Often when reading excerpts about Austen’s life, there is a sense that Austen lived a sheltered life; that somehow she was immune to the difficulties of life. In reading about her life it is insightful to learn just how tricky her life was and how difficult it was to be a woman with insufficient means in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century. No Wonder she wrote about resilience!
Jane had to draw on her own reserves of resilience to cope with the demands of her life and fashion a path to happiness. Let’s recap: she was born into a society where there was little room for a woman to move yet alone exert power; her heart was broken twice; she suffered with a favourite sister when she heard of the death of that sister’s fiancé. Her parents, without consulting her, gave their childhood home at Steventon to her brother so her much loved home was wrenched from her and she must move to a town she dislikes. Later her elderly father dies – which is par for the course – but this also meant a reduction in an already limited income. She had no money of her own and was totally dependent on her family. After leaving Steventon she moved to more humble and then more humble again accommodation until finally a very rich brother decided to allow her mother, herself and her sister to live in a cottage he owned – one of the many properties he had inherited from a distant cousin. Another brother became bankrupt which in turn meant other brothers lost money from investments with him and a law suit followed. Two publishers rejected her work, one without reading it and the other had promised to publish but failed to do so.
Jane Austen certainly was no stranger to the disappointments of life. Her life was not sheltered. In her novels, light and witty as they are, there are the moments when adversity has to be dealt with. And in dealing with it her characters show resilience. And in understanding Austen’s life one can see where the inspiration came from.