Wartime was the ordinary, everyday time of Jane Austen’s adult life. Yet her popular and critical reception through much of the twentieth century was built on her seeming ignorance of public events. But just how ignorant was she? War touched closely the private lives of several members of the Austen family: her cousin Eliza’s first husband was guillotined; her sailor brothers Frank and Charles saw service in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and the American War of 1812; her first publisher ran a 'Military Library’. War provides the rhythm to which all her novels unfold, culminating in Persuasion, her most subtle meditation on war's cost, set during the 'false peace' of 1814-15. It is time to reclaim Jane Austen as the first English novelist to explore the effect of contemporary war on the home front.
Kathryn Sutherland is Professor of Bibliography and Textual Criticism, University of Oxford, Professorial Fellow in English at St Anne's College, Oxford, and Trustee at Jane Austen's House Museum. Her books include Jane Austen: Writer in the World, Bodleian Library, 2017, and Jane Austen's Textual Lives: from Aeschylus to Bollywood, Oxford University Press, 2005. She is editor of the free-to-access Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts, A Digital Edition, 2010 (www.janeausten.ac.uk), and of editions of Mansfield Park and J.E. Austen Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen.