For those of us who love Jane Austen, we often see astute phrases in her stories which strike us as appropriate to our own lives, even after more than 200 years later on the page. Many of those below have proven over and over again to speak the truth of our everyday existence. Do any ring loud and clear for you? Share your responses in the comment section and feel free to add your own examples. I would love to hear from you.

From Mr. Weston in Emma: “One cannot have too large a party.” (Personally, this is one with which I might have agreed when I was in my twenties, but not so much now I am more “seasoned,” I prefer a small gathering of “like minded individuals.”

I tend to think the best thing about an excessively large party is the ability to be absolutely alone in the crowd. Let me clarify my thoughts with another Austen quote: “There is something so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one is sorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions.”

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 we are interested in the person?)

From Mr. Weston in Emma: “One man’s style must not be the rule of another’s.” (I fear we have raised a generation who are not brave enough to say “no” to peer pressure, and society will know great harm because of it.)

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 40 years in the public classrooms of three different states.)

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.)

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???)

Also from Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey: “It is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible.” (We are often assaulted on all sides with negative speech and actions. It is important we hold onto whatever happiness we might claim.)

From Emma Woodhouse in Emma: “Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly. It depends upon the character of those who handle it.” (How many times have we admired someone who admits his/her faults and accepts the consequences? Obviously, not enough to convince others such is the way out of an uncomfortable situation.)

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 Sanditon“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 sometimes seem 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 are 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 Mr. Weston in Emma“If things are going untowardly one month, they are sure to mend the next.” (In truth, most of think good luck and back luck run in cycles. Yet, I admit it is most disconcerting to have a string of back luck, and, although the bad should make us more appreciative of the good, such does not always prove true. Count your blessings, folks!)

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 us know, at least, one such couple. We all have the one “dysfunctional” relative or family situation of which we do not speak. If not, try watching TV shows such as ®Divorce Court, ®Paternity Court, ®Hot Bench, ®Dr. Phil, ®Jerry Springer, etc., none of which are on my regular viewing choices.)

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

2 responses to “Life Lessons, Courtesy of Miss Austen”

  1. kimbelle1 Avatar

    I cannot help but smile as I’ve always considered Mrs. Grant’s wisdom superior with that exact statement! I have reminded myself of exactly that whenever plans did not come through so waited for what life had planned for me with a smile that was, only occasionally, part scowl for my disappointed hopes~

    1. Regina Jeffers Avatar

      I adore being able to toss these quotes in when I am talking to others. I have one friend from England who simply rolls her eyes while others look on in bewilderment.

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