On this day in 1811, Jane Austen published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility. She did so anonymously, only having “a lady” listed where the author would be. Austen wrote her first draft for the novel around 1795, when she would have been nineteen years old. In 1797 she returned to it and revised it into the version we can read today, but it would still be nearly fifteen more years before it would be published. In 1811, Sense and Sensibility was published on a commission basis, meaning that much of the production of the novel was paid for from her own pocket, so Austen must have had a lot of faith in it.
Sense and Sensibility received reviews describing the book as “extraordinary,” “interesting,” and a “popular new novel.” The positive reception of it led to the first edition being sold out in less than two years, followed by Austen’s decision to publish a second in 1813. Sense and Sensibility would just be the starting point of Austen’s ability to put into writing her understanding of human nature and psychology. This would be a commonality among all six of her novels, leading to why so many people still enjoy reading them today, as well as why they are so often used in the classroom.
Jane Austen put it all on the line with publishing Sense and Sensibility, but it is with this book that she became the author that has won the hearts of so many over the years. She would begin to write using her name, despite it being viewed as inappropriate for a woman of her status. Not to mention that only two years later would Austen publish her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, gifting to the world the Mr. Darcy (my all-time personal literary crush).
In celebration of such an important piece of literary history, I’ve collected seven of the greatest quotes from Sense and Sensibility, which you can all enjoy by reading below.
1. “I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”
2. “I will be calm. I will be mistress of myself.”
3. “The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”
4. “To wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.”
5. “It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;—it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.”
6. “If a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
7. “I come here with no expectations, only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be…yours.”