love and Freindship" (sic), a parody on the cult of "sensibility", to which she was later to devote much more attention in "Sense and Sensibility", and "A History of England", a hugely entertaining and humorous work which formed the inspiration for the now-classic 1066 and All That by Sellar and Yeatman. More detailed coverage of the juvenilia can be found at the appropriate section of Henry Churchyard's pages.

The six finished novels are universally acknowledged as the most influential segment of Jane Austen's work. The early versions of three of them were begun at Steventon, but not finished or published until much later. Brief details of each are given below.

Northanger Abbey
Original title: Susan
Published: 1817 (posthumously)
Full text and plot summary
Sense and Sensibility
Original title: Elinor and Marianne
Published: 1811
Full text
Pride and Prejudice
Original title: First Impressions
Published: 1813
Full text and plot summary
Mansfield Park
Published: 1814
Full text and plot summary
Published: 1815
Full text and plot summary
Published: 1817 (posthumously)
Full text and plot summary

In addition to these six novels, there is a fragment of a novel, "Sanditon", written in 1817 at a time when Jane was still well enough to write. As always, consult the appropriate section of Henry Churchyard's pages for a far more detailed description and analysis of Jane Austen's novels.

Jane Austen was a prolific letter writer. The majority of her surviving letters are to her sister, Cassandra. As one would expect, her letters abound with details of her everyday life. More valuable, however, are the sections which deal with her writings, as these provide information that is not available from any other source. For a long time, an important edition of her letters was the Brabourne edition, available online, but this is far from a complete collection, as about one third of the letters now know to be extant are not included. The current definitive edition of the letters is edited by Deirdre LeFaye

The standard bibliography of Jane Austen is "A Bibliography of Jane Austen," by David Gilson. This is now out-of-print, and secondhand copies typically command over $100. For the serious student of Jane Austen's works, however, it is a sine qua non.

Last update: 16/12/2008

This page is copyright © 2008-9 James Petts