Persuasions #11, 1989                                                                                                                                                              Page 16-18

Eulogies to Jane Austen


Presented July 22, 1989 on the occasion of the (almost) 172nd anniversary of her death, at JASNA-Illinois regional meeting. 

(Note: This meeting was a lawn party at a member’s home in Lake Forest, with participants asked to bring a box lunch and a “sit-upon.”  Lemonade and tea were provided.) 


Chicago IL

 I have heard of Miss Austen’s book, yes wasn’t Jane telling us of it just yesterday or, stay, no it was the day before yesterday because that day it rained and so hard that she could not take her walk or even go to Fords for the length of worsted for my mother’s petticoat – for you know our petticoats are very strong, as I was telling Mr. Frank Churchill – and last such a long time but even we need a new one sometimes – but however Jane said oh it doesn’t matter, I did get out early to get the mail and that will do as a walk and I will just read a little of Miss Austen’s novel – Miss Woodhouse was so kind as to lend it – and Jane reads so well – I don’t say she reads as well as Miss Woodhouse but we love the way Jane reads, but however I didn’t want her to tire herself – but she said she wasn’t tired, she enjoyed reading Miss Austen’s novel – it was full of the most pleasant obliging people and such surprising happenings, I was quite perplexed how it was going to end – astonishing how anyone and such an agreeable lady too could find the time to write it all down so regular and connected, and so many people as were in it every one better than the next, but however to be sure there was some wicked ones too, but I am thankful that I have never known any I have been blest with the kindest neighbours in the world – but I was shocked – I think everyone must be when they hear it – shocked at Elizabeth refusing Mr. Darcy – I wanted to say Miss Bennet, Miss Bennet, what are you about – and the way she talked to him – to be sure with great spirit but for a young lady – I was quite frightened – our Jane would never talk that way – oh, you really must go, and you won’t have another piece of cake? – well, Jane said Miss Austen’s novel was just the thing for a wet July evening and my mother only fell asleep after the third chapter. 




Chicago IL

I have been asked to present a tribute to a young woman named “Jane Austen.”  I am grateful to my gracious hostess for this invitation.  I am sure it is due to the profession of which I have the honour to be a member.  It is well known that a clergyman is everywhere respected.  I am also most grateful to my gracious hostess for the delicious food of which I have partaken.  One moment – my dear Charlotte has reminded me that our housekeeper prepared the luncheon which we enjoyed so much.  However, she tells me that the delicious lemonade which we had the pleasure of drinking was provided by our gracious hostess.  I also wish to take the opportunity to praise the beautiful gardens in which we are sitting.  They are full of lush green grass and beautiful flowers, even though we had to bring our own chairs. 

My dear Charlotte has reminded me that I am to present a tribute to Miss Austen.  I do not understand what she has done to deserve any encomiums.  It has been said that she wrote very fine novels.  That is all very well, but I never read novels.  Young ladies are seldom interested in books of a serious stamp.  However, I will attempt to give some compliments with as unstudied an air as possible. A better reason for praising her would be her strong devotion to her family.  Her father was a member of the same profession to which I have the honour to belong.  She was also noted for playing the pianoforte, and for her love of dancing.  Dancing can be a most respectable occupation, even for the daughter of a clergyman, and my love for music is well known.  If I were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I would have obliged the company with a song myself. 

It is indeed unfortunate that Miss Austen never married.  The married state is recommended for everyone, and especially for a well-educated young woman of small fortune.  It was her obligation to marry in order to support her dear mother and her dear sister.  She should not have refused the offer of marriage that was made to her.  I feel sure that my noble patroness would agree with me. 

My dear Charlotte has reminded me that I must bring my remarks to a close, as there are many other persons who have been asked to speak on this occasion.  I feel sure that none of them are clergymen who write their own sermons.  Remember that the clerical office is equal in point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom – provided that a proper humility of behaviour is at the same time maintained.  I thank you for your kind attention to my remarks, and I hope to see you at morning service tomorrow. 




Barrington IL


Good afternoon.  Today, I have condescended to speak to all of you in order to eulogize a woman, common though she may have been, who revealed some truly fascinating and superior characteristics in her writing…especially in the one tome in which the true distinctions between the social classes were shown, if unfortunately not always maintained: that is, Pride and Prejudice.  I would like to advise you (and I am so very good at advising young ladies…and some who are not so young, also) that regardless of what Miss Austen wrote, I have not changed my mind about either having pride or being prejudiced. 

She was a fine writer (I myself would have excelled as an authoress, if only I had ever actually written anything). 

So here’s to Miss Jane Austen, spinster, who fulfilled her talent insofar as her station in life would allow.  She was a good middle class person, a fine writer, and most important of all, a sister to a member of the peerage.



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