Jane Austen’s Novels, Ranked

Notes from a fan who's seen it all.
April 5 2013 5:55 AM

Jane Austen’s Novels, Ranked

Plus her most devastating one-liners.

Jane Austen.
Jane Austen

Courtesy of University of Texas/Wikipedia Commons

See also Adelle Waldman’s essay about what she’s learned from reading all of Austen’s books again and again.

Jane Austen’s Novels, From Best to Worst

Jane Austen’s 10 Most Devastating Character Assessments

Few writers equal Austen in her ability to sum up a character in a pithy sentence or two. Below are some of her most devastating assessments.

10. John Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility

“He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold-hearted and rather selfish is to be ill-disposed.”

9. Lady Bertram, Mansfield Park

“She was a woman who spent her days in sitting nicely dressed on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience.”

8. Sir John and Lady Middleton, Sense and Sensibility

“However dissimilar in temper and outward behavior, they strongly resembled each other in that total want of talent and taste.”

7. Mr. Bingley’s sisters, Pride and Prejudice

“Not deficient in good humor when they pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank; and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves and meanly of others.”

6. Lady Catherine DeBourgh, Pride and Prejudice

“She was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns were carried to her … and whenever the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.”

5. Margaret Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility

“Margaret, the other sister, was a well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne’s romance, without having much of her sense, she did not at thirteen bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.”

4. Mrs. Elton, Emma

“Self-important, presuming, familiar, ignorant and ill-bred. She had a little beauty and a little accomplishment, but so little judgment that she thought herself coming with superior knowledge of the world, to enliven and improve a country neighborhood.”

3. Emma Woodhouse, Emma

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence. ... The real evils of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself.”

2. Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice

“Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society. … The subjection in which his father had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner, but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head.”

1. Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

“She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.”

Adelle Waldman’s first novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., will be published in July.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.