Jane Austen, not yet twenty years of age in the late 18th century, penned the novel, Northanger Abbey. The story explored how easily a young mind can be filled with nonsense and ignoble values through the reading of sensationalistic novels. Void of true substance and moral life values, books and stories like this have always been with us. Jane read them—pop literature—and learned early the emptiness of such works. Northanger Abbey’s heroine, Catherine Moreland, walks out in fiction the non-fiction life lessons Jane discovered in her youth regarding the power and value of literature in forming the mind and character.

Jane’s keen eye to identify the noble and ridiculous in her sphere of society and the culture of her day was a foundational asset to her writing life, and the ultimate contribution she made to classic literature. How was she groomed to hold this esteemed place among women writers in the world of Western prose?

In her short life, Jane left six complete novels and was eleven chapters into her final work at the time of her death at age 42 in 1817. Modern doctors, reviewing the scant clues in her letters and journals detailing the symptoms of her debilitating illness have pointed to Addison’s disease as the culprit. Even so, the legacy of her small body of work to contemporary women writers is easy to distill into a handful of tips.

The above quote from Northanger Abbey lays the foundation of her work and best practices for writers today:

  • Greatest Powers of the Mind Displayed: Write intelligent, truthful words, telling stories well layered in depth and substance.
  • Thorough Knowledge of Human Nature: Study the underlying truth in people, the inward workings of the human heart, and the effects and consequences of choices in life.
  • Happiest Delineation of Its [human nature] Varieties: Celebrate the most noble core values in humanity that are good, true, and worthy to be praised and imitated.
  • Liveliest Effusions of Wit and Humor: Use winsome words to craft entertaining scenes and engaging characters that compellingly illustrate truth.
  • Best-Chosen Language: Employ proper technical language skills with a rich vocabulary and word usage.

Click to order.

But the most captivating aspect of Jane’s writing for me as a reader and writer, is her ability to present the working out of biblical truth and principles within real life scenes, characters, and plot elements.

It is one of life’s great pleasures to finish a book and feel the satisfaction of not only having read a well-crafted story, but of learning a valuable life lesson about God and human nature.

Steffany Woolsey, A Jane Austen Devotional

CLICK TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS and my complete article on what women writers can learn from Jane Austen in my GUEST POST at ALMOST AN AUTHOR this month!

Sharing Keen Eyes, Core Values, and Jane Austen’s Pen this week with:

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Homemaking Party

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