The Benevolent Legacy of Jane Austen

No doubt, Jane Austen remains one of the most famous female authors in all of history. She was intelligent, witty and obviously well-read to have written Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. 

Jane was born 16 December 1775 and died 18 July 1817. Her father was a clergyman in the Anglican Church. She had 6 brothers and 1 sister named Cassandra whom she shared an extremely close relationship with. The two women were each other’s best friend. Neither married. 

Jane spent the last years of her life living at what is now the Jane Austen House Museum located in the quiet village of Chawton, Hampshire, UK. Here at this desk is where she wrote her famous novels. 

Us Janeites are obsessed. I’m quite sure Jane would be shocked at her cult-like status. She died more than 200 years ago and yet all her books are still in print. Only after her death was it revealed Jane was indeed the author of the time-tested classics. 

Not long ago, I was able to tour the quaint village where Jane once lived. I took my time wandering the grounds and touring Jane’s home. I thought of her climbing the same stairs I stepped on. I considered the conversations she and Cassandra must have shared as they fell asleep in the same bedroom. 

As I ambled down the road to the Great House where Jane’s brother Edward lived, I wondered… How many times a day did she walk to see him? Once a day? Every other? Did she sing if it rained? Climb any trees? Follow the road or walk through the fields?    

The more I learn about Jane Austen, the more I realize the extraordinary life she lived. Yes, she wrote six very famous novels, but did you know she also wrote three prayers?

One such excerpt I found remarkable. “… Another day is now gone, & added to those, for which we were before accountable. Teach us Almighty Father, to consider this solemn Truth, as we should do, that we may feel the importance of every day, & every hour as it passes, & earnestly strive to make a better use of what Thy Goodness may yet bestow on us, than we have done of the Time past…”


As I read her prayer, I have to ask myself…Do I feel the importance of each day? Do I make good use of an hour? 

Jane used her time well. I mean, just think of how she wrote with a quill pen. So many hours spent dipping the ink and blotting it so as not to smear. I can’t imagine. 

By all accounts, Jane was loved by her family and had a close circle of friends. She was a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. Who Jane was is forever etched on her gravestone located in Winchester Cathedral, UK. 

The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections. Their grief is in proportion to their affection, they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER. 

Jane’s sister Cassandra wrote in a letter to Fanny Knight (she and Jane’s niece) what Jane meant to her. 

“…I have lost a treasure, she was the sun of my life…the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself…”

Oh, the grief Cassandra must have endured at the loss of Jane. Cassandra would go on to live another 28 years without her sister.

Jane defined legacy. A lot of good words were inscribed on Jane’s grave. Benevolence of her heart. Sweetness of her temper. There, chiseled in stone for future generations to learn from Jane how to live our one big, beautiful life. 

Psalm 145:4  One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.