Sense and Sensibility is a novel by Jane Austen, published in 1811. It was published anonymously; By A Lady appears on the cover page where the author's name might have been. It tells the story of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, both of age to marry.
The novel follows the young women to their new home with their widowed mother, a meagre cottage on the property of a distant relative, where they experience love, romance and heartbreak. The novel is set in southwest England, London and Sussex between 1792 and 1797.
Based on notes left by her sister, Jane Austen’s first draft of Sense and Sensibility, titled “Elinor and Marianne,” was written as early as 1795 when she was about 19 years old, probably in epistolary form (a novel-in-letters). In November 1797, Austen returned to the manuscript and converted it to the narrative format we know today. But it wasn’t until she moved to Chawton that she made a final round of revisions in 1809-1810 and, with her brother Henry as her agent, eventually submitted Sense and Sensibility to publisher Thomas Egerton.
Believing in her work and determined to be a published author, Jane Austen took a financial risk and published the novel on a commission basis. In this arrangement, she paid for the production and advertising of Sense and Sensibility, gave Egerton a commission for distributing and selling the book, and kept the remaining profit from the sales. Austen chose to remain anonymous because at that time it was not entirely acceptable for a woman of her status to publish for profit. The title page of the novel says simply, “By a Lady.”
We know from her letters that Austen was in the process of correcting proofs in April 1811, hoping the book would be published soon. However, the wait was longer than anticipated; Sense and Sensibility was first advertised for sale in The Star on October 30. Ads ran in newspapers throughout November and also appeared at various times throughout 1812. The book was described variously as an “Extraordinary Novel!” an “Interesting Novel,” and, by December 1812, a “Popular New Novel.”