Dec 16 2013 2:00pm

10 Things I Learned from Jane Austen

Jane Austen portrait by Cassandra AustenI have spent most of my adult life with Jane Austen, whose birthday is today, and she has taught me a great deal about life in general. Oddly, a lot of it has nothing to do with Fitzwilliam Darcy.  

1) Derive satisfaction from your wardrobe.

“Next week [I] shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend.”

Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen on October 27, 1798

2) Take enjoyment from being an aunt while you can.

“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.”

Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen on April 25, 1811

“I shall think with tenderness and delight on his beautiful and smiling countenance and interesting manner, until a few years have turned him into an ungovernable, ungracious fellow.

Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen on October 27, 1798

3) Beware of becoming intoxicated...

“I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand to-day. You will kindly make allowance therefore for any indistinctness of writing, by attributing it to this venial error.”

Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen on November 20, 1800

...but enjoy intoxication in others.

“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.”

Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen on May 12, 1801

4) Take advantage of having money.

“I sent my answer...which I wrote without much effort, for I was rich, and the rich are always respectable, whatever be their style of writing.”

Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen on June 20, 1808

5) Break bad news gently.

“I will not say that your mulberry-trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.”

Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen on May 31, 1811

6) Enjoy aging.

“By the bye, as I must leave off being young, I find many Douceurs in being a sort of chaperon [at dances], for I am put on the Sofa near the Fire & can drink as much wine as I like.”

Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen on November 6, 1818

7)  Keep war in perspective.

“How horrible it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!”

Jane Austen to Cassandra Auagen on May 31, 1811

8) Rely on the media.

“Miss Bigg...writes me word that Miss Blachford is married. but I have never seen it in the Paper. And one may be as well be single, if the Wedding is not to be in print.”

Jane Austen to Anna Austen in late 1814

9) Temper your expectations of love.

“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.”

Jane Austen to Fanny Knight on November 18, 1814

10) Know your limitations.

“I could no more write a [historical] 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.”

Jane Austen to James Stanier Clarke on April 1, 1816


*Image credit: Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen (1773-1845), digitally restored and remastered by Amano1, via Wikimedia Commons


Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, and on Twitter @Myretta.

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3. Janga
Wonderful! It's comments like these that make me think of her as "Jane" when I think of nearly all the other "Great Authors" by their full names or their last names.
Julia Broadbooks
4. juliabroadbooks
I have read all of Austen's fiction but I've never read any of her letters before. I think I need to remedy this!!!
Kim Haynes
5. kahintenn
Thank you so much for this...there can never be enough of Jane!
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