When I was planning the George Knightley, Esquire books, I had an idea that he could be an expert at playing chess, and that he would occasionally compare his interactions with others as moves in a chess game. It seemed to me to be an eminantly Knightley thing to do. Therefore, I tried to learn the game of chess in order to make writing about such things possible. Alas, I do not have the brain for chess. I could never remember what each piece could or could not do, and the strategy element was too much like math for me to grasp it.
But Mr. Knightley needed something to occupy his leisure time and keep his brain busy; I decided to make him a reader with a retentive memory for quotes. It was hardly a bold, unexpected move on my part—have you noticed how many literary protagonists like to read? I have a theory that authors, especially in their early books, make their protagonists quite like themselves. And since most authors like to read, their main characters do, too. I am no exception. Not only do I like to read, I find myself quoting other authors a lot, particularly Jane Austen.
One of the joys of Jane Austen is that she is eminently quotable in everyday life. Of course, there are plenty of witty and wise quotes that are admirable, but even apart from those, there are quotes that are ever so useful in daily conversations.
When I had six young kids, I usually had one or another of them on my lap every time I sat down, and what could be more appropriate than to quote Mrs. Allen (Northanger Abbey) in saying, “My dear, you tumble my gown”?
I’ve sprained my ankle several times, and the line “A lame carriage horse threw everything into confusion” (Emma) has always come to mind. And yes, I realize that I’m comparing myself to a horse.
When I am feeling sick, I can quote Mary Musgrove in Persuasion: “I am so ill I can hardly speak.” Which is probably an exaggeration, but then that’s what Mary was doing, too.
Irritating companions can be quelled with “You have no compassion on my poor nerves,” although saying it very often will make you just as annoying a person as Mrs. Bennet was.
And I know it’s from a film adaptation, but I can hardly see a pork roast without hearing Miss Bates say, “Pork, Mother!” There are actually a lot of quotes having to do with food from Emma:
“Indeed they are very delightful apples!” comes to mind in the produce section of the supermarket—although I fear I am the only one knows my pronouncement for a literary quote.
When dealing with a child who is a picky eater, you can encourage them with “One of our small eggs will not hurt you.”
And of course, Mrs. Elton’s monologue about strawberries has a number of quotable gems, depending on the situation: “Delicious fruit”; “The best fruit in England—every body’s favourite—always wholesome”; “Inferior to cherries.”
See? A quote for almost every occasion. And even if no one else knows why you get such delight out of phrases like, “You think me unsteady,” it can be a little crumb of joy in your day.
What Austen quotes do you find yourself using in daily life?