Sense and Sensibility (1811)
The first novel published by Jane Austen was Sense and Sensibility, a story which focuses on a mother and her three daughters who are forced to rely on the kindness of distant relations and friends for support when those nearest in blood and obligation refuse to fulfill their duties. It is also a love story. The two older daughters are in love and considering marriage during much of the novel.
Sense and Sensibility began its existence as Elinor and Marianne, a story written in the 1790s while Jane Austen lived at her father's rectory in Steventon. While no copy of the original manuscript is available to examine today, it is clear from Austen's letters and the writings of other members of her family that the form that Elinor and Marianne took was that of the epistolary novel, a novel written as though it were a series of letters between close friends and family members.
Over time, Austen decided to revise the novel extensively, changing it from the epistolary format to one that used an outside narrator. The completed novel Sense and Sensibility is, therefore, written in the third-person point of view, though presenting the story primarily from the perspective of the eldest Dashwood daughter, Elinor.
The time that passed between the writing of Elinor and Marianne and its revision into Sense and Sensibility probably resulted in a more sophisticated handling of the subject of the difficulties faced by women whose male provider had died. When Austen wrote the first version of the novel, she was living in the comfort and security of her childhood home, her father's rectory in Steventon.