Writing with Sense and Sensibility

It’s a March Wednesday, which means I’m writing a post for the #CelebrateWomen blog carnival. Today, we’re all writing about a woman writer who has influenced our lives and our own writing.

I feel it’s almost clichΓ©, as a woman, to write about how much I love Jane Austen. I haven’t just read her complete works (including juvenilia, fragments and letters), I spent one semester in a Jane Austen seminar in college and the next two semesters as a research assistant for a professor writing her magnum opus on Jane.Β  The author, nearly 200 years in the grave, can still inspire and teach me about what it means to BE a writer.

Jane hailed from a religious family. Her father was a minister. She had faith in the Church and loved her father dearly, but clergy in her novels ranged from Edmund Bertram – a committed man of faith, to Mr. Collins – an idiot, simpering after a rich patroness, rather than following after God.

She wasn’t a religious writer, one would hardly label her “Christian” by today’s standards. She seldom discussed theological concerns, but wasn’t much taken with evangelical fervency. “I do not like the Evangelicals,” Jane wrote to her sister in January 1809.We can only guess that the Evangelicals she knew in the rolling green-hilled town of Bath, kept her from embracing that set.

Her favorite niece wrote to dear Aunt Jane, however, when considered marrying an Evangelical, James Plumtre, in November 1814, and Jane wrote back:

And as to there being any objection from his Goodness… from the danger of his becoming even Evangelical, I cannot admit that. I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am at least persuaded that they who are so from Reason and Feeling, must be happiest & safest. Do not be frightened from the connection by your Brothers having most wit. Wisdom is better than Wit, & in the long run will certainly have the laugh on her side; & don’t be frightened by the idea of his acting more strictly up to the precepts of the New Testament than others.


Those, who from Reason and Feeling espouse evangelical faith are sure to be happiest. I come to my faith through reason – I see the work of His hands and the change wrought in real lives and infer a God. I have tasted and seen that God is, indeed, good. I also arrive at my faith through feeling. I have cried out to him in despair, sought him in joy, met him in comfortable silence and laughed until it hurt at the love lessons he’s taught me through my children.

As Horace Hodges points out, Reason and Feeling nicely correlate to the title of Jane’s novel, Sense and Sensibility.What I love most about Jane Austen, is that she taught me, two centuries later, to write with both Sense and Sensibility. To apply those principles of faith to what I put to paper.

Francis Bacon said that rhetoric was applying reason to imagination for the better moving of the will. Austen embodies, for me, that principle of rhetoric… and fiction. Reason and feeling, reason and imagination, sense and sensibility, in my writing and in my faith.

Who is your favorite female author? How do you apply sense and sensibility to your faith?

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35 responses to “Writing with Sense and Sensibility

  1. You have inspired me with your faith and writing. I am honored to present you with this Versatile Blogger Award.
    http://faith-dream.com/2011/03/23/today%e2%80%99s-my-chance-to-make-a-difference/

  2. I am reminded of my women’s fiction class when we discussed Jane Austin and particularly Sense and Sensibility. How I miss those days of intellectual pursuit.

  3. At the risk of having to turn in my Man-Card, I do enjoy Jane Austen’s writing. I haven’t read it all, so maybe there are some I would find too girly and frilly (although I like even some of the sappiest of chick-flicks), but I did enjoy those that I read.

    *hides Man-Card before someone can steal it*

  4. This is a great post! I love Jane Austen’s work and it’s always neat to see new things about her.

  5. Although I’ve only read 5 of her many (MANY) books, my favorite female author is Francine Rivers. Redeeming Love is top 5 in the best books I’ve ever read. #dontjudgeme

    • I can’t judge, because I haven’t read any of her books. Which would you recommend besides Redeeming Love?

      • Seriously, you HAVE to read Redeeming Love. I don’t throw my serious recommendations around lightly. This is one of them.

        The Mark of the Lion series was fantastic as well. I would also recommend The Last Sin Eater. They even made it into a movie, which was pretty good. I saw it on Netflix.

      • okay! okay! I’ve been saving an amazon gift card since Christmas, maybe I’ll use it!

  6. Sorry Kristin. I slogged through P&P, S&S, and Emma in high school. And I’ve never looked back.

    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is pretty awesome though πŸ™‚

    Louise Fitzhugh rules.

  7. I don’t know if I have a favourite female author. While there are many that I like, I don’t think any are favourites. And, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve even read Jane Austen…unless she wrote Pride and Predjudice (which I had to read in university and thought it was OK…definitely not a fav, but I got through it). I know, shame on me for not reading the classics…lol.

  8. Carol Shields.
    I will never forget the first time I read her.
    She became my ‘writing mother.’
    That’s all I can say without writing an entire post. Love her!

  9. My favorite female author is Corrie ten Boom. Her book “The Hiding Place” touched me in such a special way when I first converted to Christianity.

  10. Great post. We need more Jane Austens these days.

  11. All I know is that I am supposed to sit with my wife on the couch, snuggle, and watch a Jane Austen movie. One of my favorite Christian books by a woman is Anne Rice’s “Called out of Darkness.” Anne Lamott is another contemporary Christian author that I have enjoyed.

  12. I love Jane Austen! My favorite is Persuasion, though. In fact, I just purchased a mug from brookish.etsy.com with a quote on it from Persuasion. πŸ™‚ Love!

    Have you seen the mini-series “Lost in Austen?” My mom showed it to me a couple of years ago, and I loved how it took the original P&P story line and turned it on its ear. You should check it out if you haven’t seen it. πŸ™‚

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