Love affair might have fueled Jane Austen's writings

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Jane Austen wrote some of English literature's most enduring romances, but she never enjoyed a passionate love affair of her own. Or did she?

A new film and biography suggest that the young writer of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility wasn't the solitary genius long imagined by historians but a free spirit whose imagination was fed by a passionate, ill-fated courtship.

The theory, presented by historian Jon Spence in his book Becoming Jane Austen, has been loosely adapted into a film (Becoming Jane) starring Anne Hathaway and Maggie Smith, one of seven Austen-inspired movies and TV miniseries due for release this year.

Audiences remain entranced by Austen's tales of love and loss, desire and disappointment, despite their seemingly outdated focus on the intricate courtship rituals of early 19th-century Britain.

But was Austen's ability to tap into these universal themes a product of her rich imagination, or was she inspired by unfulfilled longing?

Spence, like many historians before him, has attempted to answer the question by examining letters Austen wrote during the winter of 1795-96 to her sister, Cassandra, who was staying with her fiance's family in Berkshire.

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