An adorable tale of the ups and downs of sisterhood according to the impeccably mannered wording of Jane Austin. "The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park..." and within their esteemed habitation of placid respectability a change of course was to ensue upon the demise of the owner of the estate, a man who had long lived upon the premises with a sister who had died ten years hence. So as not to be so lonely, he received his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood, his wife and their children who made fine pleasure with their company out of sincere kindness and good natured companionability.
Mr. Henry Dashwood all told had four children, one son by an initial marriage and three daughters by his current wife. Henry's son John was married and secured in manner of fortune upon the will of his mother executed at his coming of age and via his marriage by which a vast addition of wealth was appropriated. Mr. Henry Dashwood's daughters were in need of bold ramifications of the will procured from the elderly bachelor, as their father merely had 7,000 pounds for living and their mother nothing. "The old gentleman died: his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure," with the majority of pounds and the entire estate going to a bratty grand nephew of the age of four, who had managed to charm his uncle.
The three girls; Elinor, the oldest at nineteen, as well as Marianne and Margaret, were left with a thousand pounds a piece. Which could be construed to be as of true insult for, it helps with expenditures in just enough time for them to be married, while the bulk of the will, really the entire estate and all its liquid pounds goes to a four year old boy. Though, their father planned on securing a larger fortune for his girls via the produce of his estate, such was not to be, due to ill constructed tidings consisting of his demise within a twelve month, leaving his wife and daughters with 10,000 pounds.
The estate by decree of the late-late elderly gentleman went into the hands of Mr. John Dashwood and his ill charactered wife. Mr. John Dashwood, himself was, "not an ill disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted and rather selfish is to be ill disposed." And Mrs. John Dashwood, as a mean spirited caricature of her husband, decided right away would be a good time to move into the recently widowed Mrs. Dashwood's abode, before she and her daughters had, to themselves, not really only a moment of reflection upon present circumstance but a chance to move out.
Mrs. Dashwood and her children, did all told manage to amalgamate together effectually as, "Elinor, this eldest daughter, whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgement, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence." Marianne, though capable of Elinor's sense cognitively, differed from her elder sister by way of personality, in being much more tempered with unconstrained emotive stance in a manner near equal in similarity to the mother. And Margaret, at the age of thirteen resembled Marianne's unbound penchant to lack emotional moderation, without having either sense of both her older sisters.
Mrs. John Dashwood established herself as mistress of Norland, forcefully, with the horrific awkwardness of the situation only being mildly quelled by the fake offer of John to his mother and half sisters to consider the estate their home. How kind, considering they were already living there.
Mrs. Dashwood accepts her son's offer, not only so as not to further ruffle tides but because any other house in Norland Park is too large and expensive to live on for her and her daughter's current financial backing. It is Elinor who disproves houses far too grand and expensive, that her mother would have otherwise readily accepted. Mr. John Dashwood wanted to grant his sisters a share of fortune in the will but his wife forbade it by means of seemingly cogent argument. Perhaps had Mr. John Dashwood been able to give his sisters the three thousand pounds then they might have afforded a house in Norland Park and have been able to move out of the doubly occupied home.
Mr. John Dashwood's father did not purposely leave his widow in such dire straights. It seems more that he misjudged in trusting the bulk of his estate, liquid assets and all pounds to his son, with the assumption that his son would care for Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters as requested. What Mr. Dashwood did not foresee was the control, construct and design Mr. John Dashwood's ice princess of a wife would have over the situation. Mrs. John Dashwood's assumptions were that John's half sisters were only that; half and therefore of no relation at all. And aside, "To take three thousand pounds from the fortune of their dear little boy would be impoverishing him to the most dreadful degree."
Added to the mix is Mrs. John Dashwood's brother, Mr. Edward Ferrars, a wishy washy sort of fellow with no estimatable inclination for future employment of any sort; "But Edward had no turn for great men or barouches. All his wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life. Fortunately he had a younger brother who was more promising."
It is Marianne who most thoroughly notices the full dimensions of Edward's character, "I may consider it with some surprise. Edward is very amiable, and I love him tenderly. But yet- he is not the kind of young man - there is something wanting - his figure is not striking; it has none of that grace which I would expect in the man who could seriously attach my sister. His eyes want all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. And besides all this, I am afraid, mama, he has no real taste."
Elinor had taken a strong liking, even attachment to Edward, which seemed to go vise versa in an equal degree and Mrs. Dashwood hoped for a marriage to be produced from the connection. But Edward's sister, "took the first opportunity of affronting her mother in law on the occasion, talking to her so expressively of her brother's great expectations, of Mrs. Ferrar's resolution that both her sons should marry well, and of the danger attending any young woman who attempted to draw him in; that Mrs. Dashwood could neither pretend to be unconscious, nor endeavor to be calm. She gave her an assurance that marked her contempt, and instantly left the room, resolving that, whatever the inconvenience or expense of so sudden a removal, her beloved Elinor should not be exposed another week to such insinuations."
Fortunately, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret would no longer be susceptible to the suffocating bullying of John's sister as a relative offers them a home in the cottage upon his estate. Mrs. Dashwood is able to accept the offer quite promptly and has the added benefit of relating to John and his wife that their move requires them to go to Devonshire, far from Norland and within four miles of Exeter.
The women move into the cottage quite well and one should hope so, as Barton Cottage, is a four bedroom, two garrett house. "They were cheered by the joy of servants upon their arrival and each for the sake of others resolved to appear happy." Upon living on 500 pounds a year, the ladies deemed it best not to refurbish the place entirely but rather to create a home by means of unpacking familiar pieces from their prior establishment, such as Marianne's piano-forte and Elinor's drawings, the latter of which were attached to the sitting room walls.
Sir John Middleton, the landlord to the cottage is also a cousin of the girls. Though his last visit occurred when they were so young, none of them recollects Sir Middleton, who is now a good looking man of about 40. He sincerely welcomes his guests, by inviting them to dine daily at Barton Park, and sends them a large basket of garden plants and fruit as well as a game. Morever all their letters would be carried to and from the post on his account and his own newspaper to be delivered daily.
Here the Dashwoods find quite agreeable accommodations and it is Elinor's sense that prevents her and Marianne from being unnecessarily taken advantage of by men given their father's permanent absence. The dashing yet essentially evil Mr. Willoughby, who meets the sisters upon his visiting of an elderly relative at Allenham Court, preys upon Marianne for sport. He offers her a horse, yet they are not formally engaged (though back then they did not have rings so much as it was a spoken agreement) and Elinor makes Marianne deny the gift as firstly Marianne and her supposed suitor have not known each other long enough for such gifts and secondly, the Miss Dashwoods have absolutely no where to keep a horse.
One morning Willoughby is found in the house with Marianne by Elinor and their mother though rather than catching the lovers in any explicit act, Marianne is found in tears and Willoughby tells, in response to Mrs. Dashwood's inquiries that he must go on business to London, that very morning. Mrs. Dashwood says how sorry she is for this but that their door is open and attempts to solidify an agreement of his return to their cottage. Willoughby responds with, "My engagements at present, are of such a nature, that I dare not flatter myself."
To anyone with any sense it would appear Marianne, horse or no, has been dumped. In the meantime, Edward Ferrars makes entirely awkward visits to the cottage, and is always in a sort of spoiled state of melancholy, as if his mind were really elsewhere, whenever he does. Colonel Brandon also likes the beautiful Marianne, but she in turn was flummoxed by the very idea of marrying a man at his age of 35, when she was just seventeen. Especially when, while at a dinner party he spoke of chronic aches and wearing flannel waistcoats. Marianne could not conceive of herself without horror, being chained to a man who wears flannel waistcoats. Acting as if she, at the age of seventeen might as well throw herself into the pit of death right away than succumb to marriage to a man wearing fuddy-duddy underclothes.
Instead of considering the reasonable and courteous, Colonel Brandon with his 2,000 pounds a year, Marianne instead chases after the coldly charming Mr. Willoughby while visiting with Mrs. Jennings, a friend of the family's, in London; writing Willoughby repeated letters, all of which go unanswered until he responds with a letter stating his intent to marry another woman, and instead of even apologizing for any confusion, he indirectly yet thoroughly denies ever having a connection of more than mere acquaintance with Marianne. (Thank God Marianne had her sister to advise her on the equestrian matter, otherwise without Elinor's sense, the whole family might have been ruined.)
Edward Ferrars is found to be in love with a pretty girl from the country, Miss Lucy Steele, who is of relation to the Miss Dashwoods in the sense she is a cousin of their cousin, Sir John's wife. Lucy is limited in education but is found to be agreeable, even charming, but Edward's mother denies the couples' ability to wed, and Edward refuses to terminate the engagement. So, Roger Ferrars, Edward's younger brother visits the girl in order to clearly dissuade her from marrying his brother. He comes once and then again, and instead of him successfully cutting Lucy from all potential ties to his family name, he marries her himself. Edward then can marry Elinor which he does and, "they had in fact nothing to wish for, but the marriage of Colonel Brandon and Marianne and rather better pasturage for their cows." One does wonder by such outcomes if Edward, was never so vapid as he seemed but rather a patient and entirely masterful negotiator of a sort.
Marianne weds Colonel Brandon despite his appalling taste in under-garments; and Willoughby despite his own marriage, (and a love child in relation to a charge of Colonel Brandon's, on the side) states Marianne to have always been the prettiest. The two sisters, one Sense and the other Sensibility live close to each other, one at Barton, the other at Delaford and Margaret remains with her mother at the cottage, yet is now at the age suitable for dancing.
By Sarah Bahl
Austin, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. 2011 Edition. Michael O'Mara Books Limited. First Published 1811. Print.
Artist Unknown. Costume Parisien. 1809. Web. November 7, 2010. < athousandpix.blogspot.com >
Artist Unknown. Untitled. 1790-1820. Item ID: 411pmred. < rubylane.com >
Jane Austin's Persuasion (Penguin 1965 Edition) is a novel with quite the title of sarcasm. Like the Bronte Sisters, Austin withholds an inner flame for those objective souls, whose essence of such sensibility stems from oppression. Though Austin's main characters are not so browbeaten as The Bronte Sisters' are, it is probably because Austin was one class step above The Sisters and her writing reflects as much.
Anne Elliot, is the overlooked sibling and daughter to a Baron of frivolous spending habits. Her deceased mother loved her daughters and offset her husband's less than meritorious formulations of character with her more practical and exacting dimensions of personality. But upon her demise Anne was left adrift under the care of her father and Lady Russell, a good friend within the neighborhood of the family and a former confidant of the mother. Lady Russell and Sir Walter Elliot remain steadfast friends, her a widow and him a widower, yet never to marry to each other.
Lady Russell oversees much of the care of Sir Elliot's daughters, Anne and her sisters; Mary and Elizabeth. Anne being fourteen years of age upon her mother's demise and Elizabeth, sixteen years of age, and Mary at ten. Elizabeth, being of the age of a debuttante was considered quite handsome and akin to personality with her father, traits which heralded her influence to be of far more imbedded a fashion within family ranks than either of her sisters'.
Mary eventually attained a reasonably desired positioning for herself by becoming Mrs. Charles Musgrove, "but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister: her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way; -she was only Anne." But to Lady Russell, only Anne held the spirit of her mother within her countenance and nature, or at least to a revivable quality.
Sir Walter's hopes of a gaining marriage, he left upon the shoulders of Elizabeth, as Anne, though of delicate features and dark, calm eyes; was different in proportion than himself, so he therefore allayed her as of lesser quality and of no consideration. And Mary, who had married a man of equitable match, Sir Walter deemed to be a wash out.
Elizabeth was quite in bloom at the age of nine and twenty. But a weariness regarding a lack of conjugal matters in her life began to take a toll as for, "thirteen years had seen her mistress of Kellynch Hall, presiding and directing with a self-possession and derision which could never have given her the idea of her being younger than she was. For thirteen years, she had been doing the honors..."
Upon Elizabeth's disappointments on the marriage front was added the burden of her father's financial conditioning, as the estate was still of solid founding but while, "Lady Elliot lived, there had been method, moderation, and economy, which had kept him within his income; but with her had died all such right-mindedness, and from that period he had been constantly exceeding it." Neither Elizabeth nor her father wanted to regain sound financial stature without losing a singular propensity for comfort and vanity that lay within the tides of their estate.
"Mr. Shepherd, a civil cautious lawyer," was also an agent of Sir Walter's and did not want to become involved, either personally or professionally with markdowns of the estate. So, he as graciously as possible, in order to lessen the ruffles of the tide, begged recommendation of Lady Russell to the cause, one she took on with alacrity and due diligence such as her sound yet not particularly speedy mind would find footing with.
Lady Russell also did what no one else thought to do. She consulted Anne, who quickly made whole hearted changes and extensions to Lady Russell's list of markdowns and reductions upon the estate with the interest in mind that a loss of a pair of horses was just as well as the loss of one horse to the vain sensibilities of Elizabeth and her father.
Next, came the question of what to do with the estate itself. The Elliot family regardless of any Baronetage could no longer afford to live there but must rent the place out while residing in less ornate quarters. Outings to London were out of the question.
Mr. Shepherd did not trust Sir Elliot to live in London, and Sir Elliot would not hear of living in a marked down state within the same neighborhood. Anne did not want to leave Kellynch entirely, but her opinion was overturned by Lady Russell who sided with Anne's father on the claim that it just simply would not do to live under such lessened circumstances within the same realm of property as untoward riches were once so conveyed.
It was decided Bath would be the place of residence for Anne's newly proportioned family. Sir Elliot, horrified at the very idea of publicly advertising Kellynch Hall as a rental space, agreed to word of mouth business accommodations with Navy officers who were to be grounded as the country was not at war. The Elliots rented to Admiral Croft and his weatherbeaten wife, much to the intrigue of Anne, who had once held an engagement to a very handsome young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth without fortune nor rank but a high minded sense of promise, that only furthered Lady Russell's dislike for him.
Lady Russell, who found idealistic optimism to be on par with insolence convinced Anne, the engagement was unpardonably without merit and Anne, unable to counterfault Lady Russell on any design, had to, at the age of nineteen, terminate the said union on the grounds she was of no sustainable element to Wentworth, and thereby to do him the favor. He in turn, no fool, felt not only the personal pain of a betrayal upon her terminating their agreement but the sense of being used by those already established, and due to the fraction Wentworth left the country.
Now several years later he is to return, a rich man along with his brother in law, to the estate of Kellynch. Wentworth seems self absorbed and snide, when speaking to his sister, who is Mrs. Croft, "Yes, here I am Sophia, quite ready to make a foolish match. Anybody between fifteen and thirty may have me for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy and I am a lost man. Should not this be enough for a sailor, who has had no society among women to make him nice?"
Interestingly enough, a black sheep son of the Musgroves had been a midshipman to Captain Wentworth, yet thankfully to all who knew him, died while abroad, and in one of the two letters he wrote to his family, described the captain of presence as, 'a fine dashing fellow, only two perticular about the school master.' Captain Wentworth is good enough to take a seat by the grieving Mrs. Musgrove at a party and disclose to her all the potential comforts a man of somewhat familiarity with her son possibly could, though no one of any particular claim ever felt for the fellow anything other than nonchalant remonstrance while he was still alive.
Captain Wentworth, despite being prior neglected in an estimation of character by Lady Russell and a want of determination in Anne, becomes a seal of protection among more than one financially floundering character in the novel. Anne's cousin wishes to marry her, and makes his intentions known by stating to Anne, at a theater event, how fond he is of her and how he wishes her last name never to change. Whether Austin is purposely making fun of cousins marrying is unknown but it was probably worded with the fullest calculated intent. Anne has no natural born feelings for her cousin and upon a report from her widowed friend, Mrs. Smith, that he had received his fortune by marrying for money, Anne had a means of not only disdain but of censure toward Mr. Elliot. Though, none of them married to be poor.
Captain Wentworth marries Anne, which takes little persuasion on his part, now that he has accumulated a fair amount of wealth to his name. And despite his, "Should not this be enough for a sailor" comments, he has a naturally protective heart and also aids in the keeping of the widowed Mrs. Smith.
By Sarah Bahl
Jane Austin's Mansfield Park brings to light the intricacies of family relations, including the inevitable closer of marriage as a fixture, a glue that may bind two people yet not necessarily bring them together. Austin's work contains little black humor as hers was not a writing of the Victorian era.
Dickens and the Bronte Sisters in particular are heralders of the hysterically dark, as what should make one weep, causes the opposite in an ever droll mocking of humanity. Austin's wit is as blunt as it is sophisticated and all of her subjects are drawn from her world view of life as part of the lower end of the upper class.
According to the system rankings at the time (Napoleonic Era) there was upper upper class, upper class, lower upper class, upper middle class, middle class, lower middle class and then the poor. Money and marriage are of utmost consideration for the upper classes, or at least in the world of Austin they are, and matches were based on a combination of income, education, beauty, family backing and naturally occurring preference. Austin is blunt about her world, beginning Mansfield Park with, "About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to capture Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park, in the country of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet's lady, with all the comforts and consequences of a handsome house and large income."
Miss Ward, became Lady Bertram and her two sisters, Miss Ward (why her first name is the same as her last, I don't know) and Miss Frances in being of equally fine make as their positively starred sibling, were thought to do just as well as she in meeting with conjugal felicity but such was not to be of final merit. For "there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them."
Miss Ward to become Mrs. Norris, married a friend of Sir Thomas Bertram, who retained a limited fortune of just under a thousand pounds, awkwardly due to money being given to him by Sir Bertram to live at Mansfield. Frances, fared yet worse, "by fixing on a Lieutenant of Marines, without education, fortune or connexions." Sir Bertram was willing to grant a portion of his expansive income to aid in the comfortability of France's station; "but her husband's profession was such as no interest could reach; and before he had time to devise any other method of assisting them, an absolute breach between the sisters had taken place." And so Frances became Mrs. Price.
But as the years went by Mrs. Price's prolonged sensibility of pride and independence began to wane as her husband was discharged from active service, his income to qualify for equitable merit, yet continued with his social mores and penchant for liquor, with an ever expanding array of children to clothe and feed. Upon her ninth laying in, Mrs. Price decided, it was of no use to hold grudges as every contact was of an estimatable sort at this point in juncture.
A letter was dispatched to the Bertrams. Money, baby linens and letters were sent in turn. But it grew upon Mrs. Norris's conscious and curiosity that her sister should be so over burdened. Mrs. Norris strongly proposed that perhaps it would be of aid to take on Mrs. Price's eldest daughter as a ward of constant merit. Her novelty is backed by Lady Bertram who wishes for "the child" to be sent for immediately.
Sir Bertram doubted the proposal on the grounds that any ward, not brought up in exacting estimation among the social politics of immediate family would perhaps be best left within her original home. His argument is countered by a notion of Mrs. Norris's that it is better to have a daughter of Mrs. Price's at Mansfield, for then her growing up in poverty could only possibly cause Sir Bertram's own sons to fall in love with her, so it would be of increased positive venue to have her raised in wealth, to be considered a sister rather than maintain the charm of the cinderella cousin. Thus, it was agreed upon a child of Mrs. Price should be in the keeping of Mansfield Park. Mrs. Norris wrote to her sister of the matter, and was received by agreeable understanding that a daughter of hers would do well with a change of air though she was surprised at the choice of a girl. Interesting too, that Mrs. Norris should so breach upon the consideration of keeping a ward considering she and her husband were essentially indebted to Sir Bertram, by means of equivalent nature, themselves.
Fanny Price, aged ten, made her journey to Northampton and was met by Mrs. Norris to become the down trodden niece of Lady Bertram and her sister, who was without children. Fanny met her cousins, Julia of 12 years, and Maria who was just between the two in age. There are also, Edmund and Tom, the latter being of 17 years with Edmund, also in his teens but younger.
Fanny, rather than being exulted by the change of scene is despondent, for missing her siblings, her former household role as caretaker, and the familiarity as well as comfort of withholding a certain class and rank simply because one does not know of any other stance in life. Fanny is not as educated as her cousins and Lady Bertram is met with a fair barrage of comments, "Dear Mamma, only think, my cousin cannot tell the principal rivers in Russia - or she never heard of Asia Minor - or she does not know the difference between water-colors and crayons! - How strange! - Did you ever hear anything so stupid?"
And Lady Bertram with her ever present pug, reproves her daughters by telling them that no one should be as quick to learn as themselves, so they must learn the art of patience. Fanny, though of no prodigious make, is not nearly so stupid as her cousins would convey and is finely bright as she is. Edmund is Fanny's sole source of protection, by gently cultivating her interests in books and providing her a horse for exercise. It was decided by the aunts that Fanny can ride her cousins' horses when they were not using them, which they always were but Fanny was rescued from this delineation of rules, when Edmund simply stated, "Fanny must have a horse."
Fanny grows up to be the acknowledged lesser of the family, though unlike Jane Eyre she does not go out into the world as a governess. Her world is one of leisure that is temporarily broken when Sir Bertram, to the relief of the family, must journey away for business. Without the master head over seeing the household in direct right Edmund, Julia, Maria and neighbors begin the voyage of a play. Who is to take part of what role becomes the main political dynamic. Fanny, whose beaten down sensibilities are overly stringent at times, is horrified by the lax morals a play should bring to the household. Edmund, on the other hand, enjoys every moment of his employment. Sir Bertram returns before the play is quite done and all theatrical activities cease upon his arrival.
Fanny remains as part of the estate to eventually marry Edmund, though his first choice was the vivacious and blunt, Mary Crawford, of very distant relation. And she does so not first without breaking at least one heart, of qualified and perfectly passionate merit.
By Sarah Bahl
Larivière, Charles-Philippe. Portrait of Eugene Pamela Lariviere. c. 1804-1824. Louvre, Paris.