The KISS Grammar Workbooks The KISS Workbooks Anthology

Jane Austen: The KISS Grammar Page

     "Celia" in Australia, suggested the opening paragraphs of Pride and Prejudice as an exercise text. It was an excellent suggestion, since those paragraphs are probably one of the best known opening lines of any novel. In looking for a suitable border graphic, I found the illustrations of C.E. Brock, and since I simultaneously found the Brock illustrations for Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion, I decided to add the openings of those novels as well.
     Diane Ravitch, in The Language Police, includes Pride and Prejudice in her suggestions for tenth grade, so I decided to put these selections here. There are, I am sure, additional short passages from Austen's novels that might be thematically and/or syntactically more interesting to use as exercises, but I do not have the time to reread all her novels now. Thus, for now, the selections are all from the opening paragraphs of the works.
     If yo are a fan of Jane Austen, you will definitely want to visit The Republic of Pemberley ( It appears to be a fantastic website devoted to her and her works.

Notes for the Opening Sentences of Mansfield Park
Punctuation Ex Original AK G11 PA L3.2 Punctuation

     The opening paragraph of Mansfield Park is too long to use as an exercise, so I have used just the first half of it. Syntactically, this exercise should challenge students, especially because it includes a relatively very rare clause construction in "She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation; and such of their acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria, did not scruple to predict their marrying with almost equal advantage." Thematically, it is always, of course, better to read the entire work, but the opening paragraph of this novel, by itself, could stimulate an interesting discussion about the relationships between marriage and money. 
     Most of the punctuation exercise should be a very simple review. Probable points of interest in the discussion of it will be the effect of Austen's comma after "lawyer," and the use of the semicolon after "elevation."

Notes for the Opening Sentences of Northanger Abbey
Exercise AK Punctuation

     The opening paragraph of Northanger Abbey is also far too long for an exercise, so I have limited the exercise to the opening sentences. I actually started the de-combining exercise as a combining exercise, but I couldn't figure out what to do with the first sentence. That made me realize that the passage would be an excellent de-combining exercise. As students struggle to break down that first sentence, they will probably see that many longer, complicated sentences are much more than simply the sum of their parts. As always, at least some discussion of the de-combining exercise is important. Students need to see not only what other students did, but also how other students react to the differences in style.

Notes for the Opening Sentences of Persuasion
Exercise AK - L6.1

     I'm not thrilled by the first part of the sentence-combining exercise -- this is a difficult passage to decombine. You might want to try having the students decombine the original instead of doing the combining exercise. In either case, point out Austen's use of semicolons and the parallel "there" main clauses. One of the important points of the decombining is that these get lost and the simpler syntax is actually much more confusing to read. Instead of doing the entire passage, you might want to have students focus just on the last part, the obituary notice. On the one hand, it is not a "sentence," but as the analysis key for level three indicates, except for the missing verb "died," every word in it chunks just as if it were. 
     The opening paragraph of the Gutenberg edition is missing the comma after "domestic affairs, but I have included it based on my Norton Library edition.

Notes for the Opening Paragraphs of Pride and Prejudice
Exercise AK - Combining

    You might want to use the sentence-combining exercise as a leaden to a discussion of style. Have the students do it in class, discuss some of their versions, then show them Austen's version and ask why she organized the sentence(s) as she did. What, for example, is the difference between her opening sentence and "That a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife is a truth universally acknowledged." Is it just that one version is more easily understood than the other? Or is there a difference in emphasis? Does one version sound more ironic than the other? What reasons do the students have for their answers? (Note that there are no "correct" answers for these questions, and, in many ways, one's response to them is difficult to explain. The purpose here is not to get a "right" answer, but rather to ensure that students are considering the stylistic implications -- of texts that they read, and of their own writing.

This border is based on the cover of the 1933 Modern Library Giant edition.
Source: The Dog-eared Modern Library Database