P&P is sold. – Egerton gives £110 for it. – I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased, & I am not at all surprised that he should chuse to hazard so much. – Its’ being sold will I hope be a great saving of Trouble to Henry, & therefore must be welcome to me. Jane Austen – 30 November 1812
Henry Thomas Austen was Jane’s favorite brother and the most instrumental influence upon furthering her writing career. Literature owes a debt of gratitude to him far greater than can be every repaid. Without his assistance her first four novels might not have been published during her lifetime, and certainly he deserves all the credit for negotiating the last two posthumously in 1817. He was also her first official biographer, contributing the ‘Biographical Notice’ included in the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. It would remain the only biographical information available to the public for over fifty years until the publication of the 1870 ‘A Memoir’ by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh
Impetuous, impatient and sanguine in nature, Henry’s careers were as varied as his fortunes. Jane described her brother as “not a mind for affliction” and that he “writes very superior sermons“. His niece Anna Lefroy, daughter of his brother James, left this description of him in her family recollections written in the 1850’s.
My Uncle Henry Thomas Austen was the handsomest of his family, and, in the opinion of his own father, also the most talented. There were others who formed a different estimate, and considered his abilities greater in shew than in reality, but for the most part he was greatly admired. Brilliant in conversation, and like his Father, blessed with a hopefulness of temper, which, in adapting itself to all circumstances, even the most adverse, seemed to create a perpetual sunshine of the mind. The Race is not however always to the swiftest – it never has been – and though so highly gifted by Nature, my Uncle was not prosperous in life.
Significant life events
1771 – Henry Thomas was the fourth child born to George and Cassandra Austen on the 8th of June at Steventon rectory, Hampshire
1788 – Graduated from St. John’s College, Oxford (his father’s & brother’s alma matre)
1789-90 – Editor and contributor of the literary publication The Loiterer with his brother James
1793 – Joined the Oxfordshire Militia rising from lieutenant to captain before he resigned in 1801
1796 – Received his Masters of Arts from Oxford
1797 – Married his widowed cousin Eliza de Feuillide at Marylebone Church in London. (editor’s note: several people have written to me correcting my use of widowed in this sentence. According to The Cambridge Dictionary, widowed in an adjective used to describe a person whose husband or wife was died.
1804 – Founded with two associates the bank Austen, Maunde and Tilson of Covent Garden in London
1805 – Contributed £50 a year to the support his mother & sisters after the death of his father George Austen
1813 – Wife Eliza died on the 25th of April and is buried in Hampstead
1815 – Henry buys back “Susan” (Northanger Abbey) from the publisher Crosby, to whom he had sold it in 1803
1816 – Bank failure and bankruptcy of Austen Maude & Tilson in London
1816 – Received Holy Orders and became curate of Chawton
1817 – Attended the funeral of his sister Jane on 24 July at Winchester Cathedral
1818 – Wrote the first ‘Biographical Notice’ of his sister included in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion
1820 – Married Eleanor Jackson at Chelsea
1820 – Served as rector of Steventon until 1822
1850 – Died on 12 March at Tunbridge Wells and is buried in Woodbury Park Cemetery
Gentle Reader: In honor of JASNA’s annual meeting in Philadelphia this week, this blog, Jane Austen’s World, and Jane Austen Today will be devoting posts to Jane Austen and her siblings. Look for new links each day.
- Cassandra Austen: Jane’s confidante, supporter and helpmate
- Jane Austen’s Siblings – Rev. James Austen 1765-1819
- Edward Austen Knight: A tightwad or a man with heavy responsibilities?
- Sir Francis William Austen: Glimpses of Jane’s sailor brother in letters
- Jane Austen’s Siblings – Charles John Austen 1779-1852
- George Austen: Jane Austen’s almost forgotten, invisible brother
- Jane Austen Biographies – Guided by Reason
- Illustrated Books About Jane Austen and Her Milieu
© 2009, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com