Jane Austen and the Royal Navy

Two of Jane’s siblings, Francis William and Charles John, had long careers in the Royal Navy, both ending their careers as admirals, the former as Vice-Admiral of the Red and the latter as Rear-Admiral of the Blue. Their naval exploits are detailed in contemporary biographical sketches: Francis’ are found here (pp.27-8) and here (pp.274-283); Charles’ here (pp.26-27) and here (p.74-77). The venerable Dictionary of National Biography contains a brief biography of Francis (pp.258-59). His descendants (some of them naval officers in their own right) published Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers in 1906 that contained letters to them from Jane.

For such a writer as herself, we are not blessed with many of her missives; the most modern edition of her letters – Jane Austen’s Letters (4th ed., 2011) – contains just over 160 items, We have a limited preview of this book; an older work that does not reflect modern editing procedures but does contain many letters is the Braeburn edition of 1884. A search through this work will find both letters addressed to these brothers as well as letters containing information about them. It is not perfect, but it will give the reader a glimpse into Jane’s view of the Royal Navy as seen through the lives of her brothers.


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