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 cliché, 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. 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?