Pride and Profit: The Intersection of Jane Austen and Adam Smith
By Cecil E. Bohanon, and Michelle Albert Vachris
Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015.
Pp. ix, 195. $80 hardcover.
That Jane Austen can be associated with moralists, Adam Smith in particular, has been well known for many years. Although the English novelist does not quote the Scottish philosopher and economist or any other intellectual authority, for that matter, there are reasons to suspect that she had read Smith. Half a century ago Kenneth Moler showed that the distinction between vanity and pride drawn by Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is remarkably similar to the one made by Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments ("The Bennet Girls and Adam Smith on Vanity and Pride," Philological Quarterly 46 [October 1967]: 255-62). And other authors have followed this line of research down to the present.
This fine book by the professors of economics Cecil E. Bohanon and Michelle Albert Vachris is a step forward because they present the full picture of the problem in the following sense: they go over all the novels by Austen and indicate what they call the "intersections" of her ideas and Smith's in order to prove that she "embellishes, refines, and explains Adam Smith" (p. 4).
The book is divided into three parts, and there is also an appendix at the end of the book with a synopsis of Austen's six completed and published novels. The title of the first part is "Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments: A User's Guide for Jane Austen Readers," presenting Smith's ideas in chapters 2 and 3.
Part II, "Austen Reflects and Illuminates Smith," is the core of the book: from chapter 4 to 9 it links each novel by Austen to a particular Smithian concept. Chapter 4, "Self-Command in Sense and Sensibility,'" presents Elinor Dashwood as "a model of Smithian virtue" (p. 46). Chapter 5, "Prudence, Benevolence, and Justice in Mansfield Park,'" deals with this "virtue Trinity" highlighted by both Smith and Austen. Chapter 6, "Vanity in Persuasion,'" studies vanity in both Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Chapter 7 analyzes "pride in Pride and Prejudice.'" Chapter 8, "Greed and Promises in North anger Abbey," distinguishes greed and ambition, as Adam Smith did, and includes reflections on greed in Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility. Chapter 9, "Man of System and Impartial Spectator in Emma,'" studies the character of Emma Wodehouse and takes a look at Mrs. Morris, Lady Catherine...