What Jane Austen has taught us about rejection.

What Jane Austen has taught us about rejection.

Jane Austen Rejection

"My Courage Always Rises at Every Attempt to Intimidate me."

Can you imagine a world without our beloved Pride and Prejudice?

Did you know that Jane Austen's iconic Pride and Prejudice was rejected in 1797, 16 years before it was published?  

It goes without saying the rejection is hard. Most of us have felt the sting of rejection, whether it was romantically or socially. Rejection is often times impersonal, and "just business" but, it feels personal to us, because were the ones being rejected. 

Take Jane Austen for example, in 1797 her father sent her manuscript to the publishing firm Cadell and Davies. It's important to note that in a time where women authors were very rare and frowned upon, Cadell and Davies was the one of the only firms that were actually publishing women's work. The Austen family likely felt that being published by Cadell and Davies was Jane's only realistic option to be published at the time. 

Thomas Cadell, co-founder of Caddell and Davies, Rejector of Jane Austen

Thomas Cadell sent back the letter to Austen's father, George, with only "declined by return of post." on the letter. Only five words, no explanation, no constructive criticism, nothing for Jane to improve on or to change. 

This happens a lot when it comes to rejection. Often times, all we get is a simple "no" or "thanks for your interest, but ..." with no real explanation for why the trajectory of our lives is changing or going to be different than what we had planned. What is a simple impersonal decision on one end can be a life changing, pivotal moment for another. 

I think we can all agree that having Jane published 16 years earlier would have been great, and maybe she would have written even more works for us to devour and love. 

But it was not to be.

Jane never stopped writing. She worked on her other works and wrote just for the love of it. 

Fourteen years later, Jane and her brother Henry, went back to Cadell and Davies, this time negotiating with Thomas Egerton. In 1811, Sense and Sensibility was published "by a lady" and became an instant hit. 16 years after it was rejected by Cadell and Davies, Pride and Prejudice was published by the same firm that dismissed it with only five words. 


First Edition of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, 1811

What did Jane Austen teach us about rejection? 

1. How to swallow our pride (and prejudice): After the success of Sense and Sensibility, Jane could have gone to a different publisher as a sort of "I told you so" to Cadell and Davies. She stayed loyal to the publisher that eventually published the rest of her novels. A decision that definitely paid off. 

2. Tenacity/Perseverance: After the rejection of First Impressions, Jane could have stopped writing altogether. Luckily, for us and the world of literature, she continued to write, and perfect her skills. 

3. Staying Genuine in our intentions: Did Jane Austen write because she thought that one day there would be millions of Janeites who love her work? Did Jane Austen write because she thought that one day someone would write and blog about her, or post about her on Instagram? Probably not. Jane loved writing since she was an adolescent and wasn't going to stop because Thomas Caddell rejected her work. Jane continued to write for the love of writing, not the "glory." When we do the things that make us happy, success will find us. 

When we find ourselves rejected, its important to remind us of Elizabeth Bennet's famous quote Pride and Prejudice. 

"My Courage Always Rises at Every Attempt to Intimidate me."


Get the iconic quote on a sticker, here and on a bag, here


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