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Jane Austen was a clergyman's daughter, related to other clergy, born and brought up in a parsonage. Many of her attitudes, expressed in her novels, reflect this directly or indirectly. Her father's reasoned and practical approach to religion, along with the range of books available to her in his library, shaped the essentially moral outlook behind her entertaining, but devastating, criticism of individuals and of society.
Her attitude to the gentry is subtly ambivalent. Accepted as a clergyman's daughter in local society, Jane Austen sometimes mirrors their prejudices, seen for instance in her characterisation of the haughty aristocrat Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice. At the same time, her own marginal position in gentry society gave her personal experience of the slights and snobberies inherent in the subtle class distinctions of the time. As the years went by, she became more and more sensitive about the position of women without money of their own, and wrote feelingly in Emma of the lowered status of a parson's daughter whose father has died.
It has often seemed surprising that she never mentions war explicitly in her novels, especially as two of her brothers were officers in the navy. Jane Austen: The Parson's Daughter shows how Jane Austen in fact drew on an extensive knowledge of wartime conditions not only in Pride and Prejudice with its militia regiment, and in Mansfield Park and Persuasion with their sailors, but also in Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey and Emma.