While she aroused interest Austen was never a best-seller in her lifetime. She had stiff competition. Mary Brunton, a Scottish novelist, created an overnight sensation with her novel Self Control. It was published around the same time as Sense and Sensibility and everyone was clamouring to read it, including Jane Austen:
“We have tried to get Self-controul, but in vain. I should like to know what [Mrs Knight’s] Estimate is, but am always half afraid of finding a clever novel too clever and of finding my own people all forestalled.” (Jane Austin, 30th April 1811)
-from the BBC article “Jane Austen: What books were on her reading list?”
So here is the first paragraph of Self-Control
It was on a still evening in June, that Laura Montreville left her father’s cottage, in the little village of Glenalbert, to begin a solitary ramble. Her countenance was mournful, and her step languid; for her health had suffered from long confinement, and her spirits were exhausted by long attendance on the deathbed of her mother. That labour of duty had been lessened by no extrinsic circumstance; for Lady Harriet Montreville was a peevish and refractory patient; her disorder had been tedious as well as hopeless; and the humble establishment of a half-pay officer furnished no one who could lighten to Laura the burden of constant attendance. But Laura had in herself that which softens all difficulty, and beguiles all fatigue—an active mind, a strong sense of duty, and the habit of meeting and of overcoming adverse circumstances.
You can read the full novel from Project Gutenberg – Mary Brunton’s Self-Control
And read more on Mary Brunton here.