Visit Donna on Facebook Follow Donna on Twitter
Donna 2.jpg

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

Read More Articles:

Disney World Reflections Jane Austen Seashore Tour Japan Journey Kishanda Fulford Newsletter Posts by Fay Sampson Regency World Short Stories The Celtic Cross Series The Power of Story The Writing Life Trans-Canada Adventure Uncategorized Writers in France Then and Now

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History


Follow This Blog Subscribe to Newsletter

The Authorized Version

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

All books available on Amazon

Brenda Cox and Fashionable Goodness

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ November 4, 2022

I am so pleased to have as my guest today Brenda Cox, writer, chemical engineer, homeschooler, and language teacher. As if that list weren't impressive enough, after reading her just-released book Fashionable Goodness, Christianity in Jane Austen's England, I must add researcher extraordinaire.


Let me begin by sharing my review of this remarkable book. "Fashionable Goodness is to the subject of Christianity in Jane Austen’s England what Deirdre Le Fay’s edition of Jane Austen’s Letters is on the subject of Jane Austen’s life—simply the indispensable resource. Cox’s breadth of subject matter and depth of research are breath-taking. Everything the reader or writer needs to know to understand the established and dissenting churches, religious leaders and movements, Christianity in Jane Austen’s novels, and much more is available in this wide-ranging volume."


Donna: I have already found this just-released book extremely useful as a resource for my current research project. Brenda, who did you write your book for?

Brenda: Fashionable Goodness is written for anyone who enjoys Jane Austen, from everyday fans, like myself, to scholars; from casual readers to dedicated Janeites. They will better understand the church’s important role in her novels and her world. Readers will also more fully appreciate Austen’s characters, their values, and their conflicts.

Donna: How did you become interested in the church in Jane Austen’s England?

Brenda: I originally wanted to write a novel based on Sense and Sensibility. Because of my own faith, I wanted to include characters who were seeking God. But I soon realized that I didn’t know much about what that would look like in Austen’s time. I did not want to assume that the church and Christians were like those I know today (and it turns out in many ways they weren’t). I started researching, and the more I found out, the more questions I had. So I kept researching and learning more.

Donna: What should we know about the church in Austen’s England?

Brenda: Everything in my book? Or at least that the church was assumed to be an essential part of an English person’s life. (As Henry Tilney said, “We are English, . . . we are Christians.”) The church was in a time of great change, moving toward greater prominence in English people’s lives.

Donna: I think chapter 30 was one of my favorite parts. Could you share a brief excerpt from that for my readers?

Brenda: I'd be happy to.


Morals, Manners, and Religion in Austen’s Novels

Like Edmund Bertram, most clergy in Austen’s time connected religion with morals and manners. Religion included religious practices, such as daily prayers and church attendance, as well as religious teaching or doctrine. Morals meant the inward knowledge of right and wrong, which Austen also calls good principles. Religion and moral principles result, Austen says, in manners—outward actions toward other people. In Mansfield Park, for example, Henry Crawford recognizes that Fanny Price is “well principled and religious,” and therefore trustworthy (ch. 30).

Among Austen’s characters, some know good principles, but do not practice them; they have poor manners. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy was “given good principles” but often treated people badly (ch. 58). Marianne Dashwood also knew what was right but, like Darcy, had to learn manners. After her illness, she determined to “practise the civilities, the lesser duties of life, with gentleness, and forbearance” (ch. 46), applying the principles she knew to her actions.

Austen’s villains appear to have good manners initially, but their actions eventually show their poor principles. Henry Crawford of Mansfield Park, for example, seems charming. He even gives the appearance of reforming into a better person when he falls in love with Fanny. However, underneath he is immoral; his vanity leads him to seduce a married woman. Willoughby and Wickham also follow bad principles that result in bad conduct. Selfishness governs their actions, rather than kindness or love.

How were manners and morals connected to religion? Evangelicals like William Wilberforce and Hannah More believed that principles and manners couldn’t stand on their own, but needed true religion at the core—not just external religious observances such as going to church, but a deep personal relationship with God and faith in Christ. They said love of Christ (not just “good principles”) results in true love for others (not just surface “good manners”).

For Jane Austen as well as for the Evangelicals, faith and good works went hand in hand. Evangelicals openly campaigned to improve the principles and manners of society. Jane Austen influenced people more subtly. She showed principled characters that readers would want to emulate: Elinor Dashwood, who loves her neighbor as herself; Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who both repent of their pride and prejudice; Fanny Price, who holds strongly to her religious principles despite outward pressure and her own physical weakness and shyness. Austen also showed character flaws readers would want to avoid, such as Willoughby’s self-centeredness.  ©Brenda S. Cox, 2022, reprinted by permission.

Donna: That's a good teaser, indeed, Brenda. Thank you so much for being with us today. We'll just finish with your brief biography and where to buy Fashionable Goodness.

Brenda S. Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (including three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line (JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. 

Where to Buy 

Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is now available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books.


It was great fun to learn that my Where There is Love series, biographical novels on the church in England in the 18th and 19th century was part of Brenda's research for Fashionable Goodness. You can read her in-depth review here.


Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

Read More: Regency World

Share This Post:


Reader Comments:

Thank you so much for joining us, Brenda! All the best on your continuing blog tour--I loved being part of it.
-Donna, November 8, 2022

Thank YOU, Donna, for sharing about the book! It was a delight to meet you!
-Brenda S. Cox, November 10, 2022

This is fascinating as I love Jane Austen. I'm sure the subject of Mr Collins must come up - a clergyman who knew his principles but that didn't translate through to his manners. There was a fatal disconnect along the way!
-SHEILA ROBINSON Pen name SC Skillman, November 19, 2022

Yes, Sheila--Brenda covers the whole issue of manners since the term meant something quite different in Austen's day than it does in ours. Way beyond saying "Please," and "Thank you."
-Donna, November 19, 2022

Please share your comments
on this article:
Email address:
(will not be shown)

Blog Main Page