Family Ties

Jane’s father, George Austen, (1731-1805) was the rector of St Nicholas Church in the parish of Steventon. Reverend Austen took in boys to tutor.

His wife Cassandra (née Leigh) (1739-1827) was a sociable, witty woman whom George had met while studying in Oxford. Cassandra was visiting her uncle, Theophilus Leigh, Master of Balliol College. When Cassandra left the city, George followed her to Bath and continued to court her until they got married on 26 April 1764, at the church of St Swithin in Bath.

Although a close knit family, by today’s standards the household was subject to somewhat fluid arrangements regarding the care of offspring. As was customary for the gentry at the time, Jane’s parents sent her as an infant to be cared for by a farming neighbour, Elizabeth Littlewood.

Her brother George, who is thought to have suffered from epilepsy, also lived away from the family home. And the third child, Edward, was adopted by his father’s third cousin, Mr Thomas Knight, eventually inheriting Godmersham and Chawton House - close to the house in Chawton where Jane and Cassandra moved to with their mother.

Arrangements like these were normal for the time - the family was close and affectionate and
recurring themes of family bonds and respectable rural living would play a strong part in Jane’s writing.

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