Lord David Cecil, a long-time Oxford don, here limns the milieu, life, and works of a novelist prized by him for many years. Jane Austen mirrored her world in both her character and writings, he says, and he admires both the reflection and the reality. A child of the 18th-century gentry, Jane never lost the qualifies of her social origins, ""combining good sense, good manners and cultivated intelligence, rational piety and a spirited sense of fun."" Having no need or desire to criticize her world, she remained devoted to its stability and refinements, discovering in them the ideal inspiration for her imagination. That imagination, as everyone knows, delighted in social life, but Cecli shows how social life meant for her chiefly her family, and how she wrote about it for their benefit and always with humor. ""Jane Austen's was,"" he maintains, ""primarily and basically a comic genius."" And the numerous excerpts quoted !from the literary works and letters and the remarks of her companions are convincing evidence. Cecli says nothing new here--some of it he wrote 40 years ago. Yet he has produced an exemplary ""portrait"" of a mind and a life, which though necessarily lacking in excitement, cannot fail to win readers to its subject--one distinctly superior in critical substance, historical scope, style, and appearance to Laski's Jane Austen and Her World, which is similar in format.