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The Economics Of Jane Austen

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JANE AUSTEN
English novelist Jane Austen (1775 - 1817). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) | Hulton Archive via Getty Images

When Jane Austen died in 1817, her reinvention began. Her brother Henry Austen published, as the preface to the posthumous edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, a biographical note that praised her modesty and her financial disinterestedness. According to Henry, Jane accounted herself astonished when her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, made her £150. “Few so gifted were so truly unpretending,” Henry tells us. “She regarded the above sum as a prodigious recompense for that which cost her nothing.”

It is in every way a deeply felt, generous obituary, but the self-effacing, even “faultless” Jane character it imagines has more in common with Emma Woodhouse’s altogether-too-perfect bugbear Jane Fairfax than it does with the author who complained in a letter to a friend that she would have really preferred a bigger advance than the £110 she received for Pride and Prejudice.

Read the whole story at The Atlantic