December 16th is a festive day for Janeites. On a very snowy day in 1775 our favorite author Jane Austen was born to Rev. George Austen and his wife Cassandra at Steventon rectory in Hampshire, England. Many local chapters of the Jane Austen Society around the world will be celebrating with a tea in her honor this week. Her biographers have described the day of her birth and later christening gleaned from family letters and recollections.
The 16th of December was the day of Jane Austen’s birth. The month’s delay in her arrival inspired her father to a small joke about how he and his wife had “in old age grown such bad reckoners”; he was forty-four. The child came in the evening, he said, without much warning. There was no need for a doctor; it was rare to call one for something as routine as childbirth, and the nearest, in Basingstoke, was seven miles away over bad roads. In any case, “everything was soon happily over.” They were pleased to have a second daughter, “a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny.” George Austen’s letter went on to talk of the prospects of a ploughing match in which he was interested, Kent against Hants for a rump of beef, weather permitting. A village rector in a remote country parish was as much a real farmer as a shepherd of souls. Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin, page 3
The cold weather did continue, and the winter of 1775-76 was one of the bitterest for many years, so it is not surprising that, after her private baptism on 17 December, the new baby was not taken out to the freezing little Steventon church for her public christening till 5 April 1776. She received just the single name of Jane, and her godparents were her great-aunt Jane, wife of Mr. Francis Austen of Sevenoaks; Mrs. Jane Musgrave, wife of Mrs. Austen’s cousin the rector of Chinnor; and Revd. Samuel Cooke, vicar of Great Bookham in Surrey and husband of another of Mrs. Austen’s cousins – her namesake Cassandra, daughter of the Master of Balliol. Jane Austen a Family Record, by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh, revised and enlarged by Deirdre Le Faye, page 25
“Jane Daughter of the Revd Mr George Austen Rector of this Parish, & Cassandra his wife was Privately Baptizd Decr 17th 1775 Rec’d into the Church April 5th 1776”
Transcribed from the parish register of baptisms for Steventon parish, in the handwriting of her father Rev George Austen. The Register resides is in the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester, ref 71M82/PR2
Jane Austen’s astrological sign is Sagittarius. Check out her complete horoscope. Other celebrities who share her birth date: Catherine d’Aragon (1485) Queen of England, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770) composer, Noel Coward (1899) English actor, playwright and composer of popular music, and Benny Anderson (1946) composer and member of pop group ABBA.
Happy Birthday Jane.