Jane Austen is often described as just a miniature-painter. Her blessed ‘little bit (two inches wide) of ivory’ has too often set the tone of criticism. I mean to show that she was more than this. Whether we like it or not, she was also a moralist. In a thin sense of the word, of course, every novelist is a moralist who shows us the ways or mores of his characters and their society. But Jane Austen was a moralist in a thick sense, that she wrote what and as she wrote partly from a deep interest in some perfectly general, even theoretical questions about human nature and human conduct. To say this is not, however, to say that she was a moraliser. There is indeed some moralising in Sense and Sensibility and she does descend to covert preaching in Mansfield Park. Here I do discern, with regret, the tones of voice of the anxious aunt, and even occasionally of the prig. But for the most part, I am glad to say, she explores and does not shepherd.