Jane Austen's novels portray a leisured society of gentlemen and ladies who do not need to work. Even the minority of clergymen, soldiers and sailors - men with professions - are almost never seen working. Jane Austen herself, despite responsibility for some domestic tasks, wrote as a woman of leisure. Yet leisure, the distinguishing mark of a gentleman, was not meant to be an excuse for idleness. The proper use of leisure to fulfil duties, to read and to think, and above all to pursue social relations in a world where family and marriage for the propertied was of central importance, was a vital test of character.
Jane Austen and Leisure