The Wicked Wit of Jane Austen Compiled by Dominique Enright

Jane Austen is arguably the greatest of English women novelists. Admired for her sharp, indeed often wicked, social observation, her satirical wit and the brilliance of her comic realism, Jane's novels have lured readers back to them again and again, while her letters make for the most entertaining reading.

Her family's richer relations gave Jane insight to the ways of the country gentry. It was a class to which she neither belonged nor always admired, but with her own middle class family living under the ever-present shadow of poverty, Jane recognized and understood the power of social position and the security of money. She disliked the necessity of marriage, but understood the benefits a good marriage could bring.

Although she died in 1817 at a relatively young age, the keen comedy of Jane's work continues to be as fresh today as when the novels were first published. The Wicked Wit of Jane Austen is a fascinating collection of Jane's sharpest, most profound and amusing observations - on human nature, money, marriage, life and society, taken from her novels and letters.

Jane Austen had little contact with society outside of her extended family, and none whatsoever with London literary life. Yet the novels earned the acclaim of such literary figures as Sir Walter Scott, who praised her 'talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life'.

'If there is anything disagreeable going on, men are always sure to get out of it.'
Mary Musgrove, Persuasion

He and I should not in the least agree of course, in our ideas and novels and heroines; - pictures of perfection as you know make me sick and wicked.
Jane Austen in a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight

We met...Dr Hall in such very deep mourning that either his mother, his wife or himself must be dead.
Letter to Cassandra

We found only Mrs Lance at home, and whether she boasts any offspring besides a grand pianoforte did not appear...They (the Lances) will not come pften, I dare say. They live in a handsome style and are rich, and she seemed to like to be rich, and we gave her to understand that we were far from being so; she will soon feel therefore that we are not worth her acquaintance.
Letter to Cassandra

'A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.'
Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

I do not want people to be very agreeable as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.
Letter to Cassandra

About Jane Austen

The seventh child of a country parson, Jane Austen was born in Hampshire in December 1775, and although she was brought up in an academic household her formal education was limited.

Her first publication was Sense and Sensibility which came out in 1811; this was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814, and Emma in 1816. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously in 1818. She was not widely known as their author in her lifetime - indeed she was fiercely private and against self-promotion - but her novels were well received and the Prince Regent kept a set in each of his residences.

She died on 18 July 1817, and is buried in Winchester Cathedral. Although obituaries ran in several newspapers, her novels were soon out of print, but found their way back into circulation around 1870, since when they have remained an undisputed part of our literary heritage.