Jane Austen on Love (and Life)


Reading a Book

I have written about Jane Austen here before, but I love her writing and the lessons of her novels so much that there is always more to write about.

Jane is never preachy, but her characters show or don’t show Christian values. It’s obvious who is leading a good life and who is not. The goodness of the heroines shines forth. And the men show or don’t show, as the case may be, valor.

This virtue and valor is necessary for love (and provides us modern ladies and gentlemen with valuable lessons to consider on our own roads to happily ever after).

For example, in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen gives examples of marriages that foster the development of love, such as those of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and Jane and Mr. Bingley.

Lizzy found true love because she recognized the depth of Darcy’s character (shown most visibly in his help with the Lydia-Wickham scandal, which proves his love for Lizzy; praise by those who know him best doesn’t hurt either). “I am the happiest creature in the world,” she says. “Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles. I laugh.”

After Darcy’s second proposal, Lizzy tells her father, “I do, I do like him. I love him. Indeed, he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is.”

This emphasizes the importance of knowing a person well when contemplating marriage.

Lizzy knows what Darcy really is, which is needed for love: Love means knowing who someone truly is and loving them because of it, strengths, weaknesses and all.

Then there’s Mr. Knightley, from the novel Emma, who rescues Harriet, in the process showing he lives up to his name, as does his care of Emma: He makes sure she lives up to the goodness he sees in her and even agrees to move in with her father to make everyone happy once they are married.

And who can forget Captain Wentworth in Persuasion? He admired Anne’s loving care of others. “No one is as capable as Anne,” he observes.

“I have loved none but you … too good, too excellent creature!” he writes her in what may be the most romantic letter in literature.
His letter leaves her feeling “overpowering happiness.”

These lessons are so important for us: Knowing someone’s depth of character is so key to discerning marriage, as is knowledge of what love is (1 Corinthians 13) and true compatibility.

Thanks for the reminders, Jane!

Amy Smith is the associate editor for the National Catholic Register.



  1. Amelia-932700 June 24, 2014 Reply

    Has anyone mentioned here the book by Elizabeth Kantor, “The Jane Austin Guide to Happily Ever After”? It was published in 2012 and using the writings of Jane Austin and her characters and applies them to the modern dating scene. It is excellent!! She also references various well known books currently in print about dating and brings the advice up a notch. Elizabeth Kantor is a convert to Catholicism.

  2. Chris-1076849 June 10, 2014 Reply

    Never heard of Jane Austin. Pretty interesting. I will look it up. Thanks.

    • Meesch-691047 June 26, 2014 Reply

      Have you read the novels yet. Persuasion is probably the shortest and my personal favorite! Emma is great but long so watch the movie (look for a BBC version). Then Pride and Prejudice… probably the most famous one of them all. Sense and Sensibility is boring at first but then gets really good and quick at the end (again, watch the BBC miniseries) Northanger Abbey is ok, Mansfield Park is very charming too and probably would make a good audio tape.

  3. David-870960 June 7, 2014 Reply

    Hmm … is it odd that a guy has read and thoroughly enjoyed Jane Austin? Most of the movies are well done, and one of my favorites is an adaptation called “Lost in Austin”; it’s a fun show. I have tended to see some of myself in Mr Darcy in that I have quietly helped people – almost not wanting anyone to know I’ve done it. As it happens, my Great Aunt played Lady Catherine in the 1932 “Pride and Prejudice”; I never met her, but I clearly recall her Brother, my Mom’s Grandfather – they could’ve been twins.

    • Ann-69118 June 12, 2014 Reply

      Not odd at all. Jane’s writting is timeless and still speaks of truths with still deal with today. My dad was a big Austen fan an loved the language and how it was written as well as all the quirky characters in stories. There still a lot of well meaning parents out there like Elizabeth’s who while we love them they do embarrass or disappoint us from time to time. There’s still Rogue’s out there Like Whillobee who think of nothing about using others but yet may still find love only to let is go for financial security. There are plenty of Mr. Elliots out there who are consumed by vanity and can’t see past it or even the irony of their own actions. All these people can be found today that’s why we can still relate.

    • Meesch-691047 June 26, 2014 Reply

      Men… reading and enjoying Jane Austen? It is a rare and marvelous miracle of the world! Teach all young men to read such treasures! Share the wisdom- especially about writing beautiful, heartfelt hand written letters! That NEVER goes out of style and is much more appreciative and romantic than a cellphone text or email.

  4. Joan-529855 June 7, 2014 Reply

    I too must revisit Jane Austen this summer. I fell in “love” with Darcy as a young girl; he was always such a gentleman!

  5. Alma-953915 June 7, 2014 Reply

    Loved this article! It really makes me think of the seriousness of marriage and what love is. Looks like I’m doing some book shopping soon!

  6. Michelle-989480 June 6, 2014 Reply

    I must revisit Jane Austen as part of my summer reading. Thanks for the reminder, Amy!

    • Meesch-691047 June 7, 2014 Reply

      I LOVE Jane Austen! I have found that Elisabeth Elliot as well!

  7. Carole-1080999 June 6, 2014 Reply

    Hi Amy, I love the novels …..I love your post. I love those times, when everyone was civil to each other,kind, respectful,endearing ! It was so romantic, and mostly honest,not pretentious ! They were true Gentleman, and true Ladies ,but there were few exceptions ,of course . The courtships seemed to be wonderful,exciting, full of anticipation, and respect……. (Of course again there were exceptions). Love everything about that era ! I’m a romantic I know ! Blessings. CAROLE

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