Article image

20 Jane Austen Quotes That Reveal Her Timeless Wit and Wisdom

Jane Austen was an English author still beloved today for her sharp, witty descriptions of the social life of the landed gentry in the early 1800s. While she only lived to age 42, she wrote at least six novels and other works, most notably Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park.

Austen’s writing centers women’s experiences in an insulated world largely dominated by men. Her father was a country Rector and she had six brothers and one sister. She was close to her older sister, Cassandra, and the relationships between sisters are central to her works.

Importantly, Austen published anonymously as, “A Lady,” which was still a relatively bold declaration in an era when women’s literature was printed and respected much less than men’s work. Women authors often used male pen names at the time. Austen’s brother, Henry, helped her to get published and revealed her identity posthumously.

Austen never married. She accepted one proposal then changed her mind, and there are conflicting accounts that she loved a man who died soon after their meeting. After their father died, her brothers helped Austen, her mother, and her sister with their finances. While she became a successful author, she was still vulnerable to the fates and fortunes of men — a fact that is reflected in her protagonists’ lives.

Austen’s dry humor, engaging dialogue, gift for capturing the absurdities and poignancies of human relationships, and deft storytelling landed her a place in the Western canon of literature. Her works are still read and studied, and her popularity endures — in 2017 she was featured on a £10 bank note, and her works have been frequently adapted for both TV and film, most recently in the 2020 movie, Emma.

Perhaps her most powerful legacy is in helping to establish the value of a woman's story told by a woman. Here are 20 quotes that exemplify her keen and sensitive voice.

Nothing ever fatigues me, but doing what I do not like.
“Mansfield Park”

Share Quote

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.
“Mansfield Park”

Share Quote

I am only resolved to act in that manner which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness.
"Pride and Prejudice"

Share Quote

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

Share Quote

It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her.
“Emma”

Share Quote

Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.
“Persuasion”

Share Quote

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid.
"Northanger Abbey"

Share Quote

Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked.
Jane Austen’s Letters

Share Quote

It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire.
“Northanger Abbey”

Share Quote

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?
“Pride and Prejudice”

Share Quote

I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.
Jane Austen’s letters

Share Quote

But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We, none of us, expect to be in smooth water all our days.
“Persuasion”

Share Quote

It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.
“Sense and Sensibility”

Share Quote

Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.
“Pride and Prejudice”

Share Quote

Without music, life would be a blank to me.
“Emma”

Share Quote

One man’s style must not be the rule of another’s.
“Emma”

Share Quote

There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature.
“Northanger Abbey”

Share Quote

Angry people are not always wise.
“Pride and Prejudice”

Share Quote

The distance is nothing, when one has motive.
“Pride and Prejudice”

Share Quote

But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them forever.
“Pride and Prejudice”

Share Quote

Photo credit: itstarynnnn/ Unsplash

Author image
About the Author
Julia Travers
Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher.
Play more header background
Play more icon
Daily Question
What playwright said, “Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand"?

More Inspiration

happiness theme icon

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.

separator icon
Mary Shelley
motivation theme icon

It isn't a sadness, but a joy, that we don't do the same things for the length of our lives.

separator icon
Gabrielle Zevin
hope theme icon

In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.

separator icon
Patti Smith
love theme icon

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

separator icon
Martin Buber
wisdom theme icon

Happiness is a simple, frugal heart.

separator icon
Nikos Kazantzakis
happiness theme icon

It's only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.

separator icon
Margaret Wander Bonanno
motivation theme icon

Don't plan it all. Let life surprise you a little.

separator icon
Julia Alvarez
hope theme icon

Our heads are round so thought can change direction.

separator icon
Francis Picabia
love theme icon

My only advice is to stay aware, listen carefully, and yell for help if you need it.

separator icon
Judy Blume
wisdom theme icon

The meaning of life is to find your gift. To find your gift is happiness.

separator icon
Terry Pratchett
happiness theme icon

The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

separator icon
eden ahbez