Jane Austen and her Literary Friendship with a Governess

Although she was influenced by the Victorian society in which she lived, literary giant Jane Austen did not strictly identify with the social elite. Austen’s friendship with a female servant was not favored by her haughty relatives who took a dismal view about the upper class associating with servants. Nevertheless, Jane Austen became close friends with Anne Sharp. Although Jane Austen never married and did not have any children, she did have a niece who went by the name of Fanny Catherine Knight. Anne Sharp was Fanny’s governess. Although Anne Sharp belonged to a lower class, her writing ability was enough to capture Jane Austen’s attention.

At the start of their friendship, Jane Austen’s immense talent had not yet been discovered. The two young single women formed a bond that only artists and writers can form. Their bond was based on a mutual appreciation of words. Scholars know that they were friends because there are numerous mentions of their friendship in Jane Austen’s writings. However, one sole letter written by Jane Austen to her great friend Anne Sharp remains. Evidently, the two ladies had a literary bond that transcended the acceptable standards in a society predominated by wealthy individuals.

Historic documents reveal that Anne was a prolific amateur playwright providing erudite guidance to the aspiring author named Jane Austen. Jane Austen even acted in a play written by Anne Sharp. The unlikely friendship between these two women lasted throughout Austen’s short life. Anne was not afraid to criticize Jane’s writings even after Jane became a published author. It is not known whether Anne Sharp’s plays might have been successful if she had not lived the life of a servant. However, Jane Austen fans can rejoice in the fact that Austen was not above striking a lifelong friendship with a governess.