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While living and writing over 200 years ago, Jane Austen’s heroines remain beloved to this day. His stories are made timeless with modern adaptations like clueless, fire island, and Marriage and prejudice and his influence is virtually unmatched, with his books still read in college lectures and high school classrooms around the world today.
“She’s canonical in a way she probably wouldn’t have anticipated,” says Alex Woloch, English professor at Stanford. “His work falls so easily into dialogue not only with past literature but, strangely, with novels that had yet to be written.”
Here, a comprehensive list of all of Austen’s work, from her youth to various posthumous releases.
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Love and friendship is one of Austen’s earliest works. And while it’s unclear at what age she wrote the story, it’s definitely one of her earliest published writings. A satirical version of the romance novel, the story takes shape through a series of letters between two friends, Laura and Marianne.
The beautiful Cassandra
Princeton University Press
As a pre-teen, Austen wrote The beautiful Cassandraa short novel that follows a mischievous young girl visiting London whom she robs from shops and spy on the locals. Princeton University Press calls the 12-chapter book, which contains 465 spelling mistakes and a light story, “an irreverent and humorous little masterpiece”.
Lesley Castle: an unfinished novel in letters
Austen wrote this novel when she was about 16, but it remains unfinished. As Love and friendship, Lesley’s Castle is an epistolary novel, recounting the correspondence between two friends. Margaret Lesley and Charlotte Lutterell, who recount the scandals in their respective high society circles. Although the book isn’t complete, it offers a first glimpse of what Austen would later become famous for: her wit, her humor, and her ability to create charming female leads.
The main character of this short story, Lady Susan, is a charming and beautiful widow who has a way of seducing every man she meets. Eventually, she captures the hearts of two men: groom Mr. Manwaring and her sister-in-law’s brother, Reginald. To complicate matters further, Lady Susan’s daughter Fredrica also falls in love with Reginald. Austen shows her gift by creating humorous plot points, love characters, and of course, annoying but hilarious male antagonists.
Whereas Sense and sensitivity was first published anonymously, it is now a beloved classic that many Austenites consider essential reading. The first of six main Jane Austen books follows the Dashwood sisters: Elinor leading from the head (sense) and Marianne leading from the heart (sensitivity). The two sisters’ romantic relationships force the women to re-examine their perspectives – Marianne learning not to pursue a fairy tale romance and Elinor letting her guard down from time to time.
Even a non-Austen expert will know this title. The famous Pride and Prejudice follows the Bennet sisters as they face the pressures of the marriage market due to the family’s financial difficulties. When older sister Jane meets Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth Bennet is captivated but repelled by Bingly’s handsome and brooding friend Mr. Darcy. If you’re an Austen lover, you know all too well how this enemies-to-lovers story between Elizabeth and Darcy unfolds. The novel is arguably Austen’s most famous book and this Regency-era story is still loved two centuries later, its popularity no doubt boosted by numerous film adaptations, including the award-winning film Oscars with Keira Knightly and Matthew MacFadyen.
Austen’s third novel, mansfield park, is known to be more mature than Austen’s other works. Rather than love, the novel focuses more on the consequences of greed and recklessness as the story’s heroine, Fanny Price, witnesses the romances that unfold in Mansfield Park between the Bertrams brothers and Crawford. Although the title does not share the same fame as Pride and Prejudicemany of Austen’s famous themes, including class disparity, are beautifully written in Mansfield Park.
Austen’s next release, Emma, takes a fun and seductive turn in the story of a spoiled young woman from Highbury’s high society, Emma Woodhouse, and her attempt to play matchmaker for her friend Harriet Smith. Emma soon discovers that she is naive about what love means and to complicate matters further, she develops feelings for her neighbor, Mr. Knightly. A timeless coming-of-age story, Emmahas been adapted numerous times into films ranging from a 2016 version starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film clueless.
Oxford University Press
Persuasion is Austen’s last completed novel, and it features another heroine who has become a favorite of Austenites: Anne Elliot. A few years after breaking off her engagement to the love of her life, Frederick Wentworth, Anne’s once-wealthy family falls out of favor after experiencing financial hardship. Wenthworth, who had been a lowly naval officer, is now a wealthy man famous for his wartime accomplishments and he hasn’t quite forgiven Anne for calling off the wedding. The famous will-or-not story is a favorite of many English literature fans and was recently adapted for Netflix, starring Dakota Johnson as Anne.
Austen’s latest core six book is Northanger Abbey, which was published posthumously in December 1817, five months after Austen’s death. The novel, divided into two parts, is both a satire of the Gothic genre and an initiation story following Catherine Moreland under the spell of Henry Tilney. When Tilney invites Catherine to his family estate, his imagination runs wild.
Although Austen gave up The Watsons in 1804, leaving it unedited, his nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh published the work in a biography titled A memoir by Jane Austen. The story follows a widowed pastor’s daughter, Emma Watson, who was well educated and brought up by her wealthy aunt. Life is good for Emma until her aunt remarries, forcing Emma to return home to her father, brothers and sisters. Upon her return, she is tasked with finding husbands for her rude and reckless sisters. Even without end The Watsons worth reading.
Austen’s writing legacy ends with sandit, because she died without having finished the novel. The story follows Mr. Parker, who aspires to develop the town of Sanditon into a bustling seaside resort with the help of a wealthy widow named Lady Dunham. Although it remains unfinished, this story is still read by Austen’s fundamentalist, and the story serves as the starting point for a television series of the same name.
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