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Jane Austen: Galloping girl

Tory or radical, prude or saucepot—there have been many Jane Austens down the ages. But her genius lies in dramatising the thrilling risks of living at breakneck speed

By Freya Johnston   April 2017

©Duncan1890/Getty Images

Jane Austen wrote fast and died young. Her life on paper may have spanned three decades, but all six of her celebrated novels made their public appearance between 1811 and 1817. The phrase “tell-tale compression,” self-consciously applied by the narrator towards the end of Northanger Abbey (1817), captures something of Austen’s authorial career, too. Indeed, in her case it is appropriate that the word “career” can mean a short gallop at full speed, as well as the potentially slower progress of an individual’s working life. Novelists are…

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