Old Mr. Dashwood of Norland Park in Sussex and his heir, his nephew Henry Dashwood, have died. Henry married twice. By his first marriage, he has a son, John. John and his four-year-old son, Henry, are in their own right wealthy and by a provision in old Dashwood’s will, they are the heirs to his estate. Henry by his second marriage has a dependant wife and three daughters: Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret.
As soon as Henry Dashwood is buried, the John Dashwoods move into Norland Park. John’s wife, the selfish and egocentric Fanny Dashwood, persuades John not to honor a verbal promise he made to his father to provide sufficiently for his stepmother and daughters. Elinor is attracted to Fanny’s brother Edward Ferrars, but knows he is financially dependent on his snobbish mother, who would not countenance such a marriage. Mrs. Dashwood loses patience with the distant, supercilious treatment she receives from Fanny and John and determines to leave Norland as soon as she can.
Sir John Middleton of Barton Park in Devonshire, a distant relation, invites the Dashwoods to become tenants of Barton Cottage on his estate. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters move as soon as possible, without tangible assistance from Fanny and John. Mrs. Dashwood makes it evident that Edward Ferrars is welcome to visit, but not his sister or her husband, although she goes through the motions of inviting them.
The Dashwoods move to Barton Cottage, meet an almost overwelcoming Sir John Middleton and his more reserved wife. At Barton Park, they meet Lady Middleton’s mother, Mrs. Jennings, and Colonel Brandon of Delaford in Dorsetshire. The Colonel is very attentive to Marianne and her piano playing, but she makes it clear after he has gone that at 35 he is too old and boring to be a suitor.
The Dashwoods quickly settle into the rhythms and routines of country life. One morning Marianne and Margaret set off for a walk, the weather turns suddenly, and to avoid the heavy rain they are forced to turn back. They run down the hill to the garden gate, but in doing so Marianne falls and twists her ankle. A gentleman out hunting comes to her rescue, takes her in his arms, and carries her to the cottage. Her rescuer is John Willoughby, living at nearby Allenham. He calls the next day to enquire about her. Marianne idealizes him as the type of hero she meets only in fiction. Sir John tells her that he is high-spirited and lacks “moderation” but evidently is “well worth catching” (45–44). He has property in Somersetshire and is the heir of Mrs. Smith, the elderly aunt of the nearby Allenham Court.
Willoughby frequently visits Barton Cottage. Marianne, infatuated with him, gives Willoughby a lock of her hair. Elinor gently attempts to warn her not to commit herself too much until she knows more about him. Willoughby’s adverse comments on Colonel Brandon, whom Elinor has grown to respect and admire, trouble her, especially as she is aware that Brandon has fallen in love with Marianne. Willoughby and Marianne continue to defy convention by openly displaying their mutual attraction, and an engagement is expected. Willoughby, however, suddenly announces his imminent departure for London. He leaves quickly, giving no return date, and a distraught Marianne waits in vain for a letter from him. Edward Ferrars spends a week at Barton Cottage but is reserved and uneasy toward Elinor. In contrast to her sister, she exercises self-control and does not exhibit her true feelings.
Two newly discovered relations of Mrs. Jennings, Anne and Lucy Steele, stay as guests of the Middletons at Barton Park. Both are fashionable ladies. Anne is nearly 30 and plain, while Lucy is younger and superficially smart. Elinor discovers that Lucy and Edward have secretly been engaged for four years. Edward was a pupil of her uncle in Plymouth, and they have kept the engagement a secret as Lucy is without a fortune and Edward’s mother would not approve. Elinor is initially unable to accept that Edward would attach himself to someone as superficial as Lucy, but from what she knows of his family, she comes to accept the situation and is silently “wretched” (135).
Elinor does not display her feelings and guesses that on Edward’s part, the engagement was part of a youthful infatuation. She learns from Lucy that they both have grown tired of each other, but Edward is too honorable to break off the promise to her, and Lucy refuses to give up a potentially wealthy match. Mrs. Jennings invites Elinor and Marianne to spend the winter season in London. Owing to a promise to Lucy, Elinor has withheld information about the secret engagement and not informed Marianne. But she has to listen to her sister’s distress regarding Willoughby. Against her better judgment, she allows herself to be persuaded by her mother and sister to accept the London invitation, and they leave for London with Mrs. Jennings during the first week of January.
Marianne writes to Willoughby and receives no answer. The Middletons arrive in London and organize a ball, to which Willoughby has been invited but fails to appear. They then attend a large gathering with Lady Middleton, where they encounter Willoughby accompanied by a very fashionable lady. Willoughby is very cool and barely polite toward Marianne, who almost faints and is prevented by Elinor from rushing after him to demand an explanation. Elinor tells Lady Middleton that her sister is unwell. They return home at once with Marianne in “silent agony” (178).
The following day, a distraught Marianne writes to Willoughby and receives an immediate reply. In the same reserved tone as the previous day, Willoughby denies slighting her or having given her a reason to think that there was an attachment between them. He returns her letters as she requested, along with her lock of hair. Furthermore, he is engaged to be married. Mrs. Jennings, who is back from her usual morning gossip with acquaintances, confirms that Willoughby is shortly to marry and adds that, having spent his fortune rashly, he is marrying Miss Grey, an heiress.
Colonel Brandon reveals to Elinor that Willoughby seduced and deserted Brandon’s 16-yearold ward, Eliza Williams. She is the illegitimate daughter of Brandon’s deceased sister-in-law, Elizabeth Brandon, with whom Brandon was in love. Willoughby is exposed as “expensive, dissipated and worse than both” (210). Marianne, rather than finding consolation in this, is even more depressed as she has lost Willoughby and also her romantic ideals. But she begins to view Brandon more sympathetically. Mrs.
Dashwood persuades Elinor and Marianne to stay in London, as at Barton Cottage Marianne will be reminded too much of Willoughby. Further, the John Dashwoods will soon be in London, and the girls should spend time with them. Two weeks after Willoughby’s letter, early in February, Willoughby marries and leaves London. The Steele girls arrive, as do the John Dashwoods. In a jeweler’s shop one morning, without knowing who it is, Elinor and Marianne observe the vain Robert Ferrars fastidiously selecting a toothpick case. They also meet John Dashwood, who makes lame excuses for not having called on them but wishes to meet the well-connected wealthy Middletons. He arrives without his wife the next day at Mrs. Jennings’, where Brandon is visiting. John Dashwood then walks with Elinor to the Middletons’ residence. During the walk his mercenary nature emerges. He encourages Elinor to pursue Brandon for his wealth, speaks of Marianne’s reduced opportunities to marry well, and reveals his plans to make enclosures in Norland Commons on his estate. Mrs. Ferrars plans to marry Edward Ferrars to a wealthy heiress, the Honorable Miss Morton.
John Dashwood gives his wife such a favorable report of Mrs. Jennings and Lady Middleton that she agrees to visit them and bonds with the egocentric Lady Middleton. Mrs. Jennings, Elinor, Marianne, and Brandon are invited to dinner at the Middletons’. In addition to Anne and Lucy Steele, they meet Mrs. Ferrars. She is especially disdainful of Elinor, whom she suspects of still having designs on Edward. Elinor finds this ironic, since if Mrs. Ferrars knew Edward was already secretly engaged, she would be outraged. Mrs. Ferrars slights Elinor’s drawing and receives a rebuke from Marianne. Colonel Brandon particularly admires Marianne for this display of an “affectionate heart” (236).
In the last chapters of volume 2, Anne and Lucy Steele are invited to stay at John and Fanny Dashwood’s Harley Street residence. Elinor perceives this as a signal that Lucy has succeeded in flattering Fanny and she will support her in making public the news of her engagement to Edward.
This opens with the news that the Steele girls have been thrown out of the Harley Street house. Anne Steele reveals the secret engagement, and Fanny Dashwood reacts with horror and a fit of “violent hysterics” (259). Elinor reveals her own situation to Marianne, who begins to be aware of just how difficult it has been for Elinor. Mrs. Ferrars has given Edward an ultimatum. If he marries Lucy, he will be disowned and disinherited; if he breaks the engagement and agrees to marry Miss Morton, she will increase his fortune. Edward has made it clear that he will keep his word to Lucy. He has been dismissed from his mother’s house and she has arranged through lawyers to transfer the estate due to him to Robert, the younger brother. Three days later, Anne Steele tells Elinor that Edward offered Lucy a release from the engagement but she refused. The following morning, Elinor receives a letter from Lucy stating that she had offered Edward the opportunity to break off the engagement but he had refused.
Colonel Brandon, hearing of Edward’s financial difficulties, offers him an unfilled position in the church as a clergyman on his Delaford estate. It is early April, and Elinor and Marianne leave London for Barton. On their way, they visit the Palmers at Cleveland in Somersetshire, where they travel with Mrs. Jennings. Cleveland is only 30 miles from Willoughby’s Combe Magna, and Marianne is overcome with nostalgia. She goes out in spite of the rain on long walks, catches cold, which becomes pneumonia, and falls dangerously ill. She is inadequately treated by Mr. Harris, the Palmers’ apothecary. Colonel Brandon leaves to fetch Mrs. Dashwood from Barton, and Elinor remains with the very ill Marianne.
Elinor’s devoted nursing sees her sister through the worst of the crisis. Later in the evening on the fifth day of the illness, Elinor hears a carriage. Instead of the expected Mrs. Dashwood and Colonel Brandon, Willoughby appears. He has dashed from London, having heard that Marianne is dying, to try to explain his actions and asks for forgiveness. He acknowledges to Elinor his behavior to Eliza Williams and mercenary marriage to Miss Grey. His last letter to Marianne was dictated by his wife, whom he neither loves nor respects. Elinor grants Willoughby a degree of forgiveness and pities the long, loveless unhappy years ahead of him. She also agrees to convey his story to Marianne once she has recovered sufficiently.
Her mother arrives with Colonel Brandon, who on the journey confessed his love for Marianne. Mrs. Dashwood will do all she can to promote it, and she tries to make up for her former encouragement of Willoughby by trumpeting Brandon’s praises. Marianne and Elinor return to Barton with their mother. Marianne undergoes a period of intense self-reflection. Elinor tells her of Willoughby’s visit, and she concludes that she could not have been happy with him. Marianne determines to be less emotional and to exercise greater self-control.
Mrs. Dashwood’s manservant Thomas returns from a visit to Exeter with the news that Edward Ferrars and Lucy Steele are married. Marianne on hearing the news looses self-control. Elinor retains control but is clearly distressed. Mrs. Dashwood realizes how much she has neglected Elinor and paid too much attention to Marianne. Elinor clearly still loves Edward and has hoped they may marry in spite of the obstacles. Edward arrives unexpectedly at the cottage. Elinor thinks he has come to announce his marriage to Lucy. He explains that it was not him at Exeter but his brother Robert. Lucy had quickly transferred her attentions to Robert once she learns that he will inherit the estate and has married Robert before even breaking the engagement with Edward. They maliciously tricked Edward in Exeter.
Edward comes to Barton to ask for Elinor’s hand. She accepts and they are partially reconciled with Mrs. Ferrars, who gives consent for them to marry but keeps the settlement of the estate on Robert in spite of his marriage to Lucy. Elinor and Edward marry at Barton in the autumn and settle at Delaford, where the generous Brandon has improved the parsonage. All scheme to persuade Marianne to see Brandon as a suitor and she at last accepts his proposal. They are married within a year of Edward and Elinor’s marriage. The couples live happily at Delaford in regular contact with Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret at Barton. The lives of Lucy and Robert, Mrs. Ferrars, Willoughby, and his wife, and John and Fanny Dashwood are full of “disagreement between themselves” (380).
The opening paragraph of the first chapter introduces some of Jane Austen’s favorite themes: money, inheritance, and family conflict. One generation passes and gives way to another. A distinction is made between selfish interest and “goodness of [the] heart.” The reader is not introduced to a specific time but to a family—the Dashwoods. The second paragraph introduces the gender distinction. One generation of male Dashwoods are sufficiently taken care of, whereas their sisters are not. Practically the estate is “tied up for the benefit [of] a small child.” Jane Austen creates warning signs concerning this child, who had “an earnest desire of having his own way.” The three girls are “left” with “a thousand pounds a piece,” relatively paltry sums. The young John Dashwood “was not an ill-disposed young man,” although even this is qualified by Jane Austen with the comment “unless to be rather cold hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed.” There are a number of other reservations concerning the character of John Dashwood in spite of his conducting “himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinary duties.” In other words, he conducted himself appropriately, but his Achilles’ heel is his wife, whom he married when he was young. He was “very fond of his wife. But Mrs. John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself;—more narrow-minded and selfish.”
The eighth paragraph of the chapter contains a sequence of inner thought processes conveying Dashwood’s intentions toward his half-sisters in the form of quotation marks used to separate thoughts he is saying to himself. The remainder of the chapter moves from the funeral of Henry Dashwood to the young Mr. John Dashwood’s unannounced appearance at Norland Park, the Dashwood residence. There clearly is no love lost between John Drummond’s stepmother and her stepson’s wife. The mother remains at Norland only after listening to her eldest daughter, Elinor, regarding “the propriety” or appropriateness “of going and her own tender love for all her three children.” She wishes to “avoid a breach with” the family.
The last four paragraphs of the chapter describe the differing personalities of the daughters. The eldest, Elinor, clearly is able to influence her mother. She is 19 yet “possessed strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment.” She has an “eagerness of mind,” which may be perceived as “imprudence,” for instance, by the young Mrs. Dashwood. Unlike her mother, Elinor knows how “to govern” her feelings, a quality “which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.”
If Elinor represents common sense, then Marianne, her sister, is the embodiment of “sensibility.” Marianne too is “sensible and clever,” but in addition “eager in every thing; her sorrows, her joys could have no moderation.” In other words, “she was every thing but prudent.” The penultimate paragraph describes the sisters’ and mother’s different reactions to their situation. Marianne and her mother “gave themselves wholly up to their sorrow.” Although also “deeply afflicted,” Elinor is able to control her feelings, “she could exert herself,” and is able to undertake appropriate social duties such as treating her stepbrother’s wife upon arrival at Norland Park in the correct manner and encouraging her mother to exercise “similar forbearance.”
The chapter ends with a brief single paragraph describing Margaret, the younger sister, who is only 13. Like Marianne, “she had already imbibed a good deal of [her] romance, without having much of her sense” and does not appear “at a more advanced period of life” to “bid fair to equal her sisters” (– 7). So essentially, Elinor is associated with qualities aligned to “sense,” or 18th-century neoclassicism, such as a middle way, rationality, moderation, the control of feelings, social responsibility and values, duty, and charity. Marianne, on the other hand, her mother, and younger sister Margaret represent characteristics associated with romanticism, such as the open expression of feelings, giving the imagination free rein, excess, and individual, as opposed to social, concerns. The novel may be viewed as an interaction or dialogue between these values. By its completion they intermingle.
The second chapter largely consists of a debate between John Dashwood and his wife, Fanny, as to how much his stepmother and sisters should practically receive. Their discussion moves from the subject of annuities and their limitations, to whether they should abide by his late father’s request to grant each of the daughters 1,000 pounds each. The reader learns that once Mrs. John Dashwood had “installed herself mistress of Norland . . . her mother and sisters-in-law were degraded to the condition of visitors.” They are treated more kindly by John Dashwood than by his wife. Mrs. Dashwood is unhappy because Norland reminds her of what was rather than what is—she lives in the past rather than the present. She has an optimistic outlook on life, a “sanguine expectation of pleasure which is happiness itself.”
Mrs. Fanny Dashwood’s point of view is conveyed at some length, especially in the third paragraph of the chapter, and continued in discussion between her and her husband. Her meanness is disguised by her consideration for “the fortune of their dear little boy”: Any payment to her husband’s relatives implies taking money from their young son. Her husband feels a debt of obligation to his father’s wishes. This is soon whittled away by Mrs. Fanny Dashwood. She objects to the annuity, as her husband’s stepmother “is very stout and healthy, and hardly forty.” So by the conclusion of the chapter, John Dashwood decides, being influenced by his wife, “that it would be absolutely unnecessary, if not highly indecorous, to do more for the widow and children of his father, than such kind of neighbourly acts as his own wife pointed out.” Even “The china, plate and linen” of Stanhill, Mrs. Dashwood’s former home, remains. As the young Mr. Dashwood observes, “That is a material consideration undoubtedly. A valuable legacy indeed!” and adds, “And yet some of the plate could have been a very pleasant addition to our own stock here.”
The second chapter contains a mixture of omniscient narration and dialogue, presenting counterarguments between John Dashwood and his wife, Fanny, of which Fanny, Mrs. John Dashwood, gets the better of the argument. So an intended legacy of 3,000 pounds for each daughter is pared down to acts of charity. “Material consideration[s]” (8–13) reverberate through the novel.
A brief chapter moves through several perspectives. The first four paragraphs focus on the older Mrs. Dashwood. Her “eldest daughter,” Elinor’s “steadier judgment rejected several houses too large for their income, which her mother would have approved.” The second paragraph concentrates on Mrs. Dashwood’s mistaken reliance on the “liberality of his intentions” of the young John Dashwood. The third paragraph conveys the “contempt” she “felt for her daughter-in-law,” which is exacerbated by “a growing attachment between” Elinor “and the brother of Mrs. John Dashwood,” Edward Ferrars. Elinor’s mother’s motives for encouraging “the intimacy” between them are shown by the narrator not to be those of self-interest. “Edward Ferrars was the eldest son of a man who had died very rich”; however, somewhat unusually, “the whole of the fortune depended on the will of his mother.” The deceased Mr. Ferrars left his fortune to his wife rather than to a male descendant, unlike, for instance, in the case of the dead Mr. Dashwood, who leaves his second wife and three daughters in a dependent situation.
Mrs. Dashwood, in contrast to most of the other characters in the novel, ignores disparities created by wealth: “It was enough for her that he appeared to be amiable, that he loved her daughter, and that Elinor returned the partiality.” The narrator adds, “It was contrary to every doctrine of her’s [Jane Austen here uses a variant form of “hers”] that difference of fortune should keep any couple asunder who were attracted by resemblance of disposition.”
The sixth paragraph shifts the point of view to that of the author and then to that of “his mother and sister.” Edward Ferrars is described through negatives: He is “not recommended to their good opinion . . . He was not handsome,” he is “diffident” or shy. Edward fails to conform to his mother and sister’s expectations: “they wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other.” His mother wishes to see him in Parliament and his sister wishes to see him driving a “barouche,” or a four-wheeled open carriage, a modern equivalent being an extremely expensive car. But Edward’s “wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life.” The final sentence of the paragraph is a fine example of authorial irony. It seems to be a comment by the author but encapsulates Mrs. Ferrars’s materialistic outlook and values: “Fortunately he had a younger brother who was more promising,” one who would make more of a splash, a show in the world.
To Elinor’s mother, “she saw only that [Edward] was quiet and unobtrusive.” A discussion between Elinor and her mother reveals that the mother has much in common with the attitudes of her younger daughter Marianne, being unable “to separate esteem and love.” Dialogue between Marianne and her mother closes the chapter. It reveals the impulsive, selfish driven younger daughter for whom external appearances are important. She “could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with [her] own.” As her mother reminds her in the last paragraph of the chapter, she is “not [yet] seventeen.” Marianne’s relationship with her mother is very open. She assesses Edward’s character impulsively according to her perception of his apparently lukewarm reading aloud of lines from the poet William Cowper, one of Jane Austen’s favorite authors. She complains to her mother, “To hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable coldness, such dreadful indifference!” Edward’s reading aloud of literature becomes a basis for character assessment (14–18).
The chapter contains a lengthy speech by Elinor to her sister and the description of the contents of a letter from a distant relation of Elinor’s offering her mother and sister a home. This is the first instance of a letter in the novel playing a significant role. This chapter, important for plot development, opens with Elinor and Marianne discussing Edward Ferrars’s character in terms of his reactions to drawing, revealing that the sisters disagree aesthetically but also over the nature of love. Elinor’s sense that Edward has reservations about their relationship, “the longer they were together the more doubtful seemed the nature of his regard,” prefigures subsequent events in the narrative. Mrs. Ferrars’s “contempt” toward Mrs. Dashwood, when she broaches the subject of a possible marriage between Elinor and Edward, results in the desire to leave Norland, as “her beloved Elinor should not be exposed another week to such insinuations”—of ensnaring him for mercenary reasons.
The “cold and unfeeling behaviour” Mrs. Dashwood receives at the hands of her relatives by marriage encourages her to accept an invitation made in a letter from a distant relative, Sir John Middleton of Barton Park. Although living in Devonshire, in the west of England, far away from Norland, Sussex, and Edward, “to quit the neighbourhood of Norland was no longer an evil; it was an object of desire; it was a blessing.” Elinor, in spite of her as yet apparently unreciprocated attachment to Edward, “thought it would be more prudent for them to settle at some distance from Norland.” Here she exercises common sense rather than personal feeling and “made no attempt to dissuade her mother from sending her letter of acquiescence”— or somewhat reluctant acceptance of Sir John’s offer (19–24).
In this short transitional chapter of eight paragraphs, Mrs. Henry Dashwood announces her move from Norland. John Dashwood, in spite of his promise to his late father, makes no real effort to assist, and his wife even wishes to deprive her husband’s relatives of “any handsome article of furniture.” The young Dashwoods are invited to visit Barton. Edward regrets that they will be “so far from” Norland. Elinor helps her mother prepare for the quick move: “the furniture was all sent round by water,” a common means of transportation during the early 19th century. Elinor’s “wisdom” limits “the number of their servants to three.”
In the first paragraph the word “incommode,” or inconvenient, occurs for the only time in Jane Austen’s work. It conveys the sense of the rapid transition from one home to another. This sense of transition is also movingly conveyed through the perspective of Marianne Dashwood in the last paragraph of the novel. Just before leaving Norland, Marianne pays homage to the house where she has spent most of her childhood: “Dear, dear Norland! . . . when shall I cease to regret you!—when learn to feel a home elsewhere!” Such addresses to houses or parts of nature holding especial sentimental meaning and memory were common in gothic literature and found in the work of Jane Austen’s contemporaries such as Scott and Wordsworth. However, Marianne’s feelings are genuine: “No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless, although we can observe you no longer!” Although Sense and Sensibility (SS) is about the interaction of two qualities as reflected through the personalities of Elinor and Marianne, it is also a novel about growing up. The novel depicts the process of change in human beings as they experience the world against the background of nature and its cyclical pattern of change and renewal (25–27).
This is another short chapter, mostly of authorial narration conveying the journey from Sussex to Devon, the initial impressions of the new home, and meeting with Sir John and Lady Middleton. The first paragraph is concerned with the journey. Initially “melancholy” as they move closer to their new home, the environment—“It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture”— creates a change in mood, to “cheerfulness.” This is in spite of the smallness of Barton: “a small green court was the whole of its demise in front,” or extent of the property.
The second and third paragraphs interweave the macrocosm and the microcosm, the larger picture of Barton Cottage and its place in the world with specific details such as the “window shutters” and the walls, contrasted with those of Norland. The sense of the importance of individual response to the environment is continued. Barton Cottage’s “situation” regarding its immediate location, the “high hills [which] rose immediately behind,” gives way descriptively to “the village of Barton,” and the external perspective in the third paragraph, the internal and differing reactions to it. Mrs. Dashwood admits that the house “is too small for our family,” then makes impractical suggestions for improvements. The change in personal situation and mood is reflected in the seasons: “It was very early in September; the season was fine”—even the weather is sympathetic, kindly. Improvements are planned for the spring.
The last five paragraphs of the chapter introduce the Middletons, who have rented at a very cheap rate Barton Cottage to their distant relatives. Sir John Middleton’s kindness and consideration is backed up by actual deed, “within an hour after he left them, a large basket full of garden stuff and fruit arrived from the park.” This “was followed before the end of the day by a present of game.” However, “his entreaties were carried to a point of perseverance beyond civility.” On the other hand, the Dashwoods find the much younger Lady Middleton more “reserved, [and] cold” than her husband. Their eldest child is very shy, and the chapter concludes with Sir John being unable to leave the Cottage “without securing the promise of dining at the park the next day” (28–31).
This is yet another brief chapter consisting of nine descriptive paragraphs of direct authorial narration without dialogue. The Dashwoods visit the Middletons at Barton Park, “about half a mile from the cottage.” The smallness of the cottage is highlighted by Barton Park, which “was large and handsome; and the Middletons lived in a style of equal hospitality and elegance.” Both “strongly resembled each other in that total want of talent and taste which confined their employments . . . within a very narrow compass.” They are described: “Lady Middleton piqued [prided] herself upon the elegance of her table, and of all her domestic arrangements.” Her husband enjoys society and especially “young people” and young ladies. His criteria of approval is that a “pretty girl” should be “unaffected,” without pretension, and natural, although his nieces, as he and the reader will discover, are far from “simple.” He has “a good heart,” and apparently prefers girls to “sportsmen,” as they will be interested also in shooting, which is his territory. Sir John has been able to invite “only one gentleman” to Barton Park to welcome the Dashwoods, as “it was moonlight and every body was full of engagements.” This refers to transportation problems during the period. In the country, moonlight evenings made visits to venues some distance away from home practical, as the moonlight provided natural lighting.
They are introduced to Lady Dashwood’s mother, Mrs. Jennings, who, in addition to being “merry, fat” and elderly, “talked a great deal, seemed very happy, and rather vulgar.” She subjects Elinor and Marianne to “common-place raillery,” or goodnatured ridicule, especially on the “subject of lovers and husbands,” and “hoped they had not left their hearts behind them in Sussex.” The other guest is “Colonel Brandon,” who “was silent and grave” and perceived by Marianne and her younger sister, Margaret, as “an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty.” The “cold insipidity of Lady Middleton” is disturbed only “by the entrance of her four noisy children after dinner.”
The final two paragraphs of the chapter center around Marianne’s performance at the piano and her singing songs requested, revealing considerable ability on her part to remember words and tunes. The others overpraise Marianne’s performance. “Colonel Brandon alone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures.” Her response to him is mixed. On the one hand, it “was estimable when contrasted against the horrible insensibility of the others,” whom she perceives as lacking musical taste. On the other hand, “a man” past 35 years of age “might well have outlived all acuteness of feeling and every exquisite power of enjoyment.” Marianne’s, is a total misjudgment as the novel reveals. For one so full of feeling and sensibility, she seriously misreads her fellow human beings.
The opening paragraph focuses on Mrs. Jennings, “a widow, with an ample jointure,” that is, money or property settled on her following her husband’s death. She is convinced “that Colonel Brandon was very much in love with Marianne Dashwood.” This conviction “supplied her with endless jokes against them both.” Marianne, who is 17, points out that Colonel Brandon “is old enough to be my father.” Elinor tells her sister that “if there should be any chance happen to be a woman who is single at seven and twenty, I should not think Colonel Brandon’s being thirty-five any objection to his marrying her” [Jane Austen’s emphasis]. The observation reinforces the sense that in Jane Austen’s work, 27 is the age at which single women despair of finding a husband. Notably Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice is 27 when she captures the Reverend Collins, and Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion, is the same age when she at last marries Wentworth.
The chapter is taken up with a dialogue among Elinor, Marianne, and their mother on marriage and whether marrying a man of 35 is “dooming Colonel Brandon and his wife to the constant confinement of a sick chamber.” The wife of an older man will “submit to the offices of a nurse, for the sake of the provision and security of a wife.” A similar observation is made in the third volume of Samuel Richardson‘s Sir Charles Grandison. Marianne notes that Colonel Brandon “talked of flannel waistcoats” (36–38). Flannel, a woolen fabric of loose texture, was associated by Jane Austen with illness. She writes on June 19, 1799, to her sister, Cassandra, from Bath, “my Uncle is still in his flannels, but is getting better again” (Letters, 47).
Elinor unsuccessfully attempts to get Marianne to admit that she is not uninterested in Brandon. When Elinor leaves the room, Marianne and her mother discuss what appears to be Edward Ferrars’s failure to visit them in their new home. Marianne believes that he may be ill. This results in an intimate and speculative discussion between mother and daughter on motives, character, and feelings. Marianne tells her mother that Elinor’s “self-command is invariable.” She asks, “When is she dejected or melancholy? When does she try to avoid society, or appear restless and dissatisfied in it?” Such unanswered questions posit questions in the mind of readers, who speculate as do the fictional characters. In this way, readers are encouraged to read on in the narrative to try to find the answers to the questions (38–39).
This important chapter is placed in the perspective of plot development and the introduction of new characters. The Dashwoods settle down to their new existence and enjoy “ordinary pursuits” such as their garden and walking in the surrounding countryside, which “abounded in beautiful walks.” The impulsive Marianne, accompanied by her younger sister, Margaret, ignores “one memorable morning” the warning signs of “driving rain” and goes out on a walk. Forced to turn back, they run “with all possible speed down the steep side of the hill which led immediately to their garden gate.” Margaret makes it, but Marianne falls down and is carried home by “a gentleman” who is out shooting game birds and accompanied by two pointers, or dogs, bred to indicate or “point” to the location of the game. “He put down his gun and ran to her assistance [and] took her up in his arms without further delay, and carried her down the hill.”
Such a chance encounter has important consequences. Elinor and her mother agree that Marianne’s rescuer is “uncommonly handsome” and with good manners. Elinor discovers that his name is “Willoughby,” currently living in a nearby house admired by the Dashwoods, Allenham Court, and he asks to be allowed to call the next day “to inquire after” Marianne. The 11th paragraph of the chapter, seen through Marianne’s perspective, beginning with “His manly beauty” (40–43), conveys the attractiveness of appearance or “the cosmetic element in sexual attraction” (Hardy, 151). Willoughby’s “person and air were equal to what” Marianne’s “fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story.” He appeals to her preconceptions. Further, “His name was good, his residence was in their favourite village, and [Marianne] soon found out that of all manly dresses a shooting-jacket was the most becoming” (43). The name is associated with pedigree, aristocracy, and class. In this paragraph, Jane Austen ironically reveals how the superficial and external joined with social image provide an “irresistible blend”: It will take most of the novel for Marianne “to lose the romantic image of appearance in the reality of experience” (Hardy, 151).
Sir John visits the family and apparently speaks highly of Willoughby: “A very decent shot, and there is not a bolder rider in England,” meet his criteria of “as good a kind of fellow as ever lived.” Furthermore, he will inherit Allenham Court when his relative, “the old lady” residing there, dies. In other words, “he is very well worth catching.” Mrs. Dashwood objects to this, observing, “Men are very safe with us, let them be ever so rich.” Sir John stresses Willoughby’s energy as seen in his dancing and hunting activities. Such qualities appeal to Marianne as “his eagerness . . . should know no moderation,” and she objects to what she regards as Sir John’s clichés concerning her “settling one’s cap at a man” or “making a conquest.” But in the last paragraph of the chapter, Sir John reminds her that Brandon “is very well worth setting your cap at, I can tell you, in spite of all this tumbling about and spraining of ancles” [sic]. Marianne, of course, ignores such wisdom (43–45).
Marianne and Willoughby’s relationship develops and becomes closer during his frequent visits to the Dashwoods’ cottage. Elinor is more reserved toward him, perceiving that “he strongly resembled” Marianne in “saying too much what he thought on every occasion, without attention to persons or circumstances.” Elinor attempts to defend Colonel Brandon, “for what could a silent man of five and thirty hope, when opposed by a very lively one of five and twenty?” Elinor “liked him—in spite of his gravity and reserve.” For Willoughby, on the other hand, “Brandon is just the kind of man . . . whom every body speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to.” The chapter concludes with Willoughby offering Elinor “three unanswerable reasons for disliking Colonel Brandon.” These are trivial: “he has threatened me with rain when I wanted it to be fine”; Brandon finds “fault with the hanging of my curricle,” or the interior of his fashionable twowheeled carriage; “and I cannot persuade him to buy my brown mare.”
The chapter is replete with literary allusions. Margaret characterizes Willoughby as “Marianne’s preserver” (46–52). In doing so, she is probably echoing Jane West’s A Gossip’s Story, published in 1796. In this novel, “a heroine called Marianne is rescued by a handsome young man when the horse she is riding takes fright at a carriage. The young man, Clermont, is referred to as her ‘preserver’ ” (Lamont, 307). In the fourth paragraph of the chapter, Elinor tells her sister that she knows what Willoughby “thinks of Cowper and Scott.” She adds, “you have received every assurance of his admiring Pope no more than is proper” (47). Cowper and Scott are in accord with romantic taste and focus on human feeling stimulated by “suffering and by the passage of time” (Lamont, 307). The poetry of Alexander Pope, on the other hand, focuses less on individuals than on individuals as social beings.
Elinor, in this fourth paragraph, tells Marianne that she and Willoughby will soon exhaust the subject of literature. She adds, “another meeting will suffice to explain his sentiments on picturesque beauty.” This is an allusion to the fashion for assessing nature through the principles found in William Gilpin’s work. Gilpin stresses the primitive and nonstructured elements of nature and the powerful effect of light. Marianne’s defense, “I have erred against every common-place notion of decorum; I have been open and sincere where I ought to have been reserved, spiritless, dull and deceitful,” reveals her strong individualist, nonconformist spirit.
Willoughby tells Elinor that Colonel Brandon “is patronized by” her, or favored by her. Furthermore, Willoughby and Marianne believe that Elinor will accept whatever Brandon tells her, whether he refers to the “East Indies”—an expression used to refer to the Indian subcontinent in addition to the actual East Indies—or his observations on “the existence of nabobs, gold mohrs and palanquins.” These expressions convey perceptions of India. According to the OED, the origins of “nabob” are from Urdu and mean the governor of a province but took on the meaning of someone returning from India with a fortune. The leading gold coin of northern India was a “mohr,” and “palanquin” referred to a covered vehicle carried by bearers. Elinor tells Willoughby “that his,” referring to Colonel Brandon’s “observations had stretched much farther than your candour” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). Here “candour” is used somewhat ironically in the now no longer used sense of freedom from malice or kindness. It emerges subsequently in the novel that Willoughby is less than kindly disposed toward Brandon (47, 50–51).
This chapter describes the developing relations between Marianne and Willoughby, now publicly displayed, and Elinor’s private reservations about it. Marianne flaunts conventional behavior. Elinor “only wished that” her sister’s “affection” for Willoughby “were less openly shown; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne.” The whirl of social activity and her devotion to Willoughby have even reduced Marianne’s “fond attachment to Norland,” her previous home. October has come, the time for “private balls,” and “this was the season of happiness to Marianne.”
On the other hand, “Elinor’s happiness was not so great.” She is uneasy about her younger sister, and “neither Lady Middleton nor [her mother] Mrs. Jennings could supply to her the conversation she missed.” Lady Middleton’s “reserve was mere calmness of manner with which sense,” that is, the ability to make intelligent decisions, “had nothing to do.” The only “new acquaintance” Elinor is able to form a friendship and discuss matters with is Colonel Brandon. She “had reason to suspect that the misery of disappointed love had already been known by him.” His words to her, “Your sister, I understand, does not approve of second attachments,” echoes a debate in Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison relating to the idealistic opinion that a person can be in love twice. Elinor’s contention with Marianne is a conservative one: “Her systems have all the unfortunate tendency of setting propriety at nought; and a better acquaintance with the world is what I look forward to as her greatest possible advantage.”
At the conclusion of the chapter, Brandon almost opens up to Elinor and makes a personal revelation. He stops short of doing so, and Elinor does not attempt to pry out of him what he is concealing. Her reticence is contrasted by Jane Austen as narrator with how Marianne would react to the situation. “The whole story would have been speedily formed under her active imagination; and every thing established in the most melancholy order of disastrous love” (52–57).
Marianne tells Elinor that Willoughby has given her a horse as a gift. She does not think, as Elinor indicates to her, of the implications of such a gift and her acceptance of it. Apart from the impropriety of receiving the gift from someone she has not known for long, Marianne impractically ignored the expense involved in the horse’s upkeep, the necessity to “keep a servant to ride it, and [to] build a stable.”
Elinor overhears Marianne telling Willoughby that she is forced to reject his gift. He responds by addressing her “by her christian name,” and referring to the time when she “leave[s] Barton to form [her] own establishment in a more lasting home.” From this Elinor perceives “an intimacy so decided, a meaning so direct” that she assumes a private engagement. However, the author’s use of literary allusions are warning signals that not all is as it seems. Marianne is an impractical dreamer. She lives in a world of illusions. This is reinforced by Willoughby’s remark, “Queen Mab shall receive you” (58–59). This is a reference to Mercutio’s speech in Romeo and Juliet celebrating dreaming. “The fairies’ midwife” leads people to believe in the fulfillment of their “dreams/ Which are the children of an idle brain/ Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,/ Which is as thin of substance as the air,/ And more inconstant than the wind” (I. iv. 53–54, 96–100).
In this chapter, literary allusions continue to serve as a warning. Margaret, who shows herself to be sensible and more discreet than she initially appeared, tells Elinor that she witnessed Willoughby cutting “off a long lock of” Marianne’s “hair . . . he kissed it, and folded it up in a piece of white paper, and put it into his pocket-book.” This is a reference to a passage in Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (1714), where a highly erotic and suggestive passage at the conclusion of the third canto, a lock of the heroine, Belinda’s, hair is cut during a card game following tea. Similarly, Willoughby has cut Marianne’s hair “after tea”—tea being a social and public event. The detail of the “pocket-book” reinforces the sense of possession: Willoughby has possessed Marianne, appropriated her for his own selfish purposes in a very public manner.
The relationship between the sexes receives some comic treatment in an episode where Elinor’s affections and the object of them are discussed by Mrs. Jennings, who attempts to pry out of Marianne and Margaret “who was Elinor’s particular favourite,” although Mrs. Jennings is really trying to get Marianne to confess. In response to Mrs. Jennings’s comment “He is the curate of the parish I daresay,” Marianne observes, “He is of no profession at all.” If this is applied to Willoughby, as developments in the novel will reveal, unlike Willoughby, characters such as Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon take their responsibilities very seriously indeed.
After Margaret has tactlessly revealed that Elinor has a favorite “and his name begins with an F,” Lady Middleton rapidly turns the subject to that of the weather. She is assisted by Colonel Brandon. At the end of the chapter they agree to visit the next day “to see a very fine place about twelve miles from Barton, belonging to a brother-in-law of Colonel Brandon,” who is responsible for its upkeep “as the proprietor . . . was abroad” (58–62).
Events take a somewhat surprising turn in this chapter. Letters will play an important role in the novel. During breakfast, Colonel Brandon receives a letter that, when he “looked at the direction” or address, caused him to change “colour.” The letter “came from town,” from London, and despite the pleadings of the others, Brandon leaves immediately and cannot say when he will return. He is forced to cancel the planned trip to Whitewell, his brother-in-law’s house. Mrs. Jennings asks him, “What can you have to do in town at this time of year?” a reference to the fact that sportsmen, hunters, would be in the country in October. Elinor overhears Willoughby commenting to Marianne that the visit is Brandon’s invention and wagering “fifty guineas the letter was of his own writing.” Such a remark reveals his own nefarious caste of mind. In 1717, the value of a guinea, issued as gold coins for the use of traders in Africa, was fixed at a pound sterling and one shilling. The last minting of the guinea was in 1813. The word “guinea” remained for professional fees, the cost of horses, and other items such as artworks.
New characters make their appearance—“the two Miss Careys [came] over from Newton.” Brandon goes on horseback to Honiton, a town on the Exeter-to-London road, from where he will “go post,” or in a fast but expensive means of transportation that stopped at posting inns to change the horses. Mrs. Jennings seems sure that she knows the reason for his abrupt departure, that “it is about Miss Williams,” who, she tells Elinor, “is his natural daughter,” or illegitimate. According to Mrs. Jennings, Miss Williams is “as like him as she can stare.” This expression concerns the likeness of one to another—“as she can stare.” She adds, “I dare say the Colonel will leave her all his fortune.” Legally, a child born out of wedlock had no rights to the father’s estate unless expressly stated in his will. In the first edition of SS, the passage continued, “Lady Middleton’s delicacy was shocked; and in order to banish so improper a subject as the mention of a natural daughter, she actually took the trouble of saying something herself about the weather” (Lamont, 309–310).
Marianne and Willoughby disappear in his carriage for the morning. Marianne confirms to Elinor the information she received from “her own woman,” her lady’s maid, that she had spent the time at Allenham Court, currently occupied by Willoughby’s sick and elderly aunt, Mrs. Smith. Marianne tells Elinor that she “never spent a pleasanter morning in [her] life.” For Elinor, Marianne’s going uninvited and unchaperoned is a serious breach of “decorum.” To this Marianne responds, “we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.” So she accords with the “sentimental” thinkers such as the Earl of Shaftsbury and others, Rousseau and Hume, for instance, and other 18th-century thinkers, who argued that personal feelings are the correct guide to right conduct. Elinor replies that Marianne’s actions have “already exposed [her] to some very impertinent remarks.”
The chapter concludes with Marianne conceding to her sister that “it was rather ill-judged in me to go to Allenham” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). She then describes in some detail the beauty of the house and its surroundings, including “a beautiful hanging wood,” or a wood on a steep slope of a hill (63–69).
The opening paragraph consisting of two lengthy sentences, each subdivided by a semicolon, presents the perspective of Mrs. Jennings, who speculates on why Colonel Brandon left so suddenly for London. She believes that Brandon is not as wealthy as he appears, and that “his brother left every thing sadly involved,” or in a financial mess. The narrative focus transfers in the third paragraph from Mrs. Jennings’s “conjecture[s]” to Elinor’s perspective. She is “engrossed by the extraordinary silence of her sister and Willoughby on the subject” of Brandon’s sudden departure. Elinor thinks that Willoughby lives above his means and that “his poverty” must be the reason for the delay in announcing the engagement to Marianne.
A major portion of the chapter is taken up with Willoughby’s praise of the virtues of Barton Cottage, for which, had he the money, he “would instantly pull Combe down, and build it up again in the exact plan of this cottage.” This remark elicits Elinor’s disbelief: “With dark narrow stairs, and a kitchen that smokes, I suppose,” she tells him. He hopes that whatever occurs—a signal that he is aware that change is about to take place—Barton Cottage will not change. Willoughby sincerely believes for the moment in his own fantasies—in this way he is as much a dreamer as Marianne. He asks the Dashwoods to “always consider [him] with kindness which has made every thing belonging to you so dear to me.” They assent to this, and the chapter ends with time and change looming—the planning of commitments for the next day (70–74).
The chapter opens with Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor, and Margaret returning home to find Marianne in tears. They find Willoughby alone, and in an embarrassed, awkward manner, he announces that he must immediately leave for London. He leaves quickly, refusing to make a commitment to return to visit them. Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor are left to speculate on the reasons. Mrs. Dashwood refuses to think ill of him and tries to place a positive spin on what has happened and Willoughby’s reasons. Elinor is more skeptical and suspicious.
To settle her nerves following Willoughby’s abrupt departure, Mrs. Dashwood “sat down to work,” that is, to sew. Elinor’s “wish [is] to be candid in [her] judgment of every body.” She uses the word “candid” in the sense used by Dr. Johnson, of being “free from malice; not desirous to find faults” (OED), but finds Willoughby’s behavior very strange. Her fears, she tells her mother, will be lessened “if we find they correspond,” that is, if Willoughby and Marianne write to each other. It was inappropriate, however, for a young unmarried woman to write to a man unless they were engaged. Her mother responds that Elinor is making “a mighty concession indeed!” Some of Jane Austen’s readers no doubt would be reminded of the tragic consequences that followed Clarissa, the heroine of Samuel Richardson’s novel, capitulating to family pressures, corresponding against her will, with the villain Lovelace.
At the conclusion of the chapter, Marianne reappears with “red and swollen” eyes. She “could neither eat nor speak . . . burst into tears and left the room.” True to her beliefs, Marianne is unable to do anything in half measures: “She was without any power, because she was without any desire of command over herself” (77, 79, 80, 82).
Marianne is upset by Willoughby’s absence, especially when no letter is received from him. Her mother refrains from asking her whether she and Willoughby are formally engaged, telling Elinor, “I would not attempt to force the confidence of any one; of a child much less.” Following “about a week” of solitary walks, Marianne is persuaded to join her sisters: “Elinor . . . greatly disapproved such continual seclusion.” Elinor’s reserve and sense of the necessity of company again emerge and contrast with Marianne’s romantic sense of melancholy, brooding, remembrance of the past, and isolation. On their walk they encounter Edward Ferrars, who “walked back with them to Barton.” They learn that “he had been in Devonshire a fortnight,” and “his coldness and reserve mortified [Elinor] severely,” although “she avoided every appearance of resentment or displeasure.” Unlike her sister Marianne, Elinor does not display her feelings for others to see.
In the second paragraph of the chapter the word “chief,” meaning “the main part,” is used. Indulging in memories of her home with Willoughby, Marianne sits at the piano “gazing on every line of music that [Willoughby] had written out for her.” Willoughby here displays considerable musical ability, as copying music is a far from easy skill. Marianne’s feelings receive little sympathy from “Sir John and Mrs. Jennings” who, unlike Elinor, Margaret, and her mother, “were not so nice” to her. They were not as reticent as her mother and sister. Her mother, however, is somewhat tactless when she tells Marianne, “We have never finished Hamlet” (83–85, 87–88). Tony Tanner comments: “One guesses that [they] had perhaps arrived at the part where Hamlet inexplicably rejects Ophelia” (93).
Marianne mistakenly thinks that “a man on horseback riding towards them” during their walk is Willoughby. Her sister Elinor “screen[s] Marianne from particularity.” Here “particularity” is used in the obsolete sense of “peculiarity such as to excite surprise” (OED). Marianne transfers her thoughts to Willoughby, whom she contrasts with Edward, “his brother elect,” that is, someone who is going to enter the office of being a clergyman. Edward comments to Elinor and Marianne that the area where they live “is a beautiful country . . . but these bottoms must be dirty in winter.” By “bottoms” are meant low-lying areas that are probably going to be muddy.
In this chapter Elinor reacts differently to nature than her sister Marianne. Reflecting on Norland, Elinor responds stoically and factually to Marianne: “Dear, dear Norland . . . probably looks much as it always does at this time of year. The woods and walks, thickly covered with dead leaves.” Marianne responds to nature vaguely in a romanticized way: “Oh! . . . with what transporting sensations have I formerly seen them fall! How I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind!” The emphasis is on her and her feelings, rather than Elinor’s more literal description (86–88).
Edward visits the Dashwoods at their cottage and during conversation relaxes somewhat after receiving “the kindest welcome from” Mrs. Dashwood. The discussion turns to wealth, how wealth would be spent, the character of Marianne, and Edward’s “gravity and thoughtfulness.” Edward acknowledges that he lacks “assurance,” or self-confidence. He, Marianne, and Elinor discuss “competence,” or the appropriate amount for a comfortable existence. Edward has “about eighteen hundred or two thousand a-year.” To which Elinor responds, “One [thousand] is my wealth!” Interestingly, two thousand is the amount Colonel Brandon and Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice receive annually. For Marianne, two thousand is insufficient to maintain “a proper establishment of servants, a carriage, perhaps two, and hunters, cannot be supported on less,” in other words, “future expenses at Combe Magna”—Willoughby’s home.
According to Edward, Marianne’s financial gain would be “a happy day for booksellers, music-sellers, and print-shops!” Print shops sold engravings. She too would purchase books, “and she would have every book that tells her how to admire an old twisted tree.” Such a description Marianne would read in the work, for instance, of William Gilpin and his observations on romantic and picturesque landscapes with “old twisted tree[s].” Perceptively, Marianne tells Edward, “You are not very gay,” or happy, “yourself” and at the conclusion of the chapter “he sat for some time silent and dull” (90–95).
In this chapter, Edward Ferrars and Marianne are again the focus of attention. It opens with Elinor’s perception of “the low spirits of her friend” Edward. Elinor, Edward, and Marianne walk in “the surrounding country” and give their opinion on the landscape. Edward tells Marianne that he disagrees with Gilpin’s perceptions and that he has “no knowledge in the picturesque.” For Edward tells her, “I shall call hills steep, which ought to be bold; surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular and rugged,” according to Gilpin, who frequently used the term “rugged” to apply to scenery. Furthermore, Edward continues that he will refer to “distant objects out of sight, which ought [according to Gilpin] only to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere.”
Edward’s observations reveal, his protestations to the contrary, considerable knowledge of contemporary aesthetic ideas. Marianne tells him, “Every body pretends to feel and tries to describe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined what picturesque beauty was.” In this chapter and elsewhere, Jane Austen is criticizing characters such as Marianne, who takes the values expressed by Gilpin too seriously. However, Jane Austen’s brother Henry Austen noted that from “a very early age she was enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque; and she seldom changed her opinions on either books or men” (Memoir, 140–141).
Within the context of chapter 18, a function of the discussion between Edward and Marianne is to reveal his sense of balance and her exaggeration. Edward tends toward antiromanticism: “I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watchtower—and a troop of tidy, happy villagers please me better than the finest banditti [outlaws or bandits] in the world.” Lacking ambition, he seeks peace and quiet domesticity. Marianne responds with a look of “amazement.”
Another central feature of this chapter is speculation as to the source of a lock of hair that Edward is noted to have in a ring he is wearing. He says, “it is [his] sister’s hair.” Elinor and Marianne assume “that the hair was” Elinor’s. Mrs. Jennings, who subsequently with Sir John visits the Dashwoods at their cottage, “was not long in discovering that the name of Ferrars began with an F. and this prepared a future mine of raillery against the devoted [doomed] Elinor.” The expression “a future mine of raillery” is interesting. On the one hand, it provides a guide to future narrative developments: Elinor’s feelings for Edward. Second, the industrial and military metaphor of mining and a mine contains the meaning of something waiting to explode when trodden on—such as Elinor’s sensitivity as far as Edward is concerned.
The chapter transforms in mood and tone from serious aesthetic discussion on the countryside, revealing character differences, to jesting. It concludes with prefiguring irony and with Edward’s viewpoint, rather than as it opened, with Elinor’s. Edward tells Marianne, “I guess that Mr. Willoughby hunts”: words indeed that will ring true subsequently in the narrative, where it will emerge that Willoughby “hunts” more than rabbits, foxes, or game birds. Marianne’s reply, “the time will come I hope,” reinforces the irony. Edward’s regret at the implications of his remark and Marianne’s reactions to it form the subject of the last paragraph of chapter 18 (96–100).
The opening of this chapter focuses on Edward, his departure after “a week at the cottage,” and Elinor’s putting a positive spin on his behavior. Her feelings, confined to herself, are contrasted with Marianne’s more overt expression of feeling. The remainder of the chapter focuses on the Middletons and their visit to the cottage with their daughter and her husband.
In the opening paragraph, the narrator conveys Edward Ferrars’s personal unhappiness: “He had no pleasure at Norland; he detested being in town; but either to Norland or London he must go.” The emphasis here is on the imperative “must go.” The narrative focus in the second paragraph moves to Elinor, who tries to justify Edward’s “want of spirits, of openness, and of consistency.” She attributes these “to his want of independence, and his better knowledge of Mrs. Ferrars’s disposition and designs.” For Elinor, Edward is “temporizing with his mother,” that is, negotiating with her to gain time. Dialogue between Mrs. Dashwood and Edward takes place from the third paragraph of the chapter until his departure. Mrs. Dashwood tells him that he “would be a happier man if [he] had any profession to engage [his] time and give an interest to [his] plans and action.” His career options include the law—“chambers in the Temple,” or residence at one of the Inns of Court to become a barrister, or advocate, the army or the navy. However, as Edward admits, “I always preferred the church, as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family.” As he “had no inclination for the law” or the other alternatives open to him, he “entered at Oxford and have been properly idle ever since.”
Mrs. Dashwood responds by saying that Edward’s “sons will be brought up to as many pursuits, employments, professions, and trades as Columella’s” (101–103). This is a reference to Columella, or the Distressed Anchoret (1779), a two-volume novel by Richard Graves (1715–1804). This is based on the story of Lucius Columella, a first-century A.D. Roman. Planning the future of his sons, he “flattered himself that [they] would be secured from that tedium and disgust of life which he experienced, and which he had brought upon himself by a life of indolence and inactivity” (II: 210). Edward responds to Mrs. Dashwood that his sons “will be brought up . . . to be unlike myself as is possible.” Edward once again exhibits his own self-disgust, his masochism.
Once Edward has left, Elinor “busily employed herself the whole day” to divert her mind from “her own grief.” Marianne, on the other hand, finds Elinor’s “behaviour . . . so exactly the reverse of her own.” Elinor, unlike Marianne, exercises “the business of self-command.” She is interrupted from her inner thoughts, her “reverie . . . by the arrival of company.” Sir John and Lady Middleton bring to the cottage, with Mrs. Jennings, “a gentleman and lady,” their daughter and their husband, the Palmers. The remainder of the chapter diverts from the serious tone and mood of its first half to focus on Sir John’s admiration of Marianne, Palmer’s largely silent snobbery—he objects to the “very low pitched” ceiling—and trivial social matters. Elinor refers in the final paragraph of the chapter to the “frequent invitations” to the Middletons: “The alteration is not in them, if their parties are grown tedious and dull. We must look for the change elsewhere” (103–109).
The tone of light relief in the guise of the Palmers is continued in this chapter. The setting moves from the cottage to Barton Park, the home of the Middletons. In spite of Elinor and Marianne’s unhappiness, life goes on, and others are preoccupied too with their own issues, however trivial these may appear to be. Mrs. Palmer, for instance, is amazed at the Dashwoods’ inability to visit London during the social season. She also complains about the lack of “a billiard room” at Barton Park. Conversation moves from Allenham (Willoughby’s home), regarded by Mr. Palmer “As vile a spot as I ever saw in my life” to manners, who should be invited to Barton Park, and naturally the weather. This “makes every thing and every body disgusting.” Here “disgusting” means displeasing or offensive.
Elinor uses Mrs. Palmer to gain more information about Willoughby. Before doing so, Mrs. Palmer has told her that her husband intends to enter Parliament and that “he will never frank for” her. In other words, he will not allow her to send letters post-free by addressing them in his own handwriting and after 1784 writing also the date. This privilege was abolished in 1840, when the penny post came into operation. Mrs. Palmer assumes, in response to Elinor’s inquiry concerning Willoughby, that Marianne “is to marry him,” adding “it is what every body talks of.” She also says that her husband would not visit Willoughby “for he is in the opposition” (111, 114–115). This refers to Mrs. Palmer’s belief that Willoughby is a “Whig,” or supporter of the opposition in Parliament. During Jane Austen’s lifetime, the majority of governments were “Tory.” Also, when SS was begun “in its present form . . . the Prime Minister was William Pitt the Younger (1759–1806), in 1809–11, when [it] was finished it was Spencer Perceval (1762–1812).” Both were heads of Tory governments (Lamont, 314).
Mrs. Palmer’s source of information concerning Marianne’s supposed engagement is Colonel Brandon, whom she met in the fashionable London area of Bond Street. The source surprises Elinor, and Mrs. Palmer admits that she perceived from Brandon’s looks that he confirmed the engagement. Mrs. Palmer adds, “Mama says he was in love with your sister too” (Jane Austen’s emphasis)—she uses the past tense. The narrative reveals that Brandon continues to love Marianne. Her next remark that “it was a great compliment if he was, for he hardly ever falls in love with any body” followed by a question from Elinor concerning Willoughby, on rereading, reveals Willoughby’s fickleness and Brandon’s constancy, and the possibility of a previous “love” affair.
A chapter of gossip concludes with Charlotte Palmer saying that if the Middletons had “wished it very much,” she could have married Brandon however she is under the illusion that she is “much happier as I am.” Ironically, she adds that the sardonic, indifferent “Mr. Palmer is just the kind of man I like” (114–117).
Two new characters, Anne and Lucy Steele, who Mrs. Jennings has just discovered are relatives, appear at Barton Park. They have been invited by Sir John, who met them while on a visit to Exeter. Fashionable ladies keen to please Lady Middleton, they flatter her and indulge her young children. Anne is nearing 30 and “very plain”; Lucy is in her early twenties and attractive. Elinor, however, “was not blinded by” Lucy’s appearance and senses a “want of real elegance and artlessness.” It emerges that they are acquainted with the Dashwoods and know the same people. Anne observes, “Norland is a prodigious beautiful place, is not it?” To which Lucy responds, “We have heard Sir John admire it excessively” (120, 124, 123). Chapman notes that Anne has “no business to know anything of beauty in Norland, and her sister is ready with an explanation; in which, however, she . . . overreaches herself,” as Sir John has “never visited” Norland (384). Toward the end of the chapter, the Steele sisters reveal that they know one of the Ferrars brothers.
In the sixth paragraph of the chapter, Lady Middleton is “taking patterns of some elegant new dress,” that is, she is making paper patterns to copy the dress. Her children’s “work-bags” are searched; these are bags containing sewing equipment. One of the Steeles gives the children “sugar plums,” or boiled sweets, and one bathes a child’s wound “with lavender-water,” or oil of lavender dipped in spirits, used to soothe head and nervous disorders. Marianne responds to Lucy Steele’s overfriendliness “without any éclat” or exaggeration. Lucy tells Elinor and Marianne, “perhaps you young ladies may not care abut the beaux [young gentlemen] and had as lief be without them as with them,” or as gladly be “without them.” Anne Steele remarks to Elinor, “perhaps you may have a friend in the corner already,” a secret admirer. Such remarks of the Steeles’ are suggestive and imply that they know more than they reveal (120–123).
The first volume of SS concludes with an important chapter in terms of revelation and the display of strength of character. Most of the chapter centers on a conversation between Lucy and Elinor. Lucy not only is acquainted with Edward Ferrars, she secretly has been engaged to him for a period of four years. He was student of Lucy’s uncle in Plymouth where their relationship began, and because Lucy is poor and Edward’s mother would not agree to the engagement, they have been forced to keep it a secret. Elinor initially is incredulous, but when Lucy shows her Edward’s miniature, reveals that he stayed with the Steeles at “Longstaple” before visiting Elinor and Marianne, shows her a letter from Edward, and reveals that she “gave him a lock of my hair set in a ring,” Elinor “was mortified, shocked, confounded.”
Elinor’s reactions to Lucy’s revelation reveal her strength, her ability to control her emotions. Initially disbelieving, Elinor then questions Lucy. In spite of “an exertion of spirits, which increased with her increase of emotion,” she still appears calm and “did not feel very compassionate” when her tormentor, Lucy, “took out her handkerchief.” She even manages to score a point with Lucy, telling her, “You must at least have felt that my being acquainted with it could not add to its safety.” Such exchanges are accompanied by Elinor’s looking “earnestly at Lucy, hoping to discover something in her countenance.” Elinor and Lucy act as poker players: “Lucy’s countenance suffered a change” and Elinor “is almost overcome—her heart sunk within her, and she could hardly stand,” yet she manages to control herself (134–135, 130, 133, 132, 134). In this way, writes Barbara Hardy, “the totally unexpected revelation . . . Jane Austen’s surprises” unite both her readers and her characters “in an overlapping response.”
Lucy implies that she and Edward are in love. They are engaged; her story selectively told, as the narrative will reveal, comes as a surprise to both Elinor and the reader. Lucy’s good manners, her asking her rival Elinor for advice, is part of her revenge, and she miscalculates Elinor’s self-control. The confrontation between the two is a superb illustration of Jane Austen’s pitting “one intelligence against the other. Each woman knows what is happening, speaks or hears the subtext” (Hardy, 72). Occasionally, Lucy’s lack of education reveals itself in grammatical errors. She refers to “my sister and me” and uses a vulgar expression. Her determination “to set for it,” or to give Edward a portrait, reveals also her poverty, for only the wealthy could afford to have their portraits painted.
The first volume of SS concludes, then, with revelation, and conflict between two characters, revealing the bitterness between them. In the concluding paragraph the Steeles leave and Elinor is left alone “at liberty to think and be wretched” (134–135).
Volume 2, Chapter 1
The opening chapter of the second volume focuses on Elinor’s reactions to the revelations of the previous chapter and her subtle planning for a further skirmish with her rival Lucy Steele to demonstrate that the news of the engagement has not upset her. The chapter conveys Jane Austen’s narrative skill in manipulating a social setting, in this instance, the seemingly innocent occupation of basket making, to convey a verbal and nonverbal exchange of conflict.
The initial paragraphs of the first chapter consist of Elinor’s interior monologue and thoughts. Personal pronouns such as “her” and “he” are frequent, the former being Elinor, the latter Edward, as are questions asked by Elinor to herself. Elinor “wept for him [Edward], more than for herself” and decides that his engagement was the consequence of youth: “could he ever be tolerably happy with Lucy Steele . . . be satisfied with a wife like her [Lucy Steele]—illiterate, artful, and selfish?” Elinor reveals insight into others and herself: “She was stronger alone, and her own good sense so well supported her, that her firmness was so unshaken.” She is aware that “Lucy was disposed to be jealous of her” and understands Lucy’s motives for revealing to her the engagement.
The chapter then moves from the solitary Elinor to her in society, with the Middletons, meeting “for the sake of eating, drinking, and laughing together, playing at cards, or consequences.” The game of “consequences” becomes ironic. It is “a round game, in which a narrative of the meeting of a lady and a gentleman, their conversation, and the ensuing ‘consequences,’ is concocted by the contribution of a name or a fact by each of the players,” who are ignorant of what the other players have contributed (OED). Elinor’s plan is to engage Lucy in conversation while they undertake social functions and gather further information, with the consequences, from her. At the conclusion of the chapter, Elinor’s opportunity comes following at Barton Park “a round game” (a game played together usually at a round table), the working of “fillagree” (rolled-paper work, in this instance constructing a basket for a spoiled child), the call “for some working candles” (candles giving additional lighting), the proposal of “a rubber of Casino” (a card game played with partners), and other forms of general civility. These Marianne pointedly ignores, going to play the piano, which forms a background to the verbal conflict directly to follow. Elinor, too, but more politely “cut[s] out” or does not play cards in order to maneuver Lucy into a situation where they can speak (139–145).
Volume 2, Chapter 2 (Chapter 24)
Most of the chapter is occupied with Elinor and Lucy’s verbal and silent clash played out while they are basket making and with the sounds of Marianne playing the piano in the background. Elinor’s plan to show that she is not jealous of her rival, and to gain further information, is only partially successful. She gains additional knowledge but her “politeness, sympathy, reserve and intelligence doom her to be a confidante in painful circumstances.” Elinor herself, however, has no one to confide in (Hardy, 74–75). “The confidential discourse” between them closes when Elinor is “called to the card table.” The chapter concludes with her reflection that Edward has no “affection for the person who was to be his wife” and “that he had not even the chance of being tolerably happy in marriage,” as it is evident that “he was weary” of his engagement. Although “the visit of the Miss Steeles at Barton Park” is extended for “nearly two months” until the Christmas “festival,” Elinor and Lucy do not revive the subject of the engagement.
It becomes clear during the dramatic dialogue between Elinor and Lucy, in which Lucy does more of the talking, that her motives for not breaking off her engagement to Edward are mercenary. She tells Elinor that they “must wait, it may be for many years” to marry as Edward “has only two thousand pounds of his own,” which is enough to live off frugally but not lavishly. Lucy claims that she does not wish to deprive Edward “perhaps, of all that his mother might give him if he married to please her.” Elinor is part of her plan to increase their prospects: “he should take orders as soon as he can, and then” she hopes that Elinor will persuade her “brother to give him Norland living”—a very prosperous one that included land. In short, Lucy is cunning and scheming, determined to secure a wealthy man and escape from poverty (151–152, 147, 149).
Volume 2, Chapter 3 (Chapter 25)
Money and property, in this instance through trading, form the foundation of Mrs. Jennings’s prosperity. With the advent of January, she invites Elinor and Marianne to spend the winter season with her at her London home in the fashionable Portman Square area. Mrs. Jennings’s intention is to “get one of” the sisters “well married.” She claims that she needs the company instead of “poking by myself” or living by herself in a half-hearted way.
Much of the chapter is preoccupied with Elinor’s change of mind. Initially, she is adamant about not going to London, whereas Marianne and their mother are enthusiastic. Marianne’s enthusiasm, with the support of her mother, triumphs over Elinor’s prudence. Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood cannot know a secret that is shared with the readers: that Edward is engaged to Lucy Steele. Elinor almost reveals this but her reticence gets the better of her when she responds to Mrs. Dashwood’s observation in the middle of the chapter concerning Elinor’s future “sister-in-law’s family.” Elinor’s reply is received with “astonishment” by Marianne after Elinor has said that “it is a matter of perfect indifference to [her] whether I am ever known” to his family “or not.” In such a way, Jane Austen is able to convey the way in which confidences are kept in families. In this instance, to repeat, readers, in addition to Elinor, are aware of Edward’s engagement. At the end of the chapter, Mrs. Jennings’s invitation is accepted with some of the other parties involved in the novel also to appear in London in January. The Middletons are “to follow” shortly, the Miss Steeles will come too “only with the rest of the family” (153–154, 157–158).
Volume 2, Chapter 4 (Chapter 26)
This chapter moves from the journey to London, to the arrival in London, the writing of letters (Elinor to her mother, Marianne to Willoughby), to visitors. The first is Brandon, followed by Mrs. Jennings’s pregnant daughter, Mrs. Palmer. There is the inevitable expedition to a fashionable shopping area, in this instance to “Bond-street especially,” followed by further visitors, “two elderly ladies of Mrs. Jennings’s intimate acquaintance.” Such rituals form the backdrop for Marianne’s anxious wait for the arrival of Willoughby’s reply to a letter she has written him—it fails to come.
The metaphor of “eyes” continues from the previous chapter, is applied again in the opening paragraph of the chapter to Marianne, and subsequently to Mrs. Palmer, “whose eye was caught by every thing pretty, expensive, or new” at the shops, making her “wild to buy all.” Elinor’s role as an intelligence gatherer, through observation or conversation with others, is highlighted during the three-day coach journey to London. Secrets come to the fore as Elinor does not know her sister writes to Willoughby, or whether they are engaged or not. Colonel Brandon’s visit once again reveals his concern for Marianne and affinity with Elinor; they converse in a “calm kind of way.” Mrs. Jennings’s remarks to him reintroduce the subject of his rivalry with Willoughby over Marianne and the revelation that Mrs. Jennings “got a very good husband”—prosperous and kind—who “had been dead” for more than “eight years” (165, 162, 163).
Volume 2, Chapter 5 (Chapter 27)
The themes of secrecy and appearances dominate the chapter. It opens with the weather, Marianne’s writing yet again to Willoughby, this time to his country residence at Combe Magna, the Middletons’ arrival in London, social encounters, to Brandon’s confession of his feelings for Marianne to Elinor. Several other matters emerge, including Mrs. Jennings’s loyalty to “a few old city friends,” or her husband’s friends from the business areas, in spite of her daughter’s snobbish objections. Sir John Middleton arranges “an unpremeditated dance” at which Marianne learns that Willoughby is in London and was invited to the event. Marianne continues to write to Willoughby, and Elinor’s writing to her mother is interrupted by a visit from Colonel Brandon, who confides in her, as Lucy Steele has done. At the conclusion of the chapter, Elinor is alone “with a melancholy impression of Colonel Brandon’s unhappiness” following his conviction that Willoughby and Marianne are engaged (168, 170, 174).
Volume 2, Chapter 6 (Chapter 28)
A few days later, Elinor and Marianne encounter Willoughby at a large gathering. He is “standing a few yards of them, in earnest conversation with a very fashionable looking young woman.” Clearly embarrassed at even having to acknowledge Marianne, “her touch seemed painful to him, and he held her hand only for a moment.” He leaves the party—Marianne is preoccupied with herself, is stopped from speaking to him by Elinor, and is taken home, “where hartshorn,” or the equivalent of smelling salts, “restored her a little to herself.” The last two paragraphs of the chapter focus on Elinor’s sense of her misperception of Willoughby’s feelings and relationship with Marianne. She is at this point willing, owing to witnessing “embarrassment which seemed to speak of a consciousness of his own misconduct,” not to believe that he has “been sporting with the affection of his sister from the first, without any design that would bear investigation.” The last paragraph of the chapter interweaves the two sisters’ reactions to what has taken place. Marianne is in “misery” and Elinor’s “own situation” with Edward “gained in the comparison.” She, Elinor, has not experienced with Edward “an immediate and irreconcilable rapture.”
Up to this point in the novel, Marianne has disregarded social convention and modes of conduct in her passion for Willoughby. He, however, selfishly refuses to follow Marianne’s behavior. His coldness to her, yet adherence to social rules in taking “her hand only for a moment,” contrasts with Marianne’s lack of restraint. She pleads with Elinor, “Tell him I must see him again—must speak to him instantly—I cannot rest—I shall not have a moment’s peace.” The threefold repetition of the personal pronoun “I,” the use of the verb “must,” reveals in Marianne’s speech that she has lost control of her emotions. Marianne’s experience in this chapter marks the start of a learning process concerning her relationships with others and society. This will be resolved by the conclusion of the narrative (176–179).
Volume 2, Chapter 7 (Chapter 29)
In this chapter, Jane Austen draws on the narrative device of using letters to reveal the correct version of what has occurred, as opposed to individual character perceptions and interpretation of others’ actions. The opening sentence “Before . . . the sun gained any power over a cold, gloomy morning,” with “little light,” uses the weather to create the atmosphere and tone of the rest of the chapter, Elinor discovers her sister Marianne in a situation of deep distress. At breakfast, Mrs. Jennings’s presence does not help the situation, as she believes that Marianne and Willoughby are about to marry. This leads to more anxiety on Marianne’s part.
Elinor reads a letter Marianne receives from Willoughby. The text is given so that the reader is not responding to Elinor’s perception of a letter selectively presented. In his letter, Willoughby pleads innocence to any offense he may have given: “I can assure you to have been perfectly unintentional.” The narrator and character agree in their responses to the letter: “With what indignation such as a letter as this must be read by Miss Dashwood, may be imagined . . . a letter so impudently cruel . . . and which proclaimed its writer to be deep in hardened villainy.” Willoughby’s letter produces an extreme reaction in the normally calm Elinor: “so bitter were her feelings against him, that she dared not trust herself to speak” to her sister. In his letter, Willoughby returns “the lock of hair” Marianne gave him and tells her that his “affections have been long engaged elsewhere.”
Following a revisit from Mrs. Jennings curtailed by Elinor, who tells the visitor that Marianne is unwell, both sisters comfort each other. Marianne admits that she assumed that she and Willoughby were engaged and that “he loved” her. She has been a victim of misperception. The reader and Elinor share the three notes Marianne had previously written to him when arriving in London. The letters reveal to Elinor the “impropriety,” (180, 183–184, 187, 186, 188), the inappropriateness of their being written in the first place. Marianne has rejected social forms and conventions for her personal passion for Willoughby. She “felt [herself] . . . to be as solemnly engaged to him, as if the strictest legal covenant had bound us to each other.”
At the conclusion of the chapter, Elinor resists Marianne’s pleas to return home immediately, telling her sister that they have social obligations that must take precedence over personal ones: “civility of the commonest kind must prevent such a hasty removal.” In the final paragraph, Marianne is finally “persuaded” to take a sedative, “some lavender drops,” and “continued on the bed quiet and motionless.” So a chapter that opened early in the morning with a sleepless and restless Marianne closes with the “restless pain of [her] mind and body” stilled (188–191).
Volume 2, Chapter 8 (Chapter 30)
Mrs. Jennings learns from gossip that Willoughby “is to be married very soon—a good for-nothing fellow,” he has squandered his inheritance. Without finances he is shortly to marry an extremely wealthy heiress, a Miss Grey. At the conclusion of the chapter, Brandon appears to corroborate further what Mrs. Jennings has learned; his source too is gossip.
Mrs. Jennings, in a down-to-earth fashion, sums up Willoughby’s behavior. She tells Elinor, “when a young man, be he who he will, comes and makes love to a pretty girl, and promises marriage, he has no business to fly off from his word only because he grows poor, and a richer girl is ready to have him.” She succinctly expresses Willoughby’s motivation: “Fifty thousand pounds! and by all accounts it wo’nt come before it’s wanted; for they say [gossip plays a leading role in this chapter] he is all to pieces.” Rumor again is the foundation for an unfounded observation of Mrs. Jennings. Following her comment that Colonel Brandon “will have her [Marianne] at last,” she adds, forever mindful of the materialist side of existence, “Two thousand a year without debt or drawback—except the little love child,” a reference to an illegitimate child that she assumes to be Brandon’s. The practical Mrs. Jennings comes up too with a solution: “she may be ’prenticed out at small cost,” or apprenticed to a trade.
Mrs. Jennings’s speech is littered with rich proverbial expressions such as “One shoulder of mutton, you know, drives another down.” In other words, that one experience, such as falling in love, conjures up a similar experience. Her recommendation is “the finest old Constantia wine” to soothe the nerves and cheer up all. It was a remedy tried by her husband when he suffered from “a touch of his old cholicky gout,” a painful illness of the joints. “Constantia wine,” or a superior dessert wine from Constantia in the Cape Town region of South Africa, became very popular in the 19th century (192, 194, 196–198).
Volume 2, Chapter 9 (Chapter 31)
A chapter of revelation begins with Marianne’s irritation toward Mrs. Jennings’s kindness, which she perceives as a request for “gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.” The opening paragraphs reveal Marianne’s changeability and lack of reason. A letter comes from her mother conveying out-of-date news: She has not heard of Willoughby’s engagement and disdainful treatment of Marianne. Only Elinor’s counsel “of patience” prevents Marianne returning immediately to their mother in the country. Marianne observes Elinor writing a letter to her mother telling her what has happened.
She is interrupted by the arrival of Colonel Brandon, whom Marianne, ironically in view of what is to happen, commenting to Elinor, says, “We are never safe from him” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). Brandon becomes her lifelong protector. The remainder of the chapter is largely a lengthy narrative on Brandon’s part, with a few brief interjections from Elinor. Brandon relates the tragic tale of his dead sister-in-law, Eliza, whom he loved but she married at the age of 17 “against her inclination to my brother, . . . [who] did not even love her.” She and Brandon were just prevented from eloping to Scotland where they could have married, being under 21, without parental consent. Brandon “procured my exchange,” an army posting away from England and learnt of his brother and Eliza’s divorce. Before 1857, these were extremely expensive as they had to be by parliamentary act.
Brandon returns to England three years later and finds Eliza “in a spunging-house,” one for debtors, as her “legal allowance” following her divorce was inadequate. Further, his sister-in-law is totally altered, suffering from “consumption,” or lung infection. All Brandon can do is prepare her “for death”—in other words, settle her affairs and give her counseling. He becomes the guardian of her child, Eliza, and following the death of his brother, “some five years ago,” the young Eliza visited him regularly at Delaford—a visit misperceived by some. At 14 she was seduced and made pregnant by Willoughby, with whom Brandon fought a drawn duel as a matter of honor. Brandon hopes that by knowing this, Elinor might assist Marianne to recover more easily from her disappointment. She has escaped the fate of Eliza and her mother (201–211).
Volume 2, Chapter 10 (Chapter 32)
The opening section of this chapter focuses on Marianne and her reaction to Willoughby’s behavior. She does speak “with a kind of compassionate respect” toward Brandon; however “her mind did become settled, but it was settled in a gloomy dejection.” Mrs. Dashwood recommends that her daughters remain in London as it provides “a variety of occupations, of objects, and of company” unavailable in the country at Barton. Elinor restrains Mrs. Jennings, Sir John, and Lady Middleton, and Mrs. Palmer from mentioning Willoughby in front of Marianne, although they denounce him when she is not present. “Early in February, within a fortnight from the receipt of Willoughby’s letter, Elinor had the painful office of informing her sister that he was married.” Elinor hopes now to persuade Marianne to leave the house and to become more sociable.
At the end of the chapter, Anne (Nancy) and Lucy Steele arrive in London. They visit Elinor, and tell her that they took a hired carriage for three passengers, “a post-chaise,” to London accompanied by “a very smart beau,” a Dr. Davies, who, it subsequently emerges, is a clergyman, not a medical doctor. In the last paragraphs, Elinor dissuades them from intruding on the apparently sick Marianne. She is aided, somewhat ironically, “by Lucy’s sharp reprimand,” which controls the wishes of her sister (212–219).
Volume 2, Chapter 11 (Chapter 33)
Marianne ventures out with Elinor, who is “carrying on a negociation for the exchange of a few old-fashioned jewels of her mother.” They are kept waiting at the jeweler’s by an exceedingly vain customer; his manner is described as “puppyism,” or affectation. He insists on personally inspecting each of the “toothpick case[s].” This individual subsequently turns out to be Robert Ferrars, Edward’s younger brother. Elinor and Marianne then meet their brother, John Dashwood. Most of the chapter is concerned with the exposure of his materialistic values: All is judged by price and value. He is convinced that Colonel Brandon is attached to Elinor; his main concern is whether Brandon is “a man of fortune?” and is disappointed by Brandon’s apparently low income. John Dashwood conveys information. He tells Elinor that a “match” has been arranged for Edward Ferrars to an heiress, what he describes as “a very desirable connection.”
Dashwood tells Elinor about his own apparent lack of wealth, although it emerges that he has been enlarging his country property. He has enclosed the commons, depriving the local small farmers of their grazing rights and purchased the land and farm “adjoining my own property.” Further, Dashwood has “destroyed the old walnut trees,” no doubt selling them at a high price, given their demand in wartime as a material for guns and rifles. He is not insensitive enough to ignore that Marianne “looks very unwell, has lost her colour, and is grown quite thin.” In view of this, he believes that Elinor will make in financial terms a better match than Marianne. He calls on the Middletons: “Abundance of civilities passed on all sides.” On the way back to his residence, John tells his sister “that Mrs. Jennings was the widow of a man who had got all his money in a low way.” Snobbery and materialism intermingle, but material values triumph in this chapter, which exposes the values of vanity, conceit, and materialism (223–228).
Volume 2, Chapter 12 (Chapter 34)
The Middletons are invited to dinner by the Dashwoods. The setting for the chapter takes place in the Dashwoods’ “very good house” in fashionable Harley Street. A social drama is enacted in three scenes: the dinner table, the drawing room when the ladies are alone after dinner; and when they are joined by the gentleman. The participants include the Miss Steeles, Mrs. Jennings, Elinor and Marianne, Colonel Brandon, and Edward’s mother, Mrs. Ferrars. Even before the formal social rituals, Lady Middleton and Mrs. Dashwood bond in their mutual “cold hearted selfishness” and “an insipid propriety of demeanor, and a general want of understanding.” At dinner, misplaced flattery and exaggerated manners abound. Fanny Dashwood and Mrs. Ferrars ignore Elinor and are most respectful to Lucy, whom they perceive as wealthy and are unaware of her engagement to Edward. Mrs. Ferrars, “not a woman of many words,” possesses a “strong character of pride and ill nature.” The “grand dinner” is matched by the “poverty” of the conversation.
This becomes “particularly evident” when the ladies are alone. In mixed company at least, as the author sarcastically indicates, “the gentleman had supplied the discourse with some variety—the variety of politics, inclosing land, and braking horses” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). Left alone, the ladies descend into trivia: “the comparative heights” of the two little boys, “Harry Dashwood and Lady Middleton’s second son William.”
When they are joined by the gentleman, Marianne breaks down the social conventions by openly challenging Mrs. Ferrars’s insulting behavior toward Elinor, who is suspected of having designs on Edward. Mrs. Ferrars, after learning that a drawing is by Elinor, slights it by unfavorably comparing it with the work of Miss Morton, the wealthy heiress whom she hopes Edward will marry. This provokes Marianne into an outburst of emotional feelings most inappropriate to social decorum. She tells Mrs. Ferrars: “what is Miss Morton to us?— who knows, or who cares, for her!—it is Elinor of whom we think and speak” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). She is attacking the very foundation of Mrs. Ferrars’s and the others’ beliefs: money. No wonder “Mrs. Ferrars looked exceedingly angry, and drawing herself up more stiffly than ever, pronounced in retort this bitter philippic,” or comment meant to crush the opponent, from the “Philippics” of the Athenian orator and Demosthenes (384–322 B.C.). She replies “Miss Morton is Lord Morton’s daughter,” as if money and status are all. Marianne collapses in tears and is comforted especially by Colonel Brandon and Elinor.
Marianne’s defiance of Mrs. Ferrars and her tears have broken the social conventions governing the social niceties of the dinner party. John Dashwood, who started the trouble by using the painted screens to flatter Elinor’s work and thus drawing Brandon’s attention to her, concludes the chapter with inappropriate behavior. He comments to Brandon that Marianne “has not such good health as her sister—she is very nervous.” He adds that Marianne “has been a beauty. . . . You would not think it perhaps. . . . Now you see it is all gone” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). The irony of course is that Brandon sees things differently (229–237).
Volume 2, Chapter 13 (Chapter 35)
The social gathering of the previous chapter is transformed to one between Elinor, then Marianne (now much more talkative), Lucy Steele, and then Edward Ferrars, who comes to call on Elinor and Marianne. Lucy’s reading of Mrs. Ferrars is amusing and highly ironic. She found her “so exceedingly affable,” a word used by Jane Austen to describe that of superiors to their inferiors, and implying condescension. Lucy, however, finds in Mrs. Ferrars “no pride, no hauteur,” or haughtiness of manners. For Lucy, she “is a charming woman.” Elinor tries not to respond, “to make a civil answer.” They are interrupted by Edward’s visit, “a very awkward moment, and the countenance of each,” Edward, Lucy, and Elinor, all of whom “looked exceedingly foolish.”
Elinor manages briefly to extricate herself from the situation by fetching Marianne, who overenthusiastically greets Edward and speaks socially more than she has done for a considerable time. She even ignores a provocative observation by Lucy about the constancy of “young men.” After Edward and Lucy have left, Elinor and Marianne discuss the situation. Elinor is unable, owing to “her promise of secrecy to Lucy,” to tell her sister of the engagement between Edward and Lucy. All she can do is to “hope” that she will not be placed subsequently in such a difficult situation (238–245).
Volume 2, Chapter 14 (Chapter 36)
The final chapter of the second volume is again one of social encounters, counterpointed by Jane Austen’s satire. Robert Ferrars, Edward’s brother, demonstrates “that he was exactly the coxcomb [Elinor] had heard him described to be by Lucy” and is in fact “the very he, who had given them a lecture on toothpick-cases.” He even gives Elinor his approval of a “cottage, there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them,” somewhat ironic words revealing that his actual experience of them is very limited. He attributes his bother Edward’s “extreme gaucherie” (Jane Austen’s emphasis), or awkwardness of manner, to his being educated privately rather than, as in Robert’s case, being sent “to Westminster,” a school noted for its intellectual and social activities. He rejects plans drawn up by the most distinguished architect of the day, Joseph Bonomi (1739–1808), and chooses to build a cottage instead.
The beginning of the chapter highlights Lady Middleton’s dislike of Elinor and Marianne: “their presence was a restraint, both on her and on Lucy.” The announcement in the opening paragraph that Mrs. Palmer, Mrs. Jennings’s daughter, has given birth to a boy, takes care of her, and leaves Elinor and Marianne in the company of Lady Middleton, the Steeles, and Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood. Marianne has become more sociable: “it was become a matter of indifference to her whether she went or not.” She has, however, “to her dress and appearance . . . grown so perfectly indifferent,” and “douceur,” or sweetness, is “considered by Marianne as the greatest impertinence of all.”
Toward the end of the chapter, to avoid having Elinor and Marianne stay with her, Fanny Dashwood persuades her husband, John, to invite the Steele girls to remain in London with them. Lucy’s “flattery had already subdued the pride of Lady Middleton and made an entry into the close heart of Mrs. John Dashwood.” Elinor perceives the invitation to be natural, heralding the subsequent announcement of the engagement between Edward and Lucy. In the last paragraph, Fanny calls “Lucy by her christian name” and gives both Steele girls “a needle book, made by some emigrant.” This snobbish allusion, the snobbery with a note of contempt implied in “some,” probably refers to the many refugees in London fleeing from revolutionary France. After January 1792, their property had been confiscated by the revolutionary French government. In this manner, the second volume ends on a wider note than the mere social manners of a small portion of London society would imply. This final chapter of the second volume begins with a birth, and has for its theme human folly and vanity (246–254).
Volume 3, Chapter 1 (Chapter 37)
The opening chapter of the third and final book may be divided into three sections, each of which contains the imparting, or reporting of news, and reactions to the revelations. The news is communicated in the first section by Mrs. Jennings telling Elinor that Anne Steele has revealed to Fanny Dashwood that Lucy and Edward are engaged. An outraged Fanny throws the Steele girls out of her house. Mrs. Jennings conveys the news in an idiomatic fashion, interposing details of her little granddaughter’s “red-gum,” a rash or skin problem. She says that Anne is “no conjurer,” or far from clever. She comments “what a taking poor Mr. Edward will be in when he hears of it,” or he will be in a very agitated state.
In the second section, Elinor has the difficult task of telling Marianne that the secret she herself has been protecting is now public information. Elinor takes the opportunity to explain to Marianne her own reactions to what has occurred and why she behaved as she did. The focus is on the listener, Marianne, rather than on the speaker or messenger, Elinor. Marianne’s “feelings” prevent Elinor from finishing, although she does manage to tell her sister that she too has “feelings” and has “suffered.” Marianne has at this point in the novel developed sufficient self-restraint and agrees on not being overtly hostile to Edward when they meet.
The third section of the chapter consists of a visit from John Dashwood in which he tells Marianne, Elinor, and Mrs. Jennings what has subsequently taken place since Anne Steele revealed news of the engagement. Mrs. Ferrars tried to bargain with her son to break the engagement. If he married Miss Morton, “she would settle on him the Norfolk estate, which, clear of land-tax [a tax based on the rental values of landed property] brings in a good thousand a-year,” or a reasonable annual income. Marianne does not react; “she remembered her promises [to Elinor] and forbore,” so that she has begun to learn self-control. Dashwood’s priorities are material: “he never wished to offend anybody, especially anybody of good fortune,” in other words, wealthy. In short, Mrs. Ferrars has disinherited Edward when he refuses to break off the engagement, and he “is dismissed for ever from his mother’s notice.” Mrs. Ferrars has settled the estates on Robert, his younger brother. At the end of this chapter of information and reaction to it, when Dashwood leaves them, “Marianne’s indignation burst forth.” She is “joined in a very spirited critique upon” Mrs. Ferrars’s “conduct” (–269).
Volume 3, Chapter 2 (Chapter 38)
Elinor is the focus of two encounters with each of the Steele girls. The first is a personal one, with Anne Steele, whom she meets three days after the events of the last chapter while in Kensington Gardens, and the second is in the form of a letter from Lucy to her. Both concern Edward. Anne relays information she has apparently acquired by listening at the door to a conversation she claims to have heard. In this, apparently Edward offered Lucy the opportunity to break the engagement, owing to his poverty. She, according to Anne, refused and they plan to marry when he has taken holy orders and found a living. Lucy’s letter to Elinor received the next morning contradicts Anne’s account: Lucy claims that Edward refused her offer to break the engagement.
This chapter begins and ends with Mrs. Jennings’s reactions to the news. Her stupidity is complemented by Anne Steele’s. While telling Elinor her account of what she claims to have overheard between Edward and Lucy, her language reveals her vulgarity: “‘La!’ I shall say directly.” Here “La” is an exaggerated term for “Lord.” In her letter to Elinor, Lucy also uses inappropriate language. Trying to imitate what she thinks will be Edward’s vocabulary, she writes, “We have had great trials, and great persecutions.” These refer to the sufferings of the early Christian martyrs. Elinor’s skepticism, and a warning note to the reader not to take Lucy’s words at their face value, are reinforced by the observation following her reading referring to “its writer’s real design,” or motivation. In the last paragraph, the idea of fantasy and ridiculousness is reinforced in Mrs. Jennings’s excessive and, as it will emerge, undeserved praise of Lucy.
At the start of the chapter, Elinor meets Anne in the fashionable Kensington Gardens on a “beautiful” Sunday during “the second week of March” (270–278). Jane Austen herself, in a letter to her sister, Cassandra, dated April 25, 1811, refers to a walk in Kensington Gardens in the spring when “everything was fresh & beautiful” (Letters, 184).
Volume 3, Chapter 3 (Chapter 39)
Misperception and irony is the keynote of this chapter. Elinor accepts Palmer’s invitation for the Dashwoods to join them at their Cleveland home in Somerset—Cleveland being a few miles from Bath and on the way to Barton. Marianne “sighed for the air, the liberty, the quiet of the country.” Mrs. Jennings pretends not to try to overhear a conversation between Elinor and Colonel Brandon, although she reconstructs, or imagines, what she believes is being said. Jane Austen, as narrator, intervenes in the narrative to relate, “What had really passed between” Elinor and Colonel Brandon. Learning of Edward Ferrars’s financial and other difficulties, Brandon offers him, through Elinor’s good offices, a small rectory bringing in no “more than 200 . . . [£] per annum,” but enough for him “to marry” and live very modestly. The irony is that Brandon entrusts the communication of his offer to Elinor. Brandon probably is unaware that Elinor is in love with Edward. He also incorrectly assumes that Lucy is “a very deserving young woman.” His trust in Elinor once again places her in a very difficult situation—similar to that Lucy placed her in when she revealed her engagement to Edward.
Misperception is compounded in the last paragraph of the chapter. Mrs. Jennings, through eavesdropping and imagining what is taking place, perceives that Colonel Brandon has made Elinor “an offer of marriage” (279–284).
Volume 3, Chapter 4 (Chapter 40)
Misunderstandings abound in this chapter. It begins and ends with Elinor in the company of Mrs. Jennings. At the beginning, Mrs. Jennings believes that Colonel Brandon and Elinor are delaying their wedding and the announcement until Edward has been ordained so that he can marry them. After she has left, Elinor “sat deliberately over her paper, with the pen in her hand” considering what she is to write to Edward Ferrars when he appears. She tells him of Brandon’s offer: “I am charged with a most agreeable office”; the difficulty of Elinor’s situation is indicated by an authorial parenthesis “(breathing rather faster than usual as she spoke).” Edward responds, “I cannot be ignorant that to you, to your goodness, I owe it all,” a misunderstanding reinforced by his subsequent comment, “as you well know, I am no orator.” This observation does not bode well for his subsequent career as a clergyman who will have to give sermons. The underlying unstated assumption is that Edward thinks that Elinor is to marry Colonel Brandon and has persuaded him to offer “the living of Delaford.”
The chapter closes with Mrs. Jennings’s return home to Elinor, who when Edward leaves reflects to herself, “When I see him again . . . I shall see him the husband of Lucy.” A thought described with considerable narratorial irony as “this pleasing anticipation.” Mrs. Jennings’s “deception” that “the Colonel only marries [Elinor] for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr. Ferrars!” is corrected by the end of the chapter. Mrs. Jennings makes plans to decorate the Delaford parsonage, where she will visit Lucy and Edward (285–292).
Volume 3, Chapter 5 (Chapter 41)
The opening two paragraphs of the chapter focus on Lucy’s reactions to the news of the granting of the Delaford Rectory and her gratitude to Colonel Brandon and willingness to exploit him. Elinor once again becomes the center of narrative attention. She calls on Fanny Dashwood, is not allowed into the house, but accidentally meets her husband, John Dashwood, outside. On hearing the news of Brandon’s gift, Dashwood asks, “What could be the Colonel’s motive?” He calculates that Brandon could have made a considerable profit from selling the Delaford living. Elinor’s explanation he finds simplistic—“to be of use to Mr. Ferrars”—and tells her that her “reasoning is very good, but it is founded on ignorance of human nature.” Hesitantly, cautiously, he tells Elinor that Mrs. Ferrars had apparently said that a marriage between Elinor and Edward Ferrars would be “the least evil of the two,” in other words preferable to one between Edward and Lucy Steele.
The conversation is interrupted “by the entrance of Mr. Robert Ferrars,” with whom Elinor is left alone, “in silence and immovable gravity,” expressing contempt for him with “her eyes” as he proceeds to poke fun at his brother Edward’s “idea of . . . being a clergyman.” He tells Elinor, “We may treat it as a joke.” Robert regards Lucy as “the merest awkward country girl, without style or elegance, and almost without beauty,” seriously underestimating her intelligence and cunning. In the last paragraph of the chapter, Mrs. John Dashwood appears and, influenced by her husband, attempts to welcome Elinor (293–300).
Volume 3, Chapter 6 (Chapter 42)
Chapter 6 opens with a single-sentence paragraph expressing good intentions on the part of John Dashwood to Elinor before she and Marianne travel to Cleveland. It is “very early in April” when they leave London with Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Palmer, and her new baby. Marianne reflects on London and Willoughby; Elinor, on the other hand, is “more positive” about the departure. She is “pleased to be free herself from the persecution of Lucy’s friendship.”
Cleveland and its surroundings are described through Marianne’s vision. There are “open shrubbery and closer wood walk” and a “Grecian temple,” where she thought “of wandering from place to place in free and luxurious solitude.” Elinor is given the opportunity to review her opinions of Mr. Palmer, whom she finds more sympathetic and contrasts “his Epicurism,” or self-indulgence, with Edward’s totally different character. Brandon visits and tells Elinor of Edward’s activities. His visits suggest to Elinor through watching “his eyes” that he favors Marianne: Mrs. Jennings remains convinced of Brandon’s attachment to Elinor.
Marianne’s walking in the rain on the Cleveland grounds “where the trees were the oldest, and the grass was longest and wettest” leads to “a cold so violent” that “she went to bed” and becomes ill (301–306).
Volume 3, Chapter 7 (Chapter 43)
The gravity of Marianne’s illness results in the departure of Mrs. Palmer and her baby and then Palmer. Elinor attends her sister through the vicissitudes of her illness. She is assisted by Mrs. Jennings and Brandon, who acts as a messenger to fetch Mrs. Dashwood from Barton. Marianne is treated incompetently by the local apothecary, Harris. The depiction of Harris contrasts unfavorable with the trust Mr. Woodhouse places in Perry in Emma. Jane Austen uses consonants most effectively to convey Marianne’s illness: “a day spent in sitting shivering”; “Poor Marianne, languid and low.” The development of the crisis in her illness is conveyed through a precise chronological time line. Following the failure of Harris’s medicines, and “the morning of the third day,” from “about noon” precise bulletins occur. Harris arrives again “at four o’clock,” two hours later “at six o’clock,” when what appears to be a relapse occurs. An hour later “at six o’clock” Elinor leaves “Marianne still sweetly asleep” to drink something after such lengthy sick-room duties. The weather too reflects the ups and downs of Marianne’s state: “The night was cold and stormy” and “The wind roared round the house, and the rain beat against the windows.” Marianne’s illness is presented largely through Elinor’s perspective, and contrary to Elinor’s expectations, “the clock struck eight” and unpredictably she hears a coach draw up late in the evening.
Elinor is expecting her mother but not so soon. Throughout the chapter, Elinor’s strength of character, Mrs. Jennings’s sensible advice, and Brandon’s character are revealed. As the coach arrives, “Never in her life had Elinor found it so difficult to be calm as at that moment.” Her characteristic external restraint is put to its test. She anticipates “perhaps” the “despair” of her mother. Instead, in a moment of superb narrative reversal and focus, the unexpected occurs. Elinor does not find her mother and Colonel Brandon in “the drawing-room.” The four horses, indicating urgency, instead of the two, as were the custom, drawing the carriage, have brought, of all people, Willoughby! (307–316).
Volume 3, Chapter 8 (Chapter 44)
The chapter consists of Willoughby, in spite of Elinor’s initial objections, telling his side of his story. He has heard from Sir John Middleton that Marianne is dying and he rides to Cleveland hoping to be able to explain himself and his version of events. According to Willoughby, he was going to ask Marianne to marry him at Barton. However, Mrs. Smith, when hearing of his seduction of Eliza Williams, told him to leave Allenham. Aware of his own lack of prospects and wealth and fearful of poverty, he is forced to marry for money. His letter to Marianne, he informs Elinor, was dictated by his wealthy wife. His deep feelings for Marianne, regret at his behavior, and unhappy marriage, past misdeeds, “the world had made him extravagant and vain,” lead Elinor to assure Willoughby “that she forgave, pitied, wished him well.”
Willoughby’s lengthy tale is punctuated by Elinor’s interruptions. The narrator does not allow Willoughby one long confession. Initially, Elinor is very reluctant to listen to him and thinks momentarily that he is “drunk.” Willoughby’s “steadiness of . . . manner and the intelligence of his eye as he spoke” force her to listen to him. She interrupts Willoughby following his claim that he has “lost every thing that could make [life] a blessing.” Elinor is “a little softened” by Willoughby’s words and evident sincerity. The narrator draws attention to the shifts in the listener’s responses to what she is being told, as well as to the teller’s—Willoughby’s—telling. At points in the tale Willoughby comments on the ways in which language is used. For instance, he says that “every line, every word” of Marianne’s unanswered letters to him “was—in the hackneyed metaphor which their dear writer, were she here, would forbid—a dagger to my heart.” Jane Austen, as narrator, is careful to distinguish between ways of expression and depth of feeling. Similarly, Elinor as a character distinguishes between the depth of her inner feelings and her outward expressions of them. Willoughby in this chapter is pouring out his heart, and his feelings and his apparent motivation: vanity, fear of poverty, the need for a wealthy marriage, his unhappiness (317–332).
Volume 3, Chapter 9 (Chapter 45)
The chapter begins with Elinor’s inner responses to Willoughby’s confession after he has left her. It then moves to Mrs. Dashwood’s appearance. Instead of finding a very sick Marianne, she finds a daughter well on the way to recovery. Mrs. Dashwood tells Elinor that on their journey to Cleveland, Colonel Brandon has revealed his love for Marianne. She will do all she can to encourage the match and tells a slightly amused Elinor that Brandon is a much more suitable husband for Marianne than Willoughby.
The opening paragraphs of the chapter convey Elinor’s sense of “sadness” for Willoughby and for the waste it has produced in him and in others. There is fatalism in her reactions: “Elinor’s heart was full. The past, the present, the future,” a sense of irreversibility in what has taken place. Elinor has momentary feelings for Willoughby: “for a moment [she] wished Willoughby a widower.” Her thoughts are complex. “Then, remembering Colonel Brandon, reproved herself, felt that to his sufferings and his constancy far more than to his rival, the reward of her sister was due” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). In the remainder of the chapter, she is again a listener, reacting briefly to her mother’s exposition of Brandon’s virtues as Marianne’s suitor and Willoughby’s deficiencies (333–394).
Volume 3, Chapter 10 (Chapter 46)
Mrs. Dashwood, Marianne and Elinor return to Barton. Before doing so, Marianne gathers her strength after her serious illness. Before departing, Mrs. Jennings and Colonel Brandon go their separate ways. After a two-day journey, they reach Barton. Marianne is lost in her own recollections. Her near death experience, and the loss of Willoughby, make her aware that she has been selfish, especially when she thinks of Elinor’s stoic, selfless behavior. Her illness was “entirely brought on by” herself, and “Had I died,—it would have been selfdestruction.” Marianne is determined “to shew that my spirit is humbled, my heart amended, and that I can practise the civilities, the lesser duties of life, with gentleness, and forbearance.” Elinor’s account of Willoughby’s confession is briefly summarized. Marianne listens silently and with restraint (345, 347, 348).
There are several areas of interest in this chapter. Noteworthy is the use of imagery of “eyes,” continuing from the end of the previous chapter, where Mrs. Dashwood observes, “there was always a something . . . in Willoughby’s eyes at times, which I did not like” (338). In the second paragraph of chapter 10 of the final volume, Marianne’s appearance following her serious illness is described as “strengthened by the hollow eye, the sickly sin, the posture of reclining weakness” (340). Recovering, Marianne turns to her piano and books, “the music on which her eyes first rested was an opera, procured for her by Willoughby.” She adds, “That would not do” (342). As Elinor recounts Willoughby’s confession, “Marianne said not a word—She trembled, her eyes were fixed on the ground” (347). Of course, “eyes” and sight reveal inner feelings and reactions. Elinor in this chapter is once again subjected to a personal confessional. In the previous chapter, it was Willoughby’s, in this, it is her sister’s, which is replete with religious and spiritual language and associations. These include specific reference to Henry VIII’s dissolution of monasteries during the mid–16th century, as Marianne plans to “often go to the old ruins of the Priory” (343).
Volume 3, Chapter 11 (Chapter 47)
The chapter begins and concludes from Mrs. Dashwood’s perspective. At its opening she passes judgment on Willoughby, listens to Elinor’s truncated account of what Willoughby told her, and at the end of the chapter regrets, after hearing the news from their servant, that Edward and Lucy are married, not having paid more attention to Elinor. For Elinor, like Marianne, too had been “suffering” (355). During the chapter Margaret, the youngest sister, returns “and the family were again all restored to each other” (352).
Elinor’s retelling of Willoughby’s tale, this time to her mother, involves condensation that reflects Elinor’s sense of her listener, of what her mother can hear or tolerate, and Elinor’s own developing reactions to what Willoughby has told her. For Elinor, Willoughby’s actions have “been grounded on selfishness.” She tells Marianne, “It was selfishness which first made him sport with your affection” and determined his subsequent actions. Elinor says, “His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, his ruling principle” (351). Marianne realizes that she would not have led a happy life with Willoughby even though they had married. After Elinor has spoken to her mother and Marianne of Willoughby, and Margaret’s return to the family, she “grew impatient for some tidings of Edward” (351–352). Letters from her brother reveal very little.
The news from the servant of his marriage produces an extreme reaction from Marianne. She “gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her turning pale, and fall back in her chair in hysterics.” Elinor, on the other hand, “recovered the use of her reason and voice” (353) to question the servant, Thomas, to gain more information. We as readers, as listeners to the evidence that sounds so confirmatory, know, if we have read the whole novel, indeed the next chapter, that it is once again mistaken information. The characters involved lack our knowledge, and suffer as a consequence personal distress, so much so that in the last paragraph, Mrs. Dashwood regrets that her attentions have been focused on “Marianne’s affliction.” She has forgotten “that in Elinor she might have a daughter suffering almost as much, certainly with less self-provocation, and greater fortitude” (356).
Volume 3, Chapter 12 (Chapter 48)
In this chapter the misinformation from the previous chapter, with its consequences, is corrected. Elinor is the focus of attention. Her imagination dominates the first seven paragraphs. She speculates on Edward and his marriage and on Lucy’s actions: She would be “courting the favour of Colonel Brandon, of Mrs. Jennings, and of every wealthy friend” (357). Surprisingly, Edward arrives unexpectedly and alone. Elinor is speechless. Eventually the conversation between him and Mrs. Dashwood turns to the subject of his supposed marriage. He tells them that his younger brother, Robert, has married Lucy. Elinor, during this revelation, had retreated to work. Edward ironically “took up a pair of scissars . . . spoiling both them and their sheath by cutting the latter to pieces as he spoke.” Unable to control her emotions any longer, Elinor “almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.” After she leaves, Edward falls “into a reverie,” or silent trance, and he too leaves (360).
Volume 3, Chapter 13 (Chapter 49)
The book is now winding toward its close. Edward has come to Barton to propose to Elinor, who accepts him. Again, she is subject to a confessional, but one she has waited for and enjoys. Edward tells her of his early friendship with, and subsequent engagement to, Lucy, and how she “appeared everything that was amiable and obliging” (362). The intimacy between Elinor and Edward is followed by Lucy’s letter to Edward breaking off their engagement. John Dashwood writes to Elinor to tell her that Fanny, his wife, and Mrs. Ferrars have “suffered agonies of sensibility” (371) as a result of Robert’s marriage to Lucy. Consequently, there is hope of reconciliation between Edward and his estranged mother. His letter has followed one from Mrs. Jennings venting “her honest indignation against the jilting girl” (370). At the end of the chapter, persuaded by Elinor, Edward goes to London to ask Fanny and John Dashwood to assist with reconciliation with his mother.
In addition to letters, the chapter is replete with intimate confidences between Edward and Elinor displaying the depth of their relationship. Her feelings when she learns that “Lucy was married to another” and he is at last “free” are anything but restrained: “She was everything by turns but tranquil.” Jane Austen as narrator makes a fine distinction between “two rational creatures” and “lovers”: “between them [“lovers”] no subject is finished, no communication is ever made, till it has been made at least twenty times over” (Jane Austen’s emphasis: 363–364). The narrator, however, is on occasion ambiguous. When Edward proposes to Elinor, “he did not, upon the whole, expect a very cruel reception. It was his business . . . to say that he did and he said it very prettily” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). The narrator adds somewhat cynically, “What he might say on the subject [“of his fate with” Elinor] a twelvemonth after [they are married] must be referred to the imagination of husbands and wives” (366). The implication is that all might not be bliss a year after the realities of marriage have set in.
Volume 3, Chapter 14 (Chapter 50)
In the last chapter of the novel, the loose ends are tied up and futures anticipated. Edward and Elinor marry and settle, with Colonel Brandon’s assistance, at Delaford. Mrs. Ferrars is reconciled to Edward and to the marriage to allow a similar financial settlement she had given Fanny on her marriage to John Dashwood. Edward and Elinor consequently have “an income quite sufficient to their wants” (374). Lucy, on the other hand, cunningly ingratiates herself with Mrs. Ferrars to become “a favourite child.” Close to Mrs. Ferrars, to John, and Fanny, ironically the “frequent domestic disagreements between Robert and Lucy themselves . . . could exceed the harmony in which they all lived together.”
Marianne, “with such a confederacy against her,” of Mrs. Dashwood, Edward, and Elinor, at last marries Brandon. At the age of 19, she is “placed in a new home, a wife, the mistress of a family and the patroness of a village.” Willoughby, on the other hand, “made her his secret standard of perfection in woman” but is comforted by his wife, who “was not always out of humour, nor his home always uncomfortable.” In the last paragraph the realities of everyday existence intrude. Barton, the Ferrarses, and Delaford, the Brandons, constantly are in communication with one another; “they could live without disagreement between themselves.” Further, “the happiness of Elinor and Marianne” did not produce “coolness between their husbands” (377–380).
Contemporary comments and reviews of Sense and Sensibility were largely laudatory. For instance, in a letter postmarked November 24, 1811, Henrietta, Countess of Bessborough, comments to Lord Granville Leveson Gower, “Have you read ‘Sense and Sensibility’? It is a clever novel. They were full of it at Althorp [landed estate], and tho’ it ends stupidly I was much amus’d by it” (Gilson, 9). Four years later, a French translation of Sense and Sensibility was published. Two very early reviews of the novel from 1812 are sympathetic. The review in the British Critic commends Sense and Sensibility to “female friends . . . [who] may peruse these volumes not only with satisfaction but with real benefits, for they may learn from them, if they please, many sober and salutary maxims for the conduct of life, exemplified in a very pleasing and entertaining narrative” (Southam, I: 40). The Critical Review, February 1812, noted, “both amusement and instruction” in the novel, and found Sir John Middleton amusing and admired Marianne, while observing that her excess at times “annoys everyone around her.” The reviewer’s observations concerning Marianne echo subsequent criticism. He fears that “there are too many” Mariannes, adding “but without her elegance and good sense, who play their feelings and happiness till they lose the latter . . . render the former perfectly ridiculous and contemptible” (Southam, I: 35, 37).
George Henry Lewes, writing in the Westminster Review in July 1852, praises Jane Austen’s use of language in the novel. He uses Lucy Steele as an example, writing “Only cultivated minds fairly appreciate the exquisite art of Miss Austen,” Lucy’s “bad English [is] delicately and truthfully indicated” (Southam, I: 141). Julia Kavanaugh, on the other hand, in 1862 believes that Elinor and Marianne are “somewhat deficient in reality. Elinor Dashwood is Judgment—her sister Marianne is Imagination. We feel it too plainly. And the triumph of Sense over Sensibility, shown by the different conduct they hold under very similar trials, is all the weaker that it is the result of the author’s will.” Kavanaugh praises Jane Austen’s “Delicate irony,” especially in the depiction of the foolish Sir John Middleton and Mrs. Jennings, who brings elements of comic relief to the novel (Southam, I: 179, 181).
Margaret Oliphant, in 1870, objects to Marianne’s “selfish and high-flown wretchedness” and the “foolishness” of Sir John Middleton, and says “the Miss Steeles are simply vulgar and disagreeable” (Southam, I: 222). Increasingly, among late 19th-century reactions to Jane Austen, the differences between her historical and literary period and the present, engage critical comments. For instance, Leslie Stephen, writing in 1875, comments that “there is not a single flash of biting satire. She [Jane Austen] is absolutely at peace with her most comfortable world. She never hints at a suspicion that squires and parsons of the English type are not an essential part of the order of things” (Southam, II: 174–175). These are observations found wanting in the critical perceptions of subsequent writers such as D. W. Harding and Claudia L. Johnson. On the other hand, Marilyn Butler and Jocelyn Harris find Jane Austen ideological and stylistically heavily indebted to her 18th-century predecessors.
Early 20th-century critics are largely fascinated by her characterization, although Richard Simpson’s 1870 North British Review essay pointed the way to subsequent readings of the world of Jane Austen’s fiction as a “microcosm of some larger moral universe.” Writing in the immediate post– World War II period, Ian Watt points to the values of Jane Austen’s time that are lost to readers of later generations: for instance, Marianne and Willoughby’s use of first names is much more suggestive than appears to Watt’s contemporary readers. For Watt, the importance of the novel is not in the focus on Elinor and Marianne but in “their relation to a fixed code of values.” Watt finds the concepts of “sense” and “sensibility” to be very complex, an insight that will be developed by subsequent critics such as Butler and Johnson. Watt writes that “Jane Austen developed for the first time a narrative form which fully articulated the conflict between the contrary tendencies of her age: between reason and rapture, between the observing mind and the feeling heart, between being sensible and being sensitive” (Watt, 47, 51).
C. S. Lewis, writing in 1954, slightly earlier than Watt, also points to serious elements underneath the seeming glittering surface of Sense and Sensibility. For Lewis, the scenes where Marianne comes to realize that her selfishness has given her sister Elinor pain are part of a pattern of “undeception” of heroines in Austen’s novels. Selfishness, however, does not result in tragedy, but in “cheerful moderation” (Lewis, 185). The depiction of the realities of emotional experience in Sense and Sensibility are noted in an earlier 1919 essay by the Irish novelist George Moore (1852–1933). In a fine assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the novel, Moore writes, “Remember that the theme of the book is a disappointment in love, and never was one better written, more poignant, more dramatic.” Moore adds, “We all know how terrible these disappointments are, and how they crush and break up life, for the moment reducing it to dust” (Southam, II, 275).
Marilyn Butler’s Jane Austen and the War of Ideas is a sophisticated placement of Jane Austen’s work within the ideological and literary contexts in which it was written. She finds the structure of Sense and Sensibility to be very complex: the “novel advances on the assumption that what happens to one of the central characters must also happen to the other; at every turn the reader cannot avoid the appropriate conclusion” (183). For Butler, “Elinor is the first character in an Austen novel consistently to reveal an inner life” (189). Elinor represents “an active, struggling Christian in a difficult world” (192).
Reading the novel from a feminist perspective, Claudia Johnson insightfully sees Sense and Sensibility as a “radical critique of conservative ideology [as] an examination of the morally vitiating tendencies of patriarchy” (69). The story of the two Elizas, both of whom are used and abused, and unsuccessfully protected by Brandon, is central to her reading of the novel. For Johnson, “if this insert tale is never permitted to become central, it nevertheless is linked to the larger story” (55) in the novel of the dangers lurking beneath a protected world to which at the conclusion of Sense and Sensibility, Marianne and Elinor “withdraw” (72).
Money and property as determinates of personal worth in the novel have not been ignored. Oliver MacDonagh, for instance, points to the reality that not one of the characters in the novel actually earns any money. On the whole, Sense and Sensibility has not received the intense critical attention reserved for such novels as Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park. Moreland Perkins’s Reshaping the Sexes in Sense and Sensibility is an extensive, booklength study devoted to the novel and reactions to it. Perkins’s work, a product of the late 20thcentury critical industry, reveals that the novel, its characters, and ideas continue to engage almost two centuries after its publication.
Brandon has too easily been dismissed as a “wooden and undeveloped character . . . unexciting and remote.” He has been described as “a vacuum” and a “stolid sad sack” (cited Auerbach, 113). Akin to Elinor, he has difficulties with expression and is very reticent, telling Elinor “it would be impossible to describe what I felt” (199). The narrator describes him as “on every occasion mindful of the feelings of others” (62). He is a friend of Sir John Middleton, against whom his “silent and grave manner” curiously contrasts. Marianne subsequently refers to Brandon as an old, unwell man. Around 35 years of age, he is from the start of the novel described as “sensible” and “gentlemanlike” (34). Elinor quickly appreciates his “good-breeding and good nature,” (51) combined with considerable strength of character, especially contrasted with the superficial nature of the rest of Barton society.
Brandon, when the Dashwood girls stay in London, visits them on a daily basis, and he makes little attempt to disguise his concern for Marianne and her welfare. Under Willoughby’s influence, Marianne finds Brandon wanting in “genius, taste . . . spirit . . . brilliancy . . . ardour.” Elinor, on the other hand, appreciates Brandon’s experience of life, his genuineness, his knowledgeable “thinking mind” (51). She perceives that Brandon’s reticence is the consequence of “some oppression of spirits” rather than a “natural gloominess of temper” (50).
Eventually Brandon reveals that he loved the 17-year-old Eliza Williams, not unlike Marianne in character. She married instead, against her wishes, his elder brother, and Brandon subsequently left for the East. Mistreated by the brother, she was unfaithful, and divorced, she ends up in poverty and sickness, before dying early. Brandon took care of her daughter, Eliza, who recently had eloped with, and been seduced by, Willoughby. Brandon challenged Willoughby to a duel from which both escaped unhurt. The seduction is the reason for his sudden unexplained departure from Barton.
Brandon’s obvious pain is increased as he has fallen in love with the 17-year-old Marianne, who reminds him of Eliza. He is forced to remain silent while she becomes increasingly besotted by Willoughby, whom he knows to be disingenuous. Yet Brandon remains constant and selfless in his devotion to her. When he learns that Edward Ferrars has been disinherited by his mother, Brandon offers him a living on the Delaford estate he has inherited after the death of his brother. He drives at night to fetch Mrs. Dashwood from Barton when Marianne is seriously ill at Cleveland. On the return journey, he reveals his love for Marianne and gains Mrs. Dashwood’s support for his suit. It becomes a “darling object” (378) for Mrs. Dashwood to bring Marianne and the Colonel together. She is successful in this object and they marry: “in Marianne” Colonel Brandon “was consoled for every past affliction.”
In short, the romantic Marianne marries someone she regarded as boring, too old, and ridiculous as he wore a flannel waistcoat. He is the clear opposite to Willoughby, and she has learned to appreciate Brandon’s fidelity and integrity. At the end of the novel, “Colonel Brandon was now as happy, as all those who best loved him, believed he deserved to be” (379).
Brandon, Mrs. Eliza, née Williams (deceased)
Seen through Colonel Brandon’s narrative and recollections, “This lady was one of [his] nearest relations, an orphan from her infancy, and under the guardianship of [Brandon’s] father . . . from our earliest years we were playfellows, and friends.” According to Brandon, at 17 “she was married—married against her inclination to [his] brother” to save the Brandon family fortunes. Initially she resisted the marriage, attempting unsuccessfully to elope with her relative Colonel Brandon. Treated badly by her husband, “without a friend to advise or restrain her”—Colonel Brandon had departed for the East Indies, and his “father lived only a few months after [their] marriage”—she was unfaithful. From her affair she had a little girl, Eliza, and her husband divorced her. Three years after these events, by accident Colonel Brandon found her living in a debtor’s prison “so altered—so faded—worn down by acute suffering of every kind!” and dying of consumption. Brandon places her “in comfortable lodgings” and visits “her every day during the rest of her short life.”
Related by Brandon, her tale has various functions. It serves as a warning for those like Marianne, and Brandon admits that she reminds him of Eliza, who have too much sensibility rather than sense. Concerning Eliza’s behavior, Brandon tells Elinor, “can we wonder that with such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to advise or restrain her?” she becomes a victim of the male sex. She is not given a “legal allowance . . . adequate to her fortune, nor sufficient for her comfortable maintenance.” Following her divorce, she is left “to sink deeper in a life of sin” (205–207). For a feminist critic such as Claudia L. Johnson, “Eliza’s story, like so much of the central matter in” the novel, “indicts the license to coercion, corruption and avarice available to grasping patriarchs and their eldest sons” (56).
Dashwood, Mrs. Henry
The second wife of Henry Dashwood, she is left with little money, and dependant on the goodwill of the son and his wife of her husband’s first wife. She has three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. Due to the generosity of her cousin Sir John Middleton, she and her daughters leave Norland and live at Barton Cottage. According to the narrator, the ability to control her feelings was “a knowledge which [she] had yet to learn” (6). She admits that she “can feel no sentiment of approbation inferior to love” (16). Mrs. Dashwood “had an excellent heart; her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong” (6). Restrained by her eldest daughter, Elinor, she encourages Marianne’s enthusiasm for Willoughby, and, after she has met him for a week, anticipates their engagement. She persuades Elinor and Marianne to accept Mrs. Jennings’s invitation to go to London. She hopes that their visit will reunite Willoughby to Marianne. At the conclusion of the novel, she regrets that she previously had not been more responsible for Marianne. To achieve her “darling object” (378), the marriage of Marianne and Colonel Brandon, she frequently takes her to Delaford. After her two eldest daughters marry, she is “prudent enough” (381) to stay at Barton cottage.
Mrs. Dashwood is vague and overromantic, intuitive rather than rational. She is uncertain about practical financial affairs, and is convinced that she sensed something unpleasant in Willoughby’s eyes. As the novel proceeds, she begins gradually to appreciate Edward Ferrars’s strengths, “an evolving appreciation that works against the grain of her spontaneous taste” (Perkins, 40). In short, as a widow in straitened circumstances with two daughters of marriageable age, and a younger daughter, existence in a male-dominated society is complicated and difficult. Lacking financial acumen, she is viewed by her own daughters and others as an indulgent parent. However, Barton Cottage becomes a place of retreat for Willoughby, Edward Ferrars, and Colonel Brandon—a place where they can feel happy and somewhat secure. For instance, Edward, after spending a week at Barton and the Dashwoods’, “valued their kindness beyond any thing, and his greatest happiness was in being with them” (101). Mrs. Dashwood is fortunate that she has a distant relative such as Sir John Middleton to provide a comfortable roof for her and her daughters and congenial company with the appropriate social contacts at nearby Barton Park. She rarely speaks ill of anyone—apart from Willoughby when his trickery of Marianne emerges.
The heroine and central consciousness of the novel. The eldest of the three Dashwood daughters, she “possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother.” Of the Dashwood women, she has the greatest “strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment” (6), combined with self-control. Unlike her younger sister Marianne, and her mother, she does not reveal her feelings to others. At Norland, before she has moved to Barton Cottage, she has fallen in love with Edward Ferrars but outwardly does not display her feelings for him. She perceives that he is not wealthy enough to be an appropriate match for her, yet she retains her love for Edward and does not relinquish the hope that eventually they will marry. Even when discovering that he is engaged to Lucy Steele, in spite of her mortification and disappointment, she still maintains external appearances of calmness and keeps her emotions to herself. She analyzes Edward’s situation and believes that he does not really love Lucy but is committed to her out of duty rather than love. Her reticence provides a remarkable contrast to Marianne’s unbridled emotions at the loss of Willoughby. Elinor’s fidelity to Edward and self-restraint at the end of the novel are rewarded. Lucy Steele married Robert Ferrars, allowing Edward at last to declare his love for Elinor, and they marry.
Elinor’s closest friend, both in terms of character and fate in the novel, is Colonel Brandon. He, among others, has used Elinor as a confessor for his private fears and emotions. She proves in the novel to be a good listener and counselor. Elinor’s self-restraint represents an alternative set of values to those embodied in the romantic, self-absorbed, sentimental Marianne or her mother, and the selfish hedonism of Willoughby or the manipulating duplicity of a Lucy Steele. Elinor represents the “sense” of the title of the novel, and her sister Marianne the “sensibility”: The two, Elinor and Marianne, are complementary. Both have a good deal in common. They both are dreamers. Edward, following Lucy’s elopement with his brother, knows that Elinor will accept him. Elinor admits to herself that “in spite of herself, she had always admitted a hope, while Edward remained single, that something would occur to prevent his marrying Lucy” (357). Her self-restraint and lack of public display of feelings may belong to the 18th-century Augustan virtues of moderation. Her dreams, and fidelity to her wish to marry Edward, represent romantic values.
Dashwood, Fanny, née Ferrars
“A strong caricature of her [husband, John Dashwood]; more narrow-minded and selfish” (5). Sister of Edward and Robert Ferrars, Fanny is a snob, mean, materialistic, and calculating. Her ability to twist her husband around her little finger is demonstrated in the second chapter of the novel, in which she adroitly brings her husband to deprive his father’s second wife and three daughters of any sufficient income. She persuades John Dashwood to do exactly the opposite of his late father’s clear intentions. In this second chapter, almost every sentence starts with “Certainly” or “To be sure,” “Undoubtedly,” “I believe you are right,” or “That is very true.” Each phrase represents her paring away of the £3,000 due to Mrs. Henry Dashwood and her daughters. She encourages her mother’s hostility toward her brother Edward to keep Elinor, her mother, and sisters in poverty and to humiliate them. Mrs. Jennings, not noted for sparing her opinion, regards Fanny’s treatment of Lucy and Anne Steele as both cruel and lacking in reason. Fanny Dashwood regrets Edward’s lack of ambition and finds Lady Middleton congenial: “There was a kind of cold hearted selfishness on both sides, which mutually attracted them; and they sympathized with each other in an insipid propriety of demeanour, and a general want of understanding” (229). In short, Fanny Dashwood has much in common with the vain, utterly selfish, and mean Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion, but she is much more manipulative and intelligent. ‘
The second Dashwood daughter, she is just 17 at the beginning of the novel. Her father had died, she is the middle sister with Elinor as her elder sister and Margaret as her younger one. The narrator tells her readers toward the conclusion of the opening chapter, “She was sensible and clever; but eager in every thing; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was every thing but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great” (6). Her words to her mother concerning Edward Ferrars’s reading of poetry and her direct appeal to Willoughby when she encounters him in London exemplify her unrestrained spontaneity. These qualities are also reflected in her indiscreet Allenham visit, an attempt to see Willoughby, presented in chapter 9, and her willingness to begin a relationship with him and her assumption that they are engaged, combined with her disregard for her own welfare at Cleveland when she catches fever after walking in a severe rainstorm. She is also rude to those around her: “her usual inattention to the forms of general civility” (144). On the whole, her ideas are incorrect. She objects to “second attachments,” although, ironically, she marries Colonel Brandon, a “second attachment” (55) on her part and on his. She opposes what she regards as her sister Elinor’s “doctrine” of “treat[ing] our acquaintance in general with greater attention,” or paying more attention to the needs of others (94). Marianne is dogmatic and consistent in her romantic ideals.
Marianne is close to her mother, to whom she is most alike. She considers Edward Ferrars’s aesthetic judgment wanting, and throughout most of the novel, until her serious illness, she looks on Colonel Brandon as close to the grave. In the three years encompassed in the time frame of the novel, the reader sees her maturing through disappointment and experience so that at the conclusion, she is ready to be Brandon’s wife. Jane Austen uses her excesses of emotional response to satirize romantic extremes. To take two examples, Marianne appeals directly to the trees at Norland: “And you, ye wellknown trees” (27). After Willoughby deserts her, her emotions know no restraint: the “nourishment of grief was every day applied” (83). In spite of these extremes, Marianne possesses fine artistic judgment and an astute awareness of language and style. She has no time for the trivial and second rate and unreservedly criticizes materialism and the ridiculous concern with status and social forms. She is resurrected from a life-threatening illness by the efforts and concern of her sister Elinor and Colonel Brandon, who loves her. In the final chapter, the narrator relates that Marianne “was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims.” Essentially, “she was born to overcome” and to be happy. At the age of 19, “she found herself . . . submitting to new attachments, entering on new duties, placed in a new home, a wife, the mistress of a family, and the patroness of a village” (378–379).
Edward, the brother of Mrs. Fanny Dashwood and Robert Ferrars, is the oldest son of a father “who had died very rich.” However, his inheritance depends on keeping in the good books of his selfish mother. Edward first met Elinor Dashwood soon after she and her family moved to Norland Park. His sister Fanny objected to their developing relationship, and this was one of the main reasons why Elinor, her sisters, and her mother left for Devon. Reserved in public and shy, well read, with “an open affectionate heart” (15), Edward wants a quiet life, but his mother is ambitious for him, wishing him to go into Parliament. Edward’s preference is for the church. His family does not approve, and remaining unemployed, he enters Oxford University when 19 and has been idle subsequently.
Not sent to public school, he was privately tutored by a Mr. Pratt near Plymouth, on the southwest coast of England, for four years. At Mr. Pratt’s he met his niece Lucy Steele, to whom he became secretly engaged, and subsequently came to regret the engagement, a “consequence of ignorance of the world—and want of employment” (362). Duty bound to uphold the engagement, Edward refuses his mother’s offer of an estate in Norfolk worth £1000 a year if he agrees to marry Miss Morton, a wealthy heiress. Edward’s secret commitment to Lucy Steele explains his curious behavior toward Elinor both at Norland and at Barton Cottage. After the engagement becomes public, his mother disowns and disinherits Edward. Meanwhile, Edward has taken holy orders, and it appears that he and Lucy have agreed to marry when he obtains a living. Colonel Brandon, after learning of the situation, offers Edward, through Elinor’s good offices, the living of Delaford, which he accepts.
While Edward is at Oxford being ordained, Lucy Steele marries his brother Robert, consequently releasing Edward from “an entanglement which had long formed his misery” (361). At last able to declare his love for Elinor, Edward goes to Barton to explain everything and to propose. She accepts, and a near reconciliation with his mother following “an ungracious delay” (373) takes place. She grudgingly consents to the marriage and gives him a small allowance though by no means as much as Edward would have received if he had followed her wishes and married the heiress Miss Morton. At the end of the novel, the narrator reveals that Edward does not regret his comparative lack of wealth and is not jealous of the wealthy but argumentative existence of his brother Robert with Lucy, his sister, or mother. He finds professional satisfaction as a clergyman and “an increasing attachment to his wife and his home” (377).
Although often presented in negative terms, perceived as dull, Edward possesses wit and is not without irony. He claims to “have no knowledge of the picturesque” and does not “like crooked, twisted, blasted trees . . . ruined, tattered cottages . . . nettles, or thistles, or heath blossoms.” Edward, with his tongue in cheek, tells Marianne that he prefers “a troop of tidy, happy villagers,” “the finest banditti in the world.” This amazes Marianne and makes Elinor laugh (96, 98). In addition to a sense of wit and irony, Edward has insight into character, telling Marianne, for instance, that if she was rich she “would buy [books] all over and over again; she would buy up every copy” (92). He also refuses to submit to his mother in spite of Elinor’s urging on him “a little humility.” He agrees to visit her but “still resisted the idea of a letter of proper submission” (372).
Steele, Miss Lucy
Lucy, Anne’s younger sister, is 23, with “considerable beauty; her features were pretty, and she had a sharp quick eye, and a smartness of air, which though it did not give actual elegance or grace, gave distinction to her person” (120). She has connections but lacks money. When young, after meeting Edward Ferrars at her uncle’s home near Plymouth, she secretly becomes engaged to him. Staying at Barton Park, Lucy and her sister ingratiate themselves with the Middleton family by sycophancy and indulging the young children. Consequently, in spite of claiming many other social engagements, especially in Exeter, they stay two months and are invited to London. Lucy learns enough of Edward’s affection for Elinor to be jealous but is unaware that his mother plans a match for Edward with the very wealthy Miss Morton. Owing to the indiscretion of her sister, Anne, in revealing the engagement, both sisters fall out of favor socially. Robert, Edward’s brother, attempts to persuade Lucy to give his brother up, but the clever, manipulating Lucy attracts Robert. They marry secretly, with Robert “proud of his conquest” (376)—he has been given a Norfolk estate worth £1000 a year by his mother when annoyed that Edward refuses to break with Lucy. Her “selfish sagacity,” and “humility, assiduous attentions, and endless flattery” (375) make her a favorite of Mrs. Ferrars, although she and Robert are continually feuding.
Jane Austen as narrator reserves some of her fiercest satire in the novel for Lucy. In the concluding chapter, she observes: “The whole of Lucy’s behaviour in the affair, and the prosperity which crowned it, therefore, may be held forth as a most encouraging instance of what an earnest, an unceasing attention to self-interest, however its progress may be apparently obstructed, will do in securing every advantage of fortune.” She also adds, “with no other sacrifices than that of time and conscience” (376). Lucy is born with beauty and high intelligence and connections, but no money. She has to survive as best she can in a ruthless, materialistic world based on class, snobbery, connections, and money. Otherwise, her fate would have been that of her sister: vain hope and poverty dependent on others’ favors.
A charming predator of women, he is the first of Jane Austen’s tricksters to prey on others. These include George Wickham, Henry Crawford, Frank Churchill, and William Walter Elliot. Willoughby appears to possess “every advantage of persons and talents . . . a disposition naturally open and honest, and a feeling, affectionate temper” (331) who is most attractive to women. Elinor, however, also detects in him a “want of caution” (49). This perception proves to be correct when it emerges that he has seduced and deserted Colonel Brandon’s ward, Eliza Williams, whom he has made pregnant.
Willoughby’s behavior, Elinor explains, is the consequence of “too early an independence and its consequent habits of idleness, dissipation, and luxury” (331). So having frittered away his inheritance, he has little alternative but to flatter his aging relative Mrs. Smith, hoping to inherit Allenham Court after she dies. His other possibility is to marry an heiress. He is known as a good horse rider and a “decent shot” (43), with considerable musical talent that attracts him to Marianne—they have similar tastes.
All the characters including Elinor, although she has reservations, make excuses for him as they are taken in by his personal charm. Even Elinor at the conclusion of the novel has regrets on his behalf, and his fate is not a disaster. Having given up Marianne without telling her, in London his attentions transfer to the wealthy Sophia Grey, whom he loses no time in marrying. In his confession to Elinor upon hearing of Marianne’s grave illness, Willoughby admits that he has to “rub through the world” (332), to accommodate as best he can, and that happiness at home is not for him. His is above all the “dread of poverty” (323). Ironically, his relative Mrs. Smith “gave him reason for believing that had he behaved with honour towards Marianne, he might at once have been happy and rich.” Further, although he “could not hear” of Marianne’s “marriage without a pang,” Willoughby “lived to exert, and frequently to enjoy himself,” taking refuge “in his breed of horses and dogs” (379).
Primary Texts Jane Austen’s Letters. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Sense and Sensibility. Edited by R. W. Chapman. The Novels of Jane Austen: I, 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1943 reprint. ———, edited by James Kinsley, with an introduction and notes by Margaret Anne Doody and Claire Lamont. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
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