Austen was the daughter of a clergyman, nearly became engaged to another, and clergymen play central roles in most of her novels. She represents the Church of England, with its emphasis on calm, rational belief and a suspicion of "enthusiasm" and the Puritan tradition. Indeed, she said of the evangelical revival, "they who are so far from Reason and Feeling, must be happiest." Yet we hardly ever see her clergymen at work, and death occurs rarely in her novels and is then treated with a minimum of sentimentality. Still, one cannot read her works without getting the sense of a strong moral code underlying the comedy.

What part does religion play in her works? Are the best characters in her novels religious? Compare them to the best characters in Pope, Swift, and Johnson.

Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000