Jane Austen sprang from the upper middle class society of late eighteenth century southern England. Orthodox in morals and religion, generally Tory in politics--this was the milieu that she describes so memorably in her novels. Indeed her environment provided her with material ideally suited to her talents: accurate observation of character, wit, dramatic intuition, an ear for realistic dialogue, and a highly disciplined formal sense. These gifts, evident in the early and satirical novels Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, found their perfect expression in the great books of her maturity, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. The late novelist and critic Marghanita Laski brings to this illustrated biography the fruits of a long and loving study of Jane Austen, her work, her letters, and her time.