Austen Quotes and the Problem with Wit

There are some Austen quotes that sound wonderful when presented alone, but their meaning in their respective novel is almost completely opposite or just simply ridiculous. So I’ve taken it upon myself to “fix” some quotes. Feel free to post them on your wall or computer backgrounds in their more “true” form. (Or their original form, I know they are lovely in isolation). Even adding the real speaker instead of writing “Jane Austen” gives me a tip off!

We all know Caroline’s famous line, it’s even on British money and graces the walls of many libraries…..

Let us translate this with what Caroline actually meant to convey. Anyone want to paint this on their wall? After all, Caroline was only holding a book to try and attract Darcy’s admiration:

Now for Isabella Thorpe from Northanger Abbey:

Ah, so lovely! Now let’s fix it with the proper context:

A beautiful sentiment indeed!

This one is particularly popular among those who love a nice, warm drink:

But Sir Thomas was not requesting tea as a preferred drink, he really just wanted the busy-body Mrs. Norris to stop with all her blathering so he could rest after a long journey:

Here is another lovely quote from a not-so-lovely person:

Here, this sounds more like Mrs. Elton:


Fortunately, given her command of satire, I think Jane Austen would get a good laugh out of all these “misquotes” rather than being angry. The joke of Caroline’s quote, as she throws the book aside and yawns, being on promotional materials for libraries is just too good!

And plenty Austen quotes are good in context and without:

“But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” -Mrs. Croft, Persuasion

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” -Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey

“Do not consider me now as an elegant female intending to plague you, but as a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart.” -Elizabeth Bennet, Pride & Prejudice

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more” -Mr. Knightley, Emma

Jane Austen, who else has written so many beautiful sarcastic comments and then had them quoted in earnest? I can’t think of another!


All my works contain repurposed Austen quotes, though I always try to make them true to the original meaning. My first novel, Prideful & Persuaded, has an Austen quote at the beginning of each chapter and it’s almost a spoiler for what will happen if you remember where it’s from!

Check it out on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited:

8 responses to “Austen Quotes and the Problem with Wit”

  1. Riana Everly Avatar

    Our dear Miss Austen certainly was the master of the zinger and the ironic. I love your beautiful images, and the “real” meanings of those little excerpts. Thanks for this fun post.

    1. bdelleman Avatar

      Thank you! I always find it so funny when you search Austen quotes and they are clearly jokes being taken in earnest.

  2. Barbara Cornthwaite Avatar

    Love this! Yes, drives me batty when a quote is taken out of context and really is not what the character means!

    1. bdelleman Avatar

      Yes! It’s very frustrating and I don’t know if I see it as much with other authors.

      I have to admit though, I didn’t know the staying at home one was Mrs. Elton until I started working on this article!

  3. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    I love it! You really fixed these quotes up nice! I love the way you put what they really

    1. bdelleman Avatar

      Thank you! I had a lot of fun with it 🙂

  4. Corrie Garrett Avatar
    Corrie Garrett

    Hahhaha, these are great. Yes, my husband got me sooks with Caroline’s quote about reading (I love the socks obviously) but I was again struck by how wildly that quote is ripped from context. I completely agree that Jane herself would get a good laugh out of it all.

    1. bdelleman Avatar

      I think Caroline would be proud of herself too! At least someone believed her about reading, lol.


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