I have two confessions to make today. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.
I take no pleasure in relating the circumstances of my misdeeds, and I freely admit I was to blame in both instances. Here’s the deal:
A while ago I was racing through a busy morning on my Twitter feed.
Without giving them too much thought, I liked several tweets, and retweeted several more tweets about Jane Austen and her novels. Here’s one of the tweets I shared:
You can imagine my feelings when, a few hours later, another lover of Jane Austen’s novels commented on the tweet and explained in the nicest terms possible that the quote I had shared from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice wasn’t a quote from the novel at all.
Instead, it was a quote from the 2005 movie version of P&P—a line the screenwriters had made up out of whole cloth.
In other words, I had attributed to Jane Austen what I should have attributed to screenwriter Deborah Moggach. That was embarrassing!
Looking back, that may not have been the first time I was seduced into believing other people’s clever words were written by the great Jane Austen.
Which brings me to confession number two:
I had this image queued up to share on social media next week:
Luckily, I did a double-check and realized this is not a real Jane Austen quote either. Oh, the first part of the quote may be Jane’s words, but the second part—not even close!
Here’s the actual quote from (the book we now know as) Love and Freindship:
From the first moment I beheld him,
I was certain that on him depended the future Happiness of my Life.
Another very popular “quote” that’s frequently attributed to Jane Austen is this one:
It’s a wise sentiment, but Jane Austen never wrote those words in Sense and Sensibility or any of her other novels.
Once again, the quote is from a dramatization of her novel—this time from the 2008 BBC production of Sense and Sensibility.
And, as before, the words were strung together by screenwriters, not by Jane Austen.
If you do an Internet search of “popular Jane Austen quotes” you’ll probably see this one pop up:
And this one:
Need I say it? Neither of these are actual Jane Austen quotes.
In fact, the “Last Person on Earth” quote is so far off from what Jane actually wrote, it’s unrecognizable. Here’s the line as Jane Austen actually penned it in Pride and Prejudice:
“I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
The Internet is filled with memes, charm bracelets, coffee mugs and other things bearing sentiments attributed to Jane—sentiments she never ever wrote. But they look nice, and they have the ring of authenticity when we read them, which only makes them more insidious.
Having been guilty myself of perpetuating a false Austen quote, I understand how easy it is to fall victim to their lure, but I’ve since seen the error of my ways.
From this moment on, I pledge to always verify a Jane Austen “quote” before I share it on social media. And I pledge to do my part to take a stand and call out every fake Austen quote I see for what it really is.
I hope by doing so I have earned your forgiveness.
If you’d like to make a similar confession, please feel free to share your experience in the comments box below. You’ll get no judgement from me.