Have you ever searched the online concordance to Jane Austen’s novels for an apt, pithy quotation to write on a special occasion card? I’ve tried this a few times, coming away disappointed each time because it’s so difficult to pin Austen down to a line or two of inspiration. The novels as a whole may be inspiring, but a simple line or two of good wishes can be hard to find. For example, here are some of the possibilities for a wedding:
Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. (Pride and Prejudice)
She meant to urge him to persevere in the hope of being loved in time, and of having his addresses most kindly received at the end of about ten years’ happy marriage. (Mansfield Park)
I cannot easily resolve on anything so serious as Marriage; especially as I am not at present in want of money, and might perhaps, till the old Gentleman’s death, be very little benefited by the match. (Lady Susan)
I’m always pleased, therefore, when I come across a line that is both memorable and inspiring, such as this one, from a letter to Cassandra in 1815, when their brother Henry was unwell and Jane was concerned about the uncertainties of his illness:
We must think the best & hope the best & do the best. (November 26, 1815)
What more can anyone do?