Your Sunday Austen Meditation


This was inspired by an e-mail we received today. We are not sure whether to share its contents with our Gentle Readers; it might be giving it more attention (good or bad) than it deserves. However, upon further consideration, the passage also is germane in relation to other behind-the-scenes goings-on in Janeiteland of late; we really wish more Janeites would take the lessons of Austen’s work, as well as the fun and romance, to heart. Thus, for your study and consideration, from Emma, Vol. III, Chap. X:

“Well,” said Emma, “I suppose we shall gradually grow reconciled to the idea, and I wish them very happy. But I shall always think it a very abominable sort of proceeding. What has it been but a system of hypocrisy and deceit,–espionage, and treachery?–To come among us with professions of openness and simplicity; and such a league in secret to judge us all!–Here have we been, the whole winter and spring, completely duped, fancying ourselves all on an equal footing of truth and honour, with two people in the midst of us who may have been carrying round, comparing and sitting in judgment on sentiments and words that were never meant for both to hear.–They must take the consequence, if they have heard each other spoken of in a way not perfectly agreeable!”

Here endeth the lesson.

(We really did mean this to become a regular feature, and now maybe it will.)

8 thoughts on “Your Sunday Austen Meditation

  1. A. Marie

    Yes, please do make the Sunday meditation a regular feature, as I was hoping on the first such post. And if you’re confronting another AustenBlog ethical dilemma, I’m also hoping you’ll lay it before the readership. I very much appreciated the debate on the last such occasion (the young lady who made comments here that came back to haunt her).

    Finally, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a Gentleman Janeite on the way to the Portland airport after last year’s AGM. He had been rather put off at the banquet by some of his tablemates’ behaving badly about perceived inadequacies in the service. I remarked, and he agreed wholeheartedly, that such folks didn’t seem to have absorbed a tenet of JA’s implicit moral code–that is, one should not take on about minor inconveniences in such a way as to make other people uncomfortable. (See, e.g., Mary Musgrove.) Why many people think of JA as just a romance writer, and not an excellent and reliable guide to general conduct, is beyond me.


    • Not a moral dilemma. Just wondering if I should give attention to someone who is clearly craving it–whether negative or positive.


    • Yes, I find that all of the books I most love are those which, like Austen’s novels, offer guidance, both in understanding what life is really like and in having some idea of how to conduct oneself. Her books aren’t mere romances into which we can escape, but something broader in which we can engage and emerge better equipped to get through life!

      Austen continues to win new audiences in successive generations because quotes like the above so perfectly fit the social circumstances not just of the author’s time but of any time. Thank you for posting it:)


  2. AnneK

    Love to see this as a regular feature. And a discussion in the comments section, too.

    I think the quote says as much about Emma as it does about the happy couple. She did not care to be duped and pretty much made a fool of, especially by Frank Churchill, whose lack of sensibility and awareness of others seemed to be his primary character traits. Of course, Emma herself had more than a touch of the same brushes, didn’t she? Austen had a genius for writing self-involved characters, but in “Emma” she really outdid herself.


  3. Maria L.

    I cast my vote for a regular feature; I love a little Sunday meditation, even when I engage upon it on a Tuesday.

    It’s so amusing to watch in this novel, as in life, how the people who have the highest opinions of themselves (the Eltons, Frank, even dear Emma) are the least likely to merit them!


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