Introduction:

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was born, the sixth child in a family of seven, in Steventon, Hampshire. Never marrying she lived her life amongst her family, with an occassional visit to Bath, London and Lyme or to her brother's houses. Remaining politically aware her novels conveyed the social customs and practices of her age. Carol Shields, whose own novels have often been compared to those Jane Austen, says into her biography of the author 'we can find behind Austen's novels a steady, intelligent witness to a world that was rapidly reinventing itself.' (Shields, Carol, 2001, p.4)