Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: context of j austen quote ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: context of j austen quote
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: bigjake-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 25 Sep 2002 15:53 PDT
Expires: 25 Oct 2002 15:53 PDT
Question ID: 69097
I need the context of the quotation attributed to Jane Austen, “I HAVE

According to the movie reviewer John Hartl of the Seattle Times, both
the director, Patricia Rozema, and the star, Frances O'Connor, of the
film “Emma” came to Seattle at separate times during a publicity tour
and quoted the line in interviews.  Also, according to Hartl, the two
said that the quote was from a letter from Jane to a sibling.

I have been unable to locate the quote in the letters to Jane’s
sister, Cassandra, but that does not mean that it is not there.  Or
somewhere else.

Request for Question Clarification by justaskscott-ga on 25 Sep 2002 16:17 PDT
A search on Google for "no talent for certainty" indicates that the
line was used in the film adaptation of "Mansfield Park". 
Specifically, Fanny Price speaks the line to her sister Susan.  (She
did not do so in the novel.)

However, it appears that you are looking for a source where Jane
Austen herself wrote this sentence.  Is that correct?

Clarification of Question by bigjake-ga on 25 Sep 2002 18:21 PDT
Right.  I would like to know where (perhaps if) Jane herself wrote
this.  I was pretty sure that it wasn't in the book "Mansfield Park"
but was unaware it was in the film.  According to the director and
lead in the film, Jane wrote it in a letter.  It's a nifty line, but
I'm starting to get suspicious that Jane didn't write it.
Subject: Re: context of j austen quote
Answered By: luciaphile-ga on 25 Sep 2002 19:38 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi bigjake-ga,

Thanks for your question.  As a devotee of Austen, this was a pleasure
to research.

Frances O’Connor did indeed star in a 1999 film adaptation of an
Austen novel with director Patricia Rozema, but the movie in question
was “Mansfield Park,” not “Emma”.

The movie starred Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price, Harold Pinter as
Sir Thomas Bertram, Sheila Gish as Mrs. Norris and Jonny Lee Miller as
Edmund Bertram.  Rozema adapted the novel into a screenplay and
directed it as well.

Internet Movie Database/“Mansfield Park”

In his article, Hartl quotes actress, Frances O’Connor as saying, “All
of Austen's diaries had been destroyed - her family apparently didn't
want people to know too much about her - but Patricia was able to make
use of some of her juvenilia and some fantastic letters to her
siblings. `I have no talent for certainty' is one of the lines that
came from the letters.”

“Finding a new angle on Austen Films,” by John Hartl, Seattle Times,
11/12/1999, Final, M4

The line “I have no talent for certainty” does not appear in Austen’s
text of “Mansfield Park” itself.  Nor does it appear in any of the
actual texts of Austen’s novels—as justaskscott-ga points out, it was
a line added to the film script.

Austen’s fiction and many of her letters are now available online. 
The sibling in question would have most likely been her sister
Cassandra, with whom she corresponded extensively.  This is the
nearest match to the quote that I found (*’s my own that I added to
emphasize the line):

“I am exceedingly pleased that you can say what you do, after having
gone through the whole work, and Fanny's praise is very gratifying. My
hopes were tolerably strong of her, ***but nothing like a
certainty.*** Her liking Darcy and Elizabeth is enough. She might hate
all the others, if she would. I have her opinion under her own hand
this morning, but your transcript of it, which I read first, was not,
and is not, the less acceptable. To me it is of course all praise, but
the more exact truth which she sends you is good enough.”

Letter to Cassandra Austen, dated approximately February 1813, 
“Letters of Jane Austen/Other Excerpts from letters in Austen-Leigh’s 
Jane Austen Information Page/Republic of Pemberley

The film “Mansfield Park” was (and continues to be) quite
controversial in Jane Austen circles, largely because Rozema took
numerous liberties with the text and characters.  For that matter, the
book is considered to be one of the more “difficult” Austen novels. 
Fanny, the heroine of the novel, is written as an exceedingly quiet,
even timid character caught up in a group of more outgoing and
persuasive figures.  Modern readers of the book often have difficulty
with the character who is more passive than active.  In creating her
adaptation, Rozema “infused its lead character with irreverent and
mischievous nature at the heart of Austen's own letters and early
writings.  The result is an original social satire with a
strong-willed heroine at its center who  la Austen attempts to
outsmart the dizzying labyrinth of marriage and social status --
without compromising her ideals or her heart.”

Mansfield Park

Given Rozema’s liberties with the original novel, it’s not
unreasonable that she might have “tweaked” a quote from the letter to
make for a better line of dialogue.

See also:
Behind the Scenes of Mansfield Park (1999)

If you’re not familiar with it, you may want to explore the Republic
of Pemberley.  There is a board specific to “Mansfield Park” (as well as each of the major
novels, one board for the minor writings, one board for discussion
related to Austen’s life and times, and many more).

Search strategy: for “Mansfield Park” credits information
Went to Republic of Pemberley’s Jane Austen Information Page as I was
familiar with its comprehensive scope and links to searchable e-texts
of Austen’s.
Searched talent AND certainty (no hits)
certainty AND no (citation quoted above)

Then went to online e-text search interface for Austen’s novels
The Works of Jane Austen
Searched all the novels for:
(no pertinent hits)

Then searched all novels at once 
Jane Austen Information Page
talent AND certainty (no hits)
certainty (hit listed above)

Google search
“no talent for certainty”
“Mansfield park” “patricia rozema”
“Mansfield park” “patricia rozema” letters journals
“jane austen” letters
“jane austen” talent certainty
“jane austen” “no talent” certainty

I hope this helps.

bigjake-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy