Secrets and Mysteries: Sense & Sensibility Read-Along, Chapters 10-25

All right! Now we get into the meat of the story, and all Jane Austen’s moralizing begins. The first nine chapters were really just setting the stage.

Here are the chapters, if you want to listen to them first.

So, Marianne and Willoughby are boldly and blatantly enraptured with each other, and only Elinor seems to see anything untoward in this. She has to talk Marianne out of accepting the gift of a HORSE (of all things) from Willoughby, and scolds her for going with Willoughby all over Allenham Court, with nobody home but old Mrs. Smith. Oddly enough, the affront here seems to be more to Mrs. Smith for entering her house without an invitation than for going to such a private place with Willoughby. Meanwhile, Colonel Brandon really starts to fall for Marianne, now that he sees her with someone way more attractive than himself. He grows in mystery, as he hints at a tragic past involving a young lady… Elinor refers to him as amiable, so we know he must be a good ‘un. And THEN, of a sudden, just as they are all going out on a picnic, he gets a note that has him depart on the spot. He will not be persuaded to delay even a day.

BUT that is not the big news! Enter Lucy Steele for some real drama and antics. She is neither well-bred nor warm-hearted nor amiable nor ill-disposed. I believe she is what we call a minx, or something like it. (Aside: note how suspicious Austen is of her interest in the children. The heroines take no notice of them, but the villainous Lucy is all over them!) And now Elinor has to take on her wretched secret while struck with the blow of discovering that Edward is lost to her forever! Lucky thing she was so discreet about her feelings. At least we now know why he wouldn’t confess his love to Elinor, and we can account for the oppression of spirits which always confused her. (Also note this same phrase “oppression of spirits” is used to describe Colonel Brandon, and it is suggested that neither character is naturally dull, but seems to have something weighing on them to make them so.)

Marianne, on the other hand, gets to weep her heart out when Willoughby mysteriously takes off, just as it seemed he was going to propose. I mean, he took a lock of her hair! (That’s pretty extreme in Regency times, not to mention the HORSE!)

And in their reactions to bad news, Austen uses the sisters to illustrate the two approaches to sentiment that she wishes to contrast, though it is clear which side she is on.

This book really is about Sense and Sensibility. And I believe that Austen got the title from Mary Wollestonecraft, whom she undoubtedly would have read. Here is a little quote from Wollestonecraft about women: “Their senses are inflamed, and their understandings neglected; consequently they become the prey of their senses, delicately termed sensibility, and are blown about by every momentary gust of feeling. They are, therefore, in a much worse condition than they would be in, were they in a state nearer to nature. Ever restless and anxious, their over exercised sensibility not only renders them uncomfortable themselves, but troublesome, to use a soft phrase, to others. All their thoughts turn on things calculated to excite emotion; and, feeling, when they should reason, their conduct is unstable, and their opinions are wavering, not the wavering produced by deliberation or progressive views, but by contradictory emotions. By fits and starts they are warm in many pursuits; yet this warmth, never concentrated into perseverance, soon exhausts itself; exhaled by its own heat, or meeting with some other fleeting passion, to which reason has never given any specific gravity, neutrality ensues.”
Am I justified in this belief? Do share.
So, one mystery solved (i.e. what was up with Edward and his hot-cold routine with Elinor), and several new ones begun (i.e. what’s up with Willoughby vamooshing like that? Are they or are not they engaged? What took Brandon off so suddenly? What is his history?)
Oh, and let us not forget the joy of the Palmers! I think Emma Thompson must have been divinely inspired to think of Hugh Laurie for that role, for though Ang Lee directed the film, I’m sure she had a lot to do with the casting. I know Alan Rickman always wanted to play a romatic hero, but could never get away from playing bad guys all the time. And she and Hugh Laurie are old buddies from Cambridge… that crew all are.  

In her desire to see everyone married, Mrs. Jennings insists on taking Marianne and Elinor to London under the ruse that her house will be too empty since her second daughter is now married. And so away they go. 

Note Lucy’s bad grammar (never a good sign in an Austen novel). And who else loves the character of Anne Steele? You can almost see Lucy rolling her eyes every time she opens her mouth. 

I have read this book and seen this film so many times that I can’t remember what I surmised the first time I read it. Any newbies here care to offer a prediction? 

I would like to offer my theory about the fact that Jane Austen published this novel without her name attached to it. It was authored by “A Lady.” Theories abound as to why this was, whether she wanted to remain anonymous for reasons of pride, of privacy, of class, whether it was proper for her to be writing novels, etc. My own suspicion is that her reasons were ones of politeness. In Regency times, and up until even the 20th Century, a woman’s first name was quite a private and personal thing. It was not simply bandied about. There were very specific rules about who could call a lady by her Christian name and in what circumstances. Jane Austen would have been generally referred to as Miss Jane Austen, her elder sister, Cassandra, being called Miss Austen. However, when Cassandra was not there, or not in contemplation, Jane could have been called Miss Austen. Her family and close friends would have called her Jane (or possibly Jenny, as suggested in a letter from her mother announcing her birth). Married women took their husband’s names in public, like Mrs. John Dashwood, who is only called Fanny by family members. So, for an unmarried woman, the question of how to style themselves in relation to a publication was probably quite complicated. For men, it was not such a big deal. Their whole names were used much more frequently as their lives were sort of more public. A lady publishing a book was in something of a novel position (forgive the pun). Nobody would simply call her Jane Austen, especially not strangers. That would be very rude and inappropriate. To call her Miss Jane Austen on a book cover would be awkward and strange, because nobody reading her book would even know she had a sister. But Miss Austen would be inaccurate because of that sister nobody knew about. Much easier just to say “A Lady” and I think the public was fine with this. They got it. “I am a lady, and I am not putting my name on this book to be passed among the public and spoken casually by strangers.” It was a dignity thing, in my opinion. 

But, onwards and upwards! What is to happen in London? Find out here, or on YouTube, or anywhere else you are choosing to follow along. Happy trails as you go!

1 comment

  • Micah S. Martin
    Micah S. Martin California
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