An amiable popular biography based chiefly on the letters and the Austen papers, and focusing on the affairs of the Austen-Leigh family. There are no particular pretensions to critical or biographical novelty; Rees quietly runs through the family joys, sorrows, travels, marriages with felicitous borrowings from the letters: ""'Tis really kind of my Aunt to ask us to Bath again; a kindness that deserves a better return than to profit by it."" Still, the family doings provide a rather tame correlative--at least in this telling--to the scope of the artist's imagination. One often has the sensation of having got stuck in one of Miss Bates' more stultifying chronicles; niece follows nephew, and visit follows visit, without much sense of direction and purpose. Critical appraisals of the works, from the juvenilia to Persuasion, are on the gingerly and general side. Jane Austen criticism has not been a particularly genteel preserve since Marvin Mudrick's controversial 1952 study; certainly there is a place for more placid biographical approaches, but Elizabeth Jenkins' life of 1968 will probably fill it for some time to come. It's hard to discern any unique merit in Rees' gentle, unexceptional treatment.