During the long eighteenth century, benevolence was thought to be the greatest of all virtues. In her later novels especially, Jane Austen emphasized its primacy, showing that benevolence must be taught, practiced, and perfected through rigorous self-analysis and the repudiation of self-indulgence. The heroes of those novels tend to exercise benevolence in accordance with the duties of their profession, especially as described in the courtesy books of the period. Nevertheless, even if adept at helping the needy or extending kindness toward their peers, her central male characters do not find happiness until they discipline themselves to be more benevolent toward people of all ranks. Although the novels do not advocate a political solution for ending poverty, Austen suggests that her readers can improve society through benevolent action.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| January 01 2021
Jane Austen and the Tradition of Masculine Benevolence
Eighteenth-Century Life (2021) 45 (1): 75–94.
Marilyn Roberts; Jane Austen and the Tradition of Masculine Benevolence. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 January 2021; 45 (1): 75–94. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-8793945
Download citation file:
Don't already have an account? Register
You could not be signed in. Please check your email address / username and password and try again.
Could not validate captcha. Please try again.
Sign in via your InstitutionSign In
Citing articles via
Muslim Fashionistas in Contemporary Turkey: Devoted Mothers, Benevolent Philanthropists, and Leisure Enthusiasts