Lessons on Life, Courtesy of Jane Austen

Recently, I looked at the parts of Pride and Prejudice, which spoke to me early on in my life-long love of Jane Austen’s works. Then I began to think of the other Austen phrases, which have been a part of my makeup for so many years that I have lost count. I would like to share some of my favorites and, hopefully, you will add your own to the mix.

From Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility: “It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.” (I married my husband after a three weeks’ acquaintance. Enough said.)

From Emma Woodhouse in Emma: “If a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him. If she can hesitate as to ‘Yes,’ she ought to say ‘No’ directly. It is not a state to be safely entered into with doubtful feelings, with half a heart.” (We have all had that friend like Charlotte Lucas who marries simply for the idea of being married. I always thought Ms. Woodhouse’s advice very sound.)

From Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice: “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” (How often are we in a relationship and have lost our heart before we even realize that we are interested in the person?)

From Emma in The Watsons: “To be bent on marriage–to pursue a man merely for the sake of situation–is a sort of thing that shocks me; I cannot understand it. Poverty is a great evil, but to a woman of education and feeling it ought not, it cannot be the greatest. I would rather be a teacher at a school (and I can think of nothing worse) than marry a man I did not like.” [Ironically, I read The Watsons some five to six years into my career as a teacher. This quote struck a sour chord. I spent 39 years in the public classrooms of three different states.]

From Mr. Weston in Emma: “One cannot have too large a party.” (The best thing about an excessively large party is the ability to be absolutely alone in the crowd.)

The narrator speaks of Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice: “Angry people are not always wise.” (I doubt any of us could counter this statement. I have lost my temper and acted in haste on more than one occasion.)

From Fanny Price in Mansfield Park: “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” (Pleasing others serves no purpose other than to fan our vanity.)

From Anne Elliot in Persuasion: “My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.” (Men should learn this fact about the women in their lives.)

From Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice: “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us.” (Simply said: A person may be proud of his accomplishments without being vain.)

From Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” (Does nonfiction also count in this instance???)

From Mrs. Grant in Mansfield Park: “There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.” (Sometimes turning away is difficult to do.)

The Narrator speaks of Lady Denham in Sandition: “Every neighborhood should have a great lady.” (I always wanted to be that woman. LOL!!!)

From Lady Susan Vernon in Lady Susan: “I like this man; pray heaven no harm come of it!” (Finding Mr. Right can be impossible.)

From Mrs. Grant in Mansfield Park: “I pay very little regard…to what any young person says on the subject of marriage. If they profess a disinclination for it, I only set it down that they have not yet seen the right person.” (This is when you go home for the holidays and all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, older siblings, etc., ask when you getting married.)

From Mr. Knightley in Emma: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” (How frightened we all are to place our hearts in the hands of an untested partner!)

From the narrator of Pride and Prejudice: “How little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue.” (Surely, most of know, at least, one such couple. We all have the one “dysfunctional” relative or family situation or which we do not speak. If not, try watching TV shows such as Divorce Court, Paternity Court, Hot Bench, Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, etc., none of which are on my regular viewing choices.)

Now, dear Readers, what might you add to my list?


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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2 Responses to Lessons on Life, Courtesy of Jane Austen

  1. jeanstillman says:

    One of my favorites is, “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.” ( I have always been shy around strangers, and while it is easier for me to converse, now, I was painfully awkward when I was younger.)

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