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Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,030 Ratings  ·  184 Reviews
Award winning biographer and Oxford and Columbia University Professor Claire Harman traces the growth of Jane Austen’s fame, the changing status of her work and what it has stood for - or has been made to stand for in the English culture. - in a wide-ranging study aimed at the general reader.

This is a story of personal struggle, family intrigue, accident, advocacy and s
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 2nd 2009 by Canongate Books (first published April 1st 2009)
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Sherwood Smith

This is an immensely readable combination of biography, literary analysis, and personal essay, both exasperating and enlightening.

It is at its most exasperating when Harman attempts to tell us what Austen or her contemporaries were thinking, or what they really meant; it is best at uncovering facts and patterns relating to Austen’s publication history, reviews, biographies, and mentions in wildly ranging contexts after Austen’s death.

Examples of the former: page 46, in quoting a letter between J
Ben Babcock
Yeah, my dad bought me two books about Jane Austen a few birthdays ago, and I figured I should read them back-to-back so I could compare them. The other was A Brief Guide to Jane Austen . This one, Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World is much less a biography or analysis of her individual novels and much more an examination of how Austen went from moderately successful author in her time to forgotten to skyrocketing fame within two hundred years. Claire Harman clearly lays out not j ...more
I don't know, I thought this was sort of shallow. It's far from a full biography (whatever the back cover claims to the contrary), and even the later chapters, on Austen's cultural influence, were not as in-depth as I would have liked. For someone who's less well-read about Austen, this probably would be a good read; for me, it was less than I thought it could have been. I think I was expecting something more like Lucasta Miller's The Bronte Myth and just didn't get it.
Deborah Moulton
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not everyone is a fan of Jane Austen, but this work of literary history is a wonderful example of how an author's work comes in and out of fashion and how it becomes distorted as various heirs, critics and fans put their spin on it.

"The Divine Jane," as some call her, certainly earned her place on the literary pantheon for her radical departure from the outlandishly dramatic Edwardian novels of her day. In contrast to all that fantasy and hyperbole around her, her novels focused on everday life
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘What is all this about Jane Austen?’
‘What is there in her? What is it all about?’ (Letter from Joseph Conrad to H.G. Wells in 1901)

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) is one of the most widely read writers in English literature. Her novels are amongst the best known in the English language, and have been adapted for film and television. Today, close to 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is more popular than ever. But why is this? During her lifetime she had little fame and her nov
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
This is one of those books I didn't know I needed until after I read it. It was an intriguing, rounded look at one of England's most beloved authors.
Instead of examining Jane Austen's life and works, Harman focuses on Austen's legacy as an author. She ranges from Austen's fame during her lifetime to the eagerness of the early Janeites to the coming of Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy. Published in 2009, this book already feels dated, but it still plays an interesting role in putting Austen in h
Apr 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
(Review written for The Bookstudio)

For all the love showered on Jane Austen through cinematic lovefests, academic treatises, and “I’d Rather Be Reading Jane Austen” bumper stickers, the author herself gets rather lost in the chatter. The sparse details of Austen’s biography and her brief catalogue of six novels permit today’s fans to imagine whatever they will of the British literary titan. Among the most common tropes about “Divine Jane?” That she was indifferent to fame, writing novels set squ
In 1815, Jane Austen published Emma, dedicated by permission (or rather command) to the Prince Regent, who was Austen’s highest profile fan, keeping a set of her novels in all his residences. What is less well known is that during Queen Victoria’s reign, the Prince’s beautifully bound presentation copy of Emma was relegated to the servants’ library. And apparently it wasn’t too popular there, which is why it remains in excellent condition today.

Despite attracting patronage from aristocracy and r
May 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-reads
This was a biography, not of Jane Austen, but of her fame, in the Regency sense (her reputation, her interpretation, her known-ness), and how it's developed from the time she was first publishing until now. I'm not, after reading it, totally sure who the audience for this book was meant to be, but the book makes a persuasive argument that just by having Jane in the title, there will be a large and dedicated audience, many of them intelligent, many of them dipshits. And the fact that I felt like ...more
Dec 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austen
Almost 4 stars.

It's odd and quirky and jam-packed with information, but bogs down a bit midway through.

Harman traces how Jane Austen became popular, from when she initially wrote the books, through publication, republication, her biography by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, on through other books about her, right up through Colin Firth in a wet shirt.

It's fascinating and I enjoyed it, but going decade by decade through the 1800s and early 1900s was just a wee bit tedious. I thought it coul
If one was only going to read one book about Jane Austen, this is the one I'd recommend. Harman covers Austen's life, literary influences, work habits, as well as the public and critical reception her books have received in the years since their first drafts. Few regular readers are interested (I think) in critical analysis as practiced by professors of English literature, but Harman gives concise and fairly entertaining overviews of the many theories, as well as an idea of how well they've been ...more
S. J.
Oct 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5 Stars

As my review is off-topic and may not conform to the new TOS of this site (whatever that may be), if you wish to read my thought then please click here to read it on my blog.
Kressel Housman
Every Jane Austen fan must read this book! More than just a biography, this book is a literary history told from both the academic/critical and business/publishing perspectives. It follows Jane's fame up till our times with a chapter called "Jane Austen TM," which includes a discussion of the films, the Colin Firth pond scene insertion, and fan sites such as the Republic of Pemberley. (My own intro to JA, through the 1980 Masterpiece Theatre version was not mentioned, nor was the fanfic phenomen ...more
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Plenty has been said and written about Jane Austen’s novels and plenty about Jane herself. Yet the woman remains frustratingly out of reach. There has never been a satisfying portrait of her (she died 10 years before the first photograph came into history) and reports about her character vary greatly. No one is even quite sure what her hair color was.

But she was known for a satirical wit, a sweet temperament and an eagerness to make money to supplement her family’s dwindling income…and, of cour
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jane-austen
4.75 teacups out of 5 for Claire Harman's "Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World"

What a delight! What a pleasure! This lovely non-fiction book traces Jane Austen's strange journey from a well-kept (mostly) local secret to world literary powerhouse! This is a reread for me. The book wears well! I believe most Jane Austen fans, from Team Marianne(me!) to Team Elinor, will find something to like.
I know a wide range of Austen fans who have liked this book. Perhaps some of the early 20th
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. It was informative and occasionally entertaining. Clearly, a lot of research went into it (there are about 30 pages of notes and sources), but parts of it felt overly drawn-out, as though the author wanted to mention every source she used, even when they said essentially the same thing. All this made it a bit repetitive at times as well. The first part is a biography that seems to say over and over how little is actually know about Jane Austen. But it is well-written so most ...more
Mar 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a recent convert to the Austen fan club, I regard this volume as essential for all Janenites. It provides the pithy details of the publication history, critical responses, and changing attitudes to Jane Austen's oeuvre (a word she would have derisively challenged). Harmon is an apt commentator and has done previous literary critiques and biographical studies on Fanny Burney and R. L. Stevenson. Her writing reflects her scholarly background at Oxford and Columbia without the pretentious cant o ...more
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As someone who reads Austen for her ironic wit, I really enjoyed this history of Jane Austen biographies and critical views over the last two hundred years. Harman obviously loves the Austen novels and yet, still looks with a wry eye on the "Jane Austen" of popular culture. She doesn't often express her own opinions out-right, but it's clear at times what she doesn't think much of some manifestations of Jane-olotry, e.g. the proliferation of TV versions of the novels that have little to do with ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a biography and not a scholarly analysis into the various books but a straightforward and satisfying romp through all things Jane. It begins within her lifetime with the publication of her books and her modest success. It looks at the years immediately after her death when her family assumed that she would be all but forgotten. She was forgotten for about 20 years after her death and then a rediscovery of her books and a biography encouraged a longing for more and more. Her fame is now, near ...more
Sep 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very informative book on Austen's fame; from her own lifetime to the present. It gives a bit of biographical information, quotes a lot of famous scholars through the ages and their opinion of Jane Austen and does a good job in documenting the rise of Janeism. The style is not always scholarly, but this makes it a fairly easy and pleasant read.
Unfortunately, there's a but. The last chapter differs enormously from the rest, in that the author reveals herself as a thorough Austen fan (whi
Meredith (Austenesque Reviews)
Those who know a little about Jane Austen's life, know that she didn't always enjoy the vast readership and iconic status that she does today. Throughout her lifetime, when her newly published novels were fashionable and her identity a curious mystery, Jane Austen only received some mild popularity and acclaim. And when she died and her identity was revealed, the reading world did not immediately embrace our beloved author, and her fame dwindled. We all know that since then, Jane Austen's fame a ...more
Apr 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To someone who has spent the major part of his life in the city of Bath this book is irresistable. It begins by documenting the twenty year struggle of a professional writer living in a family of writers to gain publication and subsequent recognition. It then catalogues the near two hundred year history of the success of the ensuing publications and the fame of the author around the world. It is a most erudite study and I am pleased that Claire Harman puts in a kind word for Gwyneth Hughers 'Mis ...more
Apr 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I have considered Jane Austen to be my favorite author for several years now it has only been recently that I've really spent time reading about her life. Harmon chronicles Austen's rise from almost obscurity after her death to her steady rise to fame from the late 1800s into present day. Harmon does not spend a lot of time on present day interest except to discuss the movie versions, specifically the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.I would recommend this to anyone looking for an ea ...more
Maia B.
Feb 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a biography of Jane Austen mixed with a dissertation on why she's as famous as she is. It's compulsively readable, very well-written and full of sly, dry humor that occasionally sounds a lot like Jane Austen herself. Plus I owe most of my knowledge of Austen's life to this book.

Claire Harman also knows how to keep her reader interested without spilling into silly tangents involving writing scenes from Jane Austen's viewpoint - something I really hate in non-fiction books. I wish this boo
Jan 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read every bio there is about Jane. So, I had read much of this information in bits and pieces, but it is nice to have this research detailed all in one book... the metamorphosis of her amazing success (mostly posthumous.) I love Jane. It is January! Biography month. I love to read bios in January...
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jane-austen, 2013
Very interesting account of Jane's popularity and exploration of her cult status. It's pretty incredible that someone who wrote six novels two hundred years ago and was hardly considered important in her own time now has the recognition and obsessed hoards of devotees seen today.
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-nonfiction
Excellent and entertaining history of the growth of Austen readership and fandom.
Girl with her Head in a Book
For my full review:

This is my second year of Austen in August – I really appreciate the opportunity to take the time to think about why Austen is quite so great, but one of the reasons why she is so popular is because it does seem rather unexpected that a parson’s daughter who traveled little during her lifetime and whose years were short should have reached such a level of celebrity. Jane Austen is an icon – famous even to those who have never read a lin
Louise Douglas
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-books
I want to start this review by saying that although I was slightly disappointed with this book, that’s more due to me thinking it was going to be something different based on the blurb I read on Goodreads, so don’t necessarily be swayed by the fact that I only gave the book 3 out of 5 stars.

If you’re looking for a detailed biography of Jane Austen and how her books came to be published and then well known, this book would be perfect, however I had thought that I was going to be reading more abou
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Claire Harman began her career in publishing, at Carcanet Press and the poetry magazine PN Review, where she was co-ordinating editor.

Her first book, a biography of the writer Sylvia Townsend Warner, was published in 1989 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for ‘a writer of growing stature’ under the age of 35. She has since published biographies of Fanny Burney and Robert Louis Stevenson and ed
More about Claire Harman

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