Jane Austen.

By David Nokes

Printed: 1997

Publisher: Fourth Estate. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 17 × 24 × 6 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 24 x 6

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Item information


In the original dustsheet. Green cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

                 A quality collectable edition.

A sparklingly intelligent and intimate biography of one of Britain’s best-loved writers by the highly praised biographer of Swift: ‘The best biography of Swift to date.’ Michael Foot, Observer. In this brilliant reassessment of an often misunderstood subject, David Nokes explores beneath the surface of Jane Austen’s outwardly calm existence to uncover the psychological dramas which shaped her fiction and forged her profound and knowing insight into human emotions. Re-examining the letters and documents of her life, as well as her novels, to trace the inner sources of the imaginative vitality and emotional power that animated her work, Nokes has produced an altogether more personal portrait than has ever been achieved before. He argues that the seductive power of Austen’s fiction comes from her intense, imaginative struggle to create images of harmony out of the disruptions and upheavals of her private life. Her novels, for all their triumphant artifice, betray many disturbing reminders of the frustrations of female hopes and the penalties of social dependency. This biography is engaging, original and highly readable, a fitting testimony to the clergyman’s daughter whose novels rank among the world’s greatest literary works.

Jane Austen is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in the English literary canon, and recent film and television adaptations of her works have brought them to a new audience almost 200 years after her untimely death. Yet much remains unknown about her life, and there is considerable interest in the romantic history of the creator of Elizabeth Bennett, and Mr Darcy.

Review: ‘Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked.’ Jane Austen wrote to her niece Fanny Knight a few months before she died. Yet most traditional accounts of Jane Austen’s life have insisted on portraying her as just such a picture of perfection. Her brother Henry described her as ‘faultless…as nearly as human nature can be’, and her sister Cassandra burned the majority of Jane Austen’s private letters in order to preserve this image of her as a paragon of all the discreet and modest virtues. In this new biography of Jane Austen, David Nokes has re-examined her life and presents a picture of her which is less than perfect but more full of dangerous excitement. Working from unpublished sources, he discloses the truth behind several disturbing Austen family secrets, and presents the conflicts in Jane Austen’s mind between her love of rural tranquillity and her restless fascination with the lure of wealth and fame. As Jane Austen wrote in another of her letters, ‘If I am a wild beast, I cannot help it. It is not my fault.’

About the Author – Dr David Nokes is the author of Jonathan Swift, A Hypocrite Reversed (which won the James Tait Black Prize for Biography 1985) and a biography of John Gay. He has written adaptations of Clarissa and Tristram Shandy for TV. He has reviewed books, film and TV for the TLS, Spectator, Observer, LRB, Independent, BBC Radio’s Kaleidoscope, First Night and Bookshelf.


                 The original is unsigned but was believed by the family to have been made by Austen’s sister Cassandra and remained in the family until 1920 with a signed sketch by Cassandra. The original sketch, according to relatives who knew Jane Austen well, was not a good likeness.

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six novels, which implicitly interpret, critique, and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen’s plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage for the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works are an implicit critique of the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Her deft use of social commentary, realism and biting irony have earned her acclaim among critics and scholars.


                  Watercolour of Jane Austen by her sister, Cassandra, 1804.

The anonymously published Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815), were modest successes but brought her little fame in her lifetime. She wrote two other novels—Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818—and began another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript, the short epistolary novel Lady Susan, and the unfinished novel The Watsons.


   Austen was a regular visitor to her brother Edward’s home, Godmersham Park in Kent, between 1798 and 1813. The house is regarded as an influence on her works.

Since her death Austen’s novels have rarely been out of print. A significant transition in her reputation occurred in 1833, when they were republished in Richard Bentley’s Standard Novels series (illustrated by Ferdinand Pickering and sold as a set). They gradually gained wide acclaim and popular readership. In 1869, fifty-two years after her death, her nephew’s publication of A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced a compelling version of her writing career and supposedly uneventful life to an eager audience. Her work has inspired a large number of critical essays and has been included in many literary anthologies. Her novels have also inspired many films, including 1940’s Pride and Prejudice, 1995’s Sense and Sensibility and 2016’s Love & Friendship.

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