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Jane Austen (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Jane Austen (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Jane Austen (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen knows a thing or two. In fact, while her characters are sometimes vain and sometimes silly, they’re often supernaturally wise on matters of society, decorum and philosophy. And the reason for this is simple: So was Jane Austen. All of her novels and a good deal of her personal correspondence contain smart thoughts and good advice that anyone would do well to take as a personal motto.

Just don’t get them tattooed anywhere. One senses Ms. Austen would not approve:

“Nobody minds having what is too good for them.” – Mansfield Park

“One cannot have too large a party.” — Emma

“Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.” — Pride and Prejudice

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

“They are much to be pitied who have not been given a taste for nature early in life.” — Mansfield Park

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

“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody.” — Mansfield Park

“Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.” — Emma

“Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name: Call it hope.” — Sense and Sensibility

“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.” — Northanger Abbey

“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.” — Pride and Prejudice

“One man’s style must not be the rule of another’s.” — Emma

“Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion.” — Pride and Prejudice

“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” — Emma

“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.” — Persuasion

“Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.” — Emma

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” — Pride and Prejudice

“There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.” — Emma

“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” — Personal correspondence

“Without music, life would be a blank to me.” — Emma

“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” — Pride and Prejudice

“Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim.” — Northanger Abbey

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

“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.” — Pride and Prejudice

“Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like.” — Mansfield Park

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By Fraser McAlpine