Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)
English writer Jane Austen (1775-1817) may have invented the modern romantic comedy. The author of six wildly popular novels, and the cult idol of a devout following who call themselves either “Janeites” or “Austenites,” Austen lived a quiet life and wrote prolifically in a genre that bridged the romantic movement of her time with a fresh perspective of realism. Born into a close-knit upper-class family that had lost most of its wealth, Jane experienced firsthand the social etiquette and expectations placed upon women of the gentry. Though her creative life was steeped in romance, Austen experienced only a short-lived affair with a barrister-to-be who was equally poor and expected to marry up. So she turned to her writing.
With the help of her brother Henry, Jane’s first novel Sense and Sensibility was published when Jane was thirty-six. She chose to publish it anonymously, with the byline “By a Lady.” In fact, all her work was published as “By a Lady” during her lifetime. Royalty and literary scholars alike became big fans of her work, and she sold enough books near the end of her life to support herself, her mother, and her sister. After a brief hiatus, Austen’s books have continuously been in print since 1833. In 1869, her nephew’s publication of A Memoir of Jane Austen finally revealed her as the author of her novels.
Her work remains deeply influential on popular culture, as much as it was when it was first published, and has spawned continuous adaptations, rewrites, and sequels, including the famous modern-day versions of Pride and Prejudice (Bridget Jones’s Diary) and Emma (Clueless). Austen’s stories retain a cult status equal to Shakespeare’s in timelessness and reinvention.