Her parents both died by the time she was three years old. Her father died in action abroad, and her mother died soon afterwards from consumption.
Mrs and Miss Bates raised her after she was orphaned, but when Jane was 9 years old, she was given into the care of her father's former commanding officer Colonel Campbell to be educated alongside his daughter in London. She acted as a companion to the daughter of the Campbells (who later would marry Mr Dixon). The Campbells did not have the money to provide for Jane beyond that, though, and as the Bateses were poor, it was decided early on that Jane would become a governess and provide for herself.
Jane paid only occasional visits to her grandmother and aunt after she went to live with the Campbells at age nine, but they continued to adore her from afar. They were always excited to hear of her accomplishments, and they read each of her letters many times—forty times according to Emma, although that is assumed to be an exaggeration—at tea with Henry and Emma Woodhouse. As such, the idea of Jane Fairfax tired Emma to death.
Jane is an orphan whose only family consists of an aunt, Miss Bates, and a grandmother, Mrs. Bates, is regarded as a very beautiful, clever, and elegant woman, with the best of manners, and is also very well-educated and exceptionally talented at singing and playing the piano; in fact, she is the sole person whom Emma envies. She has little fortune, however, and seems destined to become a governess – a prospect she dislikes. Mrs Elton, to the surprise of others, takes it upon herself to dote on Jane, viewing her a poor creature due to her prospects. Mrs Elton persistently attempts to find Jane a governess posting, and Jane accepts this 'charitable' friendship with little choice. Throughout the novel she is often viewed as cold and sickly, her mood poor upon Frank Churchill growing close with Emma Woodhouse despite him being attached to Jane. In many social scenes she is quite glum and reticent.
Jane Fairfax serves the role as Emma's rival, and possibly a second heroine in the novel. Unlike Emma, Jane is private with her affairs, mainly to keep her secret engagement a secret. We do not get much information about Jane's character, mainly because the narrator usually portrays Emma's perspective and may not want to dwell on Jane's accomplishments.
Notes and references
- Emma, Volume I, Chapter 10