What would Jane do? Finding Fortitude and Inspiration During Lockdown, by Eliza Shearer

What would Jane do? Finding Fortitude and Inspiration During Lockdown, by Eliza Shearer

Chances are that, wherever you are in the world, you are experiencing at least some limitations to your daily life. We are living through strange times, to say the least, and some of us are finding them harder than others.

In my case, I have turned to Jane Austen for consolation, and she has not disappointed me.

Domestic Felicity

The lockdown is helping us appreciate our home comforts more than ever, but would Austen approve of the long days spent indoors? Perhaps you recognise this famous Austen quote:

Ah! There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.

Chapter XIV, Emma 

The person who makes this heart-felt declaration is silly Mrs. Elton. (In the same paragraph she goes on to mention dear Selina, of course).

This makes me think that Jane Austen would have not necessarily taken much pleasure in being forced to stay at home. By the sound of things, she was more likely to muddy her petticoats in a long walk, à la Lizzie Bennet, than to sleep on the sofa, Lady Bertram-style.

Industry and Patience

At the same time, I dare say Jane Austen would have taken the restrictions in her stride and spent much of her lockdown time devoting herself to her writing. She would have read a lot, as well. The Austens were a family of bookworms and Jane was a keen user of subscription libraries, and she loved books.

(By the way, if you are looking for new books to read, Miss Darcy’s Beaux and Miss Price’s Decision are now available on KU).

I also think the Austen sisters would have busied herself with domestic matters. I can see her and Cassandra undergoing a thorough spring clean, or sewing face-masks for everybody in the neighbourhood. Jane was a very practical, charitable woman, so it sounds like the perfect occupation for her.

An Unlikely Inspiration

I am convinced that Jane Austen would have been an example of fortitude. She would have embraced the best traits of her characters, such as Fanny Price’s restraint and Anne Elliot’s composure.

There is another one of her characters who has become quite a revelation to me in the times we are living: Emma’s Mrs. Bates.

One of only a handful of grandmother figures in Austen’s works, Mrs. Bates is elderly and “past everything but tea and quadrille”. Quiet, patient, and industrious, Mrs. Bates seems to have much in common my own grandmother, who sadly passed a decade ago. Both ladies have been much on my mind of late.


Just like Mrs. Bates, my grandmother loved knitting. When lockdown began, the first thing I did was order a pair of knitting needles and some wool. I had not knitted in ages, but everything she taught me as a child came back the minute I held the soft merino yarn in my hands. I have since knitted two scarves and I’m now attempting a blanket! Knitting gives me peace and contentment, and I am delighted to have it back in my life.

Mrs. Bates also has a sweet tooth. She likes her cakes, as did my grandmother, who was an excellent baker. Perhaps it comes as no surprise than in the last month, I have used some of her old recipes to sweeten the long days. Is there anything more comforting than the smell of a chocolate sponge cooking in a hot oven?

Extraordinary Circumstances

We are living through an exceptional period. Many of us are experiencing an emotional roller-coaster, and need to find comfort where we can. Now more than ever, we need to look after ourselves and trust that all will be well in the end.

In my case, two little old ladies (one real, another fictional) have helped me find some calm. Where have you found yours?

I would love to know more about how you are living through the lockdown. Have you spent more time than usual doing certain things? Perhaps you have taken up an old hobby? Do you take any comfort in Austen, and if so, which of her novels if your go-to book in a crisis?

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[…] always enjoy reading it. The last time I opened my well-thumbed volume of Mansfield Park was during lockdown, and what struck me is how prevalent the Seven Deadly Sins are in the […]


[…] look forward to spending a day in the company of other Jane Austen fans, especially after the awful year and a half we have had. I may even look at visiting Bath again soon. Anyone for the Jane Austen Festival in […]

May 1, 2020 8:41 AM

I try to read as much as I can in my free time as that is always a comfort to me.

April 30, 2020 6:19 PM

I’ve been reading through my personal library. 🙂

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
April 28, 2020 10:14 PM

Baking sounds like so much fun. But try to find yeast though… forget it. My friend was so frustrated that she researched sourdough starter in order to make bread. I’ve noticed lots of recipes on line recently for those stuck at home. We are all in this together.

As for reading… I’ve had trouble sticking to my JAFF reading schedule lately. By this time last year, I had already read twice what I have so far this year. I have instead started a Bible reading challenge where I read a chapter a day from 5 different books in the Bible. I also have a daily reading from a devotional that I read through every year. I have also started a prayer journal that I write in daily. This has been my daily pattern since the first of March. I have several JAFF stories on deck from my TBR pile. I just can’t seem to concentrate or focus. I am a full-time care giver now as my husband requires more help than he did in the past. After 7-months of chemo, he is now in remission. We have transitioned from two visits a week to the cancer doctor to once a month. During these difficult days… that is a blessing.

Take care, everyone. Be safe and stay healthy.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
April 28, 2020 9:10 AM

I have been reading(Austen variations of course) and eating and a high-ranking too! I did go back to work as I work at a Walmart and we are able to be open but we all wear masks and wash hands!

April 28, 2020 12:19 AM

Thank you for this comforting post.

In between teaching online, I have been hard at work on the final edits of my next novel – hoping for a late spring release.

To relax (in addition to writing) I have been reading and drinking a lot of sweet, hot tea.

Stay safe!

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