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It is from Pride and Prejudice.

He had not been long seated before he complimented Mrs. Bennet on having so fine a family of daughters, said he had heard much of their beauty, but that, in this instance, fame had fallen short of the truth ; and added, that he did. not doubt her seeing them all in due time well disposed of in marriage. This gallantry was not much to the taste of some of his hearers ; but Mrs. Bennet, who quarrelled with no compliments, answered most readily,—

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  • I wouldn't like to criticise Jane Austen, but she might have chosen to use reputation rather than fame here. That would seem more "natural" to me, and would probably be more easily understood by many readers. Or perhaps reports, presaging Mark Twain's purported The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. Mar 24, 2021 at 13:23
  • I think so, yes. Bear in mind that at the time, and in the social context being described, almost anything a man said to or about a woman would be a compliment. So if a man said anything like "The reports of your beauty are not exactly true" to a woman, it would almost always be a precursor to him making some OTT / hyperbolic assertion about how she was in fact much more beautiful than he had been led to expect. Mar 24, 2021 at 13:48

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to fall short of something, such as expectations or truth.

Means: to not reach or attain something or to not make the mark.

Often seen in sentences like:

  • Your performance falls short of my expectations.
  • His attitude fell short of his usual good manners.

The fame about the beauty of the daughters in Pride and Prejudice is not as great as the actual truth of their beauty. They are much more beautiful than the fame of their beauty suggests. So, the fame is not as strong as the truth. It falls short of it.

Think of a sport where a ball has to go over a line and does not. Like a soccer ball in a soccer net (football). If the ball does not go over the goalpost line, either on the ground or in the air, it falls short of it. For example.

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