After reading the background information about Jane Austen, try the tasks below.
- At this link Jane Austen Society UK - Biography you will find pictures from places associated with Jane Austen. Choose one of the places and make a short presentation of it. Describe the place and tell how it was associated with her. Compare it in Jane Austen’s time with what it is like today. Here are some links which may help you: Jane Austen country, Visit Hampshire tourist website, Life of Jane Austen, www.pemberley.com.
- Search the Internet and make a timeline of the main historical events in England's history during Jane Austen's lifetime, 1775 - 1820. Make sure that you know what the events were about. Do you know of any reference to these events in her books? Jane Austen.org , Jane Austen's Novels - summary
- What can you say about the position of women in Jane Austen's time? Jane Austen.org or search: Women 19th Century England
- What can you find out about the social hierarchy in this period? Jane Austen.org
- Here are some quotes from Jane Austen's letters where she gives advice, comments on people and describes events in her social life.
".... I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together." ((Letter to Cassandra, January 1796)
"There were very few Beauties, & such as there were, were not very handsome. ------ She appeared exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, & fat neck." (Letter to Cassandra, November 1800)
"The Miss Maitlands are both prettyish; very like Anne; with brown skins, large dark eyes, & a good deal of nose. ......... Miss Debarry, Susan & Sally all in black, .......... & I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me." (Letter to Cassandra, November 1800)
"By this time I suppose she is hard at it, governing away -- poor creature! I pity her, tho' they are my nieces" (About a governess hired by her brother - Letter to Cassandra, April 1811)
"Oh! dear Fanny, Your first mistake has been one that thousands of women fall into, He was the first young Man who attached himself to you. That was the charm, & most powerful it is." (November 1814)
"Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor, which is one very strong argument in favour of matrimony" (Letter to Fanny, March 1816)
"Anna has not a chance of esape; ...... Poor animal she will be worn out before she is thirty. --- I am very sorry for her. --- Mrs Clement too is in that way again. I am quite tired of so many Children. ---- Mrs Benn has a 13th ......." (Letter to Fanny, March 1817)
- What impression do you get of Jane Austen from these excerpts from her letters? In her characterisation of other people, do you think she seems judgmental? harsh? tolerant? imaginative? curious? narrow-minded? humorous?
- What if she posted these comments in her blog or on Facebook?
- Do you think these observations inspired her to make her characters? Do you recognise any of these characters in any of her works?
- Today Jane Austen would perhaps have been an energetic user of Facebook or may have had her own blog. Imagine that you are a teenager at the beginning of the 19th century. Write your own blog about your everyday life. You can focus on one particular aspect of life at the time, e.g. national events, social life, fashion, or events in your own life. You will find useful information at this or the other links above Jane Austen.org
Jane Austen was a female writer and she had few role models. A woman from her social class was supposed to marry and it took great courage to dedicate your life to writing. What do you think was her driving force? Did she do it for therapeutic reasons, to find an outlet for frustration and anger, to motivate and inspire people, as propaganda, to earn money, for artistic reasons....?
Would you describe Jane Austen as a Romantic or a Realist?
Divide the class into two groups. One group argues that Jane Austen is a typical Romantic, the other that she is a typical Realist. Before you start find at least two reasons to support you view.