Introduction:

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was born, the sixth child in a family of seven, in Steventon, Hampshire. Never marrying she lived her life among her family, with an occasional visit to Bath, London and Lyme or to her brother's houses. Remaining politically aware her novels conveyed the social customs and practices of her age. Carol Shields, whose own novels have often been compared to those Jane Austen, says into her biography of the author 'we can find behind Austen's novels a steady, intelligent witness to a world that was rapidly reinventing itself.' (Shields, Carol, 2001, p.4)

The Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle was once asked whether he ever read novels.  "Yes," he asserted, "all six, every year".  TLS, editorial, July 21, 2017