A gif of Virginia Woolf next to an image of a table laden with food
A gif of Virginia Woolf next to an image of a table laden with food

Jane Austen died more than 200 years ago, and yet her classic comedies of manners remain some of the most well-loved – and well-read – books of our times. In an era where burgeoning romance has become something instant and swipeable, it might be difficult to envisage connections between the 18th century and the 21st.

However, even before the pandemic introduced a flurry of dates that were reliant on standing two metres apart and walking around parks, modern love shared more with Austen’s world than meets the eye. Reputations and impressions can be made with a scroll through an Instagram feed; like Austen's heroines, we’re reliant on good written communication to elevate things to a first date. And even in a time of soaring divorce dates, marriage is still something we celebrate with elan.

Centuries can pass and fashions can change, but when it comes to the emotions lying beneath, Austen’s laser-sharp perception and gimlet-eyed observation have made her a sage for the ages. Here are eight quotes that apply to our love lives, whatever our preferred era.

“None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” 

Persuasion (1817)

“My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” 

Pride and Prejudice (1813)

“We are all fools in love.” 

Pride and Prejudice (1813)

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

Emma (1815)

“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” 

Pride and Prejudice (1813)

“A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter.”

Emma (1815)

“Oh, Lizzy! do anything rather than marry without affection.” 

Pride and Prejudice (1813)

“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”

Sense and Sensibility (1811)

What did you think of this article? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk and let us know.

Image: Alicia Fernandes / Penguin

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