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There have been created many timelines of the life of Jane Austen. The first one was written by her brother, Henry Austen, for the Biographical Notice that prefaced the posthumous publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. It doesn’t look like the timeline presented here, of course, but it does outline her life in the briefest of terms and chiefly praises the character of the author. It fails to give a student of the author’s life much information, being mostly the fond reminiscences of a brother who’d lost his sister only a few months previous. A timeline is colored by what its creator chooses to include or not. This first timeline of Jane Austen at Cuculcan is intended to give the broadest outline of the author’s life, without any speculation about what might have happened. Births, deaths and marriages are recorded as well as the publication dates of the novels. I mostly chose not to include the many comings and goings Austen experienced. For a person described as little traveled, she did visit Bath, London, Southampton, Oxford and Lyme Regis and her family and those near and dear to her traveled the world, especially her brother, Admiral of the Fleet Francis Austen. Her cousin, Eliza de Feuillide, who would later marry Jane’s brother Henry, was born in India. Jane’s sister’s fiancé Tom Fowle died in Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic).
World Events: Most importantly I chose not to include any world events in this timeline, even though her lifetime includes the Napoleonic Wars, the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Austen, in fact, was born only a few months after the battles of Lexington and Concord and world events very much affected her life and the lives of the characters she created. For instance, I think William Price’s tales of sea battles affected Henry Crawford’s behavior in Mansfield Park. The next timeline to be created—The Georgian World of Jane Austen—will display these events and you’ll be able to see them side-by-side with the Austen timeline.
Travels: I may also create a detailed timeline showing the many trips taken by Austen and her sister Cassandra and their mother. These travels are especially poignant after the death of Austen’s father, when the Austen women were dependent on the kindness of family and friends for a home.
Romance: I also chose not to mention any but the two most well-known romantic moments in Austen’s life—her flirtation with Tom Lefroy and the Harris Bigg-Wither proposal. There are many speculations about other romances, but these are the only sufficiently documented. I may create a timeline consisting of just those speculations because it could illustrate how long a woman remained eligible for marriage. By the time of the Bigg-Wither proposal, Austen was on the cusp of being considered a spinster at the age of not yet 26!
Changes: This timeline will always be a work in progress. That’s the idea behind Cuculcan, that users will endlessly refine events and timelines. I’ll keep adding and removing events, updating links as they disappear on the web and changing map locations when I find out where Austen might have been on such and such a date (the site where Manydown Park stood eludes me, for instance).
If you have suggestions what should be added, deleted or what is just plain wrong, please leave a comment here. If you’re interested in building your own timeline or have suggestions for a new timeline, then click the Suggest a Timeline menu item.