Jane Austen

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A watercolour and pencil sketch of Jane Austen, believed to be drawn from life by the celebrated artist Mr David Weaver, RA

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English writer of popular genre fiction, with a principal focus on works about zombies. It has been said that

with a little more talent and application, she could have been the Stephenie Meyer of her day.[citation needed]

It has also been successfully argued that her work was a significant influence on other zombie writers such as Mary Shelley and Mrs Gaskell.

Her principal claim to fame, however, is her relationship with the celebrated alien hunter George Wickham, resulting in the notorious work known as Pride and Prejudice. The resulting controversy all but destroyed her career, although she did write several more novels, all of which were received with general indifference from the book-buying public. Several more books appeared under her name posthumously, but most Austenologists regard these as little more than contemptible forgeries.

Contents

Biography

Biographical information concerning Jane Austen is scarce, largely owing to the imposition of the 300-year rule following her relationship with George Wickham. As a result, much of what is supposedly known can be regarded at best as speculation and at worst

the fevered ravings of a bunch of demented loons.[citation needed]

Those who are interested in such things are respectfully redirected here, for example.

Early career

Austen's first published novel was The Adventures of Mr Harley and Mr Davidson, a charming if naïve tale of a pair of bicycle-riding bounty-hunters on the trail of zombies marauding across the Hampshire countryside. This debut was well-received, and the contemporary literary critic Joseph Robert Brighouse is said to have remarked that he would gladly

take up his bloody'd PIKESTAFF and ride alongside her in pursuit of th'UNDEAD.[citation needed]

She followed this with Sensei and the Insensibles, widely regarded as her masterpiece. In this novel she incorporated elements of fashionable orientalism with another zombie-pursuit story. The resulting concoction was a considerable success, despite poor editing that resulted in the main Ninja character changing name and possibly also sex halfway through.

Unfortunately she was unable to reproduce this success, although her novels continued to sell well, and it was becoming clear that the writing schedule imposed on by her editors was taking its toll on the quality of her work. The North Abbey Hanging, Emma, Bride of the Zombie and Monsterfield Park all followed in rapid succession with increasingly incoherent plots and ever more ludicrous characters. Her run of commercial success came to an end, however, with Perversion, which had no redeeming features whatsoever and was in fact banned in several parts of the home counties.

Pride and Prejudice and the ensuing controversy

While searching for a new direction for her writing, Austen had a chance encounter with George Wickham and his friend Mrs Elizabeth Darcy. After they had relayed to her the details of some of their adventures, she resolved that she would leave zombies behind and write a romantic thriller. However, during the writing process, it seems that she had a major falling-out with Wickham, leading to the notorious slurs on his character that emerged in the resulting novel, Pride and Prejudice, with its famous opening line:

It is a truth generally agreed upon that a man in possession of a load of cash could do with getting married.

When the book finally came out, Austen was immediately served with a secrecy order as well as libel writs by Wickham, Elizabeth Darcy's husband, Fitzwilliam Darcy and (in absentia) the Reverend William Smallpiece Collins, a street pastor working in the East End of London. However, owing to secrecy issues surrounding Wickham and Collins, the case was heard in camera and to this day the details of the judgement remain unknown. Following the trial, a revised edition of the book was quickly brought out with all references to aliens removed, but much of the supposed libel was left intact. It has been speculated that this part of a deal worked out between herself and Wickham's employers, the Department for Unusual Affairs, in order to buy Austen's silence.[citation needed] The only comment ever made by Austen herself about the whole affair was the enigmatic remark that

one should never rely on first impressions.

Late novels

Following the Pride and Prejudice debacle, Austen retreated to her earlier style of writing, but by now her creative spark had gone and most Austenites regard these later works as an embarrassment. It is also alleged that to keep herself from bankruptcy during this time she also wrote a succession of lurid pornographic works under the name Looby de Louche; however, these are more frequently attributed to Lord Byron, the notorious libertine and author of the celebrated Rugby song cycle.

Posthumous works

Following Miss Austen's death a number of further works appeared which purported to have been written by her. Oddly, these were more in the style of Pride and Prejudice than her genre novels, and it has been speculated that they were produced as a belated attempt to cash in on the notoriety surrounding that book. However, they are of little merit and are almost universally dismissed by Austenologists. Their true author remains unidentified, although most of the evidence points towards Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The fact that the Winfield folio edition of Mansfield Park opens with the line "It was a dark and stormy night" is often advanced as irrefutable proof of his authorship.[citation needed]

Relationships

Jane Austen never married, although she was at one time engaged to the composer Dr William Crotch. However, this fell through when it became apparent that he would need much specialised equipment for his work. As she remarked to one of her friends,

when a lady has seen an organ as large as Dr Crotch's, she would likely demur at the prospect of sharing a house with it.
It is tantalising to consider what creative fruits might have arisen from a Crotch/Austen union.

Apart from a purported brief fling with Lord Byron (and the only evidence for this is statistical, in that he is generally reckoned to have "had a go" with over 50% of the eligible ladies in Regency England), the only other person that Miss Austen is known to have been romantically involved with is George Wickham. However, the dictates of the 300-year rule mean that the details of how she became involved with him and what caused her to break up the relationship can only be the subject of speculation.

The only certain fact is that the break-up with Wickham was exceptionally acrimonious, leading to the highly unfavourable portrait of him in Pride and Prejudice. One theory states that Wickham was in fact gay (although the evidence from several other contemporary female accounts would seem to contradict this) and another that the relationship was broken up on the orders of the Department for Unusual Affairs. A more extreme theory (the so-called Jane Alien hypothesis)[citation needed] suggests that Austen herself was an alien, but the most likely explanation is that the two simply got bored with each other.

List of works

Novels

Posthumous works

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