Biography: A Memoir of Jane Austen, by James Edward Austen-Leigh

4.0 out of 5 stars The original

Jane Austen (as is so cogently noted in this volume) gained little notice or fame during her regrettably short life. Likewise, other than her six novels and some letters, little primary evidence exists to enlighten her admirers. Alas, it was common in the 19th century for families to burn all materials believed to be too personal or too revealing.

In undertaking to write this “memoir” about the life of his brilliant aunt, J.E.Austen-Leigh undoubtedly followed the mores of the times in protecting her privacy. But the little he tells his readers about his memories of Jane Austen are worth a careful perusal, if only because he knew her. Those who know from her books about the sharpness of her sense of humor and satire will take with a grain of salt her portrayal here as always genteel and decorous. But he does manage to convey a sense of her playfulness, creativity, and inventiveness, and he is justified in referring to her as a genius.

Written in a now antiquated style, portions of this slim memoir can be hard going, but it is worth the effort.

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