On July 18, 1817, Jane Austen slipped away in the early morning. Her last recorded words, the day before, were “God grant me patience, Pray for me Oh Pray for me.”
Before she died, her clergyman-brothers Henry and James had “administered the services suitable for a Christian’s death-bed” (Memoir of Jane Austen). So she had repented of sins, asked God’s forgiveness, and taken her final Communion service. Her brothers had prayed with and for her.
A London obituary that appeared on July 22 read:
“On the 18th inst. at Winchester, Miss Jane Austen, youngest daughter of the late Rev. George Austen, rector of Steventon, in Hampshire, and the Authoress of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. Her manners were most gentle; her affections ardent; her candor was not to be surpassed, and she lived and died as became a humble Christian” (Courier and Evening Gazette, quoted in Kelly, Jane Austen, The Secret Radical). (Inst. means of the current month, so the 18th of July. To understand this usage of candor, see Jane Bennet and Candor.)
The inscription on her tombstone in Winchester Cathedral doesn’t mention her writing.
In Memory of
youngest daughter of the late
Revd GEORGE AUSTEN,
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County
she departed this Life on the 18th of July 1817,
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian.
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
Both emphasize Austen’s faith in Christ.
Austen wrote a humorous poem shortly before her death. In it, St. Swithin proclaims, “Behold, me immortal.” Jane’s family, and Jane herself, certainly believed that she would be immortal in heaven. They may not have realized that her novels would keep her alive for us on earth over two hundred years later.
For you, what makes our beloved Jane “immortal”?