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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Giving thanks

In her fiction, Jane Austen was acutely aware that the duty of gratitude can sometimes be weaponized: think of Sir Thomas Bertram accusing poor Fanny Price of ingratitude merely because she dares to have a will of her own.

But in the three prayers that have come down to us as Austen’s work, she hews to a more conventionally Christian line, insisting on the importance of gratitude for the many blessings that God bestows on inevitably unworthy and fallible human beings.

I’m not especially comfortable with the language of religious abjection, even when it flows from Jane Austen’s pen, but hey – it’s Thanksgiving Day, so gratitude is in order. Herewith, then, are the relevant excerpts from Jane Austen’s three prayers:

Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference. (Prayer I)

We bless thee for every comfort of our past and present existence, for our health of body and of mind and for every other source of happiness which thou hast bountifully bestowed on us and with which we close this day, imploring their continuance from thy fatherly goodness, with a more grateful sense of them than they have hitherto excited. May the comforts of every day, be thankfully felt by us, may they prompt a willing obedience of thy commandments and a benevolent spirit toward every fellow-creature. (Prayer II)

We thank thee with all our hearts for every gracious dispensation, for all the blessings that have attended our lives, for every hour of safety, health and peace, of domestic comfort and innocent enjoyment. We feel that we have been blessed far beyond any thing that we have deserved, and though we cannot but pray for a continuance of all these mercies, we acknowledge our unworthiness of them and implore thee to pardon the presumption of our desires. (Prayer III)

Among my own blessings, I count the good fortune to have readers and commenters! I’m grateful to you all -- happy Thanksgiving.


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