Memorable Jane Austen Quotes From Her Novels and Letters

Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817), the beloved British author, was deeply invested in her craft as a wordsmith. Her talent was recognized early on and valued by her family.

Jane’s father, a country rector, and her brothers played key roles in getting her works published at a time when it was considered unseemly for women to put themselves forth in business.

She longed to see her work in print, regardless of whether or not it would gain her fame or fortune — but getting it published was important to her, contrary to the myth about her extreme modesty.


Many memorable quotes emerged from her six published books and surviving letters. Here are some of our favorite Jane Austen quotes.

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Sense and Sensibility (1811)

Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility stamp 2013

More quotes from Sense and Sensibility

“People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid them.” 

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

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“The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”

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“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience — or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”

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“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;—it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.” 

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“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”

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Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice Stamp 2013

More quotes from Pride and Prejudice

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

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“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” 

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“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” 

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“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”

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“I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.” 

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“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

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“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

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“I dearly love a laugh… I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”

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Mansfield Park (1814)

Jane Austen Mansfield Park stamp 2013

More quotes from Mansfield Park

“Good-humoured, unaffected girls, will not do for a man who has been used to sensible women. They are two distinct orders of being.” 

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

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“There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.” 

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

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“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” 

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“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.” 

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“Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.”

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Emma (1815)

Jane Austen Emma stamp 2013

More quotes from Emma

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,’ said she afterwards to herself.  ‘There is nothing to be compared to it.  Warmth and tenderness of heart, with an affectionate, open manner, will beat all the clearness of head in the world, for attraction: I am sure it will.” 

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“I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.” 

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“Why not seize the pleasure at once, how often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparations.”

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“It is very difficult for the prosperous to be humble.”

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“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.” 

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“Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I have never been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine.”

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Northanger Abbey (1817)

Jane Austen Stamp Northanger Abbey 2013

More quotes from Northanger Abbey

“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.”

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

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“It is only a novel … or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” 

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“No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.” 

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“A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”

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“To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.”

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“Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.” 

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Persuasion (1817)

Jane Austen Persuasion stamp 2013

More quotes from Persuasion

 

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”

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“I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

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“The last few hours were certainly very painful,” replied Anne: “but when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering.” 

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“She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time; but alas! Alas! She must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.”

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“I do think that men can forget a lost love quickly. I know that women would find it much harder.” 

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Quote from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

You might also like: Jane Austen’s Literary Ambitions
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From Jane Austen’s letters

“I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.” (from a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1798)

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“An artist cannot do anything slovenly.” (from a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1798)

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“The pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity and taste and opinions will make good amends for orange wine.” (from a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1808)

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“I begin already to weigh my words and sentences more than I did, and am looking about for a sentiment, an illustration or a metaphor in every corner of the room. Could my Ideas flow as fast as the rain in the Store closet it would be charming.” (from a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1809)

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“The work [Pride and Prejudice] is rather too light and bright and sparking; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter — of senses if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense — about something unconnected with the story… anything that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general style.” (from a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1813)

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“I must make use of this opportunity to thank you, dear Sir, for the very high praise you bestow on my other novels. I am too vain to wish to convince you that you have praised them beyond their merits. My greatest anxiety at present is that this fourth work should not disgrace what was good in the others.” (from a letter to a librarian, 1815)  

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“I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible Vanity, the most unlearned, & uninformed Female who ever dared to be an Authoress.” (from a letter to James Stainer, 1815)

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“Wisdom is better than wit, and in the long run will certainly have the laugh on her side.” (from a letter to her niece, 1814)

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Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen page on Amazon 
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3 Responses to “Memorable Jane Austen Quotes From Her Novels and Letters”

  1. Unfortunately, two quotes in your list are not by Jane Austen, they are not from the novels you refer to but from adaptations of such works, but are repeatedly mentioned in all the net as if they were hers.

    One is “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”, which does not appear in Sense and Sensibility (1811) nor in any of her correspondence, it springs from Sense and Sensibility 2008, the BBC miniseries, script by Andrew Davies. If you search the novel, other of Austen’s works and letters, you would never find it.

    The other is “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.” which is how Patricia Rozema transformed it to her Mansfield Park film in 1999. The original Austen quote comes from chapter 10 in Mansfield Park and goes: “from the time of their sitting down to table, it was a quick succession of busy nothings till the carriage came to the door”

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