Jane Austen Never Married And Died Alone

“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” —Jane Austen, in a letter to her sister, Cassandra

In A Nutshell

Jane Austen, who is famous for her enduring romance stories, never married. Despite writing some of the best-known love stories ever, there is speculation that she died a virgin. She was once engaged, but she quickly broke it off.

The Whole Bushel

Along with William Shakespeare, Austen’s romances are among the most popular and famous in the whole world. They have resonated with millions of readers around the world over the past two centuries. Her novels have been adapted for television and movies at least a dozen times each. They’ve also been the basis for other romances like Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Jane Austen Book Club and Austenland.

While Jane Austen’s novels about marriage and love are heavily satirical at times (commenting on the social world of her day), they’re still often written in a style that the reader hopes the couple gets together. After all, that is the quintessential part of Jane Austen novels. A young, headstrong girl ultimately marries the man of her dreams, even if she dislikes him at first. Or if it is not the main character, two very likable characters get married at the end of the story.

While Jane Austen wrote so heavily and consistently about this, she never married the man of her dreams. In fact, she didn’t marry at all. One of the leading theories about Jane Austen’s love life is that she probably died a virgin, because there is no record of her having any more than a passing relationship with a man.

Admittedly, not a whole lot is known about Jane Austen. She never did an interview, never wrote memoirs, and most of the letters she wrote were burned by her sister in order to protect her privacy. What we do know about Jane Austen is that she was born December 16, 1775. She had three brothers (two older and one younger) and an older sister. Austen published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility in 1811 under the pseudonym “A Lady.”

As for her personal life, there were apparently three men who played roles in Austen’s story. The first is Thomas Langlois Lefroy, whom Austen met sometime in the winter of 1795–1796. Some critics do not believe the relationship was more than a simple flirtation. Other people suspect the connection was deeper and believe that Lefroy could have been the model for Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr Darcy. A fictionalized version of this relationship was made into the movie Becoming Jane. Lefroy would go on to be Lord Chief Justice of Ireland from 1852–1866.

In Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love, Dr. Andrew Norman says there was another possible candidate for Austen’s affection. He was a clergyman named Dr. Samuel Blackwell. Norman asserts that they met at Lefroy’s home and they had an affair in 1802.

The only marriage proposal that Austen got (that was public) was from Harris Bigg-Wither in 1802. He was the brother of some friends she was visiting. He was a tall, awkward, and unattractive man. The engagement lasted for a day before she retracted her acceptance.

Thus ends the romantic life of Jane Austen. Austen instead appeared to put all energy into fictional relationships. Over her career she would write six novels, two of which were published posthumously. All six books have happy wedding endings, though this was sadly nothing like the end of Austen’s story. She got sick in early 1816 and never got better. There is still great debate over the cause of death; the arguments range from Addison’s disease to bovine tuberculosis. She passed away on July 18, 1817 at the age of 41.

Show Me The Proof

Searching for Jane Austen, by Emily Auerbach
Slate.com: See Jane Elope
Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900: Jane Austen’s Lovers
History in the Movies: Becoming Jane

  • Love works best in the imagination, in real life it can be almost unbearable …

    • yeah

      …like you’ve read my miserable little mind. If it wasn’t for sex noone would put up with anyone’s sheeeeiit.

    • Ray

      That’s because love isn’t real.

  • Maybe men did not dare to propose. Who could compete with Mr Darcy? Also the quality of her writing could have been intimidating to men with pride.

    • lbatfish

      Tut-tut! Your prejudice is showing!

  • Andy West

    ‘The engagement lasted for a day before she retracted her acceptance.’ Cold-hearted wench.

    • lbatfish

      Well, ’tis far better to have a cold heart than a cold . . . wait, what were we talking about?

  • UN

    41 year old virgin!!

    • OC

      LOL I knew one, at 45. He was a somewhat prestigious person in the community too.

      • lbatfish

        Well, I hope that you don’t mean “knew” in the Biblical sense.

        But . . . if you did . . . how was it?

        • OC

          Killing me! No his friend (or where they related?) was my best friend at that time. I was quite young then.

  • OC

    There are far worse outcomes in life than to have never married but I wish she had found her great love. 6 novels before 40. Give up that creativity to wash clothes by hand and scrub floors on your knees? Uh no. I don’t see any little Shakespeares or Poes bragging about their ancestor. You can’t have it all.

    • LeAndra Renee Sheets

      But Poe had a wife and Shakespeare a wife and kids so apparently you can have it all. Maybe not crazy Poe who died to early but he did know love.

      • OC

        Scholars are definitely not sure who Shakespeare was.

        • LeAndra Renee Sheets

          William Shakespeare was a real man with documentation. I don’t care who you think wrote hamlet it’s irrelevant the argument was there were no little Shakespeare’s and there were.

          • OC

            Show Me The Proof.

          • lbatfish

            Here you go! But no driving or operating heavy machinery for awhile, okay?

    • yeah

      Who says you have to give up your creativity and passions and automatically drop to the floor to scrub it when you get married?..ever heard of the swiffer man?

      • OC

        It was a time of obedience. Very STRICT obedience. And they didn’t have vacuums, washing machines or even mops. Uhm. But many had Slaves. So I see your confusion.

        • yeah

          Nah I just didn’t pay attention to the fact that we were actually discussing the author in her place of time…. my fault. Go washing machines! Woo!

          • OC

            You have definitely Spoken.

  • Hillyard

    Maybe she didn’t want to marry someone she saw an intellectual inferior. Maybe she was a lesbian. Maybe she was having an affair with a servant/neighbor and didn’t want to end it. Perhaps she was just asexual. Perhaps she discovered the joys of masturbation and decided a man couldn’t be anywhere near as good as her favorite cucumber. Maybe she was an alien trans-gender xeno-morph and there were no suitable mates anywhere. Much like the question of how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

    I vote xeno-morph.

  • Joseph

    Everyone dies alone.

  • OC

    Please tell me why archtypical Americans are obsessed with sex lives. I don’t watch many movies because I just don’t want to see it. It’s personal and private.

  • Matthew Messerly

    And women everywhere are obsessed with a woman who had no idea what the hell she was writing about? #girllogic

    • looklook

      Wow, seriously? So I guess the author of Lord of the Rings knows a heck lot about undergoing a journey to destroy a cursed ring then.

      • Matthew Messerly

        Readers of Lord of the Rings don’t use it as a travel guide.

        • lbatfish

          Not until after they’ve chugged the bottle I posted above, at least.

  • Valdez

    Whether or not Jane died a virgin is actually immaterial to the fact that she wrote exquisitely about passion, longing and desire, subjects she obviously did know about. If she had been writing a sex manual people could rightfully question her credentials. Many women identify strongly with Jane’s writing style because they do desperately long to be the object of someone’s passionate desire. If you just want sex, you read Playboy. This will ever be a Mars/Venus type point of argument, which some of the comments show.

    • OC

      FINALLY! #AGrown-upInTheRoom

  • BereniceRezentes

    I think that this was not fair with Jane Austen.

  • Anjali Krishnan

    Actually will someone just tell about the marriage of Jane Austen. some sites says she is married while others say she is not….