Jane Austen's life is striking for the contrast between the great works she wrote in secret and the outward appearance of being quite dull and ordinary. Austen was born in the small English town of Steventon in Hampshire, and educated at home by her clergyman father. She was deeply devoted to her family. For a short time, the Austens lived in the resort city of Bath, but when her father died, they returned to Steventon, where Austen lived until her death at the age of 41. Austen was drawn to literature early, she began writing novels that satirized both the writers and the manners of the 1790's. Her sharp sense of humor and keen eye for the ridiculous in human behavior gave her works lasting appeal. She is at her best in such books as Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1816), in which she examines and often ridicules the behavior of small groups of middle-class characters. Austen relies heavily on conversations among her characters to reveal their personalities, and at times her novels read almost like plays. Several of them have, in fact, been made into films.
A.S. Byatt, 1936 - A.S. Byatt was born on August 24, 1936 in Sheffield, England to John Frederick Drabble, a judge, and Kathleen Marie (Bloor) Drabble. She received a B.A. from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1957, did graduate study at Bryn Mawr College from 1957-58 and attended Somerville College, Oxford from 1958-59. In 1959, she married economist Ian Charles Rayner Byatt, with whom she had two children. They divorced in 1969 and she later married Peter John Duffy, and they also had two children. Byatt was a staff member in the extra-mural department at the University of London from 1962-71. From 1968-69, she was also a part-time lecturer in the liberal studies department of the Central School of Art and Design, London. She was a lecturer at University College from 1972-80 and then senior lecturer from 1981-83. She became a full-time writer in 1983. She has also been a member of the British Broadcasting Corp. Social Effects of Television Advisory Group from 1974-77, a member of Communications and Cultural Studies Board of the Council for National Academic Awards in 1978 and a member of Kingman Committee on the Teaching of English from 1987-88. Byatt received the English Speaking Union fellowship in 1957-58, the Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1983, the Silver Pen Award for "Still Life," and the Booker Prize for "Possession: A Romance" in 1990.