Adventures in Reading


Sense & Sensibility
September 17, 2007, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Austen’s language usage is incredible but I have to say one of my favorite vocabulary has been puppyism: Extreme meanness, affectation, conceit, or impudence.

And finally back to Sense & Sensibility! The Dashwood sisters Elinor and Marianne have made it to London and almost immediately upon return Mrs. Jennings distributes her calling card. From my understanding (thanks Daniel Pool), the calling card is distributed to friends and acquaintances to announce your return to town or an interest in paying a call. As usual, Jane Austen’s World has some further information on them (and some exciting pictures). The tension in the story begins to pick up here as both sisters wait in some anticipation and apprehension to hear from their suitors. While Willoughby was seemingly ignoring Marianne the Dashwoods finally run into him at a dance.

Willoughby conveniently, in modern terms, blows Marianne off. He is very formal with her and as she cries out a dramatic “Willoughby!” he turns and leaves the dance. You would think this would be terrible enough but the relationship crisis is only made more morbid as a result of Mrs. Jennings’ and Charlotte’s gossip that Willoughby and Marianne were an item. The morning after the dance Marianne quickly sends a letter off to Willoughby and she receives a short and cruel response along with the return of her own letters. Willoughby is charged with being an “unprincipled man” and the reader can only think, “Poor Marianne!”

At this point in the book I find Marianne particularly vexing as her sensibility seems very much a charade or very much a modern day young adult teen heart break novel. With permission from Marianne, Elinor reads Marianne’s and Willoughby’s correspondence. Despite her sister’s current circumstances Elinor is aware that in these exchanges Willoughby never promised Marianne anything such as an engagement (though certainly led her on) and Elinor even reflects on the impropriety of some of Marianne’s more emotional letters to Willoughby. (As an aside after all of this correspondence in Austen’s novels I have found myself seeking out local stationery stores!) While everyone agrees that Willoughby used her “ill” it quickly comes out that he seemed to never have any intention on seeking an engagement with Marianne but instead is engaged to a (very wealthy) Ms. Grey who he very quickly marries.

In chapter nine (part two I believe) we finally get the details of Colonel Brandon’s departure as well as putting some of Mrs. Jennings gossip to rest. Brandon’s childhood sweetheart Eliza was married to his brother and after two years divorced Mr. Brandon. Divorce is an enormous and weighty matter. From my understanding (a cross between Daniel Poole and Anna Karenina) there were only three methods of declaring a divorce and all three were largely in favor of the husband regardless of the situation. Reading about the divorce courts make it all the more plausible why a couple may remain together in unhappiness. Eliza’s divorce makes her a fallen woman. While this is happening Colonel Brandon is stationed in India (do not forget the Empire!) and Eliza is seduced into a life of sin. This I believe is suggesting that Eliza took lovers if not outright become a prostitute to help herself financially. Eliza dies with consumption but not before leaving her daughter, from her first affair, to Brandon. Colonel Brandon’s brother dies and thus he is next in line as a result of primogeniture. However, as if she could not escape her mother’s past, the daughter (also Eliza) runs off with/is seduced by our very own Willoughby and is abandoned!

Of course Elinor tells this news to Marianne who consequently ponders what her fate may have been. This secret is of course comparable to Edward’s secret engagement with Ms. Steele that he kept Elinor unaware of. At the beginning of chapter eleven (a chapter with numerous wonderful odds and ends I went to seek out) we see Marianna and Elinor going to sell some of their mother’s “old-fashioned” jewels. This caught me and left me wondering for awhile regarding the motive of selling the jewels and I must say a motive I still am undecided on. Here we finally run into Robert Ferras (and my toothpick holder curiosity!) and though we will not know his name for some time Austen gives the reader a distinctly bad impression. We run into Mr. Dashwood here as well (everyone is out shopping it seems) and get a bit of gossip on Edward: the he is now supposedly engaged to a Ms. Moreton!

Here we enter upon the mad dash of action and confusion in the novel. The Ms. Steeles have been invited to stay with Fanny and John Dashwood. The Nancy Steele informs Fanny of Edward and Lucy’s engagement. Heads roll as Fanny and her mother Mrs. Ferras had designs for Edward to marry Ms. Moreton (an heiress). It is remarked about “such a to-do about money and greatness” and despite the intrigue and all that was left unsaid Elinor still feels compassion for Edward. Austen allows us an insight into Elinor’s character describing her as being the comforter of others even in her own despair. While all of this is coming out it is announced that Edward will stick with his prior engagement and will marry Ms. Lucy Steele. Mrs. Ferras promptly disowns Edward.

All of these women throwing themselves at Edward seems a bit silly when we consider the man we have been presented with. The reader learns that Edward’s agreement to stand with Lucy is a result of his sense of doing right, his conscious and I was left wondering how silly or admirable this was. Of course if he broke the engagement (though I am not sure how formal or legal it was ever considered) it would look poorly upon himself and also open himself up for possible litigation. And there we have it. Two heart broken (the one at least more verbally so than the other) Dashwoods leaving London, the scene of all of these escapades, to the long journey back to their mother via Cleveland.

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2 Comments

Thank you for the shout out! We use business cards these days, but I must say that the habit of using calling cards to announce oneself is largely no longer used (except perhaps in diplomatic circles.)

Comment by ms. place

Which I find to be such a shame but it might be a bit too dorky for me to begin distributing my own calling cards. ;)

Comment by bookchronicle




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