JANE AUSTEN was born at Steventon, Hampshire, in 1775, the daughter of a clergyman. At the age of 9 she was sent to school at Reading with her elder sister Cassandra, who was her lifelong friend and confidante, but she was largely taught by her father. She began to write for recreation while still in her teens. In 1801 the family moved to Bath, the scene of so many episodes in her books and, after the death of her father in 1805, to Southampton and then to the village of Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire. Here she lived uneventfully until May 1817, when the family moved to Winchester seeking skilled medical attention for her ill-health, but she died two months later. She is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
Her best-known novels are Sense and Sensibility ( 1811), Pride and Prejudice ( 1813), Mansfield Park ( 1814), Emma ( 1816), and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818.
JAMES KINSLEY was Professor of English Studies at the University of Nottingham until his death in 1984. He edited The Oxford Book of Ballads and was General Editor of the Oxford English Novels series; his other works include editions of Burns and Dryden.
TERRY CASTLE is Professor of English at Stanford University and the author of a number of books and essays on eighteenth-century topics. Her most recent books include Masquerade and Civilization ( 1986), a study of the masquerade in eighteenth-century culture and fiction, and The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture ( 1993). She has also provided a new introduction and expanded notes for the Oxford World's Classics edition of Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho.