Jane Austen Portrait Controversy

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The situation was compounded as successive generations of the family expunged and sanitised the already opaque details of Austen's biography. The heirs of Jane's brother, Admiral Francis Austen, destroyed more letters; details were excised from the "Biographical Notice" her brother wrote in 1818; and family details continued to be elided[clarify] or embellished in her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen, published in 1869, and in William and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh's biography Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, published in 1913. The legend the family and relatives created reflects their biases in favour of "good quiet Aunt Jane", portraying a woman whose domestic situation was happy and whose family was the mainstay of her life. Austen scholar Jan Fergus explains that modern biographies tend to include details excised from the letters and family biographical materials, but that the challenge is to avoid the polarising view that Austen experienced periods of deep unhappiness and was "an embittered, disappointed woman trapped in a thoroughly unpleasant family".