Jane Austen was born in 1775 in rural Hampshire, the daughter of an affluent village rector who encouraged her in her artistic pursuits. In novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma she developed her subtle analysis of contemporary life through depictions of the middle-classes in small towns. Her sharp wit and incisive portraits of ordinary people have given her novels enduring popularity. She died in 1817.
Sign up to the Pan Macmillan newsletter for great extra content and free extracts.