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How does Jane Austen speak to today’s politics?

Theresa May and Michael Gove have both cited the author—but are her novels really an advert for conservatism?

By Elizabeth Picciuto  

An illustration from Sense and Sensibility—why did Gove name the book as being akin to the Tory manifesto?

Jane Austen held her views on the politics of her time exceptionally close. In her novels, government stays politely in the background. It neither overregulates nor ensures the wellbeing of citizens. It provides income via interest on securities, delivers the mail, and employs handsome and charming naval and militia officers.

Yet she develops a rich and sophisticated theory of moral character development—virtue ethics—that earns her a position among the most astute…

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