Some Jane Austen novels, in my opinion, have to be read multiple times in order to fully love and appreciate them. I think that is the case with Sense and Sensibility. At least, I have found it to be so. I think I have "loved" it more each time I've read it. And, I believe, this is the third time I've read it. I do know it is the third time I'll be reviewing it for the blog.
Review #1 from 2008
Review #2 from 2011
Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen's first published novel. The original readers would not have had Pride and Prejudice to compare it with, which may work in the books favor. They wouldn't have known Jane and Elizabeth, so there wouldn't be the temptation to compare these two sisters (Marianne and Elinor) with the angelic Jane and feisty Elizabeth. And I think there is the temptation to compare. I found myself constantly looking for traces and hints of Jane and Elizabeth. Is Elinor more like Jane or Elizabeth? Is Marianne more like Elizabeth or Lydia or a bit of both? And it isn't just the sisters. Lucy Steele versus Caroline Bingley. Wickham versus Willoughby. (Amanda Grange has written Wickham's Diary, but will she ever write Willoughby's diary?! I'd love to read it!!!)
I do love Jane Austen. I love spending time in her character-rich novels. I love getting to know her characters. Not just her main characters. But the minor ones as well. So many memorable characters. Even if they're memorable only because they're despicable. I love the pacing. I love the dialogue. I love how each rereading shows me something different about a character. Little things that just take a little time perhaps to fully realize a character. When you're reading for plot and plot alone, little things pass you by.
She [Elinor] 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.
Men are very safe with us, let them be ever so rich.
Willoughby was a young man of good abilities, quick imagination, lively spirits, and open, affectionate manners. He was exactly formed to engage Marianne’s heart, for with all this, he joined not only a captivating person, but a natural ardour of mind which was now roused and increased by the example of her own, and which recommended him to her affection beyond every thing else. His society became gradually her most exquisite enjoyment. They read, they talked, they sang together; his musical talents were considerable; and he read with all the sensibility and spirit which Edward had unfortunately wanted.
When he was present she had no eyes for any one else. Every thing he did, was right. Every thing he said, was clever. If their evenings at the park were concluded with cards, he cheated himself and all the rest of the party to get her a good hand. If dancing formed the amusement of the night, they were partners for half the time; and when obliged to separate for a couple of dances, were careful to stand together and scarcely spoke a word to any body else. Such conduct made them of course most exceedingly laughed at; but ridicule could not shame, and seemed hardly to provoke them.
“Brandon is just the kind of man,” said Willoughby one day, when they were talking of him together, “whom every body speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to.”
“Does your sister make no distinction in her objections against a second attachment? or is it equally criminal in every body? Are those who have been disappointed in their first choice, whether from the inconstancy of its object, or the perverseness of circumstances, to be equally indifferent during the rest of their lives?” “Upon my word, I am not acquainted with the minutiæ of her principles. I only know that I never yet heard her admit any instance of a second attachment’s being pardonable.”
“You are mistaken, Elinor,” said she warmly, “in supposing I know very little of Willoughby. I have not known him long indeed, but I am much better acquainted with him, than I am with any other creature in the world, except yourself and mama. It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others. I should hold myself guilty of greater impropriety in accepting a horse from my brother, than from Willoughby. Of John I know very little, though we have lived together for years; but of Willoughby my judgment has long been formed.”
Elinor then heard Willoughby say, in a low voice to Marianne, “There are some people who cannot bear a party of pleasure. Brandon is one of them. He was afraid of catching cold I dare say, and invented this trick for getting out of it. I would lay fifty guineas the letter was of his own writing.” “I have no doubt of it,” replied Marianne.
“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”
“On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.”
Oh, Elinor, how incomprehensible are your feelings! You had rather take evil upon credit than good. You had rather look out for misery for Marianne, and guilt for poor Willoughby, than an apology for the latter. You are resolved to think him blamable, because he took leave of us with less affection than his usual behaviour has shown. And is no allowance to be made for inadvertence, or for spirits depressed by recent disappointment? Are no probabilities to be accepted, merely because they are not certainties? Is nothing due to the man whom we have all such reason to love, and no reason in the world to think ill of? — to the possibility of motives unanswerable in themselves, though unavoidably secret for a while? And, after all, what is it you suspect him of?”
Secrecy may be advisable; but still I cannot help wondering at its being practiced by him.
“I have not wanted syllables where actions have spoken so plainly. Has not his behaviour to Marianne and to all of us, for at least the last fortnight, declared that he loved and considered her as his future wife, and that he felt for us the attachment of the nearest relation? Have we not perfectly understood each other? Has not my consent been daily asked by his looks, his manner, his attentive and affectionate respect? My Elinor, is it possible to doubt their engagement? How could such a thought occur to you? How is it to be supposed that Willoughby, persuaded as he must be of your sister’s love, should leave her, and leave her perhaps for months, without telling her of his affection, — that they should part without a mutual exchange of confidence?”
“You have no ambition, I well know. Your wishes are all moderate.” “As moderate as those of the rest of the world, I believe. I wish as well as every body else to be perfectly happy; but, like every body else it must be in my own way. Greatness will not make me so.” “Strange that it would!” cried Marianne. “What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?” “Grandeur has but little,” said Elinor, “but wealth has much to do with it.” “Elinor, for shame!” said Marianne, “money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned.” “Perhaps,” said Elinor, smiling, “we may come to the same point. Your competence and my wealth are very much alike, I dare say; and without them, as the world goes now, we shall both agree that every kind of external comfort must be wanting. Your ideas are only more noble than mine. Come, what is your competence?” “About eighteen hundred or two thousand a year; not more than that.” Elinor laughed. “Two thousand a year! One is my wealth! I guessed how it would end.”
“I should hardly call her a lively girl — she is very earnest, very eager in all she does — sometimes talks a great deal and always with animation — but she is not often really merry.”
“I have frequently detected myself in such kind of mistakes,” said Elinor, “in a total misapprehension of character in some point or other: fancying people so much more gay or grave, or ingenious or stupid than they really are, and I can hardly tell why or in what the deception originated. Sometimes one is guided by what they say of themselves, and very frequently by what other people say of them, without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge.”
“Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy.”
“But you would still be reserved,” said Marianne, “and that is worse.” Edward started. “Reserved! Am I reserved, Marianne?” “Yes, very.” “I do not understand you,” replied he, colouring. “Reserved! — how, in what manner? What am I to tell you? What can you suppose?” Elinor looked surprised at his emotion; but trying to laugh off the subject, she said to him, “Do not you know my sister well enough to understand what she means? Do not you know she calls every one reserved who does not talk as fast, and admire what she admires as rapturously as herself?”
“Mr. Palmer does not hear me,” said she, laughing; “he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!”
This was quite a new idea to Mrs. Dashwood; she had never been used to find wit in the inattention of any one, and could not help looking with surprise at them both.
But to appear happy when I am so miserable — Oh! who can require it?
“The unkindness of your own relations has made you astonished to find friendship any where.”
Marianne’s lips quivered, and she repeated the word “Selfish?” in a tone that implied, “do you really think him selfish?” “The whole of his behaviour,” replied Elinor, “from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been grounded on selfishness. It was selfishness which first made him sport with your affections; which afterwards, when his own were engaged, made him delay the confession of it, and which finally carried him from Barton. His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, his ruling principle.” “It is very true. My happiness never was his object.” “At present,” continued Elinor, “he regrets what he has done. And why does he regret it? — Because he finds it has not answered towards himself. It has not made him happy. But does it follow that had he married you, he would have been happy? — The inconveniences would have been different. He would then have suffered under the pecuniary distresses which, because they are removed, he now reckons as nothing. He would have had a wife of whose temper he could make no complaint, but he would have been always necessitous — always poor; and probably would soon have learned to rank the innumerable comforts of a clear estate and good income as of far more importance, even to domestic happiness, than the mere temper of a wife.”
I will be calm, I will be mistress of myself.
Mrs. Jennings’s prophecies, though rather jumbled together, were chiefly fulfilled; for she was able to visit Edward and his wife in their Parsonage by Michaelmas, and she found in Elinor and her husband, as she really believed, one of the happiest couples in the world. They had in fact nothing to wish for, but the marriage of Colonel Brandon and Marianne, and rather better pasturage for their cows.
Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another! — and that other, a man who had suffered no less than herself under the event of a former attachment, whom, two years before, she had considered too old to be married, — and who still sought the constitutional safeguard of a flannel waistcoat! But so it was.
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