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A Memoir of Jane Austen: and Other Family Recollections (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 10 Oct 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New edition edition (10 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192840746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192840745
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 2.5 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,897,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


a must for lovers of Austen's work (Choice Magazine)

A very good introduction by Kathryn Sutherland (Derwent May, the Times,) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

This first full-length biography of Jane Austen was written by her nephew, who had known her personally. He provides fascinating details about her social, family and domestic life in rural England, while creating a portrait of a modest and devout woman which has influenced Austen scholarship ever since. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
MORE than half a century has passed away since I, the youngest of the mourners, attended the funeral of my dear aunt Jane in Winchester Cathedral; and now, in my old age, I am asked whether my memory will serve to rescue from oblivion any events of her life or any traits of her character to satisfy the enquiries of a generation of readers who have been born since she died. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By H. M. Holt on 18 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
This book brings together a collection of memoirs and biographies of Jane Austen written by her brother (Henry Austen) and her nieces and nephews. James Edward Austen-Leigh's memoir is the longest of the collection of works included and, with their permission, made use of the recollections written by his sisters (Anna and Caroline) as well as Henry Austen's notice and memoir and various letters from their Aunt Jane which had come into their possession.

This was an interesting selection of works, mainly because the detailed notes to this edition made it possible to see what information about Jane Austen had been left out of James Edward Austen-Leigh's memoir. It seems that he and his sisters wanted to present Jane Austen in a way that they felt was appropriate for the late 19th century and so certain events or incidents were glossed over. In particular a humorous poem that Jane Austen wrote a few days before her death which had been referred to in Henry Austen's first biography was deliberately not mentioned in James Edward Austen-Leigh's memoir because he and his sisters felt it made their beloved aunt appear frivolous. Additionally, James Edward Austen Leigh and his sisters did not have access to all of Jane Austen's letters that modern scholars have access to as these were then being held by other branches of the family.

For the above reasons I wouldn't recommend this collection to someone who hadn't read a modern biography of Jane Austen. I also think it would be easier to first get a sense of Jane Austen's extended family from a modern biography and I think I would have found this book more confusing if I hadn't previously read one.
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Format: Paperback
I was interested to read J. E. Austen-Leigh's biography about Jane Austen, mainly because he was a relative of hers (her nephew). He was in his teens in the last years of her life (she died when he was about 19 years old), but being part of this close family meant he was fortunate to have spent time with her, her sister and the family in general. With this in mind I was expecting to discover something new about one of my favourite authors, something I hadn't read before or which had never come to light in other biographies. Sadly this was not to be the case...

For a book billed as the 'prime authority for her life' I found it quite dry and emotionless in tone. I appreciate that it was written in the latter half of the 19th century and that certain events and incidents in Jane's life were therefore avoided for the sake of reputation (that of Jane's and her family's) and Victorian decorum, but Austen-Leigh revealed nothing of Jane's life or personality that I didn't already know. In fact her own, fictitious works, make me feel closer to her as a person than this biography did.

Much of Austen-Leigh's work is based around the recollections of others, particularly his sisters Anna and Caroline, of whom the latter spent a great deal of her childhood with aunts Jane and Cassandra. But even these recollections aren't evocative. Much of what is related is factual, with little of the emotion you would expect from someone reminiscing about precious times spent with a beloved aunt. I fully appreciate that in today's sensationalised biographical world, Austen's life would be consider boring and uneventful (points which Austen-Leigh himself makes) but I anticipated something more than an emotionless blow-by-blow account of her short existence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs Mary Hart on 30 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I hadn't been aware of this publication. Reading it brought me closer to Jane Austen and her family, rather like an oral contribution to family history, which is one of my interests. An enjoyable experience.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
All Personal memoirs brought together, nice to read with the letters 8 Oct. 2005
By A. Woodley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Primary sources to Jane Austen's life are few and far between. This version includes the few personal family accounts which were published. James Edward Austen-Leighs is the largest of these, although still not very substantial. His two sisters also published them.

This includes four memoirs of Aunt Jane, all written much after her death by Caroline Austen, Anna Lefroy, James Austen_leigh and Henry Austen. Some are better reads than others but they add to the sparse amount of biographical and family information on Austen.

Handily, there is a family tree provided as well as a chronology. There are also useful explanatory notes.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone but a keen Austen fan - one of the excellent biographies available are much more readable and entertaining. For an avid Janeite this book provides a substantial source of primary information. I would highly recommend reading this with the collected letters which have been collected and edited by Claire Tomalin.

It is a nice collection and it is great to see all these published, as they ought to be together in one volume.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A must for Jane fans 14 Jan. 2011
By Zephyr7 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This bio is written by Jane Austen's nephew, over a hundred years ago, so it is well-informed and full of tidbits of information about this great novelist. I only wish that someone would come along to do a bit more through telling of Jane A's life. I felt that it was a little bit rosy, something that a family would be comfortable publishing. It left me wondering why we know so little about her.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The original 10 Mar. 2009
By Linda Pagliuco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Enjoying Jane 7 Sept. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you enjoy Jane Austen novels, you really should read this memoir from her nephew. It is like meeting his aunt and adds a special touch to the reading of her novels.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The critics are split on this, but... 31 Aug. 2008
By Jasmine Dorsey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The book has taken alot of critism because the "biography" is very partial to Jane. But, I didn't find it that way. It has tons of information on her family, homes and an amazing timeline. It also has rare illustrations. While you can see that the author loved his aunt, he plainly say's this is what i remember and these are all the sources i have. He also includes some of her little known work. Overall I loved it, but the intoduction (by the newer editor) was long and repetitive, I almost suggest skipping or skimming over it and getting to the heart of the memoir.
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