“Sense and Sensibility” was originally credited as being written “By a Lady.”
Even though Sense and Sensibility now ranks as one of the most beloved novels in English literature — and Jane Austen as one of the most famous writers of all time — the book’s first edition, released as three volumes in 1811, was originally published without the author’s name. During the time Austen lived and wrote, it was common for women to use pseudonyms or publish anonymously, and Sense and Sensibility was credited as being written simply “By a Lady” on the title page.
Growing up in the village of Steventon in Hampshire, England, Austen took measures to hide her beloved writing hobby from society, even though her family encouraged her from a young age. Her father believed in her talent and, early on, tried — but failed — to secure a publisher for the manuscript that eventually became Pride and Prejudice. When Austen was about 19 years old, she began working on Elinor and Marianne, a novel about the lives and romantic pursuits of the Dashwood sisters. Austen eventually renamed the completed manuscript Sense and Sensibility, and in 1810, Thomas Egerton of London’s Military Library publishing house agreed to publish it.
The book was a big success, selling out its first print run in less than two years. Yet Austen’s next novel, Pride and Prejudice, was also published without her name: It was credited as “By the author of Sense and Sensibility.” Although by that point her identity had already become an open secret among those in the know, Jane Austen’s name didn’t appear on any of her books until after her death.