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 >