Beloved 19th-century author Jane Austen’s satire of Georgian Britain’s high teas and grand balls is so slyly entrancing, naïve readers might mistake that world for her own. Born in 1775 into the “pseudo-gentry,” an educated but landless lower class, Austen, whose literary oeuvre includes Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Lady Susan and Emma, only peeped high society through better-off relatives and friends. “The experience of observing, rather than joining in, is what gave her insight into the lives of the rich,” says Lucy Worsley, chief curator of the conservation nonprofit Historic Royal Palaces, and the author of Jane Austen at Home. “A novelist needs a bit of detachment.”

Explore Austen’s journey on the outskirts of fortune in the interactive above.