If you think Jane Austen’s novels are just about romance, long walks with parasols and dashing gentleman like Mr Darcy, you’re missing out. They’re also a wonderfully witty insider’s guide to Georgian high society.

The majority of Jane Austen’s novels are comedies in the traditional sense (the protagonists live happily ever after), but they’re also packed with complex characters, satire and edgy social commentary. Through her stories, Austen subtly exposed the gossips, social climbers and unspoken rules of her time. Like a true observational comic, she was controversial, experimental and even censored. It turns out the phrase, “Good God! Willoughby”, was just a step too far for early 19th century readers!

One of high society’s most important rules was the need for a proper introduction. So, without further ado, allow us to present our guide to Jane Austen’s funniest books.

#Awks moments in Pride and Prejudice
As its name would suggest, Pride and Prejudice is a novel about the dangers of judging others too quickly. It has often been called a ‘comedy of manners’, as the characters navigate the dos and don’ts of high society. Many of the characters are decidedly unlikeable, but there’s one whose behaviour makes us cringe more than any other – the pompous Mr Collins. In one of the most awkward marriage proposals of all time, he readily admits that he only wishes to marry Elizabeth Bennet (who, by the way, is his cousin) because his patroness thinks it’s a good idea.

Spooky satire in Northanger Abbey
No list of Jane Austen’s funny books would be complete without Northanger Abbey. Gothic literature was all the rage in Austen’s time and she couldn’t resist spoofing the genre. Just as Fifty Shades of Grey is satirised today, Austen affectionately mocked the formulaic storylines of popular books, such as The Mysteries of Udolpho. Austen’s protagonist, Catherine Moorland, develops such a fixation with the Ann Radcliffe novel, that she accuses Henry Tilney’s father of murder. In order to win Tilney back, Catherine must mature and leave her gothic fantasies behind.

Hilarious insults from Mr Palmer in Sense and Sensibility
He may be one of the book’s most serious characters, but Mr Palmer’s muttered asides are a welcome reprieve from the pleasantries of high society. When he finds out that Sir John doesn’t have a billiard room in his house (the horror!), he bitingly states that he is as stupid as the weather.

Trivial musings from Miss Bates in Emma
Hapless, a compulsive talker, but ultimately endearing, Miss Bates provides the comic relief in Jane Austen’s fourth novel. In what has become one of the book’s most memorable moments, Miss Bates is asked to say either one very clever thing or three dull. Much to Emma’s amusement she replies, “I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan't I?”. If you want to see her character brought to life on the big screen, we highly recommend watching Miranda Hart in the 2020 film adaptation of the book.

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