In Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, Anne Elliot seemingly mourns the disparity between women’s and men’s education, and women’s lack of representation in history and the arts: ‘Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands’.
But in an age when society believed that a girl’s ultimate ambition should be a wife and mother, an increasing number of women (like Austen herself) took up their pens in the hope of earning some money of their own. In a letter to her brother Frank Austen in 1813, she told him of the success of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility: ‘I have now therefore written myself into £250 –which only makes me long for more' (worth approximately £16,000 in today's money).
Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be taking a look at some of Austen’s predecessors and contemporaries who created a fresh role for themselves in society as authors. However, to avoid society's censure, like Austen, they often wrote under a cloak of anonymity.
Frontispiece of a French edition of Persuasion, Jane Austen's 'La Famille Elliot' (1821) courtesy Wikimedia Commons.