Winston Churchill on Jane Austen

My husband has been reading Winston Churchill’s The Second World War series, currently on the 5th book Closing the Ring.  He was quite excited to find this paragraph in the middle of Churchill’s writings of December 1943 when he was ill with pneumonia while in Tunis with General Eisnhower.   I have heard this quote before, and you might all be familiar with it as well, but worth a shout-out here – again showing, as Kipling had done so admirably before, how Jane Austen in time of distress is just the thing!

The days passed in much discomfort. Fever flickered in and out.  I lived on my theme of the war, and it was like being transported out of oneself. The doctors tried to keep the work away from my bedside, but I defied them.  They all kept on saying, “Don’t work, don’t worry,” to such an extent that I decided to read a novel.  I had long ago read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and now I thought I would have Pride and Prejudice.  Sarah read it to me beautifully from the foot of the bed.  I had always thought it would be better than its rival.  What calm lives they had, those people!  No worries about the French Revolution, or the crashing struggle of the Napoleonic Wars.  Only manners controlling natural passion so far as they could, together with cultured explanations of any mischances.  All seemed to go very well with M and B*.

* “Mand B” refers to Lord Moran and Dr. Bedford who came to his aid

 From Winston Churchill, Closing the Ring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951, p. 425.

Copyright @2011 by Deb Barnum, of Jane Austen in Vermont

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