Jane Austen: Fact and Fiction (#AustenInAugustRBR)


Hello, Austenites!

Today’s guest post comes from Sally Smith O’Rourke, author of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen and Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen. 

Please give her a warm welcome, and be sure to read through to the end for a lovely surprise!


Jane Austen: Fact and Fiction

JanePBy Sally Smith O’Rourke

Many years ago (I won’t divulge just how many) I decided to re-read Jane Austen’s six published novels, consecutively, something I’d never done before and discovered that all her heroines are intelligent, strong and independent minded women. She also created heroes who loved the women for their intelligence and strength, not in spite of them. I realized, too, perhaps later than some, that Jane Austen was a feminist. Unlike Mary Wollstonecraft’s condemnation of society’s treatment of women, Jane Austen wrapped her feminism in a cloak of propriety. The women lived productive lives in the society into which they had been born but on their own terms.

Rather than becoming infatuated with any single character in Austen’s books I found that I wanted to know more about her. What made a woman born in the 18th century have such a modern take on society? After devouring three biographies and many other books about and related to Jane Austen I realized that education was the key, as Wollstonecraft declared. At a time when most families considered females a basic commodity, chattel, something to be bartered or sold outright in exchange for land, money, position or all of the above; the Austens were different.

Rev. George Austen

Not only educationally but how Cassandra and George Austen reared all their children was also a crucial aspect of Jane’s success. While Jane learned the domestic arts (she was known to have done beautiful handwork) she was also educated along-side her brothers up until university. The Reverend George Austen did so in a time when most females were lucky to be taught to read and write and those who did learn were generally in the upper classes. All the children had access to the Reverend’s sizable library which ultimately led to Jane’s heightened interest in history and politics. In fact, Jane was crushed when the entire library was sold off before the move to Bath when her father retired.

But book learning was a relatively small part of the education I address here. It seems evident to me that the Reverend and Mrs. Austen created an environment of open-mindedness and respect for everyone, male or female. While they stopped short of complete equality, the girls were very evidently allowed to express their own opinions, as Jane’s History of England shows, no subject was off-limits.

And while George Austen did not live to see his daughter’s success, he tried to get First Impressions (Pride and Prejudice) published in 1797. He obviously thought the book strong enough to present to a publisher although it was rejected.

I believe this open-minded and accepting atmosphere in which the Austen children were reared made it possible for Jane to accomplish all she did. The other women in the family, her mother, sister and family friend (later sister-in-law) Martha took care of the domestic chores of the household so Jane would have the time and privacy to write to her heart’s content.

Edward AustenIt was in that same open-mindedness and taking the lead from their father that her brothers were active participants in Jane’s success. Edward made sure she had the time, place and where-with-all to write as paper and ink were quite costly. He also made available Chawton Cottage on his Hampshire estate where the ladies lived and Jane wrote, revised and completed all her books. Henry arranged the publication and handled the contracts for all of her novels. Frank, ever the champion of his favorite sister as well as James and Charles encouraged her. Her brothers accepted her as an intelligent, strong and independent individual so put no pressure on her to marry. Her brothers were excessively proud of her.

Jane had wanted a bit of anonymity but all of her brothers seemed to enjoy telling people who their sister was a great talent. There is a story in the family that Edward and Henry met a man who was celebrated for his literary attainments and commented that Pride and Prejudice was the cleverest book he had ever read and would very much like to meet the author for the book was far too clever to have actually been written by a woman (Sense & Sensibility was published with the author listed simply as ‘A Lady’ and P&P was by the author of S&S). Since Edward and Henry were telling the story we can assume that they set the man to rights and no doubt with much pride.

I made every effort to create a character who captures the true spirit of the beloved author. To me she is very real and I am happy to say that many readers have said that in reading Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen they feel as though they are sitting and having tea with her so perhaps I succeeded.

About the Author:

Sally Smith O'Rourke“Where shall I begin? Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?” (J.A. June 15, 1808)

That I reside in a small Victorian village in southern California; a mere two miles from my place of employment, a local hospital where I spend most daylight hours as a scrub nurse in the operating room.

That I am a native Californian, having been born in Glendale, and that I have spent most of my life here with a relatively short span of years in Reno, Nevada where I attended school. Returning after graduation I have remain in sunny SoCal.

That I was widowed some time ago. That I have the very domestic hobbies of sewing, cooking, baking, candy making and cake decorating. Oh, I write, too. Spending time with my nieces and nephews (great nieces and nephews as well), step-children and my grandchildren keeps a smile on my face.

That Mike, my late husband and teacher, taught me that writing has to be treated like a job so every day no matter how tired I am I edit, research and/or write one or more projects.

That Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is my first solo effort (my other three having been collaborations with Mike) and I am happy to say is being received with some acclaim and enjoyment by readers.

That my next project might be a story of reincarnation in Pasadena, CA  or a haunted house in San Francisco then again it may be a fairy story in Pebble Beach, CA and of course the possibility of a follow up to Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is ever present.

That many stories are running around in my head and often colliding but I untangle them, pick up the debris and continue on.

And so you have a few of my nothings.


Yours Affectionately, Jane AustenThere will be three winners! 

1 copy of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (USA = Print or E-Book; International = E-Book Only).

1 copy of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen (USA = Print or E-Book; International = E-Book Only).

1 audiobook copy of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (mp3 file).

To be entered for a chance to win, you must be a registered participant of Austen In August.  Simply engage with this post and author in the comment section and be sure to include which book you are interested, and in which format!  Giveaway will close on 8/17.  Also be sure to leave an email address {adam (at) gmail (dot) com} where you can be reached. Good luck!

21 Comments on “Jane Austen: Fact and Fiction (#AustenInAugustRBR)

  1. Oh yes, she was certainly a feminist! It’s so interesting to me how, for example, Pride and Prejudice is not only a fairytale–it’s also a rather pessimistic commentary on how trapped everyone is in this particular pattern. The pattern involves staking your future on a person you probably don’t know all that well–it’s easy to be misled. And if you’re a girl, there’s a lot of disadvantage; you have to wait to be picked, and if you step outside the pattern, you’ll be squished like a bug.

    I would love to win a print copy of Yours Affectionately! jean at roadq dot com


  2. I love that her brothers were her champions. My brother and I are super close and I know how much that means to me. It’s comforting to know that someone so independent and well-loved as Jane Austen had her brothers in her corner the whole way. They are as much to thank for such great books as she is in some ways!

    I would love to win a copy of either one. I would not be picky by any means. They both sound delightful.
    kdholley88 (at) gmail (dot) com


  3. I have only read 3 Jane Austen books and they all seem to centered around marriage. But I suppose in these days that was the goal of “most” young ladies. I really need to find books about Jane Austen and get to know this author that I have come to really enjoy! Thanks for sharing all this great background!


  4. Hallo, Hallo Ms. O’ Rourke!

    The way you were describing Ms. Austen coming alive on the page, instantly brought me back to “Z”, which I read earlier in the year, as I felt Zelda’s voice and heart coming through the pen of Therese Anne Fowler. Therefore, I very much believe, that some writers have the ability to tune in to the past, and represent the person they are attempting to bring forward in a very special and unique way! From the post you gave here, I can see, that its a subject that you felt at your very core and wanted to give back to others! I would be absolutely delighted to win the first book, “The Man Who Loved Jane Austen” (in print!), please accept my entry into this bookaway!

    I, too, was celebrating the knowledge of how dedicated her brothers were to hold her in such high esteem, as I vaguely recall this from a previous gathering of information! My memories are a bit muddled, so I was wrapped up in everything you were sharing! It’s wonderful, really, to find a family as supportive as the Austens, in a time, that perhaps such support was not only uncommon but as rare as it is in our own era of living!



  5. Like Jane Austen and her father and brothers, your Mike was your encourager. I wish I could borrow your Mike to have him nag/encourage me to write “every day no matter how tired I am.” Thanks for sharing.


  6. I think it’s great that Jane Austen’s family was different in a time when like you said, women were considered material belongings. I am glad that is not the standard in today’s society, but at least she did have a family who thought differently and all of her novels while based on marriage they are also based on relationships that were mostly frowned upon by the higher classes in her days 🙂 I think that’s what made them so likable for me is that Jane showed us that love can surpass anything! Thank you for the great story and info about yourself! Love the fact that you live in a Victorian village 😀 That would be awesome!

    I would love to win the audiobook, I have a small child and don’t get a lot of chances to read physical books if you know what I mean LOL! abbyswarriormom(at)aol(dot)com is my email 😀 Thank you!


  7. I love how the perception of Austen is as a ‘romantic’ writer, when really her writings have a very feminist outlook and provide a TON of social commentry on so many different issues. She was certainly a very clever lady. Great post. Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen looks like a fun book too!


    • Yes, this really came home to me with Persuasion (though I had seen it in her other books as well – Mansfield Park, in particular).


  8. I like that Jane Austen is such a quiet feminist – by which I mean she doesn’t shout it from the rooftops but rather champions women and their strengths in an understated but timeless way. Most of her heroines may end up married which doesn’t necessarily strike some as the ‘feminist’ way but all of the marriages are marriages of equal people but superior/inferior relationships. Love it.

    I would love to win an ebook copy of Yours Affectionately. (ellie(dot)litnerd(at)aol(dot)co(dot)uk).

    Such a great post, Sally and Adam!


  9. My mother gave me Pride and Prejudice when I was fifteen and was required to read Dickens for English class, she wanted me to know that the classics weren’t all dark and foreboding. It was Austen’s light and happy storytelling that made me a reader (before that I considered reading a drudge). I’m glad you all are enjoying and appreciating the Austen I love.


    • I only just read your comment this morning after posting mine yesterday Sally, and realised how similar our experiences were. Jane Austen must have been the saviour of classic literature for many people!


      • Sorry I didn’t respond to your comment about Thomas Hardy but I thought it was in response to my Dickens one. Does appear that many of us have our mothers and teachers to thank. In truth she was a saviour at the time she wrote her books. The lightness and her ability to make ordinary situations entertaining were celebrated at the time of her publication.


  10. Great post. I never really considered how her whole family supported her talent. Her female relatives picked up the chores for her and her brothers didn’t push her into marriage for their own gain. I’m happy they recognized her talent so we have these gems to read today.


  11. Great post. I have read The Man Who Loved Jane Austen several times but have yet to read Affectionately Yours. I was a Dorset schoolgirl who had to read Thomas Hardy at school and after reading Jude the Obscure at the age of 12/13 and being very depressed by it we followed it up with Pride and Prejudice, when I fell in love with Mr Darcy. I have since lived in a happily polygamous relationship with him, Captain Wentworth, Mr Knightley, Colonel Brandon and a few others! Jane Austen was just genius.


  12. Pingback: Ode to Austen: Calling Jane Junkies Everywhere | Jess Witkins' Happiness Project

    • I think of Jane Austen a hopeful romantic, hopeful that society would change and marriage would be based on love and respect. Good luck Stepanka.


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