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Sense and Sensibility: The Bicentenary Edition

“I am never too busy to think of S. and S. I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child. . .”
Jane Austen to Cassandra, 1811

When Girlebooks decided to publish a bicentenary edition of Sense and Sensibility, they were faced with the dilemma of how to make it “different”. Sure there were fewer ebook copies on the market than hardbound, but even a cursory search on offers over 2,000 Sense and Sensibility listings. How could they stand out in such a crowd?

Enter the combined creative talents of Margaret C. Sullivan and Cassandra Chouinard. Sullivan, no novice to the historical world of Jane Austen (she is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook) first collaborated with Chouinard when writing There Must be Murder, a sequel to Austen’s Northanger Abbey, set in Regency Bath. Laura McDonald, founder of Girlebooks, had recently prepared There Must be Murder for ebook publication and knew that Ms. Sullivan’s meticulous research abilities and smart, fun style were a “matchless match” with Ms Chouinard’s lively illustrations—a perfect pairing for a beloved classic.

And so, as Sense and Sensibility turned 200 years old, a fresh look was taken at the book. For the first time in years, new illustrations for an unabridged copy of the book were created. Characters come alive—not in a dated, Victorian tinted way, but with faces and expressions which display both sense and sensibility—along with charm, alarm and a variety of other emotions drawn from a book that seems at times to be “nothing but a succession of busy nothings.” Certainly most of the major activity happens off page, and yet, there is nothing boring or monotonous here. Ms. Chouinard has provided 23 large illustrations…and, in a nod to Hugh Thomson, a charmingly illustrated chapter header for each of the 50 chapters! These darling headers give a glimpse of “what’s to come” to even the most rapid reader, flying by the scenery in order to discover Willoughby’s secret and Marianne’s fate.

While Cassandra was busy sketching and drawing, Ms. Sullivan was hard at work, researching the allusions which would have been readily apparent to Jane Austen’s contemporary readers, but have been lost in the following centuries. Her plan was to read it with an eye towards the first time reader—not creating a scholarly treatise, so much as answering the questions that arise when considering Colonel Brandon’s supposed “nabobs, gold mohrs, and palanquins”, for instance. (Incidentally, I discovered that these are a: an Englishman who became rich by doing business in the Indies, b: an Indian coin, and c: a litter carried by four attendants and covered with a shade).

Sullivan’s insights also help reveal the depth of coquettish conniving betrayed by the Steele sisters in choosing to join the “Doctor” in a post-chaise all the way to London, for “it seems that the party was made up of just Anne, Lucy and the Doctor, and as a post-chaise seats only three, it would have been a very cozy party indeed.”

 “Not in the stage, I assure you,” replied Miss Steele, with quick exultation; “we came post all the way, and had a very smart beau to attend us. Dr. Davies was coming to town, and so we thought we’d join him in a post-chaise; and he behaved very genteelly…everybody laughs at me so about the Doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure I have made a conquest…”

Although it has been many years since I first read Sense and Sensibility, I confess that I learned more, and understand it more now, than I ever have before. It is one thing to view someone else’s impressions of the book on film, but reading the book again, this time with clever chapter notes (97 in all) which answer so many of my questions before I can even begin to ask them, I finally feel like I begin to understand the world that Jane Austen was writing in. Certainly, the book is far deeper and more complex—and better told—than any film adaptation to date.

Along with providing ample notes on the text, Ms. Sullivan has added to “the improvement of [our] mind by extensive reading.” Included in this edition are a biography of Jane Austen and inclusive bibliographies on subjects as diverse as “Biography and Criticism”, “Authors Having Fun with Jane” and “Fiction inspired by Sense and Sensibility”. There is also a complete list of Sense and Sensibility films—surely enough extended reading to satisfy even my enthusiasm for the subject!

Sense and Sensibility, the Bicentenary Edition: Illustrated and Annotated is available in paperback, as well as Kindle/Mobipocket PRC, Adobe Reader PDF, Microsoft Reader LIT and Epub editions from both Amazon and Girlebooks. Check out your favorite medium, today! All versions arrive with beautiful formatting and charming illustrations, making them instant favorites—easy to read and lovely to behold.

  • List Price: £9.57 Paperback/£1.91  Kindle
  • Paperback: 398 pages
  • Publisher: LibriFiles Publishing (December 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615568084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615568089



Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Her book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, is available from the Jane Austen Centre Giftshop. Visit Austentation for a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.

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“What Would Elinor Do?” Bracelet Tutorial

“The bracelets are in my possession, and everything I could wish them to be…”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
December 9, 1808

Elinor Dashwood, the heroine of Sense and Sensibility, is Jane Austen’s model heroine; and yet she’s not a prig or annoying about it. She is scrupulously ethical, refusing to share Lucy Steele’s secret about her engagement, though it is painful to her to not be able to confide in her mother and sister, and the secret was only shared in the first place to hurt Elinor. Elinor is also dismayed when Anne Steele shares information she overheard by listening at a closed door, though the information is useful. When the news of Lucy’s secret engagement gets out (not through Elinor’s fault, but Anne Steele’s), Edward Ferrars shows he has earned Elinor’s trust and esteem by behaving exactly as she would have: staying true to his word, though she knows he now wishes he had not given it, and that no one would blame him for backing out. Elinor is the type of person everyone wants for a friend. She will listen to your problems, give you excellent advice, and never tell another soul if that is your desire; and she has a great sense of humor and will amuse you with her set-downs of the annoying people around you!

What Would Elinor Do? In almost any situation, it is probably the right thing. Give yourself a useful self-check for any question or problem by making this fun bracelet.

If you are experienced with beading and making jewelry, this tutorial will probably not teach you anything new (indeed, you might be able to teach the author a few things); but feel free to take it as an inspiration!

Supplies Needed
The main thing you need for this bracelet is the alphabet beads. We used 6mm round plastic beads, which are available in large packages of assorted letters at most craft stores. These beads are available in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and materials; some online bead stores have sterling silver and pewter varieties, if you want to make a really high-end piece.

You can use whatever other beads you like. We played around with our bead stash, trying different sizes and shapes and colors, and decided on a set of blue-green 6mm glass beads, silver barrel-shaped spacing beads, and 6/0 silver glass seed beads, along with the alphabet beads. Craft stores have large varieties of beads in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and online stores have infinite varieties of beautiful beads.

A crimping tool and a wire nipper are also handy. You might be able to purchase an inexpensive combined tool that has chain nose pliers (which can be used to crimp the beads) and a wire cutter. Check your local craft store–they have tools at all price ranges. All materials for this bracelet were purchased at Michael’s. (Check the website for coupons and sales, and you can save a little money purchasing your supplies. Michael’s also has a free smartphone app that has coupons and sale listings.)

Here is our supply list, which makes a 7-inch bracelet. You can add or subtract beads for a bigger or smaller bracelet.

  • 4 6mm round alphabet beads (W, W, E, D)
  • 12 6mm round glass beads in blue/green shades
  • 10 barrel-shaped silver spacer beads
  • 7 silver 6/0 glass seed beads
  • silvertone lobster claw clasp
  • 6mm silvertone split ring
  • 2 #1 silvertone crimp beads
  • bead stringing wire
  • Crimping tool and wire nippers (or a combination tool; see instructions)
  • optional: beading board

I find it helpful to lay out my beads on a beading board, as the little trenches keep the beads from rolling around. Also, you can play with different bead combinations until you find one you like, and then string the beads. These boards can be purchased at most craft stores that carry beading supplies.

However, a beading board is not necessary; a clean, light-colored terry cloth towel laid on your work surface will also keep the beads from rolling around and provide a good working surface against which the beads can easily be seen.

Once you get the beads arranged how you want for your bracelet, you’re ready to start stringing the beads.

Cut a 10-inch piece of wire.

String the wire through one of the crimping beads, through the split ring, and then back through the crimping bead.

Tighten the bead down against the split ring, leaving a little space for the ring to move around (otherwise, you may have a hard time putting on the bracelet).

Crimp, or flatten, the bead using the flat edge of a crimping tool or the flat edges of chain-nose pliers.

That will keep the ends of the wire together. Do not cut off the end of the wire!

Start stringing the beads as you have them laid out. Remember to string the first few beads over the folded end of the wire as well.

When you get to the alphabet beads, make sure the beads are strung in the proper order and in the right direction, or you might have a Hooked On Phonics Worked For Me moment! If they are strung properly, they can roll over on the wire and will still be in the right direction.

When you are finished stringing all the beads, string on the second crimp bead and the lobster claw clasp, and loop the wire back through the crimp bead.

Pull on the end of the wire to tighten the bead and clasp against the strung beads. Like with the split ring, leave a little room for the clasp to move around.

Crimp the bead as before, using the chain-nose pliers or crimping tool.

String the end of the wire back through several beads and trim the wire close to the end of the last bead through which the wire was strung. Be careful to not cut the main bracelet wire.

You’re done! Enjoy your new bracelet, and remember: What Would Elinor Do?



Along with annotating the Jane Austen Bicentenary Library Edition of Sense and Sensibility, Margaret C. Sullivan is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook and There Must Be Murder, a sequel novella to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. She also is the author of “Heard of You,” a short story inspired by Persuasion, in Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress. Maggie is the Editrix of and the Jane Austen resource site She is slightly in awe of Elinor Dashwood, and trying hard not to be such a Marianne.

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Trim your own Regency Bonnet

A Regency Bonnet

So many styles of Regency Bonnet to choose from! 

Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats… Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza’s, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this. . .
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Queen’s Square, Bath
June 2, 1799

If you had to choose only one fashion accessory with which to represent the entire Regency period, no doubt it would be the Bonnet. Large and small, close and wide, they came in an array of sizes and styles, each season bringing newideas and new requirements of what it was to be “Fashionable”. Fashion magazines of the day seemed never to tire of describing this brim and that cockade, and the colors! Where Puce was once reigned supreme, Jonquil now led the way. Or so they would tell you.

While wealthy socialites might spend their afternoons seriously pondering the style and purchase of a new bonnet, less fortunate young ladies might employ themselves with equal diligence to trimming and retrimming an older bonnet to meet the new style standards. For these young ladies, books like The Ladies’ self instructor in millinery and mantua making, embroidery and appliqué, canvas-work, knitting, netting, and crochet-work, by R. L. Shep, would be invaluable. Careful perusing of its pages, along with those of La Belle Assemblée would offer all they would need to know to be found in the most current mode, even when “buried” in the country.

One such period book advises, “it is well to avoid the two extremes [of fashion] into which some people are apt to fall. The one is an entire disregard to the prevailing taste, and the other is a servile submission to its tyrannic sway. A medium course is the only sensible one, and, in this, good sense will dictate how far to go, and where to stop.”

As you can see from the following fashion plate and historic gown and bonnet, simple decorations were often the most tasteful and appropriate. The addition of simple trim (make your own or use grosgrain ribbon or bias tape) and lace along with a few ribbons can turn a plain bonnet into a lovely summer chapeau.

Of course, simplicity and moderation did not always rule the Regency, as a look at a few more period fashion plates and examples of the period Regency bonnet will show you! Both of these following fashion plates are from Costumes Parisiens, 1812.












These historic bonnets are from the Old Sturbridge Village Collection:

Styles of Regency Bonnet

The Elinor:

To trim the crown with fabric, use a long strip of fabric, an inch taller than your crown. Fold one long, raw edge under, and baste in place around the crown. Fold over the short edge to make a finished seam up the back and baste in place over the matching raw edge. Fold the remaining long edge over and run a gathering stitch along this line to pull the edges together. Tack in place. You might also wish to add a small square of matching fabric under the hole created by the gathered fabric, or sew a rosette over this spot. Pleating the fabric before basting it on gives a rounder look, which is lovely in sheer cottons.

To create the ruffled ribbon trim seen on the cream and green bonnet, run two lines of gathering stitches down the center of a length of wide ribbon. Pull the threads to create a long gathered line. Tack in place and add an extra row of trim over the gathering stitches to hide them. In general, 3-4 yards of ribbon, a bunch of flowers and berries or fruit, and a few feathers will turn a plain bonnet into a thing of beauty.

Bonnets by Laura Boyle of Austentation: Regency Accessories

The Eliza (A Poke Bonnet)
Trimming the Eliza is nothing but a joy. A few yards of ribbon wound around the crown creates a lovely period look. Take it a step farther by cutting an 18 inch circle from your favorite fabric. Run a gathering stitch around this and pull it tight to fit the crown of the bonnet. Tack in place. Wrap a length of ribbon around the crown to cover the raw edge and finish it off with ribbon bows and ties. 3-4 yards of ribbon will give you plenty with which to work.

Bonnets by Serena Dyer, author of Bergère, Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth-Century Headwear

The Cottage Bonnet

The Cottage bonnet is another adorable style of Regency bonnet. Trim it with simple ribbons and feathers or rosettes and ties.