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Sunday, August 31, 2014

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! | Favorite Lines in Austen: A Janeite Conversation

I have just done the thing I mock other people for, which is to use Caroline Bingley's famous words on reading in earnest. I've always found it so silly when people quote Caroline as if she's being serious and is a lover of the written word, when we all know, she's really just trying (and failing) to capture a man's attention...
But whatever, in this context, the quote is appropriate, AND it highlights something I'll be talking about in my response to Northanger Abbey, which is that Austen's words have take on a life of their own. To that end, our final Janeite conversation of this year is on our favorite Austen-penned lines. It's a difficult choice to make, and you've no sooner said your favorite than you realize, 'But wait! I forgot about...' Well, tough. I ask the difficult questions here. ;)
I asked...
This may be near impossible, but if you HAD to choose, what would be your absolute most favorite line in all of Austen?

CECILIA: This question is so cruel!! I love so many. I feel like if I pick one and then someone else picks another I'll have regrets. AGH!
MISTY: Them's the breaks! (But yeah, I still don't know what I'm going to pick...) While Cecilia (and I) think about it, anyone know there's right off?
ALEXA:"I do not cough for my own amusement."
MISTY: Ha! Well, that was surprisingly easy for you, Alexa. Also, hilarious, and I don't think you'll have competition for that one — but it does really capture the wry tone Austen has, doesn't it?
JOY: “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Even though the scene is hardly romantic!
MISTY: You can't not love him in that moment, even though you want to shake him. And you can't not cheer for Lizzy when she lets him have it!
ANNA: My favorite line, of course, is from Mr. Darcy to Lizzie: “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
MISTY: From the failed attempt to the reboot! I knew Darcy's lines would make the list — which saved me the trouble of having to pick them! =P  Okay, we're getting down to the end . . . Cecilia? How you doin' over there?
CECILIA: *looks panicked* Okay, one line one line one line. How about….
From Emma – "I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other." Emma says this to Knightley when they're arguing over whether Harriet is sincere in her attentions to Mr. Martin. It is delivered with playful arrogance and an example of Emma's immaturity, but I think it's a life motto. Girls often accept less than they should…in terms of equal pay, fair treatment, and credit for work. For me, it's practically a manifesto: don't be scared of your value.
MISTY: That is a damn good line. See, that wasn't so bad, was it?
CECILIA: *falls over*
MISTY: Okay, that just leaves me and Maria. I think I've almost got mine, but Maria, go ahead with yours.
MARIA: My favorite line is from one of her letters: "I do not want people to be very agreeable as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal."  It just sounds so very much like Jane Austen!
MISTY: Gah! That's the one I was thinking about choosing! Okay, I'm going to cheat a little and not just do a line, but a little exchange. The last line is my line, but you need the whole scene to get the impact of it:
"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I will not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."

Darcy smiled and said, "You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers."
I start getting happy butterflies the closer and closer I get to this scene when I reread it. I love it so much, it physically hurts me to see it mangled in film or written adaptations! It just seems to so perfectly sum up everything, from who Darcy & Lizzy are at their cores to why it is that they find themselves at odds. BONUS POINTS for being Darcy's first attempt at some real flirting! Sheer perfection.

Now that you know ours, what are some of YOURS? Let us know in the comments!
And if you're in the mood for more quote-lovin', make sure to check out Sam's list of her faves from earlier in the month!

Special thanks to the authors:
Alexa Adams, author of the Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice series
Maria Grace, author of the Given Good Principles series and Remember the Past
Cecilia Gray, author of the Jane Austen Academy series
Joy Penny, author of A Love for the Pages
Anna Small, author of How to Marry a Rogue, In the Arms of an Earl and Back in His Arms Again

Click the button or HERE to return to the Austen in August main page!


  1. Ha! The letter line is my favorite, Cecilia. Now I've got to keep thinking. Hmm, how about "I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine." Lizzy from P&P of course

  2. There are so many favourite lines! I have taught my children to say "I don't cough for my amusement" if anybody comments on them coughing, just for MY amusement.

    Aside from the ones already quoted, I would add: "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can" from Mansfield Park. I think this sums up Jane Austen's attitude as a writer, and this is just why as a reader I love her so much because it mirrors my attitude as a reader.

    And the whole of Captain Wentworth's letter, which is the most perfect page I've ever read :)

  3. I seriously had so much anxiety over this post. Now that it's out I feel much calmer. I hadn't even thought to go to some of Jane's private correspondence (Maria, you sly minx) which opens up a whole new world of options, too. I guess the beauty of this topic, in retrospect, is there is no wrong answer.

    You also mention hating it, Misty, when an actor mangles a line but there have also been times I've seen a line delivered in a way that transformed how I felt about it. A prime example for me is the conversation in Persuasion between Anne and Harville on women's fickleness. I originally read that conversation as a contentious exchange and seeing it acted changed how I felt about it.

    1. Oh, absolutely! That's one of the reasons I love Austen adaptations (books, I mean, but film too) - even when they're bad, they will occasionally present something in a way I had never even considered, and it's like reading it for the first time again, just for a split second.
      Love that feeling. =D

  4. So many amazing lines...I salute you all for managing to pick just one!


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