Background to Jane Austen's last words
Jane Austen routinely comes top in polls of 'Britain's favourite author'. She wrote anonymously and her books were largely ignored in her own lifetime. She now enjoys a greater reputation than contemporaries who were much more popular while living.
The subject matter of her work was predominantly the dependence of women on men and, despite her current status, the patriarchal norms of her time kept her in a position of penury and disregard all her life. The bitterly ironic first line of her best known and much filmed work Pride and Prejudice is one of the best known in all literature:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
She didn't marry and can be said to have risen above her heroines, who normally obtained a happy ending only by virtue of marriage.
Her last words, "I want nothing but death", were spoken to her sister Cassandra just before she expired from Addison's Disease in 1817.