Inexpressible Joy

Jane once wrote in a letter to Cassandra, “I had a very pleasant evening, however, though you will probably find out that there was no particular reason for it; but I do not think it worthwhile to wait for enjoyment until there is some real opportunity for it.”  On another occasion, she wrote this in her typical dry humor: “Next week [I] shall begin my operations on my hat, on which You know my principal hopes of happiness depend.”

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Search Our Hearts, O God

In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price struggles with less than charitable feelings toward Mary Crawford throughout the novel because she is jealous of the time and attention Edmund gives her. As Edmund becomes increasingly interested in Miss Crawford, Fanny is frequently displaced and forgotten: When Miss Crawford needs a horse to ride, she’s given Fanny’s mare; when Miss Crawford wants to walk farther at Sotherton, Fanny is left behind on a bench; and when Miss Crawford goes to the piano to sing, Edmund leaves Fanny’s side to follow. Continue reading “Search Our Hearts, O God”

Make Us Like You

In this portion of her prayer, Jane prays for “a truly Christian Spirit.” That spirit is one that looks like Jesus, our “highest Example.” She prays for that “temper of Forbearance & Patience” that Jesus exemplified in his life and death. The reason: to prepare “for the spiritual Happiness of the life to come” and “secure . . . the best enjoyment of what this world can give.”

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Redeeming The Time

Mrs. John Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility is perhaps the greediest and most self-centered character in Jane Austen’s novels. When her father-in-law dies, leaving his fortune and estate to her husband, she manipulates her husband so thoroughly that instead of giving his stepsisters “a thousand pounds a-piece,” he decides to give them no financial help whatsoever. When the funeral is over, she arrives at Norland, “without sending any notice of her intention to her mother-in-law,” with her son and their servants.  She “install[s] herself mistress,” while “her mother and sisters-in-law” are “degraded to the condition of visitors.”  Her only regret: that her mother-in-law gets to keep the “china, plate, and linen.”

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Fervent In Prayer

In Mansfield Park, the “handsome chapel” at Mr. Rushworth’s estate was “formerly in constant use both morning and evening. Prayers were always read in it by the domestic chaplain, within the memory of many; but the late Mr. Rushworth left it off.” Miss Crawford quips that “every generation has its improvements,” but Fanny responds passionately, saying it’s a “pity” the chapel is no longer used for daily prayers: “There is something in a chapel and chaplain so much in character with a great house, with one’s ideas of what such a household should be! A whole family assembling regularly for the purpose of prayer is fine!”

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A Fervent Faith

When we think of fervent devotion in Jane’s novels, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth come to mind. Though they fall “rapidly and deeply in love,” Anne is pressured to break their engagement and Wentworth goes to sea. Years pass, but they never stop loving each other. Captain Wentworth tries to forget Anne but has “never seen a woman since whom he thought her equal” and has only “imagined himself indifferent.”

As for Anne, she regrets giving him up and wishes she had acted differently: “No one had ever come within the Kellynch circle, who could bear a comparison with Frederick Wentworth, as he stood in her memory.” When they finally reunite, they are “more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected.” Anne and Wentworth do not have a lukewarm kind of affection for one another. Their love has been tested by fire; it is fervent and devoted.

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