Guest Blog: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen by Carrie Sessarego

20140525-Scanned-352Carrie Sessarego is friend and the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Popcorn. She has such a great literary voice and agreed to swap blogs with me on the subject of Jane Austen. My post 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Compare the Modern Man to Mr. Darcy posted on her blog and now she brings you wisdom about Jane Austen.

Jane Austen has inspired many modern flix such as: Clueless, Bridget Jones Diary, and From Prada to Nada. She continues to inspire authors and filmmakers alike. But Carrie is here to tell us…

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen

There’s a popular image of Jane Austen as an isolated individual. She’s often pictured as a person who was confined to a small, claustrophobic sphere in social and geographic terms. Jane is seen as the ultimate spinster, secluded in her village home and ekeing out a provincial existence. Actually, Jane was quite up-to-date concerning politics and world affairs, and she was no stranger to a dirty joke. She traveled all over England, loved the theater, and loved to dance. Here’s ten things you might not have known about Jane Austen:

1. She had six brothers and her father ran a small boarding school for boys. Cassandra was her only sister.

Jane was a tomboy as a child and loved to play sports with her brothers. She was very close to Cassandra. They spent almost every day under the same roof, and they wrote to each other daily when separated. Sadly, most of the letters have been lost or destroyed.

 2. “Infirmities” ran in the family.

Jane’s brother, George, suffered from “fits”. He was eventually placed with another family who were paid to take care of him. He might also have been deaf. Some comments Jane made in her letters suggest that she talked to him in sign language. Jane had several relatives on her mother’s side that had similar “fits” and seemed to have mental and physical impairments. Jane joked in letters about the “madness” in her family.

 3. Jane loved the ocean.

She did not want to move to Bath, but was promised a seaside holiday every summer, which she very much enjoyed. She liked being “dipped” in the ocean and stayed in a number of seaside resorts in England and Wales. She bought a cabinet from Mary Anning’s father and complained that he overcharged her. Mary Anning was a paleontologist who is finally getting recognition for her work – it’s one of those fun moments in which famous people collide before they are famous.

4. Her Aunt Phila (short for “Philadelphia”) travelled to India to find a husband as part of “The Fishing Fleet”.

A young woman in England with no prospects could take a chance on finding a husband in India, where lonely British men vastly outnumbered women. Women who travelled to India for this purpose were known as “the fishing fleet”. The gamble paid off for Phila, who sent exotic letters to Jane for years.

5. Phila’s daughter, Eliza, married a French Aristocrat. She stayed with the Austen’s when she fled France during the French Revolution.

Eliza told Jane terrifying stories and Jane was quite adamantly anti-French for life, even more so than most English during a time when England was often at war with France and yet totally fascinated by the country. Eliza’s husband was sent to the guillotine. The widowed Eliza married Jane’s brother, Henry. Jane and Eliza were always very close and Eliza is thought to have been an inspiration behind the character of Mary Crawford, in Mansfield Park.

6. Jane was an abolitionist.

Jane’s extended family had many ties to slavery in the West Indies and Jamaica, but her immediate family opposed slavery as a political stance. Her brothers in the Navy opposed slavery on more practical levels, as one of their jobs was to intercept slavers and enforce the abolition of the slave trade. Her brother Frank wrote candidly about his Navy experiences.

7. She hated the Prince Regent but she had to dedicate a book to him anyway.

The Prince Regent was a fan of Mansfield Park. Even though the book was published anonymously, a lot of people knew who the author was. Jane was not a fan of the Prince Regent, but it turns out that if the Prince’s secretary hints that you should think about dedicating a book to the Prince Regent, you better do it. She dedicated a special edition of Emma to him after much soul-searching.

8. Jane enjoyed city life.

Jane is often pictured as never leaving her quiet village. Actually, she spent five years in Bath, a sizeable tourist town, and went to London often to visit her brother, Henry. She loved dancing, going to the theater, and shopping.

9. Jane had a stalker.

A Miss Shirreff was such a fan of Jane’s books that she used to take her carriage past Jane’s home and she said that she always wished the carriage would break down in front of Jane’s house so that they would meet.

10. The first publisher who was presented with Pride and Prejudice turned it down and the other bought it but didn’t release it.

The first publisher who was offered Pride and Prejudice was offered an early version. This version was titled First Impressions. The publisher never even read it. The letter of inquiry was returned marked “Decline by Return of Post”. Jane rewrote it twice and fifteen years later sold it to a different publisher. You could buy a copy for 18 shillings.


Carrie Sessarego is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Popcorn: Tv and Film Adaptations of Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre. She’s also the ‘geek reviewer’ for, and the creator and writer of When not reading and writing, you can find Carrie volunteering for the Sacramento Public Library, and getting into trouble with her mad scientist husband, amazing daughter, suitably mysterious cats, and highly neurotic dog. Carrie’s zombie apocalypse kit contains copies of Jane Eyre, Lord of the Rings, and many, many Oreos.

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