Jane Austen

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There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me. ~ Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen (December 16 1775July 18 1817) was an English novelist who recorded the domestic manners of the landed gentry. She is known for her classically understated style and sly, ironic humour.

See also:
Sense and Sensibility (1811)
Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Mansfield Park (1814)
Emma (1815)
Northanger Abbey (1817)
Persuasion (1818)




One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. ~ Emma
  • Here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice, and I begin already to find my morals corrupted.
    • Letter (August 1796) on arriving in London [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance.
    • Letter (1796-09-18) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Next week I shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend.
    • Letter (1798-10-27) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I am very much obliged to my dear little George for his message - for his love at least; his duty, I suppose, was only in consequence of some hint of my favorable intentions towards him from his father or mother. I am sincerely rejoiced, however, that I ever was born, since it has been the means of procuring him a dish of tea.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1798-12-18) about her nephew George [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1798-12-24) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1798-12-24) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I had a very pleasant evening, however, though you will probably find out that there was no particular reason for it; but I do not think it worth while to wait for enjoyment until there is some real opportunity for it.
    • Letter (1799-01-21) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • She would tell you herself that she has a very dreadful cold in her head at present; but I have not much compassion for colds in the head without fever or sore throat.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1799-01-21) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I am rather impatient to know the fate of my best gown.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1799-05-17) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1799-06-11) on decorating her hat [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I can recollect nothing more to say at present; perhaps breakfast may assist my ideas. I was deceived — my breakfast supplied only two ideas — that the rolls were good and the butter bad.
    • Letter (1799-06-19) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • In Paragon we met Mrs. Foley and Mrs. Dowdeswell with her yellow shawl airing out, and at the bottom of Kingsdown Hill we met a gentleman in a buggy, who, on minute examination, turned out to be Dr. Hall — and Dr. Hall in such very deep mourning that either his mother, his wife, or himself must be dead.
    • Letter (1799-06-17) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Your abuse of our gowns amuses but does not discourage me; I shall take mine to be made up next week, and the more I look at it the better it pleases me. My cloak came on Tuesday, and, though I expected a good deal, the beauty of the lace astonished me. It is too handsome to be worn — almost too handsome to be looked at.
    • Letter to Cassandra (November 1800) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand today. You will kindly make allowance therefore for any indistinctness of writing, by attributing it to this venial error.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1800-11-20) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • The General has got the gout, and Mrs. Maitland the jaundice. Miss Debary, Susan, and Sally, all in black, but without any stature, made their appearance, and I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me.
    • Letter (1800-11-20) on people she met at a ball [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • We have been exceedingly busy ever since you went away. In the first place we have had to rejoice two or three times everyday at your having such very delightful weather for the whole of your journey...
    • Letter (1800-11-25) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
One cannot fix one's eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy. ~ Mansfield Park
  • I have now attained the true art of letter-writing, which we are always told, is to express on paper exactly what one would say to the same person by word of mouth.
    • Letter (1801-01-03) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • You are very kind in planning presents for me to make, and my mother has shown me exactly the same attention; but as I do not choose to have generosity dictated to me, I shall not resolve on giving my cabinet to Anna till the first thought of it has been my own.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1801-01-08) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Another stupid party last night; perhaps if larger they might be less intolerable, but here there were only just enough to make one card-table, with six people to look on and talk nonsense to each other.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1801-05-12) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Mrs. B. and two young women were of the same party, except when Mrs. B. thought herself obliged to leave them to run round the room after her drunken husband. His avoidance, and her pursuit, with the probable intoxication of both, was an amusing scene.
    • Letter (1801-05-12) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I cannot anyhow continue to find people agreeable; I respect Mrs. Chamberlayne for doing her hair well, but cannot feel a more tender sentiment. Miss Langley is like any other short girl, with a broad nose and wide mouth, fashionable dress and exposed bosom. Adm. Stanhope is a gentleman-like man, but then his legs are too short and his tail too long.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1801-05-12) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • It would have amused you to see our progress. We went up by Sion Hill, and returned across the fields. In climbing a hill Mrs. Chamberlayne is very capital; I could with difficulty keep pace with her, yet would not flinch for the world. On plain ground I was quite her equal. And so we posted away under a fine hot sun, she without any parasol or any shade to her hat, stopping for nothing, and crossing the churchyard at Weston with as much expedition as if we were afraid of being buried alive.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1801-05-21) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • We are to have a tiny party here tonight. I hate tiny parties, they force one into constant exertion.
    • Letter (1801-05-21) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • You will have a great deal of unreserved discourse with Mrs. K., I dare say, upon this subject, as well as upon many other of our family matters. Abuse everybody but me.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1807-01-07) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Our little visitor has just left us, and left us highly pleased with her; she is a nice, natural, open-hearted, affectionate girl, with all the ready civility which one sees in the best children in the present day; so unlike anything that I was myself at her age, that I am often all astonishment and shame.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1807-02-08) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1808-06-15) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • The pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity of taste and opinions will make good amends for orange wine.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1808-06-20) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • We spent Friday evening with our friends at the boarding-house, and our curiosity was gratified by the sight of their fellow-inmates, Mrs. Drew and Miss Hook, Mr. Wynne and Mr. Fitzhugh; the latter is brother to Mrs. Lance, and very much the gentleman. He has lived in that house more than twenty years, and poor man, is so totally deaf that they say he could not hear a cannon, were it fired close to him; having no cannon at hand to make the experiment, I took it for granted, and talked to him a little with my fingers, which was funny enough.
    • Letter (1808-12-27) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I am gratified by her having pleasure in what I write, but I wish the knowledge of my being exposed to her discerning criticism may not hurt my style, by inducing too great a solicitude. I begin already to weigh my words and sentences more than I did, and am looking about for a sentiment, an illustration, or a metaphor in every corner of the room. Could my ideas flow as fast as the rain in the store-closet it would be charming.
    • Letter (1809-01-24) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I am sorry to tell you that I am getting very extravagant, and spending all my money, and, what is worse for you, I have been spending yours too.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1811-04-18) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I give you joy of our new nephew, and hope if he ever comes to be hanged it will not be till we are too old to care about it.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1811-04-25) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • My head-dress was a bugle-band like the border to my gown, and a flower of Mrs Tilson's. I depended upon hearing something of the evening from Mr. W. K., and am very well satisfied with his notice of me — "A pleasing looking young woman" — that must do; one cannot pretend to anything better now; thankful to have it continued a few years longer!
    • Letter (1811-04-30) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • How horrible it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!
    • Letter (1811-05-31) referring to the Peninsular War [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I will not say that your mulberry-trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1811-05-31) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Mr. Digweed has used us basely. Handsome is as handsome does; he is therefore a very ill-looking man.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1813-01-24) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Let me know when you begin the new tea, and the new white wine. My present elegancies have not yet made me indifferent to such matters. I am still a cat if I see a mouse.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1813-09-23) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • He seems a very harmless sort of young man, nothing to like or dislike in him — goes out shooting or hunting with the two others all the morning, and plays at whist and makes queer faces in the evening.
    • Letter to Cassandra (1813-09-23) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • By the bye, as I must leave off being young, I find many douceurs in being a sort of chaperon, for I am put on the sofa near the fire and can drink as much wine as I like.
    • Letter (1813-11-06) on ageing [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I cannot help hoping that many will feel themselves obliged to buy it. I shall not mind imagining it a disagreeable duty to them, so as they do it.
    • Letter (1813-11-06) on the reprint of Sense and Sensibility [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Devereux Forester's being ruined by his vanity is extremely good, but I wish you would not let him plunge into a "vortex of dissipation." I do not object to the thing, but I cannot bear the expression; it is such thorough novel slang, and so old that I daresay Adam met with it in the first novel he opened.
    • Letter to niece Anna (1814-09-28) regarding a character in Anna's novel [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. It is not fair. He has fame and profit enough as a poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people's mouths. I do not like him, and do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it, but fear I must.
    • Letter to Anna (1814-09-28) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • The Webbs are really gone! When I saw the waggons at the door, and thought of all the trouble they must have in moving, I began to reproach myself for not having liked them better, but since the waggons have disappeared my conscience has been closed again, and I am excessively glad they are gone.
    • Letter to Anna (1814-09-28) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • There are such beings in the world — perhaps one in a thousand — as the creature you and I should think perfection; where grace and spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the heart and understanding; but such a person may not come in your way, or, if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the near relation of your particular friend, and belonging to your own county.
    • Letter to Fanny Knight (1814-11-18) on finding love [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • His having been in love with the aunt gives Cecilia an additional interest with him. I like the idea — a very proper compliment to an aunt! I rather imagine indeed that nieces are seldom chosen but out of compliment to some aunt or another. I daresay Ben [Anna's husband] was in love with me once, and would never have thought of you if he had not supposed me dead of scarlet fever.
    • Letter to niece Anna (1814-11-30) regarding characters in Anna's novel [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I wish I could finish stories as fast as you can. I am much obliged to you for the sight of Olivia, and think you have done for her very well; but the good-for-nothing father, who was the real author of all her faults and sufferings, should not escape unpunished. I hope he hung himself, or took the surname of Bone or underwent some direful penance or other.
    • Letter to niece Caroline (1814-12-06) regarding a story Caroline sent her [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I am quite honoured by your thinking me capable of drawing such a clergyman as you gave the sketch of in your note of Nov. 16th. But I assure you I am not. The comic part of the character I might be equal to, but not the good, the enthusiastic, the literary. Such a man's conversation must at times be on subjects of science and philosophy, of which I know nothing; or at least be occasionally abundant in quotations and allusions which a woman who, like me, knows only her own mother-tongue, and has read little in that, would be totally without the power of giving. A classical education, or at any rate a very extensive acquaintance with English literature, ancient and modern, appears to me quite indispensable for the person who would do any justice to your clergyman; and I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.
    • Letter to Mr. Clarke, librarian to the Prince Regent (1815-12-11) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • He and I should not in the least agree, of course, in our ideas of novels and heroines. Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked; but there is some very good sense in what he says, and I particularly respect him for wishing to think well of all young ladies; it shows an amiable and a delicate mind. And he deserves better treatment than to be obliged to read any more of my works.
    • Letter to Fanny Knight (1816-03-23) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.
    • Letter to Mr. Clarke (1816-04-01) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • We saw a countless number of post-chaises full of boys pass by yesterday morning — full of future heroes, legislators, fools, and villains. You have never thanked me for my last letter, which went by the cheese. I cannot bear not to be thanked.
    • Letter to J. Edward Austen (1816-07-09) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I give you joy of having left Winchester. Now you may own how miserable you were there; now it will gradually all come out, your crimes and your miseries — how often you went up by the Mail to London and threw away fifty guineas at a tavern, and how often you were on the point of hanging yourself, restrained only, as some ill-natured aspersion upon poor old Winton has it, by the want of a tree within some miles of the city.
    • Letter to J. Edward Austen (1816-12-16) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?
    • Letter to J. Edward Austen (1816-12-16) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I would recommend to her and Mr. D. the simple regimen of separate rooms.
    • Letter (1817-02-20) on Mrs. Deedes having an eighteenth child [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor, which is one very strong argument in favour of matrimony.
    • Letter to Fanny Knight (1817-03-13) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • Many thanks for your kind care for my health; I certainly have not been well for many weeks, and about a week ago I was very poorly. I have had a good deal of fever at times, and indifferent nights; but I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough — black and white, and every wrong colour. I must not depend upon being ever very blooming again. Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my time of life.
    • Letter to Fanny Knight (1817-03-23) [Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition]
  • I know no better way, my dearest Edward, of thanking you for your affectionate concern for me during my illness than by telling you myself, as soon as possible, that I continue to get better. I will not boast of my handwriting; neither that nor my face have yet recovered their proper beauty, but in other respects I am gaining strength very fast. I am now out of bed from 9 in the morning to 10 at night: upon the sofa, 'tis true, but I eat my meals with Aunt Cass in a rational way, and can employ myself, and walk from one room to another. Mr. Lyford says he will cure me, and if he fails, I shall draw up a memorial and lay it before the Dean and Chapter, and have no doubt of redress from that pious, learned, and disinterested body.
    • Letter to J. Edward Austen (1817-05-27) [Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters: A Family Record]



Love and Friendship

  • Sophia shrieked and fainted on the ground—I screamed and instantly ran mad! We remained thus mutually deprived of our senses some minutes, and on regaining them were deprived of them again. For an hour and a quarter did we continue in this unfortunate situation.
    • Love and Friendship (1790)

History of England

  • It was in this reign that Joan of Arc reigned and made such a row among the English.
    • 'The History of England (1791)
  • There were several Battles between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, in which the former (as they ought) usually won.
    • 'The History of England (1791)
  • She [Mary I] married Philip King of Spain, who in her sister's reign, was famous for building Armadas.
    • 'The History of England (1791)

Sense and Sensibility

  • "I am afraid", replied Elinor, "that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety."
  • People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid them.
    • Sense and Sensibility (1811)

Pride and Prejudice

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
  • To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.
    • Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.
    • Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • One cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.
    • Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?
    • Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • The pride of any mother is to give birth to a responsible and successful child.
    • Quoted in: Kabir, Hajara Muhammad (2010). Northern women development. [Nigeria]. ISBN 978-978-906-469-4. OCLC 890820657


  • One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering.
  • A lady, without a family, was the very best preserver of furniture in the world.
    • Persuasion (1817)
  • It was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice is good or bad only as the event decides.
    • Persuasion (1817)
  • I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve.
    • Persuasion (1817)

Mansfield Park

  • A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.
  • An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged: no harm can be done.
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • We do not look in great cities for our best morality.
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • She was of course only too good for him; but as nobody minds having what is too good for them, he was very steadily earnest in the pursuit of the blessing...
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • I speak what appears to me the general opinion; and where an opinion is general, it is usually correct.
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • "I shall soon be rested," said Fanny; "to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment."
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • it will, I believe, be everywhere found, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of the nation.
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • It is a lovely night, and they are much to be pitied who have not been taught to feel, in some degree, as you do; who have not, at least, been given a taste for Nature in early life. They lose a great deal.
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.
    • Mansfield Park (1814)
  • Of various admirals I could tell you a great deal: of them and their flags, and the gradation of their pay, and their bickerings and jealousies. But, in general, I can assure you that they are all passed over, and all very ill used. Certainly, my home at my uncle’s brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears and Vices I saw enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.
    • Mansfield Park (1814)


  • One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
  • Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.
    • Emma (1815)
  • ...why did we wait for any thing? — why not seize the pleasure at once? — How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!
    • Emma (1815)
  • Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of.
    • Emma (1815)
  • Surprizes are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.
    • Emma (1815)
  • There are people who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.
    • Emma (1815)
  • Ah! there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.
    • Emma (1815)
  • One has not great hopes from Birmingham. I always say there is something direful in the sound...
    • Emma (1815)

Northanger Abbey

  • To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain for the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.
  • A woman especially, if she has the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.
    • Northanger Abbey (1817)
  • Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open?
    • Northanger Abbey (1817)
  • ...from politics, it was an easy step to silence.
    • Northanger Abbey (1817)
  • It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire.
    • Northanger Abbey (1817)
  • A very short trial convinced her that a curricle was the prettiest equipage in the world
    • Northanger Abbey (1817)
  • The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid
    • "Northanger Abbey" (1817)

Lady Susan

  • What could I do! Facts are such horrid things!
    • "Lady Susan", Letter XXXII (1871)


  • Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.
    • Said by Fanny Price in a 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park. Actual quote:
      • Dinner was soon followed by tea and coffee, a ten miles' drive home allowed no waste of hours; and from the time of their sitting down to table, it was a quick succession of busy nothings till the carriage came to the door, and Mrs. Norris, having fidgeted about, and obtained a few pheasants' eggs and a cream cheese from the housekeeper, and made abundance of civil speeches to Mrs. Rushworth, was ready to lead the way.

Quotes about Jane Austen

  • The English writers who had a big influence on me during my adolescence were Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf.
  • You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
    Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
    It makes me most uncomfortable to see
    An English spinster of the middle class
    Describe the amorous effects of "brass,"
    Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
    The economic basis of society.
    • W. H. Auden, Letter to Lord Byron (1936), lines 113–119
  • As she grew up, the politics of the day occupied very little of her attention, but she probably shared the feeling of moderate Toryism which prevailed in her family. She was well acquainted with the old periodicals from the 'Spectator' downwards. Her knowledge of Richardson's works was such as no one is likely again to acquire, now that the multitude and the merits of our light literature have called off the attention of readers from that great master. Every circumstance narrated in Sir Charles Grandison, all that was ever said or done in the cedar parlour, was familiar to her; and the wedding days of Lady L. and Lady G. were as well remembered as if they had been living friends. Amongst her favourite writers, Johnson in prose, Crabbe in verse, and Cowper in both, stood high.
  • I now desire to offer a few observations on them [the novels], and especially on one point, on which my age renders me a competent witness—the fidelity with which they represent the opinions and manners of the class of society in which the author lived early in this century. They do this the more faithfully on account of the very deficiency with which they have been sometimes charged—namely, that they make no attempt to raise the standard of human life, but merely represent it as it was. They certainly were not written to support any theory or inculcate any particular moral, except indeed the great moral which is to be equally gathered from an observation of the course of actual life—namely, the superiority of high over low principles, and of greatness over littleness of mind.
  • Jane Austen? I feel that I am approaching dangerous ground. The reputation of Jane Austen is surrounded by cohorts of defenders who are ready to do murder for their sacred cause. They are nearly all fanatics. They will not listen. If anyone “went for” Jane, anything might happen to him. He would assuredly be called on to resign from his clubs...I do not even agree that Jane was a great novelist. She was a great little novelist. She is marvellous, intoxicating: she has unique wit, vast quantities of common sense, a most agreeable sense of proportion, much narrative skill. And she is always readable. But her world is a tiny world, and even of that tiny world she ignores, consciously or unconsciously, the fundamental factors. She did not know enough of the world to be a great novelist. She had not the ambition to be a great novelist. She knew her place; her present “fans” do not know her place, and their antics would without doubt have excited Jane's lethal irony.
  • Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point ... I read that sentence of yours, and then I got the book. And what did I find? An accurate daguerreotyped portrait of a commonplace (everyday) face; carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of bright vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses.
    • Charlotte Brontë, quote in Original Penguin Classics Introduction to Pride and Prejudice. by Taner, Tony (1972). 80 Strand, London, WC2R, England: Penguin Books, Ltd. ISBN 0-141-43951-3.
  • The essence of her certainty is that the reforms she perceives to be necessary are within the attitudes of individuals; she calls for no general changes in the world of the established lesser landed gentry... Her distinctions between true gentlemanliness and the shell of it are keen, perhaps because—like Elizabeth Bennet—she has experienced social rebuffs at first hand. She is certainly no sycophant of wealth or rank, and she does not deal intimately with—or apparently much like—the great aristocracy. The class she deals with has local and not national importance: in eighteenth-century terms, she is a Tory rather than a Whig. She believes that the gentleman—as her words "consequence" and "usefulness" imply—derives his personal dignity from the contributions he makes at the head of an organic, hierarchical, small community. It is for such a community, ideally perceived, that her novels speak... Jane Austen's novels belong decisively to one class of partisan novels, the conservative. Intellectually she is orthodox... Her important innovations are technical and stylistic modifications within a clearly defined and accepted genre.
  • The daughter and sister of clergymen of the Established Church, she began life in the conservative fold, and even as a teenager was the author of a satire on sensibility, Love and Friendship. Two of her first completed novels, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey...display broadly the typical attitudes of the feminine type of conservative novel... The key issue on which virtue is distinguished from vice is the choice of a marriage-partner. The key virtues are prudence and concern for the evidence; the vices are romanticism, self-indulgence, conceit, and, for Jane Austen, other subtle variations upon the broad anti-jacobin target of individualism... [T]hese last three novels reveal a sense of a hazard to the larger community which distinguishes them from the earlier group: the heroine's ethical choices no longer solely affect her private happiness in life, but are subtly interlinked with the stability and well-being of her society. In this too they reflect the broadening and deepening of range given to the conservative cause in the years 1797–8 by the critical turn in the war, and by the articulate leadership of The Anti-Jacobin. Whatever their actual date of composition, they belong generically, like all Jane Austen's works, to a movement that defines itself by its opposition to revolution.
  • [I]n Northanger Abbey Jane Austen develops...her version of the revolutionary character, the man or woman who by acting on a system of selfishness, threatens friends of more orthodox principles; and ultimately, through cold-blooded cynicism in relation to the key social institution of marriage, threatens human happiness at a very fundamental level. Isabella Thorpe, Lady Susan, Mary Crawford, all like Isabella pursue the modern creed of self, and as such are Jane Austen's reinterpretation of a standard figure of the period, the desirable, amoral woman whose activities threaten manners and morals... That Jane Austen is perfectly clear what she is doing can be demonstrated by identifying the same cluster of themes and characters in Sense and Sensibility. Inheriting a set of conservative dogmas, and some impossibly theatrical characters—notably the revolutionary villain—already in her first two full-length novels she produces a more natural equivalent, on a scale appropriate to comedy. Her villains are not only better art than her rivals'; they are also better propaganda... Her selfish characters are consistently smaller and meaner than their orthodox opponents, the heroines; they are restricted within the bounds of their own being, and their hearts and minds are impoverished. Jane Austen's achievement, the feat of the subtlest technician among the English novelists, is to rethink the material of the conservative novel in terms that are at once naturalistic and intellectually consistent.
  • Comedy was implicit in the manner in which she told her story. Her irony, her delicate ruthless irony, was of the substance of her style. It never obtruded itself; sometimes it only glinted out in a turn of phrase. But it was never absent for more than a paragraph; and her most straightforward piece of exposition was tart with its perfume.
    • Lord David Cecil, The Leslie Stephen Lecture at the University of Cambridge (1 May 1935), quoted in The Times (2 May 1935), p. 11
  • Jane Austen influenced me very much in a general way. I read her early with great pleasure and often since, and I think it's the, it's the tone is what I've liked about her, very cool, amused, but not ill-tempered tone. What I liked so very much about her is that she's quite ruthless in pointing out weaknesses and making fun, but she never seems in a bad temper, wishing to do down the characters, and I find this very agreeable – this sort of ruthless, good tempered, just, humorous outlook. I also like the mixture of her rather tough, robust judgement combined with a silvery, elegant refinement of manner. I think this contrast between the delicacy of the manner and the robustness of the judgement is very sympathetic to me.
    • Lord David Cecil, interview with Patrick Garland for the BBC documentary Conversations at Cranborne (1970), quoted in Tristram Powell, 'A Television Interview', in David Cecil: A Portrait by his Friends (1990), p. 164
  • [A]s her would-be biographer, I had to face the fact that information about Jane Austen the woman was limited and fragmentary. She remains for me – as no doubt she would have wished – not an intimate but an acquaintance.
  • Jane Austen was born before those bonds which (we are told) protected women from truth, were burst by the Brontës or elaborately untied by George Eliot. Yet the fact remains that Jane Austen knew more about men than either of them. Jane Austen may have been protected from truth: but it was precious little of truth that was protected from her.
  • She knew what she knew, like a sound dogmatist: she did not know what she did not — like a sound agnostic.
    • G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature (1913) [University of Notre Dame Press, 1963], Ch. II: The Great Victorian Novelists (p. 53)
  • This is something more than the discovery of a document; it is the discovery of an inspiration. And that inspiration was the inspiration of Gargantua and of Pickwick; it was the gigantic inspiration of laughter.
    • G. K. Chesterton, 'Preface' to Jane Austen, Love & Freindship and Other Early Works (1922), p. xiv
  • I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen's novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world. Never was life so pinched & narrow. The one problem in the mind of the writer in both the stories I have read, "Persuasion," and "Pride & Prejudice," is marriageableness. All that interests in any character introduced is still this one, Has he or she money to marry with, & conditions conforming? 'Tis "the nympholepsy of a fond despair," say rather, of an English boarding-house. Suicide is more respectable.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson: Selected Journals 1841–1877, edited by Lawrence Rosenwald (2010), The Library of America, p. 768
  • Why do the characters in Jane Austen give us a slightly new pleasure each time they come in, as opposed to the merely repetitive pleasure that is caused by a character in Dickens? Why do they combine so well in a conversation, and draw one another out, without seeming to do so, and never perform? The answer to this question can be put in several ways; that, unlike Dickens, she was a real artist, that she never stooped to caricature, etc. But the best reply is that her characters, though smaller than his, are more highly organized. They function all round, and even if her plot made greater demands on them than it does, they would still be adequate.
  • I have been reading Miss Austen's Emma, which I had entirely forgotten, with the greatest enjoyment. I think it an admirable book, & I dare say you will agree with me. Miss Austen is an inimitable painter of quiet life. It would be difficult to say where the interest of Emma lies, yet it does interest strongly. There is no fine writing; no laboured description; no imaginative or ideal touches; no working on the feelings. Its magic must be its truth. It is exquisitely true. Life is presented to us, not as it may be taken in rare situations, in picturesque emergencies, but as we see it everyday. Common, workday life, with here & there a suit of best for Sundays. Yet there is nothing trivial. It is what Alfred calls in one of his unfinished poems "most ideal unideal, most uncommon commonplace." Dignity in the sentiments, dignity in the style. Quite a woman's book — (don't frown, Miss Fytche — I mean it for compliment) — none but a woman & a lady could possess that tact of minute observation, & that delicacy of sarcasm.
    • Arthur Henry Hallam, letter to fiancé Emily (Emilia) Tennyson (1833-01-25), Jane Austen and her Readers, 1786-1945, by Katie Halsey (Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series)
  • Which brings us again, after this long way about, to Jane Austen and her novels, and that troublesome question about them. She was great and they were beautiful, because she and they were honest, and dealt with nature nearly a hundred years ago as realism deals with it to-day. Realism is nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material, and Jane Austen was the first and the last of the English novelists to treat material with entire truthfulness. Because she did this, she remains the most artistic of the English novelists, and alone worthy to be matched with the great Scandinavian and Slavic and Latin artists.
  • I read Pride and Prejudice when I was about 8 or 9. It was the first adult novel I read and it opened my imagination to the immense possibilities of the world of fiction and, young though I was, produced an immediate response to Jane Austen that has remained as strong today as it was 85 years ago and, I believe, helped to make me a writer.
    • P. D. James, quoted in 'Sex, Mao, motorcycles – the books', The Times Saturday Review (29 September 2012), p. 10
  • [T]he attempt to recruit Jane Austen into one of the armies in an ideological war is mistaken... It is indeed useful to compare her to her contemporaries...to confirm her originality and independence, and appreciate how distinctively absent ideology is from her fiction. She ranks not among those novelists like Tolstoy and George Eliot who are in some sense teachers or preachers, but among those like James and Proust, for whom the depiction and analysis of human beings in thought and action are enough. Or in different terms, she is of the school of Sophocles and Shakespeare, not that of Dante and Milton.
    • Richard Jenkyns, A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen (2004), p. 184
  • Jane lies in Winchester — blessed be her shade!
    Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made!
    And while the stones of Winchester, or Milsom Street, remain,
    Glory, love, and honour unto England's Jane!
  • (“What do you owe Jane Austen?”) Endless pleasure. Years and years of delight. (“What did you learn from Jane Austen?”) A great deal about life. (“For example?”) I can't give you an example. You don't get fortune cookie maxims from a great novelist. You learn what life is like and what people are like.
  • (“Chip Delany says that science fiction is as much a way of "reading" as it is a way of writing, and learn that. What is it that we have to learn?”) That's true for realism, too. You have to learn how to read Jane Austen. We have to learn how to read realistic fiction. A lot of people never do. Some of them, our fantasy readers, don't know how to read Thackeray, or any novels. They don't know what to expect, they don't know what the rewards are supposed to be.
  • The delight derived from her pictures arises from our sympathy with ordinary characters, our relish of humor, and our intellectual pleasure in art for art's sake. But when it is admitted that she never stirs the deeper emotions, that she never fills the soul with a noble aspiration, or brightens it with a fine idea, but, at the utmost, only teaches us charity for the ordinary failings of ordinary people, and sympathy with their goodness, we have admitted an objection which lowers her claims to rank among the great benefactors of the race; and this sufficiently explains why, with all her excellence, her name has not become a household word. Her fame, we think, must endure. Such art as hers can never grow old, never be superseded. But, after all, miniatures are not frescoes, and her works are miniatures. Her place is among the Immortals; but the pedestal is erected in a quiet niche of the great temple.
  • Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second. But among the writers who, in the point which we have noticed, have approached nearest to the manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen, a woman of whom England is justly proud. She has given us a multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace, all such as we meet every day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings... And almost all this is done by touches so delicate that they elude analysis, that they defy the powers of description, and that we know them to exist only by the general effect to which they have contributed.
    • Thomas Macaulay, 'Madame D'Arblay', Edinburgh Review (January 1843), reprinted in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, Volume 5 (1844), p. 68
  • Something recalled to his mind the traits of character which are so delicately touched in Miss Austen's novels. "There was genius in the sketching out that new kind of novel." He was vexed for the credit of the Edinburgh Review, that it had left unnoticed; the Quarterly had done her more justice. It was impossible for a foreigner to understand fully the merit of her works. Madame de Staël, to whom he had recommended of her novels, found no interest in it, and, in her note to him in reply, said it was "vulgaire", and yet he said nothing could be more true than what he wrote in answer,—"there is no book which that word would suit so little." "Every village could furnish matter for a novel to Miss Austen. She did not need the common materials for a novel—strong passion, or strong incident."
    • James Mackintosh, quoted in Memoirs of the Life of Sir James Mackintosh, Vol. II, ed. Robert James Mackintosh (1836 ed.), p. 472
  • When I was young, it was not thought proper for young ladies to study very conspicuously; and especially with pen in hand. Young ladies (at least in provincial towns) were expected to sit down in the parlour to sew,—during which reading aloud was permitted,—or to practice their music; but so as to be fit to receive callers, without any signs of blue‐stockingism which could be reported abroad. Jane Austen herself, the Queen of novelists, the immortal creator of Anne Elliott, Mr. Knightly, and a score or two more of unrivalled intimate friends of the whole public, was compelled by the feelings of her family to cover up her manuscripts with a large piece of muslin work, kept on the table for the purpose, whenever any genteel people came in. So it was with other young ladies, for some time after Jane Austen was in her grave; and thus my first studies in philosophy were carried on with great care and reserve.
  • The want of elegance is almost the only want in Miss Austen. I have not read her ‘Mansfield Park;’ but it is impossible not to feel in every line of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ in every word of ‘Elizabeth,’ the entire want of taste which could produce so pert, so worldly a heroine as the beloved of such a man as Darcy. Wickham is equally bad. Oh! they were just fit for each other, and I cannot forgive that delightful Darcy for parting them. Darcy should have married Jane. He is of all the admirable characters the best designed and the best sustained. I quite agree with you in preferring Miss Austen to Miss Edgeworth. If the former had a little more taste, a little more perception of the graceful, as well as of the humorous, I know not indeed any one to whom I should not prefer her. There is not of the hardness, the cold selfishness, of Miss Edgeworth about her writings; she is in a much better humour with the world; she preaches no sermons; she wants nothing but the beau-idéal of the female character to be a perfect novel writer; and perhaps even that beau-idéal would only be missed by such a petite maîtresse in books as myself.
    • Mary Russell Mitford, letter to Sir William Elford, 1st Baronet (1814-12-20), The Life of Mary Russell Mitford, vol. 1 (1870)
  • I have discovered that our great favourite, Miss Austen, is my countrywoman; that mamma knew all her family very intimately; and that she herself is an old maid (I beg her pardon – I mean a young lady) with whom mamma before her marriage was acquainted. Mamma says that she was then the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembers; and a friend of mine, who visits her now, says that she has stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of “single blessedness” that ever existed, and that, till ‘Pride and Prejudice’ showed what a precious gem was hidden in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a poker or a fire-screen, or any other thin upright piece of wood or iron that fills its corner in peace and quietness. The case is very different now; she is still a poker – but a poker of whom every one is afraid. It must be confessed that this silent observation from such an observer is rather formidable. Most writers are good-humoured chatterers – neither very wise nor very witty: – but nine times out of ten (at least in the few that I have known) unaffected and pleasant, and quite removing by their conversation any awe that may have been excited by their works. But a wit, a delineator of character, who does not talk, is terrific indeed!
    • Mary Russell Mitford, letter to Sir William Elford, 1st Baronet (1815-04-03), The Life of Mary Russell Mitford, vol. 1 (1870)
  • Her exquisite story of 'Persuasion' absolutely haunted me. Whenever it rained (and it did rain every day that I stayed in Bath, except one), I thought of Anne Elliott meeting Captain Wentworth, when driven by a shower to take refuge in a shoe-shop. Whenever I got out of breath in climbing up-hill (which, considering that one dear friend lived in Lansdown Crescent, and another on Beechen Cliff, happened also pretty often), I thought of that same charming Anne Elliott, and of that ascent from the lower town to the upper, during which all her tribulations ceased. And when at last, by dint of trotting up one street and down another, I incurred the unromantic calamity of a blister on the heel, even that grievance became classical by the recollection of the similar catastrophe, which, in consequence of her peregrinations with the Admiral, had befallen dear Mrs. Croft. I doubt if any one, even Scott himself, have left such perfect impressions of character and place as Jane Austen.
  • the sharply stitched phrases of Jane Austen
  • Every housemaid expects at least once a week as much excitement as would have lasted a Jane Austen heroine throughout a whole novel.
  • Also read again and for the third time at least Miss Austen's very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going, but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!
    • Walter Scott, "Walter Scott, an unsigned review of Emma, Quarterly Review". Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, 1812–1870. Ed. B. C. Southam. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968. ISBN 071002942X. 58–69
  • You mention Miss Austen; her novels are more true to nature, and have (for my sympathies) passages of finer feeling than any others of this age. She was a person of whom I have heard so well, and think so highly, that I regret not having seen her, nor ever having had an opportunity of testifying to her the respect which I felt for her.
    • Robert Southey to Sir Egerton Brydges (8 April 1830), quoted in The Autobiography, Times, Opinions, and Contemporaries of Sir Egerton Brydges, Vol. II (1834), p. 269
  • Miss Austen was surely a great novelist. What she did, she did perfectly. Her work, as far as it goes, is faultless. She wrote of the times in which she lived, of the class of people with which she associated, and in the language which was usual to her as an educated lady. Of romance, -- what we generally mean when we speak of romance -- she had no tinge. Heroes and heroines with wonderful adventures there are none in her novels. Of great criminals and hidden crimes she tells us nothing. But she places us in a circle of gentlemen and ladies, and charms us while she tells us with an unconscious accuracy how men should act to women, and women act to men. It is not that her people are all good; -- and, certainly, they are not all wise. The faults of some are the anvils on which the virtues of others are hammered till they are bright as steel. In the comedy of folly I know no novelist who has beaten her. The letters of Mr. Collins, a clergyman in Pride and Prejudice, would move laughter in a low-church archbishop.
  • Jane Austen's books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it.
  • To me his (Edgar Allan Poe's) prose is unreadable — like Jane Austin's [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane's. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.
  • I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
    • Mark Twain, Letter, 13 September 1898, in A.B. Paine, Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)
  • Miss Austin has the merit (in our judgment most essential) of being evidently a Christian writer: a merit which is much enhanced, both on the score of good taste, and of practical utility, by her religion being not at all obtrusive. She might defy the most fastidious critic to call any of her novels, (as Coelebs was designated, we will not say altogether without reason,) a "dramatic sermon." The subject is rather alluded to, and that incidentally, than studiously brought forward and dwelt upon.
    • Richard Whately, 'Modern Novels', The Quarterly Review (January 1821), p. 359
  • Most works in realism tell a succession of such abject truths; they are deeply in earnest, every detail is true, and yet the whole finally tumbles to the ground — true but without significance. How did Jane Austen save her novels from that danger? They appear to be compact of abject truth. Their events are excruciatingly unimportant; and yet, with R. Crusoe, they will probably outlast all Fielding, Scott, George Elliot, Thackeray, and Dickens. The art is so consummate that the secret is hidden; peer at them as hard as one may; shake them; take them apart; one cannot see how it is done.
  • Whatever 'Bloomsbury' may think of Jane Austen, she is not by any means one of my favourites. I'd give all she ever wrote for half what the Brontës wrote -- if my reason did not compel me to see that she is a magnificent artist. What I shall proceed to find out, from her letters, when I've time, is why she failed to be much better than she was. Something to do with sex, I expect; the letters are full of hints already that she suppressed half of her in her novels.
    • Virginia Woolf, Letter to Ethel Smythe, 20 November 1932, in David Dowling, Novelists on Novelists (1983)
  • Charlotte Brontë, with all her splendid gift for prose, stumbled and fell with that clumsy weapon in her hands. George Eliot committed atrocities with it that beggar description. Jane Austen looked at it and laughed at it and devised a perfectly natural, shapely sentence proper for her own use and never departed from it. Thus, with less genius for writing than Charlotte Brontë, she got infinitely more said.
  • Jane Austen is thus a mistress of much deeper emotion than appears upon the surface. She stimulates us to supply what is not there. What she offers is, apparently, a trifle, yet is composed of something that expands in the reader's mind and endows with the most enduring form of life scenes which are outwardly trivial. Always the stress is laid upon character. How, we are made to wonder, will Emma behave when Lord Osborne and Tom Musgrave make their call at five minutes before three, just as Mary is bringing in the tray and the knife-case? It is an extremely awkward situation. The young men are accustomed to much greater refinement. Emma may prove herself ill-bred, vulgar, a nonentity. The turns and twists of the dialogue keep us on the tenterhooks of suspense. Our attention is half upon the present moment, half upon the future. And when, in the end, Emma behaves in such a way as to vindicate our highest hopes of her, we are moved as if we had been made witnesses of a matter of the highest importance. Here, indeed, in this unfinished and in the main inferior story, are all the elements of Jane Austen's greatness. It has the permanent quality of literature. Think away the surface animation, the likeness to life, and there remains, to provide a deeper pleasure, an exquisite discrimination of human values.
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