Cassandra Austen (1773-1845): Background information when reading Miss Austen

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Miss Austen

by Gill Hornby

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby X
Miss Austen by Gill Hornby
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2020, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2021, 304 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

Cassandra Austen (1773-1845)

This article relates to Miss Austen

Print Review

Silhouette of Cassandra Austen Gill Hornby's novel Miss Austen explores Jane Austen's life through the point of view of her beloved older sister, Cassandra. Cassandra is thought to have been Jane's closest companion and confidante. The two were inseparable to the extent that their mother reportedly once commented, "If Cassandra's head had been going to be cut off, Jane would have hers cut off too." While Cassandra clearly had interests and a life of her own, her relationship with her now-famous sister was of great importance to her, and she had a significant influence on Jane's work and legacy.

Cassandra Elizabeth Austen was born on January 9, 1773 to Reverend George Austen and Mrs. Cassandra Leigh Austen. Her sister Jane was born two years later, and the siblings remained the only girls in a family of six brothers. As Reverend Austen ran a boarding school in their home in Steventon, Hampshire, both girls received education from an early age, studying art, music and other subjects. They also briefly attended Mrs. Latournelle's Ladies Boarding School in the Abbey House School in Reading between 1785 and 1786. According to their mother, Jane insisted on going along with Cassandra to the school, even though she was considered too young for the level of education it offered.

Shortly after returning home from Reading, Jane began to write her first stories, one of which was The Beautifull Cassandra, a short, humorous novel dedicated to her sister. Cassandra, who had taken up drawing and painting, contributed illustrations to Jane's fictional work The History of England, providing portraits of historical figures for the book. Cassandra also went on to complete pencil and watercolor portraits of Jane.

Sometime in or around the mid-1790s, Cassandra became engaged to Thomas Craven Fowle, a former student of her father's. The marriage was postponed for quite a while due to Fowle's lack of money, and on a trip to the West Indies, where he was serving as a military chaplain, he contracted yellow fever and died. Cassandra supposedly never recovered from his death, and never considered marriage again. Some have speculated that Jane's own decision to remain unmarried may have been influenced by her sister's experience, and that the happy endings Jane created for some of her novels, such as Pride and Prejudice, were shaped by her sympathy for Cassandra's loss.

Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen After Reverend Austen's death in 1805, which occurred when the family was residing in Bath, Cassandra continued to live with Jane and their mother. In 1809, the three women moved to Chawton, near their former home in Stevenson, settling into a small house on an estate owned by Cassandra and Jane's brother Edward. Cassandra outlived her sister, who died in 1817 at 41 (possibly of tuberculosis), and continued to live in Chawton after her mother's passing in 1827 until her own death in 1845 at the age of 72.

Cassandra has received much criticism for her handling of Jane's estate, particularly for her decision to burn some of her sister's letters, a subject covered in Miss Austen. However, Cassandra is also responsible for the preservation of many of Jane's letters, as well as the only two surviving firsthand portraits of the famous author.

Silhouette of Cassandra Austen by unknown artist
Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, circa 1820

Filed under People, Eras & Events

This "beyond the book article" relates to Miss Austen. It originally ran in May 2020 and has been updated for the March 2021 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Seek You
    Seek You
    by Kristen Radtke
    In the first pages of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke's sophomore ...
  • Book Jacket: The Man Who Hated Women
    The Man Who Hated Women
    by Amy Sohn
    If debates over women's reproductive health seem stuck in an earlier era — the fact that birth...
  • Book Jacket: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    by Honorée Fannone Jeffers
    Honorée Fannone Jeffers' The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois explores the Black experience in ...
  • Book Jacket: Beautiful World, Where Are You
    Beautiful World, Where Are You
    by Sally Rooney
    Beautiful World, Where Are You centers around four key characters, the most prominent of which are ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Blind Man's Bluff
    by James Tate Hill

    A writer's humorous and often-heartbreaking tale of losing his sight—and how he hid it from the world.

  • Book Jacket

    A Million Things
    by Emily Spurr

    "An impressively assured debut. A gem of a novel."
    —Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project

Win This Book!
Win A Most Clever Girl

A Most Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton

A thrilling novel of love and espionage, based on the incredible true story of a Cold War double agent.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Run T G

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.