Category Archives: Morality

If it feels good…

"I am afraid," replied Elinor, "that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety."

"On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure."

Sense and Sensibility, volume 1, chapter 13

Austen, no doubt, came down on Elinor's side on this one.  What do you think?

Comments Off on If it feels good…

Filed under Elinor, Marianne, Morality, Sense and Sensibility, Sense vs. Sensibility

A Vile World

Lovely lunch with JASNA – DC this weekend — thanks to all who came.  It was an honor to be asked to speak.  Nothing Vile about it!

“We have used Anna as ill as we could, by not letting him [Jane’s nephew James-Edward, Anna’s half brother] leave us before tomorrow morning, but it is a Vile World, we are all for Self & I expected no better from any of us.”

Letter to her niece Caroline [all three were her brother James’s children — Anna from his first marriage, James-Edward and Caroline from his second]
January 23, 1817 [149]


Filed under Austen family, Humor, Letters, Morality, nephew James Edward, niece Anna Austen, niece Caroline, Sarcasm

Cardinal virtues

Of James, one of the family’s servants:

“James is the delight of our lives . . . He waits extremely well, is attentive, handy, quick, & quiet, and in short has a great many more than all the cardinal virtues (for the cardinal virtues in themselves have been so often possessed that they are no longer worth having)–& amongst the rest, that of wishing to go to Bath.”

letter to Cassandra, from Lyme
September 14, 1804 [39]

Check out Arti’s pics from Bath.  Wanting to visit Bath is indeed a virtue. 😉


Filed under Bath, Letters, Morality

Badly done, Emma

“It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her–and before her niece, too–and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her.–This is not pleasant to you, Emma–and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,–I will tell you truths while I can.”

Dear Mr. Knightley chastising Emma for her ill treatment of Miss Bates
Emma, volume 3, chapter 7

1 Comment

Filed under Emma, Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, Morality, Mr. Knightley, Pride

Judging unfairly

“It is very unfair to judge of any body’s conduct, without an intimate knowledge of their situation. Nobody, who has not been in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be.”

Very wise, Emma.  (Of course, at that point, she’s defending Frank Churchill to Mr. Knightley, and his judgment ends up being closer to the truth.)
Emma, volume 1, chapter 18

Comments Off on Judging unfairly

Filed under Emma, Emma Woodhouse, Family, Frank Churchill, Morality

Handsome is as handsome does

“Mr. Digweed has used us basely.  Handsome is as Handsome does; he is therefore a very ill-looking Man.”

letter to Cassandra
January 24, 1813 [78]

No explanation here of exactly what Mr. Digweed did.  No doubt Jane was joking, as usual.

Comments Off on Handsome is as handsome does

Filed under Letters, Men, Morality, Neighbors

Oh! God

“Have we thought irreverently of thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being?  Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride and vanity.”

Evening Prayer 1

Another pic from Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford today.

Jane’s concise statements of Christian theology in these prayers are wonderful, better than I could do myself.  And while they may seem difficult at times, imbued with the concepts of personal sin and repentance, I think these ideas are clearly carried over to her characters.

Comments Off on Oh! God

Filed under Christianity, Morality, Pride

Teach us

“Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts, and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls.”

Evening Prayer 1

Comments Off on Teach us

Filed under Christianity, Morality

Look with mercy

More from Jane’s Evening Prayers for the rest of this week.

“Look with mercy on the sins we have this day committed and in mercy make us feel them deeply, that our repentance may be sincere, and our resolutions steadfast of endeavoring against the commission of such in future.”

Evening Prayer 1

The image is one of the side windows in Christ Church Cathedral, where both Jane’s father George and brother James were ordained to the deaconate.  I loved having the chance to go to Evensong there.

Comments Off on Look with mercy

Filed under Christianity, Morality

Eye at an Adultress

“I am proud to say that I have a very good eye at an Adultress, for tho’ repeatedly assured that another in the same party was the She, I fixed upon the right one from the first. . . . her face has the same defect of baldness as her sister’s, & her features not so handsome;–she was highly rouged, & looked rather quietly & contentedly silly than anything else.”

letter to Cassandra
May 12, 1801 [36]

The adulteress in question, observed in the upper rooms at Bath, was the Hon. Mary Cassandra Twisleton, who was a relation of the Austen’s somehow through the Leigh side (through Mrs. Austen’s family).  Her father had committed suicide when she was just fourteen, because he had some kind of disease that gave him terrible pain in his head, which the doctors told him was incurable.  Mary Cassandra eloped at sixteen with her first husband, then scandalously divorced after an affair with an MP when she was twenty-three.  So much for quiet life in the English country!

Comments Off on Eye at an Adultress

Filed under Balls, Beauty, Letters, Morality