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Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility is a wonderfully entertaining tale of flirtation and folly that revolves around two starkly different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. While Elinor is thoughtful, considerate, and calm, her younger sister is emotional and wildly romantic. Both are looking for a husband, but neither Elinor’s reason nor Marianne’s passion can lead them to perfect happiness—as Marianne falls for an unscrupulous rascal and Elinor becomes attached to a man who’s already engaged.

Startling secrets, unexpected twists, and heartless betrayals interrupt the marriage games that follow. Filled with satiric wit and subtle characterizations, Sense and Sensibility teaches that true love requires a balance of reason and emotion.

Laura Engel received her BA from Bryn Mawr College and her MA and PhD from Columbia University. She has taught in independent schools in New York city and is now a visiting assistant professor of English at Macalester College. Her previous publications include essays on the novelists A. S. Byatt and Edna O’Brien. Her forthcoming book is a biography of three eighteenth-century British actresses.

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Table of Contents

From the Pages of Sense and Sensibility
Title Page
Copyright Page
Jane Austen
The World of Jane Austen and Sense and Sensibility

Volume the First.

Volume the Second.

Volume the Third.

Inspired by Sense and Sensibility
Comments & Questions
For Further Readinz

From the Pages of
Sense and Sensibility
“The more I know of the world the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!” (page 15)
“That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue.” (page 38)

“There is something so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one is sorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions.” (page 47)

“Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.” (page 49)

“I have no wish to be distinguished; and I have every reason to hope I never shall. Thank Heaven! I cannot be forced into genius and eloquence.” (page 75)

“At my time of life opinions are tolerably fixed. It is not likely that I should now see or hear any thing to change them.”
(page 77)

“You are in a melancholy humour, and fancy that any one unlike yourself must be happy. But remember that t; he pain of parting from friends will be felt by every body at times, whatever be their education or state. Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience—or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.” (page 85)

“He is such a charming man, that it is quite a pity he should be so grave and so dull.” (page 96)
“A man who has nothing to do with his own time has no conscience in his intrusion on that of others.” (page 166)

There was a kind of cold-hearted selfishness on both sides, which mutually attracted them; and they sympathised with each other in an insipid propriety of demeanour, and a general want of understanding. (page 188)

Because they neither flattered herself nor her children, she could not believe them good-natured; and because they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical. (page 201 )

Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition. (page 206)

She said little, but every sentence aimed at cheerfulness; and though a sigh sometimes escaped her, it never passed away without the atonement of a smile. (page 281)

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Sense and Sensibility was first published in 1811.

Published in 2004 by Barnes & Noble Classics with new Introduction, 
Notes, Biography, Chronology, Inspired By, Comments & Questions, 
and For Further Reading.

Introduction, Notes, and For Further Reading
Copyright @ 2003 by Laura Engel.

Note on Jane Austen, The World of Jane Austen and Sense and Sensibility,

Inspired by Sense and Sensibility, and Comments & Questions 
Copyright © 2004 by Barnes & Noble, Inc.

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Sense and Sensibility
ISBN-13: 978-1-59308-125-6 ISBN-10: 1-59308-125-1
eISBN : 978-1-411-43314-4
LC Control Number 2004101427

Produced and published in conjunction with: 
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Printed in the United States of America 
7 9 10 8

Jane Austen

The English novelist Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, the seventh of eight children, in the Parsonage House of Steventon, Hampshire, where she spent her first twenty-five years. During her brief lifetime Austen witnessed political unrest, revolution, war, and industrialization, yet these momentous events are not the central subjects of her finely focused novels. Rather, Austen wrote of her immediate experience: the microcosm of the country gentry and its class-conscious insularity. Jane’s father, the Reverend George Austen, was the erudite country rector of Steventon, and her mother, Cassandra (née Leigh), was descended from an aristocratic line of learned clergymen. By no means wealthy, the Austens nonetheless enjoyed a comfortable, socially respectable life, and greatly prized their children’s education.
Jane and her beloved elder (and only) sister, Cassandra, were schooled in Southampton and Reading for a short period, but most of their education took place at home. Private theatrical performances in the barn at Steventon complemented Jane’s studies of French, Italian, history, music, and eighteenth-century fiction. An avid reader from earliest childhood, Jane began writing at age twelve, no doubt encouraged by her cultured and affectionate family. Indeed, family and writing were her great loves; despite a fleeting engagement in 1802, Austen never married. Her first two novels, “Elinor and Marianne” and “First Impressions,” were written while at Steventon but never published in their original form.
Following her father’s retirement, Jane moved in 1801 with her parents and sister to Bath. That popular watering hole, removed from the country life Jane preferred, presented the sociable young novelist with a wealth of observations and experience that would later emerge in her novels. Austen moved to Southampton with her mother and sister after the death of her father in 1805. Several years later the three women settled in Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, where Austen resided until the end of her life. She relished her return to the countryside and, with it, a renewed artistic vigor that led to the revision of her early novels. Sense and Sensibility, a reworking of “Elinor and Marianne,” was published in 1811, followed by Pride and Prejudice, a reworking of “First Impressions,” two years later.
Austen completed four more novels (Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion) in the Chawton sitting room. Productive and discreet, she insisted that her work be kept secret from anyone outside the family. All of her novels were published anonymously, including the posthumous release, thanks to her brother Henry, of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
The last years of Austen’s life were relatively quiet and comfortable. Her final, unfinished work, Sanditon, was put aside in the spring of 1817, when her health sharply declined and she was taken to Winchester for medical treatment of what appears to have been Addison’s disease or a form of lymphoma. Jane Austen died there on July 18, 1817, and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

The World of Jane Austen and
Sense and Sensibility

	 1775 	 The American Revolution begins in April. Jane Austen is born on December 16 in the Parsonage House in Stev enton, Hampshire, England, the seventh of eight chil dren (two girls and six boys). 
	 1778 	 Frances (Fanny) Burney publishes Evelina,  a seminal work in the development of the novel of manners.
	 1781 	 German philosopher Immanuel Kant publishes his Critique of Pure Reason. 

	 1782 	 The American Revolution ends. Fanny Burney’s novel Ce cilia  is published.
	 1783 	 Cassandra and Jane Austen begin their formal education in Southampton, followed by study in Reading. 
	 1788 	 King George III of England suffers his first bout of mental illness, leaving the country in a state of uncertainty and anxiety. George Gordon, Lord Byron, is born. 
	 1789 	 George III recuperates. The French Revolution begins. William Blake’s Songs of Innocence  is published.
	 1791 	 American political philosopher Thomas Paine publishes the first part of The Rights of Man. 

	 1792 	 Percy Bysshe Shelley is born. Mary Wollstonecraft pub lishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 

	 1793 	 A shock wave passes though Europe with the execution of King Louis XVI of France and, some months later, his wife, Marie-Antoinette; the Reign of Terror begins. En gland declares war on France. Two of Austen’s brothers, Frank (1774-1865) and Charles (1779-1852), serve in the Royal Navy, but life in the countryside of Steventon remains relatively tranquil. 
	 1795 	 Austen begins her first novel, “Elinor and Marianne,” written as letters (the fragments of this early work are now lost); she will later revise the material to become the novel Sense and Sensibility.  John Keats is born.
	 1796- 1797 	 Austen authors a second novel, “First Impressions,” which was never published; it will later become Pride and Prejudice. 

	 1798 	 Poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth publish The Lyrical Ballads. 

	 1801 	 Jane’s father, the Reverend George Austen, retires, and with the Napoleonic Wars looming in the background of British consciousness, he and his wife and two daughters leave the quiet country life of Steventon for the bustling, fashionable town of Bath. Many of the characters and depictions of society in Jane Austen’s subsequent novels are shaped by her experiences in Bath. 
	 1803 	 Austen receives her first publication offer for her novel “Susan,” but the manuscript is subsequently returned by the publisher; it will later be revised and released as Northanger Abbey.  The United States buys Louisiana from France. Ralph Waldo Emerson is born.
	 1804 	 Napoleon crowns himself emperor of France. Spain de clares war on Britain. 
	 1805 	 Jane’s father dies. Jane and her mother and sister sub sequently move to Southampton. Sir Walter Scott pub lishes his Lay of the Last Minstrel. 

	 1809 	 After several years of traveling and short-term stays in various towns, the Austen women settle in Chawton Cot tage in Hampshire; in the parlor of this house Austen quietly composes her most famous works. Charles Darwin and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, are born. 
	 1811 	 Austen begins Mansfield Park in February. In November Sense and Sensibility,  the romantic misadventures of two sisters, is published with the notation “By a Lady”; all of Austen’s subsequent novels are also brought out anony mously. George III is declared insane, and the morally corrupt Prince of Wales (the future King George IV) be comes regent.
	 1812 	Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm and the first parts of Lord Byron’s Childe Harold  are published. The United States declares war on Great Britain.
	 1813 	Pride and Prejudice  is published; it describes the conflict between the high-spirited daughter of a country gentle man and a wealthy landowner. Napoleon is exiled to Elba, and the Bourbons are restored to power.
	 1814 	Mansfield Park  is published; it is the story of the difficult though ultimately rewarded life of a poor relation who lives in the house of her wealthy uncle.
	 1815 	 Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo. 
	 1816 	 Austen’s comic novel Emma  is published, centering on the heroine’s misguided attempts at matchmaking. Char lotte Brontë is born.
	 1817 	 Austen begins the satiric novel Sanditon,  but abandons it because of declining health. She dies on July 18 in Win chester and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
	 1818 	Northanger Abbey, a social satire with overtones of (paro died) terror, and Persuasion,  about a reawakened love, are published under Austen’s brother Henry’s supervi sion.


Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s first published novel, tells the story of the lives, loves, and longings of two sisters, the sensitive, romantic Marianne and the practical, even-tempered Elinor. With its extended cast of supporting characters, including the garrulous Mrs. Jennings, the stern Mr. Palmer, and the censorious Mrs. Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility revolves around two narratives: the possible romances of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood and the day-to-day existence of everyone else. The constant anxiety that pervades the story stems from the possibility that the sisters may have to make do with the mundanity of country life, cluttered with gossip, clamor, and superficiality, instead of being swept away by the men of their dreams. In typical Austen fashion we are made aware from the outset that Marianne’s choice of suitor, the dashing and theatrical Willoughby, may be a disaster. Elinor’s more subdued love object, the shy and awkward Edward Ferrars, on the other hand, just might prove himself worthy if he could manage to articulate a full sentence.
Austen began working on Sense and Sensibility in 1795 with an epistolary fragment entitled “Elinor and Marianne” (now lost). The final version was not published until 1811, with a second edition issued in 1813 (Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, p. 8o; see “For Further Reading”). Once described as “bleak, dark, and nasty” compared with the “brightness” of Pride and Prejudice or the complexity of her more mature works Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility has recently undergone a critical renaissance. New editions, renewed scholarship, and a critically acclaimed film version have put the novel center stage.
Sense and Sensibility is a coming-of-age novel, and also a work that chronicles Austen’s own “coming of age”—her development as a writer. When she began working on “Elinor and Marianne” she was only twenty, a young woman with the possibility of courtship, marriage, and family open to her. By the time the second edition of the novel was released, Austen had moved from Hampshire to Bath, lost her adoring father, been disappointed in love, rejected a marriage proposal, and relocated again with her mother and sister to Chawton, where she turned her attention to writing. Austen’s sense of herself in the world must have been influenced by her close relationship with her only sister, Cassandra, who similarly was disappointed in love and in the awkward position of elder spinster aunt to a large and noisy upper-middle-class country family.
The only surviving portrait of Austen, a watercolor sketch by her sister, depicts the author as a plain, pensive subject with large eyes and a slight hint of a smile. She appears proper and subdued, unlike the description of her by a family friend, who pronounced her “certainly pretty—bright & a good deal of colour in her face—like a doll” (Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life, p. 108). Austen’s niece Anna’s view of her aunt matches Cassandra’s portrayal of her: “Her complexion [is] of that rare sort which seems the particular property of light brunettes: a mottled skin, not fair, but perfectly clear and healthy; the fine naturally curling hair, neither light nor dark; the bright hazel eyes to match the rather small, but well shaped nose” (Austen-Leigh, p. 240) .
In keeping with Austen’s status as a respectable daughter of a clergyman, Sense and Sensibility was first published anonymously. The initial advertisement for the novel, which appeared in the Morning Chronicle on October 31, 1811, refers to the author as “A Lady.” A subsequent notice in the same paper on November 7, 1811, bills the work as “an extraordinary novel by A Lady.” A few weeks later the book was announced as “an Interesting Novel by Lady A” (Austen-Leigh, p. 254). Austen apparently made some money on the first edition. Her biographers Richard and William Austen-Leigh note that the £140 profit from the first edition of Sense and Sensibility was a considerable sum compared to the lesser proceeds her female contemporaries earned from their novels—the £30 Fanny Burney gained from sales of Evelina or the £100 Maria Edgeworth received for Castle Rackrent (Austen-Leigh, p. 255).
Austen was influenced by the writers of her youth. She adored Samuel Richardson, read Maria Edgeworth, Sir Walter Scott, Dr. Johnson, Alexander Pope, William Cowper, Henry Fielding, and Daniel Defoe, and recited passages from Fanny Burney aloud (Gay, Jane Austen and the Theatre, p. 11). In Sense and Sensibility Austen echoes earlier novelists while at the same time anticipating the format of the nineteenth-century novel. Austen’s choice of translating “Elinor and Marianne” from an epistolary narrative (a novel in letters) into a story told by a central narrative allowed her to juxtapose the internal and external facets of her heroines. What we see Elinor do is often contrasted with what we know she is thinking. This gap between thought and action is highlighted repeatedly throughout the novel.
Marianne and Elinor have very different ideas about what they can and should reveal about their private thoughts. When Elinor pleads with Marianne to give her the details of her secretive relationship with the deceiving Willoughby, Marianne retorts: “Our situations then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing” (p. 138). What Marianne implies is that Elinor’s mode of communication, while utterly proper and correct, is always veiled and restrained. When pressed about her feelings for Edward, Elinor replies: “I meant no offence to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of my own feelings. Believe them to be stronger than I have declared” (p. 18). In Austen’s world women cannot communicate effectively without revealing too much. They are left to perfect the art of innuendo, leading questions, and disguised sentiments. The slippery properties of language become a heroine’s greatest weapon. At the same time, a misunderstood phrase or rumor can cause her downfall.

The plot of Sense and Sensibility opens with the anxiety of displacement and disenfranchisement. The Dashwood sisters have just lost their father and have been forced out of their home by their conniving sister-in-law. Austen’s initial descriptions of Elinor and Marianne focus on their reactions to this financial crisis:
Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother.... She had an excellent heart; her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong: but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn, and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught (p. 6).
Elinor’s ability to rule her emotions and provide rational, intelligent analyses of all situations puts her in sharp contrast to Marianne, who “was sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent” (p. 6).
Echoing contemporary enlightenment debates on the relative merits of reason versus emotion, Austen’s sisters epitomize a shift in attitudes from the late eighteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Philosophers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Thomas Paine championed the rights of individuals rationally to govern themselves. Wollstonecraft, in her Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), critiqued the ways women were educated in the late eighteenth century and brought up to believe that their only asset was their beauty and seductive charms. She writes: “But in the education of women, the cultivation of the understanding is always subordinate to the acquirement of some corporeal accomplishment” (Wollstonecraft, p. 105) . While Austen is not considered a radical novelist, in her depiction of the educated, pragmatic Elinor she moves away from the more feminine preoccupations of popular eighteenth-century heroines such as Fanny Burney’s Evelina and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. Elinor must concern herself with matters of the real world (money, lodgings, familial relationships and obligations) at the same time that she is secretly negotiating her feelings for Edward. Elinor’s calm and collected demeanor masks her internal dialogue, a contrast that would become the hallmark of Austen’s later heroines Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Fanny Price (Mansfield Park), and Anne Elliot (Persuasion). In fact, Elinor’s desire to hide and master her true feelings is a necessity. If she weren’t there to organize her emotional mother and dreamy sister, nothing would get done. During the move from Norland, “Elinor, too, was deeply afflicted; but still she could struggle, she could exert herself. She could consult with her brother, could receive her sister-in-law on her arrival, and treat her with proper attention: and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion, and encourage her to similar forbearance” (p. 6).
The terms “sense” and “sensibility” have roots in eighteenth-century literary culture. Sentimental novels of the mid-eighteenth century such as Henry Mackenzie’s Man of Feeling and Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa stressed the importance of a moral code through the trials and tribulations of the protagonists. Later in the century, novels and poetry of “sensibility,” featuring connections between nature and emotion, provided readers with new ways to view literature as both entertaining and instructive. Although Austen links Elinor with sense, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “natural understanding and intelligence,” Marianne’s acute sensibility, “the quality of being easily and strongly affected by emotional influences,” is equally compelling and necessary. Marianne’s affinity for art and literature and her willingness to be swayed by her emotions are qualities that link her to eighteenth-century notions of sensibility that emphasized, according to the OED, “delicate sensitiveness of taste; also readiness to feel compassion for suffering, and to be moved by the pathetic in literature and art.” Elinor’s propriety and self-restraint can be seen as a corrective to Marianne’s tempestuous theatrics. Yet it is Marianne who moves the story along and ultimately steals the show.
While Mansfield Park is the Austen novel most often connected to questions of the theater and theatricality, Sense and Sensibility is also a work that relies on theatrical conceits. Austen’s attention to theatrical details reflects her perception of her readers as audience members. She read all of her manuscripts aloud to her family, and it was through their encouragement that she managed to publish her work (Tomalin, p. 121). Austen also experimented with theatrical writings. Some of her earliest works were plays, and she may have performed in private stage productions. She regularly attended the theater and admired the leading actors and actresses of her day. In a letter written to her sister, Cassandra, on April 25, 1811, Austen discusses her anxiety about Sense and Sensibility’s public reception: “I am very much gratified by Mrs. K’s interest in it. I think she will like my Elinor, but cannot build on anything else.” She then goes on to evaluate the musical performances at a party she attended, explaining: “There was one female singer, a short Mrs. Davis all in blue ... & all the Performers gave great satisfaction by doing what they were paid for & giving themselves no airs.” The letter concludes with details of her trip to the Lyceum Theatre to see Isaac Bick erstaffe’s The Hypocrite and her disappointment at missing Sarah Siddons, the most famous actress of the era, playing Constance in Shakespeare’s King John: “I had no chance of seeing Mrs. Siddons. I should particularly have liked to see her in Constance & could swear at her with little effort for disappointing me” (Le Faye, Jane Austen’s Letters, p. 184). Clearly, watching, critiquing, and analyzing various types of performances was a vital part of Austen’s life, particularly around the time of Sense and Sensibility’s publication. Although Austen has often been considered a reclu sive, quiet literary figure, her letters suggest that she was very much a part of the goings-on in her social world—a world that involved attending the theater, visiting art exhibitions, and shopping in fashionable London neighborhoods.
Austen may have enjoyed the theatre and been interested in specific actors and actresses, but her critique of display and artifice reflects a transition between eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century literary tastes. In her early writings, and later in Northanger Abbey, Austen parodies typically dramatic eighteenth-century characters, such as the libertine, the sentimental, and the Gothic heroine, along with conventional eighteenth-century plotlines: thwarted romance, abduction, intrigue, and exaggerated, implausible events. Aspects of these types of eighteenth-century narratives are in Sense and Sensibility, but they all occur offstage. Colonel Brandon’s stories about his former lover Eliza—her demise and Willoughby’s seduction of her daughter—are episodes that serve as cautionary tales dramatizing the consequences that befall women who behave improperly. On the main stage of the novel this sort of acting out is contained, but the subtleties of disguise and satire, emphasized by descriptions of behavior, gesture, costume, and staging, are central to the progression of the narrative. The plot structure relies on theatrical conceits—pairs of characters, parallel story lines, staged scenes, groups of characters thrown together in awkward situations, misidentifications, and dramatic monologues.
Some of the best moments in the novel are scenes of dramatic confusion. The awkward exchange during which Mrs. Jennings expresses her belief that Elinor is engaged to Colonel Brandon; Colonel Brandon’s entrances when Marianne expects Willoughby ; and Edward’s ill-timed visit to Elinor when she is already entertaining Lucy, are moments of misrecognition that lead up to the final moment when Edward arrives at Barton Cottage to inform Elinor that he is, in fact, not married. Austen deliberately plays with the pleasures of dramatic irony and suspense, thus highlighting the importance of uncertainty—a state that Elinor finds unbearable. She would rather not entertain the notion of probabilities until they are specifically stated and explained. This preference has as much to do with her notions of proper behavior as with her attempt to protect herself from disappointment.
Austen’s exploration of the pitfalls and possibilities of theatrical expression is illustrated in her portrayal of Marianne. Marianne is a natural actress in the sense that she is demonstrative and expressive—sighing, swooning, laughing, vehemently declaring opinions. She is unable to hide her passionate feelings. She is always the primary performer in her own story. She takes center stage and commands the audience’s attention. She has no patience for characters who cannot act well or do not appear in the right costumes. She is embarrassed by Edward’s attempts to read poetry, and her initial reaction to Colonel Brandon is disgust at his propensity for wearing flannel waistcoats.
Despite her flair for the dramatic, Marianne is actually a terrible actress, because she is incapable of deception and duplicity. She is so easy to read and decipher because her emotions and moods have physiological manifestations. After Marianne sees Willoughby with his new mistress, she is inconsolable: “The restless state of Marianne’s mind not only prevented her from remaining in the room a moment after she was dressed, but requiring at once solitude and continual change of place, made her wander about the house till breakfast-time, avoiding the sight of every body” (p. 147). Marianne’s feelings lead her to improper actions, such as going on a private tour of Willoughby’s home, Allenham, and writing him letters without an agreement between them. Her lack of restraint leads to devastating disappointment and a near-fatal illness.
Marianne’s theatrical tendencies and her subsequent nervous collapse have interesting historical corollaries. Acting techniques of the late eighteenth century, introduced by the actor and theater manager David Garrick and perfected by actresses such as Sarah Siddons, emphasized connections between emotions and specific expressions and gestures. Marianne’s “dreadful whiteness,” “inability to stand,” “frequent bursts of grief,” and “desperate calmness” may have been visually inspired by Austen’s trips to the theater to see actresses in popular tragic roles. A preoccupation with madness, love, and death was prevalent in many eighteenth-century novels. The plight of these heroines reflects the eighteenth-century belief that women were particularly susceptible to maladies caused by unchecked passions and violent attachments. A popular eighteenth-century diagnosis of madness focused on the state of an individual’s nerves, a condition that was diagnosed by observing the subject’s behavior. This condition of anxiety and agitation became known as “the English malady.” Marianne’s reaction to disappointment in love would have been familiar to eighteenth-century readers, but her recovery and decision to transform herself into a dutiful wife seems to be Austen’s revision of an older plot device.
Elinor is not a theatrical character. She is controlled and cool, but not naturally so; therefore she must be an excellent actress in order to contain and disguise her emotions and the exuberance of her imagination. She must tell herself to calm down, berating herself for having any expectations until she is absolutely sure that Edward loves her. In contrast to Marianne, who cannot subdue her feelings—“But to appear happy when I am so miserable—oh, who can require it?” (p. 155), Elinor must wait to be left alone so she can be “at liberty to think and be wretched” (p. 111). In this way Elinor’s world is more self-reflective and divided than Marianne’s; she must have an outward self and a private self to survive. As the audience, we can watch her on both stages and see what is at stake in each.
In its attention to dialogue, modes of expression, and the dilemma of how to communicate effectively, Sense and Sensibility examines the value of everyday language. In the world of the novel the characters who speak the most are portrayed as gossipy, boring, and sometimes devious. In fact, the novel is full of women talking, sometimes cruelly, sometimes affectionately, but mostly to fill the silent gaps in conversation left by the much less verbal men. With characteristic wit Austen writes:
John Dashwood had not much to say for himself that was worth hearing, and his wife had still less. But there was no peculiar disgrace in this; for it was very much the case with the chief of their visitors, who almost all laboured under one or other of these disqualifications for being agreeable—want of sense, either natural or improved—want of elegance—want of spirits—or want of temper (pp.191-92).
Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Palmer, and Lady Middleton speak endlessly about their children or the goings-on in the neighborhood. The relationship between doting mothers and their children are par odied in scenes where Elinor and Marianne are forced to endure afternoons with unruly offspring. Elinor observes Lady Middleton’s inability to discipline her darlings:
She saw with maternal complacency all the impertinent encroachments and mischievous tricks to which her cousins submitted. She saw their sashes untied, their hair pulled about their ears, their work-bags searched, and their knives and scissors stolen away, and felt no doubt of its being a reciprocal enjoyment. It suggested no other surprise than that Elinor and Marianne should sit so composedly by, without claiming a share in what was passing (p. 99).
Interestingly, the children’s antics here deliberately dismantle the trappings of late eighteenth-century femininity. The Miss Steeles endure being undressed, “their sashes untied, their hair pulled about their ears,” searched, and deprived of their domestic weapons—knives and scissors—used in female employments such as embroidery and sewing. Elinor and Marianne’s lack of participation provides them with an ironic distance in this domestic drama; neither seems interested in playing traditional female roles. It follows, then, that women in the novel have trouble understanding the Dashwood sisters. As for Lady Middleton, “because they neither flattered herself nor her children, she could not believe them good-natured; and because they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical; but that did not signify. It was censure in common use, and easily given” (p. 201). Not only is Lady Middleton incapable of sympathizing with Elinor and Marianne, but she has no real idea of the meaning of her characterization of them. Lady Middleton’s role as a typical upper-class woman of her time seems a pointed critique of the ways women misuse and misunderstand language.
Often tidbits of female news have a direct impact on Elinor or Marianne. After the debacle with Willoughby, Mrs. Palmer notes all the material particulars of his new match: “She could soon tell at what coachmaker’s the new carriage was building, by what painter Mr. Willoughby’s portrait was drawn, and at what warehouse Miss Grey’s clothes might be seen” (p. 176). Through Mrs. Palmer’s preoccupation with the material goods that signify engagements—carriages, portraits, clothes—Austen suggests Willoughby’s union with Miss Grey is not based on any real emotion or connection, but on social conventions and pressures. In addition, the gossipy voice of Mrs. Palmer provides Austen with a way of satirizing society’s desire for novelties and anecdotes at the expense of more significant or intangible concerns.
In Sense and Sensibility it is the characters with the least sense who get the most airtime and those with the most important news who are ignored. Colonel Brandon, perhaps the most substantial male character in the novel, is described by his rival Willoughby as someone “whom every body speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to” (p. 42). Marianne comments on the fact that women are not supposed to talk about anything of interest: “I have been too much at my ease, too happy, too frank. 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:—had I talked only of the weather and the roads, and had I spoken only once in ten minutes, this reproach would have been spared” (p. 40) .
Characters that have a grasp of the devastating possibilities of language are particularly dangerous. The second chapter of the novel is an extended dialogue between John Dashwood and his wife on the relative merits of bequeathing an allowance to his sisters. By manipulating his sentiments and cleverly managing her own agenda, Mrs. Dashwood succeeds in ensuring that the Dashwood sisters are left with next to nothing. At one point she declares, “Altogether, they will have five hundred a year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that? They will live so cheap! Their housekeeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants ; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind! Only conceive how comfortable they will be!” (p. 10). Mrs. Dashwood is just one of the many female characters in the novel who use the subtle art of dialogue to further their own causes.
Lucy Steele, Elinor’s rival for Edward’s affections, is perhaps the most conniving female character. Ironically, Elinor and Lucy are both highly skilled actresses. But while Lucy’s deceptions are based on her own narcissism and sense of competition, Elinor’s are based on a sense of pride and self-restraint. In Lucy’s confession to Elinor of her secret engagement to Edward, every word seems calculated to unmask Elinor, who is able only with great effort to subdue her powerful emotions. Lucy remarks, “Though you do not know him so well as me, Miss Dashwood, you must have seen enough of him to be sensible he is very capable of making a woman sincerely attached to him” (pp. 107-8) . Lucy’s idea that Elinor must have seen enough of Edward to ascertain his value reveals her own inability to read people and situations.
Visual cues in the novel are usually deceptive. Lucy’s proofs of her connection to Edward are objects: a miniature of Edward, a letter, and the ring that Elinor has seen on Edward’s finger. All these clues lead Elinor to surmise that Lucy is telling the truth. These props, however, are not evidence of Edward’s affections, but rather, signs of old-fashioned forms of romance rituals. Just as with Mrs. Palmer’s observations about the accessories of Willoughby’s marriage, Lucy’s visual evidence of her attachment to Edward suggests that for Austen there is something more important than the theatrical staging of romantic relationships; what appears on the surface has to be read, analyzed, and cleverly interpreted.

What we see of Elinor is also complex. In the scene where the characters are admiring Elinor’s decorated screens, it seems particularly important that we never see what the screens look like. The decorations are not described, and there is no opportunity for the reader to use visual metaphors to analyze Elinor. What is more significant is how Elinor’s screens are passed around the drawing room for inspection. Austen writes: “Before her removing from Norland, Elinor had painted a very pretty pair of screens for her sister-in-law, which being now just mounted and brought home, ornamented her present drawing-room; and these screens, catching the eye of John Dashwood on his following the other gentlemen into the room, were officiously handed by him to Colonel Brandon for his admiration” (p. 192). John Dashwood offers his analysis of Elinor’s artistic talents: “ ‘These are done by my eldest sister,’ said he; ‘and you, as a man of taste, will, I dare say, be pleased with them. I do not know whether you ever happened to see any of her performances before, but she is in general reckoned to draw extremely well’ ” (p. 193). John Dashwood, of course, has no opinion of his own to offer on Elinor’s work, only what others have in general “reckoned about her,” but the rude Mrs. Ferrars pronounces them “ ’very pretty‘—and, without regarding them at all, returned them to her daughter” (p. 208). This provokes a discussion of Miss Morton (Edward’s intended fiancée), who paints “most delightfully” (p. 193), a comparison that inspires Marianne’s wrath on the part of her injured sister. She exclaims: “This is admiration of a very particular kind! what is Miss Morton to us? who knows, or who cares, for her?—it is Elinor of whom we think and speak” (p. 193).
Using a theatrical setup, Austen stages a scene of subtle insults in which Marianne is the only character who reveals her true feelings. Screens—objects used to shield oneself from the heat and sparks of a fire—can be seen as theatrical props used for protection and disguise. The screens function as a metaphor for the layers of concealment operating in the scene. Elinor cannot reveal to Mrs. Ferrars that she is in love with Edward. She is also watching Lucy interact with Mrs. Ferrars, who is under the mistaken impression that Edward will soon be engaged to Miss Morton. John Dashwood feels guilty about not providing for his sisters and must make up for it by attempting to praise them in front of visitors. Colonel Brandon, in the midst of all this, is observing Marianne, the woman he secretly loves, who is miserable about having been jilted by Willoughby. Elinor’s opaque screens suggest that her art is in her acts of concealment. She is the best at remaining calm in this scene. In the larger scheme of the novel she remains closed to us, except for what Austen allows us to see with entry into her private thoughts. In addition, the screens highlight the fact that visual cues in Sense and Sensibility are usually misread; very few characters see anything correctly and even fewer have the intelligence or thoughtfulness required to read or interpret information.
The episodes of Sense and Sensibility are divided between the more theatrical world of London and the private, quieter space of the country. London mirrors the pressures of the external world. The potentially damaging consequences of exposure, publicity, and revelation are illustrated in the episodes that occur away from the Dashwood’s country home. Marianne’s obsession with getting in touch with Willoughby provides the narrative tension for the middle section of the novel. Her encounter with Willoughby at the ball is a terrifying scene in which what she imagines to be true—her engagement to Willoughby—is irrevocably denied by the reality of his performance: He ignores her and appears attached to another woman. Although Austen provides readers with some clues about Willoughby’s character—his reading of Hamlet, for example—we are still struck by his cruelty and Marianne’s inability to accept that she has misunderstood Willoughby’s intentions. Elinor sees that “to wait, at least, with the appearance of composure, till she might speak to him with more privacy and more effect, was impossible, for Marianne continued incessantly to give way in a low voice to the misery of her feelings, by exclamations of wretchedness” (p. 145). The anxiety inherent in misreadings becomes, for Austen, a way of emphasizing a need for new methods of interpretation that take into account both external and internal information.

Marianne’s desire for news of and contact with Willoughby, and everyone else’s desire to understand the nature of their relationship, reflect a larger societal hunger for gossip and intrigue. What is overheard and discovered in coffeehouses and shopping districts becomes a valuable commodity. Austen questions the nature of value in a scene where Elinor observes a man (who she later learns is Robert Ferrars, Edward’s brother) purchasing a toothpick-case. She writes:
He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself; and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had no leisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies than what was comprised in three or four very broad stares; a kind of notice which served to imprint on Elinor the remembrance of a person and face of strong, natural, sterling insignificance, though adorned in the first style of fashion (p.181).
Robert Ferrars’s attention to the minute details of a toothpick-case is contrasted with what he fails to notice: the presence of the two ladies. His “sterling insignificance” is analogous to his need for such a superfluous decorative item. Elinor then meets her brother, and the topic of conversation for the rest of the chapter is all about various types of value: a discussion of Colonel Brandon’s financial situation is followed by an assessment of Edward’s proposed fiancée’s worth; an evaluation of the property value of Norland connects to a list of the items the Dashwoods needed to purchase when moving into their new home; and ultimately, the conversation ends with praise for Mrs. Jennings, whom Mr. Dashwood considers to be “ ‘a most valuable woman indeed,’ ”judging by her house and her style of living (p. 185). Linking toothpick-cases to houses, linen, china, and people, Austen cleverly questions the notion of what is intrinsically valuable and what passes for “inventive fancy.” In highlighting the com modification of language, feeling, and relationships, Austen points to the larger impact on individuals of a rapidly emerging commercial economy. The real world of London, outside the safety and comfort of the country, is seen as both potentially devastating and ridiculous.
On the other hand, London presents Elinor with a series of distractions. She is able to put her own feeling aside for the moment while Edward and Lucy are temporarily offstage and Marianne is fretting about Willoughby. It also seems clear that the country as it once was, epitomized by Marianne’s affection for poems about cottages and trees, as well as her soliloquy when leaving her ancestral home—“Dear, dear Norland! ... when shall I cease to regret you!” (p. 23)—is rapidly disappearing. Marianne’s constant references to eighteenth-century aesthetic tastes, picturesque landscapes, ruined cottages, and collapsed trees suggest that she views the country through a clouded nostalgic visual lens. The pressures of renovation and renewal threaten to transform the landscape. When Mrs. Dashwood speaks of changing Barton Cottage, the sentimental Willoughby remarks, “And yet this house you would spoil, Mrs. Dashwood? You would rob it of its simplicity by imaginary improvement!” (p. 61).
Willoughby’s desire to keep things as they were is an interesting corollary to his position as an eighteenth-century figure (the libertine) in a nineteenth-century novel. Austen renovates his character by including a scene at the end of the novel in which he attempts to apologize for his behavior toward Marianne. Unlike the classic libertine, who exhibits no remorse for his horrible actions, Willoughby, when faced with the possibility of Marianne’s death, admits that he loved her all along and will suffer forever for his unfortunate choices. Even Elinor is moved by his confession, in part because it allows her to hope that Edward might always regret his choices as well. Although Willoughby cannot recover from his mistakes, Edward and Colonel Brandon, who both also have shady pasts, are able to reinvent themselves and emerge as new, improved suitors for Elinor and Marianne. While Austen critiques her characters’ passion for novelty, she also seems wary of relying too much on the customs and traditions of an antiquated world. Her attention to modes of renewal in the novel, of spaces, characters, and relationships, reflects her interest in renovating the novel form. Marianne’s final acceptance of “second attachments” points to a revised vision of what might work for nineteenth-century heroines.
Throughout Sense and Sensibility Marianne’s public and private selves are indistinguishable. Her inability to disguise her feelings is linked to her idea that everyone must see the world in the same way she does. “Like half the rest of the world, if more than half there be that are clever and good, Marianne, with excellent abilities and an excellent disposition, was neither reasonable nor candid. She expected from other people the same opinions and feelings as her own, and she judged of their motives by the immediate effect of their actions on herself” (p. 164). Austen suggests that the most dangerous thing for women is to reveal themselves and to assume that they will be understood and valued. All they have of their own is an ability to safeguard a realm of privacy, a place of no access—metaphorically demonstrated by Elinor’s screens. But this lesson, like everything else in Austen’s world, threatens to break down; Elinor can’t keep up her façade of tranquillity in parts of the novel, and her constant self-policing leads to resentment, anger, and depression.
By the end of the novel Marianne learns to subdue her sensibility for her own good, and she settles in to the more boring, conventional role of dutiful wife. Austen writes:
Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting, instead of remaining even for ever with her mother, and finding her only pleasures in retirement and study, as afterwards in her more calm and sober judgment had determined on,—she found herself at nineteen 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 (p. 311).
Marianne’s loss of passion, and her submission to her new role as mistress of the neighborhood, provides evidence for Charlotte Brontë’s critique of the nonemotional nature of Austen’s work. In a letter to a friend, Brontë wrote of Austen:
Her business is not half so much with the human heart as with the human eyes, mouth, hands, and feet. What sees keenly, speaks aptly, moves flexibly it suits her to study; but what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death—this Miss Austen ignores (Barker, The Brontës, p. 635).
Reading Sense and Sensibility, one is tempted to point out that the story is, in fact, all about “the human heart” and what conspires against it. Austen explores the layers subtly covering Brontë’s notion of what “throbs fast and full”: the inarticulate, intangible disquiet that haunts drawing rooms and country houses; the terrifying reality of not being loved and ending up alone, the frustration of being misread and misunderstood. In her attention to both the exterior theatrics of display along with the interior workings of the psyche, Austen invites her readers to consider new methods of interpretation. Even in its unsatisfying conclusion, Sense and Sensibility leaves one thing intact: The bond between Elinor and Marianne is ultimately more restorative than any romance or happy ending.

Laura Engel received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. She is an assistant professor in the English Department at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh where she specializes in eighteenth-century British literature and drama. Her previous publications include essays on the novelists A. S. Byatt and Edna O‘Brien. She is currently working on a book that explores the connections between women and celebrity in eighteenth-century culture.

Volume the First.


The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where for many generations they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintances. The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to a very advanced age, and who for many years of his life had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister. But her death, which happened ten years before his own, produced a great alteration in his home; for to supply her loss, he invited and received into his house the family of his nephew, Mr. Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intended to bequeath it. In the society of his nephew and niece, and their children, the old gentleman’s days were comfortably spent. His attachment to them all increased. The constant attention of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood to his wishes, which proceeded not merely from interest, but from goodness of heart, gave him every degree of solid comfort which his age could receive; and the cheerfulness of the children added a relish to his existence.
By a former marriage, Mr. Henry Dashwood had one son; by his present lady, three daughters. The son, a steady, respectable young man, was amply provided for by the fortune of his mother, which had been large, and half of which devolved on him on his coming of age. By his own marriage, likewise, which happened soon afterwards, he added to his wealth. To him, therefore, the succession to the Norland estate was not so really important as to his sisters; for their fortune, independent of what might arise to them from their father’s inheriting that property, could be but small. Their mother had nothing, and their father only seven thousand pounds in his own disposal; for the remaining moiety of his first wife’s fortune was also secured to her child, and he had only a life interest in it.1
The old gentleman died; his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure. He was neither so unjust, nor so ungrateful, as to leave his estate from his nephew; but he left it to him on such terms as destroyed half the value of the bequest. Mr. Dashwood had wished for it more for the sake of his wife and daughters than for himself or his son; but to his son, and his son’s son, a child of four years old, it was secured, in such a way, as to leave to himself no power of providing for those who were most dear to him, and who most needed a provision, by any charge on the estate, or by any sale of its valuable woods. The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child, who, in occasional visits with his father and mother at Norland had so far gained on the affections of his uncle, by such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old: an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise, as to outweigh all the value of all the attention which, for years, he had received from his niece and her daughters. He meant not to be unkind, however, and as a mark of his affection for the three girls, he left them a thousand pounds apiece.
Mr. Dashwood’s disappointment was at first severe; but his temper was cheerful and sanguine, and he might reasonably hope to live many years, and by living economically, lay by a considerable sum from the produce of an estate already large, and capable of almost immediate improvement. But the fortune, which had been so tardy in coming, was his only one twelvemonth. He survived his uncle no longer; and ten thousand pounds, including the late legacies, was all that remained for his widow and daughters.
His son was sent for, as soon as his danger was known, and to him Mr. Dashwood recommended, with all the strength and urgency which illness could command, the interest of his mother-in-lawa and sisters.
Mr. John Dashwood had not the strong feelings of the rest of the family; but he was affected by a recommendation of such a nature at such a time, and he promised to do everything in his power to make them comfortable. His father was rendered easy by such an assurance, and Mr. John Dashwood had then leisure to consider how much there might prudently be in his power to do for them.
He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold-hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed: but he was, in general, well respected; for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinary duties. Had he married a more amiable woman, he might have been made still more respectable than he was; he might even have been made amiable himself; for he was very young when he married, and very fond of his wife. But Mrs. John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself; more narrow-minded and selfish.
When he gave his promise to his father, he meditated within himself to increase the fortunes of his sisters by the present of a thousand pounds apiece. He then really thought himself equal to it. The prospect of four thousand a year, in addition to his present income, besides the remaining half of his own mother’s fortune, warmed his heart and made him feel capable of generosity. “Yes, he would give them three thousand pounds: it would be liberal and handsome! It would be enough to make them completely easy. Three thousand pounds! He could spare so considerable a sum with little inconvenience.” He thought of it all day long, and for many days successively, and he did not repent.
No sooner was his father’s funeral over, than Mrs. John Dashwood, without sending any notice of her intention to her mother-in-law, arrived with her child and their attendants. No one could dispute her right to come; the house was her husband’s from the moment of his father’s decease; but the indelicacy of her conduct was so much the greater, and to a woman in Mrs. Dashwood’s situation, with only common feelings, must have been highly unpleasing; but in her mind there was a sense of honour so keen, a generosity so romantic, that any offence of the kind, by whomsoever given or received, was to her a source of immovable disgust. Mrs. John Dashwood had never been a favourite with any of her husband’s family: but she had had no opportunity till the present, of showing them with how little attention to the comfort of other people she could act when occasion required it.
So acutely did Mrs. Dashwood feel this ungracious behaviour, and so earnestly did she despise her daughter-in-law for it, that, on the arrival of the latter, she would have quitted the house for ever, had not the entreaty of her eldest girl induced her first to reflect on the propriety of going, and her own tender love for all her three children determined her afterwards to stay, and for their sakes avoid a breach with their brother.
Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice was so effectual, possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, 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. She had an excellent heart; her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong: but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn, and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.
Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.
Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister’s sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again. They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitting consolation in future. Elinor, too, was deeply afflicted; but still she could struggle, she could exert herself. She could consult with her brother, could receive her sister-in-law on her arrival, and treat her with proper attention: and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion, and encourage her to similar forbearance.
Margaret, the other sister, was a good-humoured, well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne’s romance, without having much of her sense, she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.


Mrs. John Dashwood now installed herself mistress of Norland; and her mother and sisters-in-law were degraded to the condition of visitors. As such, however, they were treated by her with quiet civility; and by her husband with as much kindness as he could feel towards anybody beyond himself, his wife, and their child. He really pressed them, with some earnestness, to consider Norland as their home; and, as no plan appeared so eligible to Mrs. Dashwood as remaining there till she could accommodate herself with a house in the neighbourhood, his invitation was accepted.
A continuance in a place where everything reminded her of former delight, was exactly what suited her mind. In seasons of cheerfulness, no temper could be more cheerful than hers, or possess, in a greater degree, that sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself. But in sorrow she must be equally carried away by her fancy, and as far beyond consolation as in pleasure she was beyond alloy.
Mrs. John Dashwood did not at all approve of what her husband intended to do for his sisters. To take three thousand pounds from the fortune of their dear little boy, would be impoverishing him to the most dreadful degree. She begged him to think again on the subject. How could he answer it to himself to rob his child, and his only child too, of so large a sum? And what possible claim could the Miss Dashwoods, who were related to him only by half blood, which she considered as no relationship at all, have on his generosity to so large an amount? It was very well known that no affection was ever supposed to exist between the children of any man by different marriages; and why was he to ruin himself, and their poor little Harry, by giving away all his money to his half-sisters?
“It was my father’s last request to me,” replied her husband, “that I should assist his widow and daughters.”
“He did not know what he was talking of, I dare say; ten to one but he was lightheaded at the time. Had he been in his right senses, he could not have thought of such a thing as begging you to give away half your fortune from your own child.”
“He did not stipulate for any particular sum, my dear Fanny; he only requested me, in general terms, to assist them, and make their situation more comfortable than it was in his power to do. Perhaps it would have been as well if he had left it wholly to myself. He could hardly suppose I should neglect them. But as he required the promise, I could not do less than give it; at least I thought so at the time. The promise, therefore, was given, and must be performed. Something must be done for them whenever they leave Norland and settle in a new home.”
“Well, then, let something be done for them; but that something need not be three thousand pounds. Consider,” she added, “that when the money is once parted with, it never can return. Your sisters will marry, and it will be gone for ever. If, indeed, it could ever be restored to our poor little boy ...”
“Why, to be sure,” said her husband, very gravely, “that would make a great difference. The time may come when Harry will regret that so large a sum was parted with. If he should have a numerous family, for instance, it would be a very convenient addition.”
“To be sure it would.”
“Perhaps, then, it would be better for all parties if the sum were diminished one half. Five hundred pounds would be a prodigious increase to their fortunes.”
“Oh, beyond anything great! What brother on earth would do half as much for his sisters, even if really his sisters! And as it is—only half blood! But you have such a generous spirit!”
“I would not wish to do anything mean,” he replied. “One had rather, on such occasions, do too much than too little. No one, at least, can think I have not done enough for them: even themselves, they can hardly expect more.”
“There is no knowing what they may expect,” said the lady, “but we are not to think of their expectations: the question is, what you can afford to do.”
“Certainly, and I think I may afford to give them five hundred pounds apiece. As it is, without any addition of mine, they will each have above three thousand pounds on their mother’s death: a very comfortable fortune for any young woman.”
“To be sure it is: and, indeed, it strikes me that they can want no addition at all. They will have ten thousand pounds divided amongst them. If they marry, they will be sure of doing well; and if they do not, they may all live very comfortably together on the interest of ten thousand pounds.”
“That is very true, and, therefore, I do not know whether, upon the whole, it would not be more advisable to do something for their mother while she lives rather than for them; something of the annuity kind, I mean. My sisters would feel the good effects of it as well as herself. A hundred a year would make them all perfectly comfortable.”
His wife hesitated a little, however, in giving her consent to this plan.
“To be sure,” said she, “it is better than parting with fifteen hundred pounds at once. But then, if Mrs. Dashwood should live fifteen years, we shall be completely taken in.”
“Fifteen years! My dear Fanny; her life cannot be worth half that purchase.”
“Certainly not; but if you observe, people always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them; and she is very stout and healthy, and hardly forty. An annuity is a very serious business ; it comes over and over every year, and there is no getting rid of it. You are not aware of what you are doing. I have known a great deal of the trouble of annuities; for my mother was clogged with the payment of three to old superannuated servants by my father’s will, and it is amazing how disagreeable she found it. Twice every year, these annuities were to be paid; and then there was the trouble of getting it to them; and then one of them was said to have died, and afterwards it turned out to be no such thing. My mother was quite sick of it. Her income was not her own, she said, with such perpetual claims on it; and it was the more unkind in my father, because, otherwise, the money would have been entirely at my mother’s disposal, without any restriction whatever. It has given me such an abhorrence of annuities, that I am sure I would not pin myself down to the payment of one for all the world.”
“It is certainly an unpleasant thing,” replied Mr. Dashwood, “to have those kind of yearly drains on one’s income. One’s fortune, as your mother justly says, is not one’s own. To be tied down to the regular payment of such a sum, on every rent day, is by no means desirable: it takes away one’s independence.”
“Undoubtedly; and, after all, you have no thanks for it. They think themselves secure, you do no more than what is expected, and it raises no gratitude at all. If I were you, whatever I did should be done at my own discretion entirely. I would not bind myself to allow them anything yearly. It may be very inconvenient some years to spare a hundred, or even fifty pounds, from our own expenses.”
“I believe you are right, my love; it will be better that there should be no annuity in the case; whatever I may give them occasionally will be of far greater assistance than a yearly allowance, because they would only enlarge their style of living if they felt sure of a larger income, and would not be sixpence the richer for it at the end of the year. It will certainly be much the best way. A present of fifty pounds, now and then, will prevent their ever being distressed for money, and will, I think, be amply discharging my promise to my father.”
‘To be sure it will. Indeed, to say the truth I am convinced within myself, that your father had no idea of your giving them any money at all. The assistance he thought of, I dare say, was only such as might be reasonably expected of you; for instance, such as looking out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to move their things, and sending them presents of fish and game, and so forth, whenever they are in season. I’ll lay my life that he meant nothing further; indeed, it would be very strange and unreasonable if he did. Do but consider, my dear Mr. Dashwood, how excessively comfortable your mother-in-law and her daughters may live on the interest of seven thousand pounds, besides the thousand pounds belonging to each of the girls, which brings them in fifty pounds a year apiece, and, of course, they will pay their mother for their board out of it. Altogether, they will have five hundred a year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that? They will live so cheap! Their housekeeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind! Only conceive how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it; and as to your giving them more, it is quite absurd to think of it. They will be much more able to give you something.”
“Upon my word,” said Mr. Dashwood, “I believe you are perfectly right. My father certainly could mean nothing more by his request to me than what you say. I clearly understand it now, and I will strictly fulfil my engagement by such acts of assistance and kindness to them as you have described. When my mother removes into another house, my services shall be readily given to accommodate her as far as I can. Some little present of furniture, too, may be acceptable then.”
“Certainly,” returned Mrs. John Dashwood. “But, however, one thing must be considered. When your father and mother moved to Norland, though the furniture of Stanhill was sold, all the china, plate, and linen was saved, and is now left to your mother. Her house will therefore be almost completely fitted up as soon as she takes it.”
“That is a material consideration, undoubtedly. A valuable legacy indeed! And yet some of the plate would have been a very pleasant addition to our own stock here.”
“Yes; and the set of breakfast china is twice as handsome as what belongs to this house. A great deal too handsome, in my opinion, for any place they can ever afford to live in. But, however, so it is. Your father thought only of them. And I must say this: that you owe no particular gratitude to him, nor attention to his wishes, for we very well know that if he could, he would have left almost everything in the world to them.”
This argument was irresistible. It gave to his intentions whatever of decision was wanting before; and he finally resolved, 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.


Mrs. Dashwood remained at Norland several months; not from any disinclination to move when the sight of every well-known spot ceased to raise the violent emotion which it produced for a while; for when her spirits began to revive, and her mind became capable of some other exertion than that of heightening its affliction by melancholy remembrances, she was impatient to be gone, and indefatigable in her enquiries for a suitable dwelling in the neighbourhood of Norland ; for to remove far from that beloved spot was impossible. But she could hear of no situation that at once answered her notions of comfort and ease, and suited the prudence of her eldest daughter, whose steadier judgment rejected several houses as too large for their income, which her mother would have approved.
Mrs. Dashwood had been informed by her husband of the solemn promise on the part of his son in their favour, which gave comfort to his last earthly reflections. She doubted the sincerity of this assurance no more than he had doubted it himself, and she thought of it for her daughters’ sake with satisfaction, though as for herself she was persuaded that a much smaller provision than 7oool. would support her in affluence. For their brother’s sake, too, for the sake of his own heart, she rejoiced; and she reproached herself for being unjust to his merit before, in believing him incapable of generosity. His attentive behaviour to herself and his sisters convinced her that their welfare was dear to him, and, for a long time, she firmly relied on the liberality of his intentions.
The contempt which she had, very early in their acquaintance, felt for her daughter-in-law, was very much increased by the farther knowledge of her character, which half a year’s residence in her family afforded; and, perhaps, in spite of every consideration of politeness or maternal affection on the side of the former, the two ladies might have found it impossible to have lived together so long, had not a particular circumstance occurred to give still greater eligibility, according to the opinions of Mrs. Dashwood, to her daughters’ continuance at Norland.
This circumstance was a growing attachment between her eldest girl and the brother of Mrs. John Dashwood, a gentlemanlike and pleasing young man, who was introduced to their acquaintance soon after his sister’s establishment at Norland, and who had since spent the greatest part of his time there.
Some mothers might have encouraged the intimacy from motives of interest, for Edward Ferrars was the eldest son of a man who had died very rich; and some might have repressed it from motives of prudence, for, except a trifling sum, the whole of his fortune depended on the will of his mother. But Mrs. Dashwood was alike uninfluenced by either consideration. It was enough for her that he appeared to be amiable, that he loved her daughter, and that Elinor returned the partiality. It was contrary to every doctrine of hers that difference of fortune should keep any couple asunder who were attracted by resemblance of disposition; and that Elinor’s merit should not be acknowledged by every one who knew her was to her comprehension impossible.
Edward Ferrars was not recommended to their good opinion by any peculiar graces of person or address. He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open, affectionate heart. His understanding was good, and his education had given it solid improvement. But he was neither fitted by abilities nor disposition to answer the wishes of his mother and sister, who longed to see him distinguished—as—they hardly knew what. They wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other. His mother wished to interest him in political concerns, to get him into parliament, or to see him connected with some of the great men of the day. Mrs. John Dashwood wished it likewise; but in the mean while, till one of these superior blessings could be attained, it would have quieted her ambition to see him driving a barouche.2 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.
Edward had been staying several weeks in the house before he engaged much of Mrs. Dashwood’s attention; for she was, at that time, in such affliction as rendered her careless of surrounding objects. She saw only that he was quiet and unobtrusive, and she liked him for it. He did not disturb the wretchedness of her mind by ill-timed conversation. She was first called to observe and approve him farther, by a reflection which Elinor chanced one day to make on the difference between him and his sister. It was a contrast which recommended him most forcibly to her mother.
“It is enough,” said she; “to say that he is unlike Fanny is enough. It implies every thing amiable. I love him already.”
“I think you will like him,” said Elinor, “when you know more of him.”
“Like him!” replied her mother with a smile. “I can feel no sentiment of approbation inferior to love.”
“You may esteem him.”
“I have never yet known what it was to separate esteem and love.”
Mrs. Dashwood now took pains to get acquainted with him. Her manners were attaching, and soon banished his reserve. She speedily comprehended all his merits; the persuasion of his regard for Elinor perhaps assisted her penetration; but she really felt assured of his worth: and even that quietness of manner, which militated against all her established ideas of what a young man’s address ought to be, was no longer uninteresting, when she knew his heart to be warm and his temper affectionate.
No sooner did she perceive any symptom of love in his behaviour to Elinor than she considered their serious attachment as certain, and looked forward to their marriage as rapidly approaching.
“In a few months, my dear Marianne,” said she, “Elinor will, in all probability, be settled for life. We shall miss her; but she will be happy.”
“Oh, mamma, how shall we do without her?”
“My love, it will be scarcely a separation. We shall live within a few miles of each other, and shall meet every day of our lives. You will gain a brother, a real, affectionate brother. I have the highest opinion in the world of Edward’s heart. But you look grave, Marianne; do you disapprove your sister’s choice?”
“Perhaps,” said Marianne, “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 a something wanting—his figure is not striking; it has none of that grace which I should 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, mamma, he has no real taste. Music seems scarcely to attract him; and, though he admires Elinor’s drawings very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their worth. It is evident, in spite of his frequent attention to her while she draws, that, in fact, he knows nothing of the matter. He admires as a lover, not as a connoisseur. To satisfy me, those characters must be united. I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter into all my feelings: the same books, the same music must charm us both. Oh, mamma, how spiritless, how tame was Edward’s manner in reading to us last night! I felt for my sister most severely. Yet she bore it with so much composure, she seemed scarcely to notice it. I could hardly keep my seat. To hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference!”
“He would certainly have done more justice to simple and elegant prose. I thought so at the time; but you would give him Cowper.”3
“Nay, mamma, if he is not to be animated by Cowper!—but we must allow for difference of taste. Elinor has not my feelings, and, therefore, she may overlook it, and be happy with him. But it would have broken my heart, had I loved him, to hear him read with so little sensibility. Mamma, the more I know of the world the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! He must have all Edward’s virtues, and his person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm.”
“Remember, my love, that you are not seventeen. It is yet too early in life to despair of such a happiness. Why should you be less fortunate than your mother? In one circumstance only, my Marianne, may your destiny be different from hers!”


What a pity it is, Elinor,” said Marianne, “that Edward should have no taste for drawing.” ”No taste for drawing!“ replied Elinor, ”why should you think so? He does not draw himself, indeed, but he has great pleasure in seeing the performances of other people; and I assure you he is by no means deficient in natural taste, though he has not had opportunities of improving it. Had he ever been in the way of learning, I think he would have drawn very well. He distrusts his own judgment in such matters so much, that he is always unwilling to give his opinion on any picture; but he has an innate propriety and simplicity of taste, which, in general, direct him perfectly right.”
Marianne was afraid of offending, and said no more on the subject; but the kind of approbation which Elinor described as excited in him by the drawings of other people was very far from that rapturous delight, which, in her opinion, could alone be called taste. Yet, though smiling within herself at the mistake, she honoured her sister for that blind partiality to Edward which produced it.
“I hope, Marianne,” continued Elinor, “you do not consider him as deficient in general taste. Indeed, I think I may say that you cannot, for your behaviour to him is perfectly cordial, and if that were your opinion, I am sure you could never be civil to him.”
Marianne hardly knew what to say. She would not wound the feelings of her sister on any account, and yet to say what she did not believe was impossible. At length she replied,—
“Do not be offended, Elinor, if my praise of him is not in every thing equal to your sense of his merits. I have not had so many opportunities of estimating the minuter propensities of his mind, his inclinations and tastes, as you have; but I have the highest opinion in the world of his goodness and sense. I think him every thing that is worthy and amiable.”
“I am sure,” replied Elinor, with a smile, “that his dearest friends could not be dissatisfied with such commendation as that. I do not perceive how you could express yourself more warmly.”
Marianne was rejoiced to find her sister so easily pleased.
“Of his sense and his goodness,” continued Elinor, “no one can, I think, be in doubt, who has seen him often enough to engage him in unreserved conversation. The excellence of his understanding and his principles can be concealed only by that shyness which too often keeps him silent. You know enough of him to do justice to his solid worth. But of his minuter propensities, as you call them, you have, from peculiar circumstances, been kept more ignorant than myself. He and I have been at times thrown a good deal together, while you have been wholly engrossed on the most affectionate principle by my mother. I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure. His abilities in every respect improve as much upon acquaintance as his manners and person. At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so. What say you, Marianne?”
“I shall very soon think him handsome, Elinor, if I do not now. When you tell me to love him as a brother, I shall no more see imperfection in his face than I now do in his heart.”
Elinor started at this declaration, and was sorry for the warmth she had been betrayed into, in speaking of him. She felt that Edward stood very high in her opinion. She believed the regard to be mutual; but she required greater certainty of it to make Marianne’s conviction of their attachment agreeable to her. She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next—that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect. She tried to explain the real state of the case to her sister.
“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him—that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”
Marianne here burst forth with indignation—
“Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again, and I will leave the room this moment.”
Elinor could not help laughing. “Excuse me,” said she; “and be assured that I meant no offence to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of my own feelings. Believe them to be stronger than I have declared; believe them, in short, to be such as his merit, and the suspicion—the hope of his affection for me may warrant, without imprudence or folly. But farther than this you must not believe. I am by no means assured of his regard for me. There are moments when the extent of it seems doubtful; and till his sentiments are fully known, you cannot wonder at my wishing to avoid any encouragement of my own partiality, by believing or calling it more than it is. In my heart I feel little—scarcely any doubt of his preference. But there are other points to be considered besides his inclination. He is very far from being independent. What his mother really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny’s occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have never been disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken if Edward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties in his way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank.”
Marianne was astonished to find how much the imagination of her mother and herself had outstripped the truth.
“And you really are not engaged to him!” said she. “Yet it certainly soon will happen. But two advantages will proceed from this delay. I shall not lose you so soon, and Edward will have greater opportunity of improving that natural taste for your favorite pursuit which must be so indispensably necessary to your future felicity. Oh! if he should be so far stimulated by your genius as to learn to draw himself, how delightful it would be! ”
Elinor had given her real opinion to her sister. She could not consider her partiality for Edward in so prosperous a state as Marianne had believed it. There was, at times, a want of spirits about him which, if it did not denote indifference, spoke a something almost as unpromising. A doubt of her regard, supposing him to feel it, need not give him more than inquietude. It would not be likely to produce that dejection of mind which frequently attended him. A more reasonable cause might be found in the dependent situation which forbad the indulgence of his affection. She knew that his mother neither behaved to him so as to make his home comfortable at present, nor to give him any assurance that he might form a home for himself, without strictly attending to her views for his aggrandisement. With such a knowledge as this, it was impossible for Elinor to feel easy on the subject. She was far from depending on that result of his preference of her, which her mother and sister still considered as certain. Nay, the longer they were together the more doubtful seemed the nature of his regard; and sometimes, for a few painful minutes, she believed it to be no more than friendship.
But, whatever might really be its limits, it was enough, when perceived by his sister, to make her uneasy, and at the same time (which was still more common) to make her uncivil. She 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. Ferrars’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 endeavour to be calm. She gave her an answer which marked her contempt, and instantly left the room; resolving that, whatever might be the inconvenience or expense of so sudden a removal, her beloved Elinor should not be exposed another week to such insinuations.
In this state of her spirits, a letter was delivered to her from the post, which contained a proposal particularly well timed. It was the offer of a small house, on very easy terms, belonging to a relation of her own, a gentleman of consequence and property in Devonshire. The letter was from this gentleman himself, and written in the true spirit of friendly accommodation. He understood that she was in need of a dwelling; and though the house he now offered her was merely a cottage, he assured her that every thing should be done to it which she might think necessary, if the situation pleased her. He earnestly pressed her, after giving the particulars of the house and garden, to come with her daughters to Barton Park, the place of his own residence, from whence she might judge, herself, whether Barton Cottage, for the houses were in the same parish, could, by any alteration, be made comfortable to her. He seemed really anxious to accommodate them; and the whole of his letter was written in so friendly a style as could not fail of giving pleasure to his cousin; more especially at a moment when she was suffering under the cold and unfeeling behaviour of her nearer connections. She needed no time for deliberation or enquiry. Her resolution was formed as she read. The situation of Barton, in a county so far distant from Sussex as Devonshire, which, but a few hours before, would have been a sufficient objection to outweigh every possible advantage belonging to the place, was now its first recommendation. To quit the neighbourhood of Norland was no longer an evil; it was an object of desire; it was a blessing, in comparison of the misery of continuing her daughter-in-law’s guest: and to remove for ever from that beloved place would be less painful than to inhabit or visit it while such a woman was its mistress. She instantly wrote Sir John Middleton her acknowledgment of his kindness, and her acceptance of his proposal; and then hastened to show both letters to her daughters, that she might be secure of their approbation before her answer were sent.
Elinor had always thought it would be more prudent for them to settle at some distance from Norland than immediately amongst their present acquaintance. On that head, therefore, it was not for her to oppose her mother’s intention of removing into Devonshire. The house, too, as described by Sir John, was on so simple a scale, and the rent so uncommonly moderate, as to leave her no right of objection on either point; and, therefore, though it was not a plan which brought any charm to her fancy, though it was a removal from the vicinity of Norland beyond her wishes, she made no attempt to dissuade her mother from sending a letter of acquiescence.


No sooner was her answer despatched, than Mrs. Dashwood indulged herself in the pleasure of announcing to her son-in-law and his wife that she was provided with a house, and should incommode them no longer than till every thing were ready for her inhabiting it. They heard her with surprise. Mrs. John Dashwood said nothing; but her husband civilly hoped that she would not be settled far from Norland. She had great satisfaction in replying that she was going into Devonshire.—Edward turned hastily towards her, on hearing this, and, in a voice of surprise and concern, which required no explanation to her, repeated, “Devonshire! Are you, indeed, going there? So far from hence! and to what part of it?” She explained the situation. It was within four miles northward of Exeter.
“It is but a cottage,” she continued, “but I hope to see many of my friends in it. A room or two can easily be added; and if my friends find no difficulty in travelling so far to see me, I am sure I will find none in accommodating them.”
She concluded with a very kind invitation to Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood to visit her at Barton; and to Edward she gave one with still greater affection. Though her late conversation with her daughter-in-law had made her resolve on remaining at Norland no longer than was unavoidable, it had not produced the smallest effect on her in that point to which it principally tended. To separate Edward and Elinor was as far from being her object as ever; and she wished to show Mrs. John Dashwood, by this pointed invitation to her brother, how totally she disregarded her disapprobation of the match.
Mr. John Dashwood told his mother again and again how exceedingly sorry he was that she had taken a house at such a distance from Norland as to prevent his being of any service to her in removing her furniture. He really felt conscientiously vexed on the occasion; for the very exertion to which he had limited the performance of his promise to his father was by this arrangement rendered impracticable.—The furniture was all sent round by water. It chiefly consisted of household linen, plate, china, and books, with a handsome piano-forte of Marianne’s. Mrs. John Dashwood saw the packages depart with a sigh: she could not help feeling it hard that, as Mrs. Dashwood’s income would be so trifling in comparison with their own, she should have any handsome article of furniture.
Mrs. Dashwood took the house for a twelvemonth; it was ready furnished, and she might have immediate possession. No difficulty arose on either side in the agreement; and she waited only for the disposal of her effects at Norland, and to determine her future household, before she set off for the west; and this, as she was exceedingly rapid in the performance of every thing that interested her, was soon done.—The horses which were left her by her husband had been sold soon after his death, and an opportunity now offering of disposing of her carriage, she agreed to sell that likewise, at the earnest advice of her eldest daughter. For the comfort of her children, had she consulted only her own wishes, she would have kept it; but the discretion of Elinor prevailed. Her wisdom, too, limited the number of their servants to three; two maids and a man, with whom they were speedily provided from amongst those who had formed their establishment at Norland.
The man and one of the maids were sent off immediately into Devonshire, to prepare the house for their mistress’s arrival ; for as Lady Middleton was entirely unknown to Mrs. Dashwood, she preferred going directly to the cottage to being a visiter at Barton Park; and she relied so undoubtingly on Sir John’s description of the house, as to feel no curiosity to examine it herself till she entered it as her own. Her eagerness to be gone from Norland was preserved from diminution by the evident satisfaction of her daughter-in-law in the prospect of her removal; a satisfaction which was but feebly attempted to be concealed under a cold invitation to her to defer her departure. Now was the time when her son-in-law’s promise to his father might with particular propriety be fulfilled. Since he had neglected to do it on first coming to the estate, their quitting his house might be looked on as the most suitable period for its accomplishment. But Mrs. Dashwood began, shortly, to give over every hope of the kind, and to be convinced, from the general drift of his discourse, that his assistance extended no farther than their maintenance for six months at Norland. He so frequently talked of the increasing expenses of housekeeping, and of the perpetual demands upon his purse, which a man of any consequence in the world was beyond calculation exposed to, that he seemed rather to stand in need of more money himself than to have any design of giving money away.
In a very few weeks, from the day which brought Sir John Middleton’s first letter to Norland, every thing was so far settled in their future abode as to enable Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters to begin their journey.
Many were the tears shed by them in their last adieus to a place so much beloved. “Dear, dear Norland!” said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there; “when shall I cease to regret you!—when learn to feel a home elsewhere!—Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence, perhaps, I may view you no more!—And you, ye well-known trees!—but you will continue the same. No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer!—No; you will continue the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade!—But who will remain to enjoy you?”


The first part of their journey was performed in too melancholy a disposition to be otherwise than tedious and unpleasant. But as they drew towards the end of it, their interest in the appearance of a country which they were to inhabit overcame their dejection, and a view of Barton Valley, as they entered it, gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture. After winding along it for more than a mile, they reached their own house. A small green court was the whole of its demesne in front; and a neat wicket gate admitted them into it.
As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room, about sixteen feet square; and beyond them were the officesb and the stairs. Four bed-rooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house. It had not been built many years, and was in good repair. In comparison of Norland, it was poor and small indeed!—but the tears which recollection called forth as they entered the house were soon dried away. They were cheered by the joy of the servants on their arrival, and each for the sake of the others resolved to appear happy. It was very early in September; the season was fine; and from first seeing the place under the advantage of good weather, they received an impression in its favour which was of material service in recommending it to their lasting approbation.
The situation of the house was good. High hills rose immediately behind, and at no great distance on each side; some of which were open downs, the others cultivated and woody. The village of Barton was chiefly on one of these hills, and formed a pleasant view from the cottage windows. The prospect in front was more extensive; it commanded the whole of the valley, and reached into the country beyond. The hills which surrounded the cottage terminated the valley in that direction; under another name, and in another course, it branched out again between two of the steepest of them.
With the size and furniture of the house Mrs. Dashwood was upon the whole well satisfied; for though her former style of life rendered many additions to the latter indispensable, yet to add and improve was a delight to her; and she had at this time ready money enough to supply all that was wanted of greater elegance to the apartments. “As for the house itself, to be sure,” said she, “it is too small for our family, but we will make ourselves tolerably comfortable for the present, as it is too late in the year for improvements. Perhaps in the spring, if I have plenty of money, as I dare say I shall, we may think about building. These parlours are both too small for such parties of our friends as I hope to see often collected here; and I have some thoughts of throwing the passage into one of them, with perhaps a part of the other, and so leave the remainder of that other for an entrance; this, with a new drawing-room which may be easily added, and a bed-chamber and garret above, will make it a very snug little cottage. I could wish the stairs were handsome. But one must not expect every thing; though I suppose it would be no difficult matter to widen them. I shall see how much I am before-hand with the world in the spring, and we will plan our improvements accordingly.”
In the mean time, till all these alterations could be made from the savings of an income of five hundred a year by a woman who never saved in her life, they were wise enough to be contented with the house as it was; and each of them was busy in arranging their particular concerns, and endeavouring, by placing around them their books and other possessions, to form themselves a home. Marianne’s piano-forte was unpacked and properly disposed of; and Elinor’s drawings were affixed to the walls of their sitting room.
In such employments as these they were interrupted soon after breakfast the next day by the entrance of their landlord, who called to welcome them to Barton, and to offer them every accommodation from his own house and garden in which theirs might at present be deficient. Sir John Middleton was a good looking man about forty. He had formerly visited at Stanhill, but it was too long ago for his young cousins to remember him. His countenance was thoroughly good-humoured; and his manners were as friendly as the style of his letter. Their arrival seemed to afford him real satisfaction, and their comfort to be an object of real solicitude to him. He said much of his earnest desire of their living in the most sociable terms with his family, and pressed them so cordially to dine at Barton Park every day till they were better settled at home, that, though his entreaties were carried to a point of perseverance beyond civility, they could not give offence. His kindness was not confined to words; for within an hour after he left them, a large basket full of garden stuff and fruit arrived from the park, which was followed before the end of the day by a present of game. He insisted, moreover, on conveying all their letters to and from the post for them, and would not be denied the satisfaction of sending them his newspaper every day.
Lady Middleton had sent a very civil message by him, denoting her intention of waiting on Mrs. Dashwood as soon as she could be assured that her visit would be no inconvenience; and as this message was answered by an invitation equally polite, her ladyship was introduced to them the next day.
They were, of course, very anxious to see a person on whom so much of their comfort at Barton must depend; and the elegance of her appearance was favourable to their wishes. Lady Middleton was not more than six or seven and twenty; her face was handsome, her figure tall and striking, and her address graceful. Her manners had all the elegance which her husband’s wanted. But they would have been improved by some share of his frankness and warmth; and her visit was long enough to detract something from their first admiration, by showing that, though perfectly well bred, she was reserved, cold, and had nothing to say for herself beyond the most common-place enquiry or remark.
Conversation, however, was not wanted, for Sir John was very chatty, and Lady Middleton had taken the wise precaution of bringing with her their eldest child, a fine little boy about six years old; by which means there was one s