Category Archives: Other books and writers

Such sort of people

“Let me counsel you to remember that a lady, whether so called from birth or only from fortune, should never degrade herself by being put on a level with writers, and such sort of people.”

miser Mr. Briggs, Cecilia’s guardian, who refuses to give her any of her own money to pay the bookseller
Fanny Burney’s Cecilia, volume 2, book 3, chapter 2

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Always best

"It is always best to do right, however tardily; always better to repent, than to grow callous in wrong."

Cecilia (who is a little too good, imho)
Fanny Burney’s Cecilia, volume 4, book 8, chapter 1

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A world full of mortifications

"The world is full of mortifications, and to endure, or to sink under them, makes all the distinction between the noble or the weak-minded."

the elegant Mrs. Delvile to Cecilia; Mrs. Delvile knows Cecilia is enduring the mortification of having to give up her affection for her son, Mortimer Delvile
Fanny Burney’s Cecilia, volume 3, book 6, chapter 11

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What everybody else did

“Mrs. Harrel, with much simplicity, assured her that she did nothing but what every body else did, and that it was quite impossible for her to appear in the world in any other manner.”

Cecilia’s friend Mrs. Harrel and her husband are spending their way into misery (and worse) keeping up with fashionable London society.  This is her defense when Cecilia admonishes her to retrench.
Cecilia, volume 2, book 3, chapter 3

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Some proper person

BurneyThis week we’ll be taking a slight diversion from Austen to look at one of the books that inspired her — Fanny Burney’s Cecilia.  This is a book Austen loved, and she snagged the title for Pride and Prejudice from one of its pages.  I’m immersed in it now, and loving it (although I agree with Burney herself that it could have used one more edit).

Cecilia is a nearly-perfect heiress, whose near relations have all passed away.  But she can only keep her fortune if the man she marries agrees to take her name.  And young Delvile, whom she adores, has a difficult time conquering his family pride, his name being the one barrier to their happy union.  (Though perhaps I’m giving away too much.)

Today, here’s a bit from the spiteful old Lady Margaret, whose husband hopes she will die soon so he can propose to Cecilia:

“I never saw any thing eligible come of young women’s having houses of their own; she will do a much better thing to marry, and have some proper person to take care of her.”

Cecilia, volume 4, book 7, chapter 1

Frances d’Arblay (‘Fanny Burney’) by Edward Francesco Burney

© National Portrait Gallery, London.


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Heaven’s last best gift

“I am of a cautious temper, and unwilling to risk my happiness in a hurry.  Nobody can think more highly of the matrimonial state than myself.  I consider the blessing of a wife as most justly described in those discreet lines of the poet, ‘Heaven’s last best gift.'”

Mansfield Park, volume 1, chapter 4

According to my Oxford World’s Classics edition, Henry Crawford is joking about Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which “Adam describes Eve as God’s ultimate gift; Henry Crawford wittily turns the line to express his preference for deferring wedlock.”

Hmm… I have known many men “of a cautious temper.”

Joseph Beattie as Henry Crawford.  ©Jon Hall/ITV plc (Granada International) for Masterpiece™

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Such dull elves

“There are a few Typical errors–& a ‘said he’ or a ‘said she’ would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear–but ‘I do not write for such dull Elves As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.'”

letter to Cassandra on the release of Pride and Prejudice
January 29, 1813 [79]

The “such dull elves” line is a rough quote from Marmion.

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On reading other novels

“I . . . am always half afraid of finding a clever novel too clever–& of finding my own story & my own people all forestalled.”

letter to Cassandra, on trying to get a copy of Mary Brunton’s Self-controul
April 30, 1811 [72]

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Starred Publishers Weekly review

Just found out last week that A Walk with Jane Austen has gotten a lovely review from Publishers Weekly:

Pwstar“In this engaging, deeply personal and well-researched travelogue, Smith (a PW contributor)
journeys to England to soak in the places of Jane Austen’s life and writings…. bring[s] Austen to life in ways no conventional biographer could…. deliciously uncertain romantic tension holds the book together as Smith weaves her own thoughts, historical research, and fitting references to Austen’s novels into a satisfying whole.”

Read the whole review here.

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A visit

“After I had written the above, we received a visit from Mr Tom Lefroy and his cousin George.  The latter is really very well-behaved now; and as for the other, he has but one fault, which time will, I trust, entirely remove–it is that his morning coat is a great deal too light.  He is a very great admirer of Tom Jones, and therefore wears the same coloured clothes, I imagine, which he did when he was wounded.”

letter to Cassandra
January 9, 1796 [1]

I have read Fielding’s Tom Jones, but I must admit I have no recollection of the color of his clothes.  Jane and Tom must have discussed Fielding — a bit risque, perhaps.


Filed under Humor, Jane Austen's love interests, Letters, Other books and writers, Tom Lefroy