“I WILL be calm; I WILL be mistress of myself”: Wisdom from Jane Austen

The spark that ignites friendships is a moment “when you’re like, yes exactly” (Uh, yes. I just quoted my own song lyrics.). The same is true of literary friendships, and Jane Austen perhaps most of all connects with me on this emotional level – she describes real human feeling and behavior so neatly and truthfully that there are lots of moments when I’m like, yes exactly. Here are some of my favorite lines from Sense & Sensibility, in which I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of Marianne’s “sense” and Elinor’s “sensibility.” The first time I read this novel, a few years ago, I was firmly the firey rebel Marianne, and was surprised to see how my allegiance and sympathy have altered over a short period of time.

“And besides all this, I am afraid, Mama, he has no real taste. Music seems scarcely to attract him, and though he admires Elinor’s drawings very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their worth. It is evident, in spite of his frequent attention to her while she draws, that in fact he knows nothing of the matter. He admires as a lover, not as a connoisseur. To satisfy me, those characters must be united.” – Marianne

“Excuse me…and be assured that I meant no offence to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of my own feelings. Believe them to be stronger than I have declared; believe them, in short, to be such as his merit, and the suspicion – the hope of his affection for me may warratn, without imprudence or folly. But farther than this you must not believe. I am by no means assured of his regard for me. There are moments when the extent of it seems doubtful; and till his sentiments are fully known, you cannot wonder at my wishing to avoid any encouragement of my own partiality, by believing or calling it more than it is.” – Elinor

“Colonel Brandon alone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures. He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for him on the occasion.”

“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; – it is disposition alone.” – Marianne

“[Elinor] knew her sister’s temper. Opposition on so tender a subject would only attach her the more to her own opinion.”

“Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings which made such a composure a disgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it.”

“[Marianne] sometimes endeavoured for a few minutes to read; but the book was soon thrown aside, and she returned to the more interesting employment of walking backwards and forwards across the room, pausing for a moment whenever she came to the window, in hopes of distinguishing the long-expected rap.”

“I WILL be calm; I WILL be mistress of myself.” – Elinor


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