Becoming Jane: The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen

Overview

Inspired by Becoming Jane, the romantic film that could only make you want to know more about Jane Austen, here is a delightful collection of some of her most famous and quotable quotes -- pearls of wit and wisdom on topics like family, the sexes, friends, money, marriage, and of course love -- that are as true today as they were in Austen's time.

Jane Austen on Marriage:

"My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I...

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Inspired by the charming, winning film that will have audiences wanting to know more about Jane Austen, this is a collection of her most famous and quotable quotes the pearls of ... wisdom on topics like men, marriage, gossip, and relationships that are as true today as they were in 1789 Read more Show Less

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Overview

Inspired by Becoming Jane, the romantic film that could only make you want to know more about Jane Austen, here is a delightful collection of some of her most famous and quotable quotes -- pearls of wit and wisdom on topics like family, the sexes, friends, money, marriage, and of course love -- that are as true today as they were in Austen's time.

Jane Austen on Marriage:

"My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I must find other people charming -- one othe person at least."
--Emma Woodhouse to Harriet Smith, in Emma

"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.'"
--Henry Crawford to his sisters in Mansfield Park

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
--From Pride and Prejudice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401309046
  • Publisher: Miramax Books
  • Publication date: 6/27/2007
  • Edition description: Media Tie
  • Pages: 208

Meet the Author

Jane Austen
Anne Newgarden is a writer and editor. She lives in New York City.

Biography

In 1801, George Austen retired from the clergy, and Jane, Cassandra, and their parents took up residence in Bath, a fashionable town Jane liked far less than her native village. Jane seems to have written little during this period. When Mr. Austen died in 1805, the three women, Mrs. Austen and her daughters, moved first to Southampton and then, partly subsidized by Jane's brothers, occupied a house in Chawton, a village not unlike Jane's first home. There she began to work on writing and pursued publishing once more, leading to the anonymous publication of Sense and Sensibility in 1811 and Pride and Prejudice in 1813, to modestly good reviews.

Known for her cheerful, modest, and witty character, Jane Austen had a busy family and social life, but as far as we know very little direct romantic experience. There were early flirtations, a quickly retracted agreement to marry the wealthy brother of a friend, and a rumored short-lived attachment -- while she was traveling -- that has not been verified. Her last years were quiet and devoted to family, friends, and writing her final novels. In 1817 she had to interrupt work on her last and unfinished novel, Sanditon, because she fell ill. She died on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, where she had been taken for medical treatment. After her death, her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published, together with a biographical notice, due to the efforts of her brother Henry. Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Author biography courtesy of Barnes & Noble Books.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      December 16, 1775
    2. Place of Birth:
      Village of Steventon in Hampshire, England
    1. Date of Death:
      July 18, 1817
    2. Place of Death:
      Winchester, Hampshire, England
    1. Education:
      Taught at home by her father

Read an Excerpt

BECOMING JANE


Hyperion

Copyright © 2007 Hyperion
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-0904-6


Chapter One

Family

Family-with all its blessings, comforts, torments, and absurdities-plays a pivotal role in the lives of all of Jane Austen's characters, as her own family did in hers. Austen was born on December 16, 1775, into a large and tight-knit family-the seventh of eight children: six boys and two girls. Although her second eldest brother, George, who suffered from seizures and perhaps also deafness and other disorders, was not raised at Steventon with the rest, several cousins made extended visits at various times and, with the addition of the student boarders that her parents took in, the seven-bedroom house in which Jane grew up was a lively and bustling place. It is described by those who visited her family as being filled with witty and thought-provoking conversation, a large library of well-read books, and the frequent performances of home theatricals (much like those Austen wrote about in Mansfield Park), particularly those of the satirical, comedy-of-manners sort. Jane, who as an adolescent began writing her own plays, poems, and literary parodies to amuse her family (and no doubt herself), certainly thrived creatively in this rich and stimulating environment, embarking on a serious literary career by the age of twenty, when she began First Impressions(later revised into Pride and Prejudice).

Austen was close, to varying degrees, to the brothers with whom she was raised. James, the eldest, also had literary leanings; he wrote poetry and, while he was at Oxford, he started a periodical for gentlemen called The Loiterer, which he edited with their brother Henry. Later he became a clergyman, taking over the duties at Steventon after his father retired. Edward, the third, was adopted in his teens by wealthy, childless cousins of the Austens, who were seeking an heir, and were extraordinarily fond of him. (He later officially took on their surname, Knight.) Henry, born fourth, who is said to have been Jane's favorite and who was witty and less serious than his brothers, handled many of the details of publishing her work. He married his first cousin, the glamorous Eliza de Feuillide, whose first husband, a French count, had been guillotined, and who was ten years Henry's senior. Later in life Henry, like James, became a clergyman. Frank (Francis) and Charles, the two youngest boys, entered the navy at an early age, and were away at sea much of the time (though their influence is apparent in the many naval references that appear in Mansfield Park and Persuasion). Both eventually rose to the rank of admiral.

Jane was by far the closest to her only sister, Cassandra, nearly three years her senior. Neither of the sisters ever wed. The two shared a home and, in fact, a bedroom, for the whole of their lives, with Cassandra and her mother (up until her death) carrying out most of the domestic duties. This arrangement lasted until July 18, 1817, when Jane passed away with her head in her sister's lap. Their lifelong intimacy is clear in the frequency of the newsy, chatty letters exchanged between the two whenever they were apart. Jane strove to amuse Cassandra, as she often pointed out in the letters, and her arch, often outrageous observations and insults about their mutual friends and acquaintances were obviously spurred on by that desire.

Austen also had a very large extended family, and frequently traveled to visit them. She felt great affection especially toward the profusion of nephews and nieces provided by her brothers; she seemed to have a special affinity for the role of aunt, and often wrote to her nieces Fanny Knight (later Knatchbull), Anna Austen (later Lefroy), and Caroline Austen; and to her nephew James Edward Austen (later Austen-Leigh, having added a second surname when he became his aunt's-Mrs. Leigh Perrot's-heir). They sought her advice, both of the romantic and the literary sort, as writing talent seemed to run thickly in the Austen blood (Jane's mother, though lacking a great deal of formal education, was known to be a clever letter writer, and also quite adept at rhyming verse), and three of these four nieces and nephews published memoirs revealing a great deal of affection for their Aunt Jane.

"It is very unfair to judge of anybody'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." -Emma Woodhouse to Mr. Knightley, in Emma

* * * A family of ten children will always be called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain ... -from Northanger Abbey

* * *

I am greatly pleased with your account of Fanny; I found her in the summer just what you describe, almost another Sister, & could not have supposed that a neice would ever have been so much to me. She is quite after one's own heart. -from a letter to her sister, Cassandra, about their niece Fanny Knight, October 7-9, 1808

* * *

Miss Frances married, in the common phrase, to disoblige her family, and by fixing on a Lieutenant of Marines, without education, fortune, or connections, did it very thoroughly. -from Mansfield Park

* * *

You will have a great deal of unreserved discourse with Mrs K. [Mrs. Knight, their brother Edward's adoptive mother], I dare say, upon this subject, as well as upon many other of our family matters. Abuse everybody but me. -from a letter to her sister, Cassandra, January 7-8, 1807

* * *

My dear itty Dordy's [Edward Austen (Knight)'s second son, George, Jane's nephew] remembrance of me is very pleasing to me; foolishly pleasing, because I know it will be over so soon. My attachment to him will be more durable; I shall think with tenderness & delight on his beautiful & smiling Countenance & interesting Manners, till a few years have turned him into an ungovernable, ungracious fellow. -from a letter to her sister, Cassandra, October 27-28, 1798

* * *

This ... brought them to the door of Mrs. Thorpe's lodgings.... "Ah, mother! how do you do?" said he, giving her a hearty shake of the hand: "Where did you get that quiz of a hat? it makes you look like an old witch. Here is Morland and I come to stay a few days with you, so you must look out for a couple of beds somewhere near." And this address seemed to satisfy all the fondest wishes of the mother's heart, for she received him with the most delighted and exulting affection. On his two younger sisters he then bestowed an equal portion of his fraternal tenderness, for he asked each of them how they did, and observed that they both looked very ugly. -on John Thorpe, in Northanger Abbey

* * *

To Elizabeth it appeared, that had her family made an agreement to expose themselves as much as they could during the evening, it would have been impossible for them to play their parts with more spirit, or finer success; and happy did she think it for Bingley and her sister that some of the exhibition had escaped his notice, and that his feelings were not of a sort to be much distressed by the folly which he must have witnessed. -on Elizabeth Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice

* * *

His having been in love with the Aunt, gives Cecilia an additional Interest with him. I like the Idea;-a very proper compliment to an Aunt!-I rather imagine indeed that Neices are seldom chosen but in compliment to some Aunt or other. I dare say Ben [Anna's husband] was in love with me once, & wd never have thought of You if he had not supposed me dead of a Scarlet fever. -from a letter to her niece Anna (Austen) Lefroy, referring to characters in a novel that Anna was writing, which she sent to her Aunt Jane for her opinion, November 30, 1814

* * *

... a fond mother, though, in pursuit of praise for her children, the most rapacious of human beings, is likewise the most credulous; her demands are exorbitant; but she will swallow anything. -on Lady Middleton, in Sense and Sensibility

* * *

... Fanny had never known so much felicity in her life, as in this unchecked, equal fearless intercourse with the brother and friend ... with whom ... all the evil and good of their earliest years could be gone over again, and every former united pain and pleasure retraced with the fondest recollection. An advantage this, a strengthener of love, in which even the conjugal tie is beneath the fraternal. Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply. -on Fanny Price and her brother William, in Mansfield Park

* * *

I give you joy of our new nephew, & hope if he ever comes to be hanged, it will not be till we are too old to care about it. -from a letter to her sister, Cassandra, April 25, 1811 (on the birth of their brother Francis William's second son)

* * *

You are inimitable, irresistable. You are the delight of my Life.... You are worth your weight in Gold, or even in the new Silver Coinage.... You are the Paragon of all that is Silly & Sensible, common-place & eccentric, Sad & Lively, Provoking & Interesting.... Oh! what a loss it will be, when you are married. You are too agreable in your single state, too agreable as a Neice. -from a letter to her niece Fanny Knight, February 20-21, 1817

* * *

... I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience. -from Northanger Abbey, referring to the fact that General Tilney's disapproval of Catherine Morland likely was conducive to his son's marrying her

* * *

A lady, without a family, was the very best preserver of furniture in the world. -Mr. Shepherd's view, regarding potential tenants to lease Sir Walter Eliot's house, in Persuasion

* * *

"There are secrets in all families ..." -Mr. Weston to Emma, in Emma

Chapter Two

Juvenilia

Jane Austen's large and truly astonishing collection of early writings, referred to as her juvenilia, has only recently begun to get the kind of public attention that her six completed novels have long received-and that it deserves. Many of these works-sketches, short fiction, verse, several pieces of nonfiction, and the beginnings of some full-length novels-were written by Austen during her adolescent and teenage years (some, scholars think, as early as the age of twelve). Austen copied them into three notebooks that she titled Volume the First, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third, with her typical mock pomp and circumstance. Apparently written for the amusement of her family, to whom she would often read them aloud, they contain lavish dedications that are frequently as entertaining as the pieces themselves. Often satirizing the popular literary modes of her day (as she later did so memorably in Northanger Abbey), as well as social conventions and manners, these pieces practically jump off the page with their bold, sometimes absurdist humor, their remarkable sophistication, and their galloping exuberance. They also stand as an accurate preview of Austen's more mature work, revealing many of the themes that were to continue to engage her, including home life, courtship and marriage, and of course, human folly and frailty.

(Dates for the works have been omitted here, as many are difficult if not impossible to pin down. Also, as is usually the case with her juvenilia, Austen's original spellings have been left intact.)

To Miss Cooper

Cousin Conscious of the Charming Character which in every Country, & every Clime in Christendom is Cried, Concerning you, with Caution & Care I Commend to your Charitable Criticism this Clever Collection of Curious Comments, which have been Carefully Culled, Collected & Classed by your Comical Cousin The Author -dedication of A Collection of Letters, to her cousin Jane Cooper

* * *

Sophia shreiked and fainted on the Ground-I screamed and instantly ran mad.-We remained thus mutually deprived of our Senses some minutes, and on regaining them were deprived of them again. For an Hour and a Quarter did we continue in this unfortunate Situation ... -from Love and Freindship: A novel in a series of Letters, dedicated to "Madame la Comtesse de Feuillide," Jane's cousin, who later married her brother Henry * * * ... but e'er they had been many minutes seated, the Wit & Charms which shone resplendent in the conversation of the amiable Rebecca enchanted them so much that they all with one accord jumped up and exclaimed: "Lovely & too charming Fair one, notwithstanding your forbidding Squint, your greazy tresses & your swelling Back, which are more frightfull than imagination can paint or pen describe, I cannot refrain from expressing my raptures, at the engaging Qualities of your Mind, which so amply atone for the Horror, with which your first appearance must ever inspire the unwary visitor. "Your sentiments so nobly expressed on the different excellencies of Indian & English Muslins, & the judicious preference you give the former, have excited in me an admiration of which I can alone give an adequate idea, by assuring you it is nearly equal to what I feel for myself." Then making a profound Curtesy to the amiable & abashed Rebecca, they left the room & hurried home. -from Frederic and Elfrida: A Novel, dedicated to Martha Lloyd (then Austen's neighbor, and later the second wife of her brother Francis), in thanks for her generosity in "finishing [Austen's] muslin Cloak"

* * *

Henry the 4th ascended the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, after having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2d to resign it to him, & to retire for the rest of his Life to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered ... -from The History of England, from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st, By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian., dedicated to "Miss Austen," her sister, Cassandra

* * *

The Johnsons were a family of Love, & though a little addicted to the Bottle & the Dice, had many good Qualities. -from Jack and Alice: A Novel, inscribed to her brother "Francis William Austen Esq., Midshipman on board his Majesty's Ship the Perseverance, by his obedient humble Servant The Author"

* * *

Chapter the First Cassandra was the Daughter & the only Daughter of a celebrated Millener in Bond Street. Her father was of noble Birth, being the near relation of the Dutchess of --'s Butler. Chapter the 2d When Cassandra had attained her 16th year, she was lovely & amiable, & chancing to fall in love with an elegant Bonnet her Mother had just compleated, bespoke by the Countess of --, she placed it on her gentle Head & walked from her Mother's shop to make her Fortune. Chapter the 3d The first person she met, was the Viscount of--, a young Man, no less celebrated for his Accomplishments & Virtues, than for his Elegance & Beauty. She curtseyed & walked on. Chapter the 4th She then proceeded to a Pastry-cook's, where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away. -from The Beautifull Cassandra: A Novel in Twelve Chapters, dedicated to "Miss Austen," her sister, Cassandra

(Continues...)



Excerpted from BECOMING JANE Copyright © 2007 by Hyperion. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    BECOMING JANE

    As usual, Jane says it so well! And thanks to Anne Newgarden for compiling this little collection of gems. I had actually purchased this as a gift for a friend but fortunately she generously let me borrow it and I've so glad I bought it for her! Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have thought to read it or possibly not even have discovered it. If you love Jane Austen, there is no way you can not enjoy this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2007

    the perfect mixture of romance and mystery

    The book may not have been as good as the movie but it definfinately was close. You learn about the genius who wrote my all time favorite novel pride and prejudice and see the many similarties between jane and elizabeth bennet. I couldn't put the book down.

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    Posted April 7, 2009

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    Posted October 24, 2008

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    Posted February 9, 2009

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