No, Jane Austen did not write that.

Today’s post is about a love quote that is often misattributed to Jane Austen.  Read on to learn who really wrote it as well as who is propagating this misinformation across the internet.

The Misattributed Quote

“To love is to burn, to be on fire.”
Jane Austen

The Correct Quote

“To love is to burn, to be on fire.”
Emma Thompson
Sense and Sensibility screenplay
Director Ang Lee
Columbia Pictures, 1995

The Quote Can Also Be Found in Emma Thompson’s Book

The entire screenplay is included in Emma Thompson’s book Sense and Sensibility: the Screenplay & Diaries currently published by Newmarket Press for It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.  Please note the original book is titled The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film published by Newmarket Press in 1995.  HarperCollins subsequently acquired the rights.


After surveying 65 websites featuring the misattributed quote, I found the following trends.

PercentageType of Website
62%    Social media
12%    Quotes only
8%     Corporation/Corporate individual
8%     Topical Group or Discussion Forum
5%     Informational
3%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
1%     Academic/Educational/School
1%     Quotes a major feature

The Source of the Misattributed Quote

Based on the above statistics, by far the main source of today’s misquote is social media.  As I’ve mentioned before, the quote virus loves to spread its disease through social media.  As we know, all it takes is one person posting a misquote on his/her favorite social media site to begin the epidemic.  All of his/her followers receive the infected quote who then spread it to all of their followers who spread it to their followers ad infinitum.

For example, I came across a blog featuring the misquote by itself as a blog post.  I analyzed the statistics listed underneath the post and found it was reblogged 87 times and liked 112 times.  Just imagine how many of those reblogs and likes were subsequently reblogged and liked which were subsequently reblogged and liked.  And this is from a single person.  This is one of the main reasons there are so many misquotes floating around in cyber world.

The bottom line is never believe quotes that are sent to you via social media, yes, even if they’re from your family and friends.

The Cause of the Misattributed Quote

Because the 1995 Sense and Sensibility film is based on the 1811 Sense and Sensibility book, it is easy to understand how the film quote came to be misattributed to the book.  However, these two pieces of art have two separate creators.  Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay, and Jane Austen wrote the book.

As I have mentioned before, just because a film is based on a book does not mean that the entire dialog is verbatim from the book.  If this were the case, the film duration would never fit within a two-hour timeframe.  It is up to the screenwriter to condense the story and dialog into a reasonable feature-film length.  And this is what Emma Thompson did with Jane Austen’s book.

If you are interested in hearing the quote in the movie, it occurs at 19 minutes 24 seconds.  Marianne (played by Kate Winslet) says it to her mother, Mrs. Dashwood (played by Gemma Jones).  Please note, if you happen to view it on a free movie-streaming website, make sure the run time is the full 2 hours and 16 minutes; otherwise, the scene will not occur at the 19-minute mark.

In short, because this quote occurs in the film and does not appear in the book, Emma Thompson is the correct author of the quote.

Screenwriters Often Do Not Get Credit for Their Quotes

My 08/31/15 post titled No, Charles Dickens did not write that and my 06/18/14 post titled F. Scott Fitzgerald Gets Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due are two more examples of screenwriters not getting credit for their quotes.

Most Amusing Finds

I came across a book titled Jane Austen Quotes and Facts.  One of the “facts” is that Austen wrote the misquote.  Hmm . . . I wonder where the author did his “research.”

I also encountered an article in a local news magazine for a city in Massachusetts in which the author claims one of her “favorite novels written by Jane Austen” is Sense and Sensibility.  This author then proceeds to attribute the misquote to Austen and then misspells two characters’ names (Edward Ferrars is spelled Edward Farrows, and Elinor is spelled Eleanor).  Given these are two of the main characters whose names occur repeatedly in the story, one wonders how many times she actually read the book.

Finally, I found our misquote for sale on an apron for $25.55.  Not only is it amusing that flawed merchandise has a price of $25.55, but it is also amusing that an apron features a quote that is about burning and being on fire.  I suppose if you’re really into cooking flambé, it would be a great fit.  But I would think most cooks wouldn’t want to accompany their culinary efforts with the words “burn” and “on fire” (smile, wink, chuckle).

For Sale

Conveniently, today’s misquote is widely available for purchase online.  You can spend as little as $3.70 for a greeting card or as much as $46.95 for a traveler water bottle.  What a deal!

Kill the Quote Virus

The quote virus can only be exterminated through education.  You can be part of the solution by sharing the knowledge.  Please forward this post to family and friends, or if you’re on Facebook, “like” my Facebook fan page.  If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me @SueBrewton.  Remember to practice safe quoting and

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

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