During her first night at Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland’s imagination gets the better of her. In the old, dark, and drafty house, with a storm raging outside, it doesn’t take much for the fanciful Catherine to lose her nerve. When she goes to her chamber at the end of the evening, she enters “her room with a tolerably stout heart.” However, once her fire dies down and her candle goes out, Catherine’s bravery quickly dissolves.
This portion of Jane’s prayer is a prayer of intercession. In it, Jane prays on behalf of “all” who are suffering or are “in any circumstance of danger or distress.” Her words reflect her confidence in God’s ability to strengthen us during times of pain and trial, comfort us in our seasons of deepest need, provide us with his tangible help and presence in life’s hardest moments, and give us “patience under every affliction.”
In Mansfield Park, Fanny experiences distress on a daily basis. She has no voice, her opinions are misunderstood, and her wishes are disregarded. Her little attic room and her conversations with Edmund are her only refuge. She exists in a kind of middle-world between servant and family member, “carrying messages, and fetching” what others want. She suffers from various causes of loneliness and heartache throughout much of the novel.
By all accounts, Jane did embody a “benevolent spirit toward every fellow-creature,” in her relationships with her friends, acquaintances, and family. She was particularly loving toward her nieces and nephews. It doesn’t appear that Jane’s writing schedule or personal agenda ruled her life or her days or that she was annoyed by the talk, play, or presence of small children. In fact, quite the reverse seems true. Jane was generous with her time and her talents.
Austen family letters and memoirs show that Jane was a loving and affectionate aunt who enjoyed family life and entertained the children in her family with “the most delightful stories, chiefly of Fairy-land,” in which “her fairies had all characters of their own.” And though she wrote quite prolifically in the latter part of her life, she still spent time with her family and was reportedly “the general favourite with children; her ways with them being so playful, and her long circumstantial stories so delightful.” Continue reading “A Benevolent Spirit”