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Sense and Sensibility

By: Jane Austen

Two sisters, one practical and full of commonsense, the other a passionate and emotional creature, an uncaring brother and his avaricious wife, a handsome rake and a faithful gentleman – these are some of the unforgettable characters who make Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility such a delightful, witty and timeless classic. The novel was published under the pseudonym “A Lady” by its shy and retiring nineteen-year-old author, Jane Austen, in 1811. She was the daughter of a country rector and lived all her life in the circle of her large and loving family in a little village in Hampshire, England. There is very little autobiographical material available about her, as her well-meaning relatives burned and destroyed most of her diaries and letters after her death. Sense and Sensibility is a charming story of two sisters who see life from two very different viewpoints. When their father suddenly dies, leaving his entire estate to their half-brother John, the sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, their mother and youngest sister Margaret are thrown at the financial mercy of John and his mean-minded wife, Fanny. Mrs Dashwood and her daughters soon realize that they are not welcome at their former home Norland Hall. Fanny's brother Edward Ferrars, who is quite different from his greedy and graceless sister, arrives and begins to form an attachment to Elinor, which is violently opposed by Fanny. Mrs Dashwood is hurt and bewildered, but finally realizes that they have no option but to leave. They move to Devonshire, where Mrs Dashwood's cousin, Sir John Middleton welcomes them and helps them to find suitable lodgings. While out walking one rainy evening, Marianne suffers a small accident and is rescued by the suave and dashing John Willoughby. She falls passionately in love with him. The story takes several interesting twists and turns, driven by the opposing natures of the two sisters. More than two hundred years after publication, this delightful tale still manages to capture the reader's imagination as it echoes universal truths of passion, love, social status and ethics. Sense and Sensibility is a coming of age novel, marked by Jane Austen's deliciously ironic and sharp wit and famously under-stated style that will certainly appeal to modern-day readers.

Henry Dashwood, his second wife, and their three daughters live for many years with Henry's wealthy bachelor uncle at Norland Park, a large country estate in Sussex. That uncle decides, in late life, to will the use and income only of his property first to Henry, then to Henry's first son (by his first marriage) John Dashwood, so that the property should pass intact to John's four-year-old son Harry. The uncle dies, but Henry lives just a year after that and he is unable in such short time to save enough money for his wife Mrs Dashwood, and their daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, who are left only a small income. On his deathbed, Mr Henry Dashwood extracts a promise from his son John to take care of his half-sisters. But before Henry is long in the grave, John's greedy wife, Fanny, persuades her husband to renege on the promise, appealing to his concerns about diminishing his own son Harry's inheritance, despite the fact that John is already independently wealthy thanks to both his inheritance from his mother, and his wife's dowry. Henry Dashwood's love for his second family is also used by Fanny to arouse her husband's jealousy, and persuade him not to help his sisters financially.

 

John and Fanny immediately move in as the new owners of Norland, while the Dashwood women are treated as unwelcome guests by a spiteful Fanny. Mrs Dashwood seeks somewhere else to live. In the meantime, Fanny's brother, Edward Ferrars, visits Norland and is attracted to Elinor. Fanny disapproves of their budding romance, and offends Mrs Dashwood by implying that Elinor must be motivated by his expectations of coming into money.

 

Mrs Dashwood moves her family to Barton Cottage in Devonshire, near the home of her cousin, Sir John Middleton. Their new home is modest, but they are warmly received by Sir John and welcomed into local society, meeting his wife, Lady Middleton, his mother-in-law, the garrulous but well-meaning Mrs Jennings, and his friend, Colonel Brandon. Colonel Brandon is attracted to Marianne, and Mrs Jennings teases them about it. Marianne is not pleased, as she considers the thirty-five-year-old Colonel Brandon an old bachelor, incapable of falling in love or inspiring love in anyone.

Book Details

Language

English

Original Language

English

Published In

1811

Author

Jane Austen was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often...

More about Jane Austen

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