Lines to Love: The Jane Austen Edition


As I am a great lover of Jane Austen, I had to indulge in one more post about her. So, today I offer you some of my favorite lines from her novels. What I particularly appreciate about Austen is the plethora of truths she so easily and expertly drops into her prose. Her novels are chock full of wisdom, sometimes pithy, or witty, or ironic, or poignant, but always firmly rooted in truth. As I am a great prizer of Truth, finding these gems in her writing has only further endeared her books to my heart. 

Let’s begin with the pithy, witty, and often ironic commentary Austen writes with such aplomb:

Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.
— Mansfield Park
A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment. 
— Pride and Prejudice

Then, of course, there's Henry Tilney's perfect wit and wisdom on display.  

No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment. 
— Northanger Abbey

This next one is for those of you who find yourselves in the midst of chaos during the holiday season. This truth, perhaps, rings a little more clearly at this time of year, no?

Let us have the luxury of silence. 
— Mansfield Park

How about Austen’s thoughts on the importance of reading and cultivating a personal library? I find that I could not agree more with her conclusions. This next one is perhaps one of my favorites of all time, and I endeavor toward this goal in all of my writing. (I fully comprehend the magnanimity of such a lofty goal, but, you know, it's important to set the bar high.)

It is only a novel... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.
— Northanger Abbey
A fondness for reading, properly directed, must be an education in itself.
— Mansfield Park
If a book is well written, I always find it too short.
— Sense and Sensibility

I always appreciate Jane Austen’s insight regarding true friendship. My particular favorites come from her more humorous social commentary novel, Northanger Abbey.

There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. 
— Northanger Abbey
Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.
— Northanger Abbey

And we cannot forget Austen’s bang on commentary regarding the way in which women are depicted in literature and the reasoning for it. I particularly love the ironic humor revealed in the character of Captain Harville as he talks about this very thing with Anne Elliot in Persuasion:

We shall never agree upon this point. No man or woman would probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you, all stories prose and verse… I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon a woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.
— Persuasion

Then there are these tried and true wisdoms she declaims when it comes to girding up our own inner person and reigning in our emotions:

(This is one which I endeavor to live; I cannot agree with it more.)

(This is one which I endeavor to live; I cannot agree with it more.)

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be. 
— Mansfield Park
I may have lost my heart, but not my self control.
— Emma

(Don’t you adore the wit in that one. Every time I read it, it’s with a big smile on my face.)

The way in which Jane Austen describes hope in Sense and Sensibility is exceptional. Particularly the last quote, as though to remind us that we must always remain in hope. After all, that’s what Persuasion was all about (see post here). 

Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience— or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.
— Sense & Sensibility
banner-lines-austen (1).jpg

Then there is Mrs. Croft, one of my favorite characters in any Austen novel. When she is questioned as to the discomforts and dangers of traveling aboard the Admiral’s ships with him, this is her reply. 

While we were together, you know, there was nothing to be feared… The only time that I ever really suffered in body or mind, the only time that I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral was in the North Sea…but as long as we could be together, nothing ever ailed me, and I never met with the smallest inconvenience.
— Persuasion

Mrs. Croft’s remarks, I believe, are actually Jane Austen’s thoughts on what a truly great marriage- one rooted in love- should be like. After all, being the daughter of a vicar, it stands to reason that Austen would believe that perfect love casts out fear. And from the way she describes Admiral and Mrs. Croft, I think Jane believed their marriage to be one of the most perfect of her construction.

And then there are the declarations of love, that are always so much more than those flat I love you’s that we see all too often. These are robust and full with the understanding that love is seeing each other fully and still loving regardless of the imperfections- or as Oliver Cromwell said, worts and all.

I cannot make speeches, Emma...If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me.
— Emma

(This line always reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Much Ado About Nothing- "Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I were but little happy if I could say as much.”)

And I have to include a portion from Wentworth’s letter to Anne. That letter is quite possibly my favorite thing in any of her books. The agony, the hope, the tenderness, the vulnerability of it all render me to tears, especially after so much angst and uncertainty from these two. Suddenly, the air is cleared and they both can be honest and open with each other. 

Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant… You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in F.W.
— Persuasion

And she does believe it. Like Charlotte Brontë wrote about Jane Eyre, Anne married him, dear readers. Every novel Austen wrote ends with hope. And that is perhaps the reason why I love her the most. Everything should end with hope. 

What are some of your favorite lines from Jane Austen’s novels? You can include from her published letters, too, as they are particularly witty and delicious.