From The New Yorker:
On March 18, 1817, Jane Austen stopped writing a book. We know the date because she wrote it at the end of the manuscript, in her slanting hand. She had done the same at the beginning of the manuscript, on January 27th of that year. In the seven weeks in between, she had completed eleven chapters and slightly more than nine pages of a twelfth—some twenty-three thousand five hundred words.
The final sentence in the manuscript runs as follows: “Poor Mr. Hollis!—It was impossible not to feel him hardly used; to be obliged to stand back in his own House and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir H. D.”
This is a joke. Mr. Hollis and Sir Harry Denham are dead, and it is their respective portraits that contend for social eminence in the sitting room of Lady Denham, the woman who married and buried them both.
Exactly four months after writing that line, Jane Austen died, unmarried, at the age of forty-one. Her position, unlike theirs, remains secure.
. . .
A week after “Sanditon” came to a halt, Austen wrote, in a letter, “Pictures of perfection as you know make me sick & wicked.”
. . .
Not until 1925 was “Sanditon” made available to the public.
. . .
The longest shadow, unsurprisingly, is cast by the physical decline of the author. Nothing exercises an Austenite more than this conundrum: What did she die of, and when did she become aware that the dying was under way? In a letter written five days after Austen laid “Sanditon” aside, she admits to a setback:
I certainly have not been very well for many weeks, & about a week ago I was very poorly, I have had a good deal of fever at times & indifferent nights, but am considerably better now, & recovering my Looks a little, which have been bad enough, black & white & every wrong colour. I must not depend upon being ever very blooming again. Sickness is a dangerous Indulgence at my time of Life.
The last sentence, applying a little irony to herself as if it were an embrocation, is what we should value most.
. . .
In late April, she made her will. In May, she was moved to Winchester, where she died, on July 18th, and was buried a week later, in the cathedral. Only four people, all close relatives, attended the service …
Link to the rest at The New Yorker