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Jane Austin biography
September 2001
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The works of Jane Austin

The Countess of Monte Christo, 1816
Jane Austin's first novel, The Countess of Monte Christo, was very much a school girl production with a wild, melodramatic plot in the style of the thrillers of the day.

The Scarlet Peony, 1818
Unread today, Jane Austin's novel of an English secret agent was wildly popular at the time. It is not at all realistic; her knowledge of England and France came from the novels of other authors such as Barbara Cartland. Alexandre Dumas credited The Scarlet Peony as the inspiration for his becoming an author.

Northanger Abilene, 1823
Northanger Abilene is very much a transition novel, written in the style of her early gothic romances but utilizing a Texas setting with a Spanish land baron replacing the conventional mad monk.

Fence and Fencibility, 1824
Fence and Fencibility has been viewed by some critics as being prophetic of the conflicts between ranchers and farmers that occurred much later in the settling of the West. Others have viewed it as being an prevision of the Mexican War. Such interpretations must be considered as fanciful as the view that it is an attempt to rewrite Romeo and Juliet for a ruder stage.

Colt Persuasion, 1826
Colt Persuasion may be semi-autobiographical. The heroine's conversion from strongly objecting to the easy violence prevalent in the West to accepting and using the colt revolver as the great equalizer is generally considered to be based on her own experiences in becoming a markswoman. It is doubtful, though, that Jane Austin ever had to defend her virtue with a loaded revolver.

Pride and Precipice, 1827
Unlike most of her compatriots, Jane Austin had no prejudice against Indians. According to her biography she spent two summers with one of the local tribes. The most dramatic event in the novel is the description of a buffalo hunt. Modern readers, however, value it for its haunting description of the life of young Indian women.

Winchester Park, 1828
Winchester Park is often considered a forerunner of the modern Gothic novel. Some elements of the novel are considered to be autobiographical. See also the description of this novel by the noted author of Regency Romances, Lois McMaster Bujold.

Edda, 1831
Jane Austin made good use of the year she spent with her Aunt Sarah in St. Paul. It was then she she acquired a first hand knowledge of the life and folkways of Scandavian immigrants in Minnesota. In Edda she drew on her knowledge of Indian mythology and the strictures of the Lutheran church to create a fusion of worldviews that encapsulates the American experience. Later classic depictions of Nordic-American life such as Giants in the Ground and A Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra drew extensively on this seminal work. Edda is considered by many to be her finest novel.

Love and Fiendship (short stories) 1832
Jane Austin's preferred medium was the novel. However she did write a number of short stories during her early Texas years which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and The Tattler. Most of these stories were light pieces about the life of young women in the west.

Sandy Hills (unfinished) 1832
Sandy Hills is somewhat of a literary mystery. It was discovered among her effects after her death; nothing is known as to why she never finished it although it has been widely speculated that the events of the novel were painfully close to her personal life.

The Lady and the Tramp, 1834
The Lady and the Tramp is the definitive Western novel. The heroine is a young woman from Vermont who goes west to become a school teacher. There she is courted by a cowboy originally from Virginia who is a man among men in the west but who lacks the civilized graces to which she is accustomed. She almost retreats home rather than admit to the passion that he has aroused in her but surrenders to her love for him after a climactic gun battle.

Remains of the Night, 1835
Remains of the Night was considered to be immoral at the time and was banned in Boston. It is the story of a housekeeper in an English mansion who is desperately in love with the head butler who does not return her advances. Spurned, she leaves for employment elsewhere, marries for convenience, has children, and is widowed. Many years later the butler seeks her out to court her. She is tempted by the prospect of reviving an old love but in the end decides that it is too late.

A Field of Broken Dreams, 1838
In A Field of Broken Dreams she returns to the Adams family in Fence and Fencibility to explore the heartbreak of dryland farmers in an arid land as they discover that hard work is just not enough.

Remember The Alamo!, 1843
Remember The Alamo! is her only non-fiction work. It is a patriotic polemic urging her fellow Texans to keep Texas as a free and independent country.

Elderberry Wine, 1847
The viewpoint character in Jane Austin's novel was usually a young woman. Elderberry Wine is an exception; the principal character is an orphaned boy who accompanies a runaway slave as they escape the South. Today this novel is thought of as a savage indictment of the slavery system but at the time it was regarded as a light adventure.

Raiders of the Purple Sage, 1848
Raiders of the Purple Sage is a western comedy of manners about two housewives and their quarrel over a patch of purple sage which each claims is part of her spice garden.

Cabaret, 1850
Cabaret tells the story of a young woman who travels to San Francisco during the Gold Rush days and leads a fruitless campaign to end prostitution there. Jane Austin was a woman of strong opinions which were expressed vigorously in her later years.

Aunt Jemima's Cabin, 1852
Aunt Jemima's Cabin is an openly anti-slavery tract which was influential in inflaming Northern sentiment against slavery. It was adapted as a stage melodrama; the stage version is famed for the tearjerking scene with Moll Flanders on the ice. Aunt Jemima's Cabin was her last novel. In her remaining years she served as a roving columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.

The Yellow Rose of Texas, 1859
Her autobiography, The Yellow Rose of Texas, was not published in her lifetime; she continued to work on it up until the end of her life. The manuscript was published posthumously by her daughter after Jane's death in a gun battle in Missouri. Although she did indeed lead a colorful life it must be said that there is considerable doubt about the veracity of many of her anecdotes. There also is a scarcity of detail about those phases of her life that are of interest to her biographers.


This page was last updated September 1, 2001.

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Jane Austin biography
September 2001
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