Sense and Sensitivity
Jane Austen wrote as a Christian, but all the better for doing so unobtrusively.
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Sense and Sensitivity

From a review in the ‘Quarterly Review’, Volume XXIV, No. LXVIII (January 1821), by Richard Whately.

Jane Austen’s novels are not fluffy romances, but profound modern fables, leaving the reader amused but also thinking about serious subjects. Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, was one of the first reviewers to recognise what Jane was hoping to achieve, and appreciate her way of achieving it.

MISS Austin has the merit (in our judgment most essential) of being evidently a Christian writer: a merit which is much enhanced, both on the score of good taste, and of practical utility, by her religion being not at all obtrusive.

She might defy the most fastidious critic to call any of her novels, (as Coelebs was designated, we will not say altogether without reason,) a ‘dramatic sermon.’* The subject is rather alluded to, and that incidentally, than studiously brought forward and dwelt upon.

For when the purpose of inculcating a religious principle is made too palpably prominent, many readers, if they do not throw aside the book with disgust, are apt to fortify themselves with that respectful kind of apathy with which they undergo a regular sermon, and prepare themselves as they do to swallow a dose of medicine, endeavouring to get it down in large gulps, without tasting it more than is necessary.

* ‘Coelebs in Search of a Wife’ is a novel by Hannah More (1745-1833) published in 1809, and followed by ‘Coelebs Married’ five years later. Hannah More was a successful novelist and playwright (Mozart possessed a copy of her play ‘Percy’), a philanthropist, and a vocal anti-slavery campaigner.

From a review in the ‘Quarterly Review’, Volume XXIV, No. LXVIII (January 1821), by Richard Whately.

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Jane Austen (13) Extracts from Literature (74)

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Picture: The Church of St Nicholas in Chawton, Hampshire, was the parish church for Jane Austen after the death of her father in 1805, though the building she knew was destroyed by fire in 1871. Her mother and sister, both named Cassandra, are buried in the churchyard; Jane herself lies in Winchester Cathedral.
© Rob Farrow, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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