Saturday, 28 March 2009

Jane Austen Quote of the Week – Week 49

This time, I found something that Elinor Dashwood said about selfishness. It is taken from Sense & Sensibility Chapter 47, when Elinor and Marianne were talking about Marianne’s past with Willoughby. I first have to say that I took these quotes from the Wikipedia site, for I don’t have the book with me, so I hope that the quotes are faithful to the book.


Marianne's lips quivered, and she repeated the word "Selfish?" in a tone that implied--"do you really think him selfish?"

"The whole of his behaviour," replied Elinor, "from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been grounded on selfishness. It was selfishness which first made him sport with your affections; which afterwards, when his own were engaged, made him delay the confession of it, and which finally carried him from Barton. His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, his ruling principle."

"It is very true. MY happiness never was his object."

"At present," continued Elinor, "he regrets what he has done. And why does he regret it?--Because he finds it has not answered towards himself. It has not made him happy. His circumstances are now unembarrassed--he suffers from no evil of that kind; and he thinks only that he has married a woman of a less amiable temper than yourself. But does it follow that had he married you, he would have been happy?--The inconveniences would have been different. He would then have suffered under the pecuniary distresses which, because they are removed, he now reckons as nothing. He would have had a wife of whose temper he could make no complaint, but he would have been always necessitous--always poor; and probably would soon have learned to rank the innumerable comforts of a clear estate and good income as of far more importance, even to domestic happiness, than the mere temper of a wife."


What can I say? Elinor – or Jane, rather – was right. Willoughby was selfish, for his regrets for not marrying Marriane came later after he found out how terrible was to live with a rich Ms. Grey that he loved not. So, it was all about his gain, not Marianne’s. So different from – sigh, swoon – Colonel Brandon, who truly cared for Marianne’s wellbeing.

Anyway, to link this quote with Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy, many people think that Willoughby was mostly taken from Tom Lefroy’s story. I disagree. I think Tom Lefroy did not marry Ms. Mary Paul out of selfishness; he did that to save his family. Lots of posts from this blog already indicated so, notably Tom’s relationship with his little brother Anthony Lefroy (father of Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy, to whom the old Tom Lefroy later confessed his deep feelings towards Jane Austen). See also JA/TL timeline to have a better idea of why I disagree that Willoughby was 100% Tom Lefroy.

So, yes, I think Jane Austen did tap into Tom Lefroy’s story to spin it into Willoughby, but she also took other parts of Tom and infused it to Edward Ferrars, who was rather helpless in his prior engagement to Lucy Steele.

Pic: John Willoughby and Marianne Dashwood from Sense & Sensibility 2008, taken from

Friday, 20 March 2009

Jane Austen Quote - Week 48 by Linda

This week we shall endeavor to discern what Jane Austen really thought about ‘novels’ as described in Northanger Abbey.

In chapter 1 she tells how Catherine preferred other pursuits

“…. to books — or at least books of information — for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all.”

If we take the opposite view, that we should prefer, or that novels should be, ‘books of information’ with useful knowledge and reflection, we now have a description of what to look for in novels.

With that in mind, let’s continue from last week’s paragraph in Chapter 5 which should be read in its entirety, from which we shall distill only a few gems.

Jane is lamenting the fact, through Catherine’s ‘voice’, that other novelists write very degrading thoughts about novels. However, Jane goes on to say:

And while the abilities of the nine–hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens — there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.

Though I was a bit familiar with the others, I had to do a search to find out who Prior was. Now here is the key to ‘novels’ – they must “have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them”. And that, my friends, is what Jane put in hers.

In addition, Jane says this:

“It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; 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.

That is Jane’s description of those novels. Then she sarcastically says about the periodical, “The Spectator”:

the substance of its papers so often consisting in the statement of improbable circumstances, unnatural characters, and topics of conversation which no longer concern anyone living; and their language, too, frequently so coarse as to give no very favourable idea of the age that could endure it.

I say ‘sarcastically’ because the opposite is true. It does have probable circumstances, natural characters, timeless topics of conversation and pertinent language.

Now, let’s put all that together and here is what we have. A novel should be books of information with useful knowledge and reflection, with only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them, in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are to be conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language, and with probable circumstances, natural characters, timeless topics of conversation and pertinent language.

In my opinion, Jane followed her own advice, and I think that just about covers it!

Linda the Librarian

Pic: a very gorgeous art of Catherine Morland by Palnk from

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Jane Austen Quote - Week 47 by Linda

From Northanger Abbey we have a two part definition/explanation/description of ‘friendship’.

First in Chapter 4:

‘Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.’

Next in Chapter 5:

The progress of the friendship between Catherine and Isabella was quick as its beginning had been warm, and they passed so rapidly through every gradation of increasing tenderness that there was shortly no fresh proof of it to be given to their friends or themselves. They called each other by their Christian name, were always arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other’s train for the dance, and were not to be divided in the set; and if a rainy morning deprived them of other enjoyments, they were still resolute in meeting in defiance of wet and dirt, and shut themselves up, to read novels together.

Such has been the friendship that has blossomed between the managers and contributors in this Becoming Jane blog. However, our ‘disappointed love’ was in the Jane Austen/Tom Lefroy affair. Of course, we called ourselves by our Christian names. We have exchanged personal confidences and pictures so we know each other as intimately as can be done via the internet. Also, even though we are separated by many miles and busy lives we do read novels together, as well as the biographies of Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy, of course. I might add that this friendship includes our readers who have posted their comments and shared their writings. I am continually amazed that such friendships can be made world wide!

To quote Icha from a previous ‘quote of the week’ HERE:

'But, just to recall the friendships we have shared in this blog, some of them getting to sisterhood level even…'

Strangely, by coincidence, I must remark on the happenstance of choosing ‘friendship’ this particular week because I chose Northanger Abbey at random and noticed my previous highlighting of the above quotes. Those quotes captured my attention because the inspiration only came to mind a couple of weeks ago that I have two ‘particular’ friends who needed to be most gratefully ‘Thanked’. The occasion to do so occurred last weekend when I flew to New Jersey to attend the wedding of my best friend’s son. While there, I made a heartfelt presentation of my gratitude to my dearest friend and her husband for their care and concern through the past 43 years for myself in the times of my troubles. Needless to say, there were tears and hugs. Next weekend I will have the opportunity to express the same gratitude to my dearest sister and brother-in-law for their care and love, in spite of the fact that when we were growing up she was the most aggravating ‘little sister’. Just as Catherine’s friendship grew, so did ours as we became adults.

Let us make this week “Thank a Friend” week to show your own gratitude. Which brings to mind, I have a few other friends who should be remembered with a “Thank You”! We are grateful for all our ‘friends’!

Next week I will continue with the rest of the ‘Friendship Paragraph’ which discusses “Novels”!

Linda the Librarian

Pic: A classic Northanger Abbey picture from this site

Friday, 6 March 2009

Jane Austen Quote of the Week 46

I realised today, when looking at my bookshelf, that Sense & Sensibility is my least-read Austen. In moves to fix that, I've decided to quote from it this week. :)

I think that I would have been good friends with Elinor - I am good friends with Elinor. She inspires me, I think.

From Sense & Sensibilty Chapter 21, as the Dashwoods visit with Mrs Jennings:

Marianne was silent; it was impossible for her to say what she did not feel, however trivial the occasion; and upon Elinor therefore the whole task of telling lies when politeness required it, always fell.

I love this portrayal of the two sisters, and I sympathise with Elinor for being landed with the unlucky lot! I recognise in this passage elements of myself, my mum, and my younger sister. They - while not being like Marianne (just as I am not like Elinor - more Mrs Jennings!) - are unable to express anything they consider not true to themselves, which is something that I admire. Whereas I seem to have landed the Elinor lot ... And paradoxial as it seems - I do not consider Elinor to be hypocritical, perhaps diplomatic in that she doesn't cause a row/draw attention to something that all things measured, is trivial? On her own principles she stands, we know that. Ah, different personalities, don't you love them?

(And I'll probably never learn not to write my blog post late at night - sorry for any confusion of post - am sure I'll be back tomorrow to clarify)

I have another S&S quote (re: Elinor) but I think I will save it for next time.

Have a great week!

Pic: Emma Thompson as Elinor from: