The Church in Jane Austen’s England

My blog tour is drawing to a close; I’m so thankful for all those who have shared their thoughts on my new book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England! You can find their impressions, and my answers to their questions, at the links in the blog tour below.

A book giveaway, for a Kindle edition and a print edition, will continue at Jane Austen’s World until Nov. 18.

This book, which I began working on almost ten years ago, has been a labor of love–love for God, love for Jane Austen, and love for you all! I hope you will consider getting copies for yourself and perhaps as Christmas presents for other Austen fans in your life.

I’ve written guest posts on various aspects of the church, which you might enjoy reading, at these links:

“Sydney Smith, Anglican Clergyman and Proponent of Catholic Rights, Potential Model for Henry Tilney”

“Seven Things Historical Fiction Writers Should Know about the Church of England”

“Women as Religious Leaders in Austen’s England”

“Jane Austen at Church”

And I shared excerpts from the book:

From chapter 1, “Jane Austen’s England, A Foreign Country (Foreign to Modern Readers)”

From chapter 30, “Making Goodness Fashionable”:  “Morals, Manners, and Religion in Austen’s Novels”

And a video interview.

One of the most popular postings was on Jane Austen Daily on Facebook. Since that’s harder to find, here it is:

Jane Austen and Her Nephews Worship

#OTD 23 October 1808
The calendar for October, 1808 matched our October, 2022 calendar. So October 23, 1808 was a Sunday, like today. Jane Austen’s two nephews, Edward and George Knight (ages 14 and 12), were staying with her. They had recently lost their mother, Elizabeth Knight, who died suddenly on Oct. 10. The boys, who were at school at Winchester College, were given some “compassionate leave” and went to stay at Steventon, and then at Southampton with Jane and her mother. On Monday, Oct. 24, Jane wrote to Cassandra, who was already at Godmersham with the Knights. Edward and George had arrived on Saturday evening.
On Sunday, Jane said (underlining is hers),
“Martha was kept at home by a cold, but I went with my two nephews, and I saw Edward was much affected by the sermon, which, indeed, I could have supposed purposely addressed to the afflicted, if the text had not naturally come in the course of Dr. Mant’s observations on the Litany: ‘All that are in danger, necessity, or tribulation,’ was the subject of it. The weather did not allow us afterwards to get farther than the quay, where George was very happy as long as we could stay, flying about from one side to the other, and skipping on board a collier [ship carrying coal] immediately. In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home, to which they were very attentive; but you will not expect to hear that they did not return to conundrums the moment it was over.”
So they went to church on Sunday morning, as always, and the older boy was touched by the sermon. Dr. Richard Mant was rector of All Saints’ Church in Southampton, which the Austens attended. The Litany is a long prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, which prescribes Church of England worship services. The Litany could be “sung or said after Morning Prayer.” It is a series of requests that the clergyman prays, and the congregation answers with set phrases. Dr. Mant was preaching from the part where the clergyman requests from God, “That it may please thee to succour, help, and comfort all that are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,” and the congregation responds, “We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.” Austen says that Dr. Mant’s thoughts on this prayer were directed toward those who were “afflicted,” like her nephews grieving their mother’s death.
In the afternoon they spent some time outdoors. Then, that Sunday evening, the Austens did not go to church, as they often did (perhaps because Martha was ill). Instead they read the Psalms and Bible passages from the Old and New Testaments (“Lessons”) prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer for that evening. They also read a sermon from a book of sermons. Such books were popular reading in Austen’s England, and we know from her letters that she read and enjoyed them. We don’t know which clergyman’s sermon they read, but Bishop Sherlock was one of her favorites. She wrote in a later letter, “I am very fond of Sherlock’s sermons and prefer them to almost any” (Sept. 28, 1814).
Jane compliments the boys on being attentive to the Bible readings and sermon, but is not surprised that they went back to playing “conundrums” (like riddles) immediately thereafter.
The Church of England was an important part of Jane Austen’s life and world. If you want to know more, my new book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, by Brenda S. Cox, explores all aspects of the church in Austen’s life, novels, and world. Chapter 11 specifically examines preaching and reading sermons, including the sermon writers Austen mentioned in her novels and letters.
Fashionable Goodness is newly available on Amazon, both in paperback and for Kindle and other ebook readers, in various countries. It is also available from Jane Austen Books. Booksellers and libraries can get it on Ingram iPage.

Blog Tour Schedule


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