Category Archives: Writing

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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Filed under Letters, Other books and writers, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

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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Filed under Letters, Other books and writers, Writing

I can no more forget it…

Well, the wait has begun!  My book should be shipping from the printer any day now, which means that I’ll be jumping every time there’s a delivery, even if I know it probably won’t get here for a couple of weeks.  So hard to believe that the release date is around the corner.  In honor of that, some thoughts from Jane this week on writing.

"I am never too busy to think of S&S.  I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her suckling child . . ."

on Sense & Sensibility
letter to Cassandra
April 25, 1811 [71]

View from the train of the countryside north of Exeter, where S&S is set.


Filed under Letters, Sense and Sensibility, Writing

Writer of Fancy

"It encourages me to depend on the same share of general good opinion which Emma’s Predecessors have experienced, & to believe that I have not yet–as almost every Writer of Fancy does sooner or later–overwritten myself."

letter to the Countess of Morley
December 31, 1815

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Filed under Emma, Letters, Writing

A state of doubt about Emma

"Accept my Thanks for the honour of your note & for your kind Disposition in favour of Emma.  In my present State of Doubt as to her reception in the World, it is particularly gratifying to me to receive so early an assurance of your Ladyship’s approbation."

letter to the Countess of Morley
December 31, 1815 [134D]

Oh, every writer knows that horrible State of Doubt.

Thanks to Mollands for this image.


Filed under Emma, Letters, Writing

Bronte on Austen

Charlotte Bronte did not like Jane Austen’s writing — not enough poetry or passion in it for her.  But they would have agreed on the need to keep to their own styles.  This is how Bronte responded when someone suggested she write more like Austen:

“Whenever I do write another book, I think I will have nothing of what you call “melodrama.”  I think so, but I am not sure.  I think, too, I will endeavour to follow the counsel which shines out of Miss Austen’s “mild eyes,” to finish more, and be more
subdued; but neither am I sure of that
.  When authors write best, or, at least, when they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in them which becomes their master — which will have its way — putting out of view all behests but its own, dictating certain words, and insisting on their being used, whether vehement or measured in their nature, new moulding characters, giving unthought of turns to incidents, rejecting carefully elaborated old ideas, and suddenly creating and adopting new ones.  Is it not so?  And should we try to counteract this influence?  Can we indeed counteract it?”

Mrs. Gaskell’s Life of Miss Bronte, vol. ii p. 53 (emphasis mine)
Thanks to for this quote

More of Bronte’s thoughts on Austen here.

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Filed under Others on Jane, Writing

My own style

"No–I must keep to my own style & go on in my own Way; And though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other."

letter to James Stanier Clarke
April 1, 1816 [138D]

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Filed under Letters, Writing

Serious romance

“I could no more write a 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, & if it were indispensable for me to keep it up & never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter.”

letter to James Stanier Clarke
April 1, 1816 [138D]

James Stanier Clarke was secretary to the Prince Regent, and this series of letters is very funny.  He had some, um, interesting writing ideas for Austen, largely based on his own life.

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Filed under Humor, Letters, Writing

Jane on Mansfield Park

“Henry’s approbation hitherto is even equal to my wishes; he says it is very different from the other two, but does not appear to think it at all inferior.  He has only married Mrs. R.  I am afraid he has gone through the most entertaining part.–He took to Lady B. & Mrs. N. most kindly, & gives great praise to the drawing of the Characters.  He understands them all, likes Fanny & I think foresees how it will all be.”

letter to Cassandra
March 2, 1814 [97]

Jane had just come to London with her brother Henry, and they had read Mansfield Park along the way.  The previous two books she refers to are Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, which were published first.

Jane was writing from Henry’s home here at Henrietta Street in Covent Garden — now a clothing store.

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Filed under Austen family, brother Henry, Letters, Mansfield Park, Writing

Long letters

“I assure you I am as tired of writing long letters as you can be.  What a pity that one should still be so fond of receiving them!”

letter to Cassandra
June 30, 1808 [55]

This is just how I feel about email!


Filed under Humor, Letters, Writing