Monday, July 22, 2013

Jane Austen's Early Childhood and Schooling

Contrary to the accounts by the Austen family of Jane Austen's idyllic childhood in the warm bosom of her family, it has recently come to light that she was away from five out of the first eleven years of her life.

From three months to two years of her life, Jane was boarded with a nurse in the village of Steventon. She was then brought home till she was seven, at which point she was sent away to school. Despite the practice of Georgian times to send children away to boarding schools, girls were rarely sent until they were well into their teens. It was usually boys who were sent away to schools when they were twelve; fewer girls were sent.

So Jane being sent away was unusual in itself and an anomaly to be sent away so young. What's also strange is that she was sent away to a much inferior schooling than the one her father could've offered her at home. He was not discriminatory towards his girls and offered all his children the same scholarly teaching.

It is now generally believed that her parents, Rev. George and Cassandra Austen, wanted to make room for paying students to be housed at the rectory since they were perenially in debt, so the girls and then some of the boys had to be sent away to school. Eventually, all the boys went away, but the girls stayed home once they were older.