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.