Rediscover: Jane Austen

July 18 marked the 200th anniversary of English novelist Jane Austen's death. Austen (1775-1817) succumbed to an unknown illness at age 41, leaving four major novels published during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously, and the incomplete manuscript eventually titled Sanditon wasn't released until 1925. Austen's tragically truncated body of work show a transition from 18th-century sentimental novels (as parodied in Sense and Sensibility) to 19th-century literature. Though Austen achieved some contemporary success, the authorship of her novels was kept hidden. However, her modern popularity places her in the pantheon of literary greats. One of many indications of this: On July 18, the Bank of England unveiled a new £10 note bearing Austen's portrait, making her only the second woman, after Queen Elizabeth II, to appear on currency in England and Wales.

Austen's work is a continual source of scholarship, adaptations and plain good reading. Her sharp wit, biting irony and keen eye for social drama have kept readers coming back for two centuries. Pride and Prejudice, that Regency romcom as insightful as it is entertaining, has sold more than 20 million copies. Austen has more than earned her place in the Western canon and is always worth another read. --Tobias Mutter

Powered by: Xtenit