What Would Jane (Austen) Do?

Moral lessons on pride and conceit in Austen's novels help us understand what it means to be a virtuous Christian.

Editor's Note:

Ready to pursue a writing career full-time, author Lori Smith quit her day job and took a few months off to fulfill a lifelong dream--head to England and visit all the places that were near and dear to Jane Austen's heart. Starting her journey in Oxford and ending in Stoneleigh, Lori Smith muses the connections between Austen's writings and the faith journey, opens herself to possible romance, and writes about her day-to-day contemplations about Christianity. In an excerpt from her travel journal-turned-memoir, Lori Smith meditates on the Christian values and moral themes we can learn from Austen's six novels.

Tonight I sat in a row of folding chairs in gorgeous little Christ Church Cathedral, where the air felt dusty and holy, and what hit me with full spiritual force in my exhaustion was the grace and goodness of God—that which I've begun to hope for in the everyday circumstances of my life but not entirely expect. I kept hearing those words in my head, and as I looked up at where the stone arches meet in the ceiling, I could imagine this goodness coming down to me. The Evensong prayers and the hymns and the readings and the gorgeously sung psalms—all of them added up to the message that I am not beyond grace and that perhaps I can hope even now, on this trip, for God's abundant blessings, whatever form those might take.


I don't know what Jane would have made of these terribly serious spiritual musings. She was entrenched in the church because of her father and brothers, but she didn't write anything that would hint at any spiritual angst, any struggle to believe or not believe, or even any deep spiritual emotion. Perhaps her faith was just an accepted part of her life, as steady and unquestioned as the Hampshire seasons. She seems to have judged her own Christian life the way she evaluated those around her—not by what she felt about God, but by how she lived, how she treated others.

Her nephew James Edward wrote about her spiritual reserve, about how she was "more inclined to

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