What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?
A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.
Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, in Hampshire, England. The seventh child of eight, and the second of two girls, Jane was extremely close to her older sister Cassandra. Due to their father's standing as the local clergyman, the girls enjoyed a lifestyle similar to many of Jane's heroines. The family was not rich, but they lived comfortably and associated with some members of the landed gentry.
Austen's only education outside of her family consisted of a short-lived residence with the sister of an uncle and then a yearlong stay at a boarding school. She was, however, schooled at home, well read in the classics, and familiar with the authors of the eighteenth century.
None of Austen's novels was originally published under her real name, and the title page of Pride and Prejudice read simply “by the author of Sense and Sensibility.” Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions but was not published under that name. It first appeared in 1813, about fifteen years after it was written. Austen wrote five other major novels: Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey. Today, she is recognized as a gifted writer whose ability to develop memorable characters is unsurpassed.
Jane Austen died of an unknown illness (either Addison's disease, a hormonal disorder, or tuberculosis) on July 18, 1817, at the age of 41.