E Book Review: A Memoir of Jane Austen by J.E. Austen Leigh

A Memoir of Jane Austen was re-published in 1871, originally published in 1869. The re-published edition included two of her unfinished stories, Lady Susan and Sandition. A Memoir of Jane Austen was written by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh. His memories of aunt Jane was when he was a young boy. He mentioned in this memoir that "he was the youngest at her funeral." He remembers Jane as being "sweet-tempered, loving-heart, kind, sympathizing, amusing," she made an impression on him as well as all his cousins. In A Memoir of Jane Austen Austen-Leigh gives family information leading back to Jane's parents and the events that brought them together, her siblings and their spouses, as well as the careers of Jane's brothers. Jane had one sister three years older named Cassandra. They would remain close all of Jane's life, even sharing the same bedroom "till separated by death." Austen-Leigh does not mention in the memoir another brother named George that was handicapped. The significant events of Jane's life are given: her education, homelife in Steventon, as well as other places she lived, her brief romances, early writing period, the history of the novels and stories she wrote, her illness and death. Cassandra's engagement to a clergyman and his outcome is shared in brief. Actually, Jane and her families history is told in brief, the reader understands that Austen-Leigh is only touching the surface so to speak with family information. The family wanted to remain private, many of Jane's personal letters had been destroyed by family.

  • I enjoyed reading about "other" information included in the memoir, instead of the memoir itself.
  •  Austen-Leigh included a review written about one of Jane's novels in 1815.

"The faults of these works arise from the minute detail which the author's plan comprehends. Characters or simplicity, such as those of old Woodhouse and Miss Bates, are ridiculous. When first presented, but if too often brought forward, or too long dwelt on, their prosing is apt to become tiresome in fiction as in real society."
I find this review comical in comparison to the beloved Jane Austen that has held readers for generations.

  • Austen-Leigh compared Charlotte Bronte's temperament to Jane Austen's.

 And still in 2012 there are those in the Bronte camp and those in the Austen camp!

  • A Miss Mitford gave a misguided opinion of Jane (had been a comment Mitford's mother made.)

"Momma says that she was then the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembers!"
Her mother's memories were of a 7 year old Jane.

A Memoir of Jane Austen I did not feel is a straight-forward, page-turning, wonderful read. I do feel it should be considered a beginning point for any reader new to Jane Austen. I say "new" because most of the information Austen-Leigh gave those knowledgeable of Jane Austen's writings would already know.

To read A Memoir of Jane Austen for free from Project Gutenberg:


  1. I'll have to check this one out once I've exhausted everything I have to read by Austen. I still have Emma, her letters, and the rest of the juvenilia to go. ;)

    I'm not an expert on Austen but I've heard that this book made it seem as though Austen lived a ho-hum life and wasn't necessarily accurate. No idea though.

  2. I didn't want to give a spoiler about this memoir. Jane Austen's nephew (I believe) had a goal of portraying Jane as being a level-headed, without serious emotional flaws, private person. He compared her a bit to Charlotte Bronte, stating that she was over the top in her emotions. The nephew of Jane Austen wrote his memoir during the Victorian age when they regarded private lives to be just that, private. Certain topics were not discussed. I also believe the Austen family staunchly guarded Jane's reputation and privacy.

  3. Fascinating -- certainly would be interesting to see how her family perceived her and her legacy -- which is always maddening when people want 'the truth' (like me!). Will have to add this to my TBR for someday! (Altho I love that its avail on Project Gutenberg -- always a perk!)


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