Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked, Jane Austen wrote to her niece Fanny Knight a few months before she died. Yet most traditional accounts of Austen's life have insisted on portraying her as just such a picture of perfection. Her brother Henry described her as faultless ... as nearly as human nature can be. Her sister Cassandra burned the majority of Austen's private letters in order to preserve this image of her as a paragon of all the discreet and modest virtues. In this new biography of Austen, David Nokes -- one of the most acute critics of 18th-century literature (Books and Bookmen) -- has reexamined her life and presents a picture of her that is much less perfect but more full of dangerous excitement.Working from unpublished sources, he discloses the truth behind several disturbing Austen family secrets and presents the conflicts in Jane Austen's mind between her love of rural tranquillity and her restless fascination with the lure of wealth and fame. As Austen wrote in another of her letters, If I am a wild beast, I cannot help it. It is not my own fault.