A Jane Austen Devotional, by Steffany Woolsey – A Review & Giveaway!

A Jane Austen Devotional, by Steffany Woolsey (2012)Guest review by Br. Paul Byrd, OP

This book is crafted with the hope that readers would take the opportunity to get lost in the world of Jane Austen—a place where we can all pause in solitude, as though we’ve just finished a stroll in the garden with Jane and are now sitting down with her to tea, reflecting on important life lessons and taking in the beauty of the countryside. Through excerpts from her work, short devotions, and Scripture, we hope this book will bring you moments of peace while you allow God’s word to shape your own character, (introduction).

Jane Austen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church? One might look forward to the Anglican Communion adding Blessed Jane to its calendar of saints with the publication of Steffany Woolsey’s A Jane Austen Devotional (a measure this Catholic would whole-heartedly support). When Laurel Ann first told me she was sending me this book, I was off-the-charts thrilled. The title alone was enough to evoke in me a childlike eagerness to hold the book in my hands and celebrate that such a thing existed. Why this near-absurd ebullience? Well, my particular area of Austen studies focuses on Jane Austen’s religious context and the religiosity of her novels, thus a book that purposefully examines her stories in a Christian light was sure to interest me. One that does so as a devotional—a book designed as an aid to the reader’s spiritual contemplation—promised to take things to a higher, more personal level.

With over one hundred meditation reflections, paired with favorite snippets from the novels we love so well, along with corresponding scripture passages, this devotional is sure to please Austen fans of faith. Subjects covered vary widely, but may be categorized by Austen’s common religious themes: the rewards of virtuous living, the ugliness of vicious behavior, and the duty owed to one’s family, neighbors, and society. Chapter titles give you further clues into themes: “Being Generous,” “Spiritual Bankruptcy,” “Respecting One Another,” “Flirting with Sin,” and so on. By combining scenes from Austen and scenes from Jewish and Christian scriptures, the author builds the foundation for the little morals she offers or reflection questions she poses at the end of each two-page chapter. In doing so, Woolsey helps readers to do what Austen always intended them to do: to use her characters—the good and the bad—to critically examine their own behavior. Are we more like Mary Crawford or Fanny Price? Mr. Wickham or Mr. Darcy?

One reflection I particularly liked was entitled “Following the Golden Rule.” This chapter held up the example of Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice for the reader’s consideration, reminding him or her of Jane’s propensity to see the good in everyone, and her avoidance of malicious speech. As Woolsey writes, “Jane lives out this truth [the Golden Rule given by Jesus] by employing a simple philosophy: if we want to be loved, we have to give love. Likewise, if we want meaningful relationships, we need to treat others with respect and esteem. Forgiveness, kindness, generosity—in all these areas, we must lead without expectation of reciprocity,” (21). The concluding reflection questions that then follow are deep, in their own way, helping the reader to really sit and delve into the true motivations for his or her behavior and interaction with others.

A Jane Austen Devotional is a spiritual tool, not merely a gimmicky Austen collectable. If used once a day (as devotionals usually are), this book can slowly help a spiritual seeker to develop or strengthen his or her practice of reflection and contemplation, using as a starting point Austen’s very practical Anglican Christianity. In this way, it’s not a book you sit down and read through in a weekend, but one you keep around all year long, on your nightstand with your Bible, at your desk at work, in your glove compartment, or in your purse.

I give this book 5 Stars, and highly recommend it.

A Grand Giveaway of A Jane Austen Devotional

The publisher Thomas Nelson, Inc. has generously offered a giveaway contest of three copies of A Jane Austen Devotional. To enter a chance to win one copy, leave a comment stating which quotes from Jane Austen you think are inspiring, or which of which of Jane Austen’s characters would greatly benefit from this devotional and why by 11:59pm PT, Wednesday, January 18, 2012. Winners to be announced on Thursday, January 19, 2012. Shipment to the US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

A Jane Austen Devotional, by Steffany Woolsey
Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2012)
Hardcover (224) pages
ISBN: 978-1400319534

Br. Paul Byrd, OP is a solemnly professed friar of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Originally from Covington, KY, he earned his bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Thomas More College and his master’s degree in theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology. He is in the writing and publishing graduate program at DePaul University. He is the author of the Dominican Cooperator Blog

© 2007 – 2012 Br. Paul Byrd, OP, Austenprose

64 thoughts on “A Jane Austen Devotional, by Steffany Woolsey – A Review & Giveaway!

  1. I would love to win this-it is something I would use. Who of Jane Austen’s characters would benefit? How about Emma-she has all those resolutions/lists for reading-maybe this one would stick.

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  2. Interesting – I hadn’t heard of this release until now, and I’m an out-and-out Austenite! Wickham would benefit from the devotional (if he would only read it) because he is an absolute cad under a gentlemanly exterior. Disguised as an angel of light and all that…

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  3. I think all of her characters would benefit from it, as would we all! But, perhaps, in particular I think Lydia Bennet would benefit from this!! :) What an awesome book.

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  4. This sounds like a very interesting concept: a Jane Austen devotional. I’d love to have a copy of this. Being quiet and introspective is always a good thing.

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  5. Henry and Mary Crawford could definitely use something like this, since they prey on those to raise their own fortunes, the exact opposite of the golden rule. I am not one for devotionals but this one does sound fantastic.

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  6. What a great idea for a story. I love Jane Austen books, too hard to choose a fav, so I choose them all. Would love to win and read this book. Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win.

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  7. An Austen devotional! What a wonderful book! Time for study and meditation on the Word of God in a unique format. One of my favorite Austen quotations is from “Persuasion”:
    “She had been forced into prudence in her youth; she learned romance as she grew older.”

    What an opportunity to talk about love and maturity from a biblical perspective.

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  8. Most in need would probably be Austen ministers like Mr. Elton or Mr. Collins. Their “faith” is all about obeying cultural rules and keeping up appearances. They wouldn’t think they needed it, though. ;)

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  9. Cassandra wrote in her copy of Persuasion, “Dear, dear Jane! This deserves to be written in letters of gold,” next to the lines, “She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older–the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.”

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  10. My favorite Austen heroines are Emma and Elizabeth Bennet. They are both flawed and blinded by their own prejudices and desires. I always find it most inspiring when Emma is humbled by Mr. Knightley’s love for her and says, “What had she to wish for? Nothing, but to grow more worthy of him, whose intentions and judgment had been ever so superior to her own. Nothing but that the lessons of her past folly might teach her humility and circumspection in the future” (Vol. III, Ch. XVIII). This is a wonderful attitude of humility to learn from our mistakes, and be willing to listen to others’ wise guidance.

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  11. What will they think of next?! I’m thrilled– thanks for the chance to win. And it would be nice if Lady Catherine would would read this devotional. She seemed to be faithful in attending services, but she doesn’t strike me as overflowing with the fruits of the Spirit very much…

    Laura

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  12. What an intriguing idea! I would love to be included in this opportunity.

    I keep thinking, every time I read or watch Pride and Prejudice that if Marianne Dashwood had as much sense as her sister Elinor, or Jane Austen herself, well, life would have been much better for all of the ladies in the family. She cause quite a bit of grief with her recklessness. Not to mention how the poor Colonel waited for her to come to her senses.

    Then again, I could use a bit more wisdom myself sometimes.

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  13. Perhaps if Mr Darcy had this book he could whack Willowby over the head with it and then perhaps it might find its way into Willowby’s heart which could change more lives that just one… Yes devotion to anything other than money would do that lad well. I have seven grandchildren who are growing in the graces of Jane’s and Charles’ work….these would be delightful.

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  14. I would love to be an owner of a book such as this!

    Inspiring quotes by Jane Austen:

    “There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and that is, his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution.” -Emma

    “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” – Pride and Prejudice

    “…a sanguine temper, though for ever expecting more good than occurs, does not always pay for its hopes by any proportionate depression. It soon flies over the present failure, and begins to hope again.” – Emma

    And as for her characters, I feel as if Mary Bennet would largely benefit from a devotional such as this. I’ve always liked Mary, but she doesn’t seem to like herself very much. Hopefully reading something like this will allow her the grace to also appreciate herself and be contented, because she was made by a Creator who loves her. =)

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  15. This is basically a dream come true: a devotional, including Scripture, and Jane Austen. She was a daughter of a clergyman and religion would have been very natural and everyday to her life. The three recorded prayers of hers attest to her faith. I identify with her as a Christian.

    I’d like to see Mary Bennet get to read a devotional and have it hit her heart more than her intellect. She could find her life turnaround. She could experience grace instead of rules.

    Can’t wait to get this book!

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  16. What a wonderful book! Just in case I don’t win the giveaway, I’ve placed it on my wish list.
    One of my favorite, and inspiring JA quotes is,
    “Friendship is surely the finest balm for the pangs of dissapointed love.”
    ~Northanger Abbey

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  17. Sounds like something I’d truly enjoy! I think most anyone would benefit from it, but perhaps Mary from P&P would benefit most. She likes to spout off truths and point out errors in people, but probably needs to learn humility and grace.

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  18. Hm, I think Mr. Willoughby could benefit from a book like this, because he seemed to be focused pretty solely upon himself. :)

    I’ve always found this quote from Pride & Prejudice inspiring:

    “You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”

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  19. A favorite Jane Austen quote is from Mansfield Park when Fanny says,
    “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” I grew up saying and believing, “You have to follow your heart” which follows this Jane Austen sentence. I have Fanny’s statement posted at my desk to remind myself of this each and every day.

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  20. I’m so intrigued by this. And which character needs it? Definitely Henry Crawford. Maybe it would touch his heart and he would stop tormenting poor little Fanny Price, and find something more industrious to do with his time. But then I guess we wouldn’t have a very interesting book, would we?
    The book sounds delightful.

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  21. i agree with Karen that a devotional would be good for Mary. Sort of a modern equivalent to Fordyce and a lot less dense and rule oriented.

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  22. I’ve been very interested in this volume since first hearing that it was coming out. As a Bible believing Christian myself and a Janeite I appreciate the combination of Jane Austen and scripture in this devotional. Thank you for posting this review, it’s confirmed my interest in the book and I’d love to win a copy!

    Fanny Price is my choice, though there are many other Austen characters (such as Wickham, Willoughby or Elliot) who would benefit from such a volume. At least I think Fanny might enjoy it most because of her love of literature (recommended by Edmund) and her devout religious beliefs. I also think Henry and Eleanor Tilney would be amused and delighted by such a book – but probably more so if it was entitled ‘A Mrs Radcliffe Devotional’!

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  23. You inspired me to re-watch it with our teenage daughter. Watching it through her eyes is much more fun. I told her if she could keep track of all the characters she could get school credit for it. We have a mission!

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  24. Thank you for the review! I had not heard of this book and I love the idea of a thought provoking devotional.
    The quote that came to mind though I can’t remember which book is: “I am afraid that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”
    I think everyone could use a time of reflection on good sound principles, but its the ones who need it the most like Wickham, Lydia, Willoughby, the Crawfords, etc who will be the ones least likely to take it up.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

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  25. Without a doubt, Jane Austen’s family would approve of a devotional, named in her honor!
    Her brother’s memorial to his sister, next to her grave in Winchester Cathedral (the city in Hampshire, where she died), says this of her:
    “Jane Austen, known to many by her writings, endeared to her family by the varied charms of her Character, and enobled by Christian Faith…”
    The underpinnings of all her stories are principles that Christians will recognise from the Bible. I believe this is why her books appeal to the deepest values, found in both our hearts and our minds!
    Mr. Elton is my choice of the character who is most in need of this book; as well as being sanctimonious and hipocritical, he was cruel, which Mr. Collins was not.
    Thank you for this generous offer, which has already paid out its reward, as I have enjoyed reading everyone’s enthusiastic comments and wonderful quotes!

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  26. I love this idea because I think Austen is speaking about what it means to be a good person throughout her books. Perhaps the most exemplary character is Fanny Price who lives her life as a humble servant, but will not compromise her beliefs in what is wrong and right to make her life easier. She does suffer for her choice as well, which is a realistic portrayal of the Christian life. In turn, there are a plethora of vain, proudful, money-oriented, narcissistic characters in Austen’s books, which she writes with too much insight to assume she had not seen these behaviors!

    Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful and does not insist upon its own way. Love bears all things, hopes all things . . . . even silly Catherine Moreland understands these precepts from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and is, therefore, one of my favorite Austen heroines. One does not have to have a great deal of learning or experience to be truly wise — which is I think Austen’s point!

    Austen’s books are “happy” novels in that the good people do get their reward in this life, but Austen intimates throughout that such does not always happen — for example, the poor Mrs. and MIss Bates, who end up being the fulcrum upon which Emma finally learns to have a decent, respectful heart.

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  27. I think Edward Ferrars’ brother, sister, or mother would benefit from this devotional. I don’t have a quote handy, but as some have elluded to on here, I love the sense of duty that was important in all of Austen’s books.

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  28. Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.
    Why not seize the pleasure at once, how often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparations. These two quotes from Jane
    Austen are my favorites…Wickham and Willowby are just two
    of the characters that would benefit from this lovely devotional
    book!
    Many thanks, Cindi

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  29. What a wonderful idea to have a Jane Austen devotional! I think this is a wonderful concept as she was the child of a clergyman, and I believe she lived with scripture & religion close to heart. Who of her characters could benefit from this devotional? I’d say quite a few of them! ;) But several that come to mind immediately would be Lydia Bennet, George Wickham, John Willoughby, and Edward Ferrars’ mother!

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  30. This is good news indeed. I would love to own such a book. I think Wickham and Willowby would benifit from this book. They need to learn the value of honesty. I’m a avid reader of both Dickens and Austen.

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  31. A devotional will certainly be a welcome addition to the JA canon. My favorite quote is “Let others pens dwell on guilt and misery.”
    Thank you for this giveaway.

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  32. This sounds like a wonderful combination! I’ve put this devotional on my wish list..and would love to win it! Jane has some inspiring characters, but I would choose Elinor Dashwood as my model. She rolls with the punches and comes up smiling!

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  33. One of my favorite and most inspirational quotes of Jane would be : “How shall I bear so much happiness!”

    And perhaps the character to most benefit from the Devotional would be “Emma”.

    I am so thrilled to hear about this book and would Love to win a copy of A Jane Austen Devotioanal. her books and stories and movies bring me so many moments of peace and calm and passion and love!

    Infinities of love,

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  34. I would love to receive this book and would promise to use it in the coming year. So many of Jane Austen’s characters would profit from daily devotionals, but my choice is that sly minx Isabella Thorpe from Northanger Abbey. One of Jane’s naughty girls, a devotional is not the sort of reading material to attract Isabella, but she could certainly use some introspection. I enjoyed the review very much.

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  35. I would love to use this book everyday. I believe this would be an excellent way to set the tone for the day, and to reflect on it throughout the day. The review above was excellent and answered the questions I had about what this book might be and what it would do for my personal spiritual journey. I hope I win! Thank you for the opportunity.

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  36. Pick just one? Is that possible? There are so many good ones. I will pick one about books since we are all trying to win one. :-)

    ” I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

    drcopeland@hotmail.com

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  37. “All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!”

    – Persuasion

    (I can close my eyes and quote a lot from that book)

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  38. amazed to find this available as i’d had it on my list of things to do in the new year! fantastic – would love to have a chance to peruse Steffany’s insights… which JA character would benefit? probably Elinor b/c she has an introspective and reflective heart. good soil for growing an inner garden…
    Thank you for this generous offer! and great review :)

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  39. Am I ever with you on this one, Brother Paul! As a fellow Christian believer, this book and review just resonates with me. As always, it would be nice to win a copy but either way, I’m going to buy this one to augment my own Biblical studies and to bless my quiet times. What an original and pertinent theme…

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  40. Oh dear, I got so excited about responding to this wonderful review that I forgot to answer the question.

    In Northanger Abbey, I loved the way Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor overlooked and forgave the immature and imaginery paranoia regarding the demise of Henry’s mother and once it was mentioned it was just as soon forgotten. Henry and Eleanor loved Catherine unconditionally and forgave her the indescretion. Their behavior was exemplary and showed the greatest moral virtue.

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  41. Mrs Bennet would benefit from calming down with a devotional and focusing on something other than herself and her unmarried daughters for a few minutes.

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  42. “There is nothing like staying at home for true comfort!”

    P.S. I think Lucy Steele and Mrs. Elton would greatly benefit from this book!

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  43. What a wonderful subject to be discussed in relation to Jane Austen, it looks like a wonderful read! Here’s a quotation taken from Mansfield Park which is seldom mentioned, yet, most interesting: “If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.”

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  44. I don’t know that there is any one quote that inspires me, but instead it’s the totality of who Fanny Price is as a person. She is good. Even in the face of ridicule & exclusion from her family circle she holds firm to her morals.

    I think Kitty Bennet would do well with such a book. Once out from under the thumb of her younger sister she has the potential to be quite a young woman and unlike Mary who abounds in moral fortitude, she could use a bit of a boost.

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  45. This sounds absolutely lovely!

    I think the Austen character who would get the most out of this devotional would be Mary Bennett – I don’t believe the other characters would take it to heart as seriously or faithfully as she. (I even think Mary has a better faith than the vicars, Mr. Collins & Mr. Elton)

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  46. This is such a great idea! I think any Austen character would benefit from it, though my first thought was Mr Collins. He would probably only read it if Lady Catherine recommended it, though. One of my favorite quotes is “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” And I always sigh when I get to the end of Darcy’s letter and he signs it with “God bless you.”

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  47. There are sooo many Jane Austen quotes I try to live by… including: “My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation” and “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” I love how witty she is!

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  48. I am so excited that there is a book combining two of my personal passions: my faith and Jane Austen! One of my favorite quotes (more like a comment:) comes from Mr. Knightley in “Emma”. “Success supposes endeavor.” I think the apostle Paul supports this when he encourages us to “run in such a way as to get the prize” (I Cor. 9:24)

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  49. I would love to have something so awesome like this.
    In my opinion, I believe Mary Crawford would benefit the most from a book like this, her behavior really needs orientation and her opinion’s in many subjects are very ill intended.

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  50. I would love to win one!
    I have three favourite ‘inspirational’ quotes from Jane Austen’s Works:
    1. “Want for nothing but patience — or give it a more fascinating name: call it hope.” from Sense and Sensibility
    2. “I would much rather have been merry than wise.” from Emma.
    3. “Take a little time, consider, do not commit yourself.” also from Emma.

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  51. I’m going to enter despite my status as a non-Austen fan. Thing is, my wife is a huge fan. Read all the books, seen the films. I have no idea which character is going to benefit from the devos, so I’ll just say the only one I can name: Mr. Darcy.

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  52. A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.
    This quote was rather eye opening to me. I think it beautifully sums up the ideas of the time and the prejudice Jane Austen had to write through. She’s had such an impact on people (men, women, young girls and boys) throughout the years.
    My sister who is an austen fiend would love a devotional.

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  53. The Crawfords need such a thing, but alas, I fear we might have to despair of their making use of it. What a wonderful idea of a book!

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  54. “Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.”
    I’m not sure how inspiring this quote is…but, it speaks to me–because I’m most content and comfortable while in my home.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

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  55. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is in much need of a book of Devotions. She needs to learn the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

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  56. Pingback: Giveaway Winners Announced for The Jane Austen Devotional « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

  57. Pingback: A Charles Dickens Devotional, edited by Jean Fischer – A Review & Giveaway! « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

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