In the middle of the nineteenth century one of the vergers of Winchester Cathedral, where Jane Austen is buried, was mystified by the number of visitors who requested to be shown her grave. 'Was there anything particular about this lady?' he asked. There was no indication on the tablet marking Jane's grave that she was a famous author, as her importance as a novelist had not been recognised at the time of her death and her grieving family did not consider it worth recording. Jane Austen, a parson's daughter who grew up in quiet, rural Hampshire in the eighteenth century, became a famous and much-loved English novelist. Drawing on a little-known family diary, family memoirs and letters, this book tells the story of Jane's life largely in her own words and those of people who knew her. It also traces her development as a novelist and the growth of her reputation and fame following her untimely death at the age of forty-one.