Henry Cecil, 1st Marquess of Exeter (14 March 1754 – 1 May 1804), known as Henry Cecil from 1754 to 1793 and as The Earl of Exeter from 1793 to 1801, was a British peer and Member of Parliament and inspiration for Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Lord of Burleigh. His private life was the subject much society chatter and reads like the plot of a Georgette Heyer novel. He has, undoubtedly been the inspiration for countless tales of romance and intrigue.
Exeter was the son of the Hon. Thomas Chambers Cecil, second son of Brownlow Cecil, 8th Earl of Exeter. Thomas Chambers Cecil led a profligate life, and although for a time an MP he was forced to live abroad in Brussels, where he married Charlotte Garnier, a lady of uncertain origin, said by some to be a Basque dancer. When Henry was born in 1754 he was the heir presumptive to his uncle Brownlow Cecil, 9th Earl of Exeter, and for this reason was sent when still a baby to Burghley House to be brought up. Continue reading Henry Cecil, 1st Marquess of Exeter
Elizabeth Elliot is as beautiful as ever, yet no gentleman of proper stature has requested her hand. Lady Russell claims she is too particular, but Elizabeth begs to differ. She is not about to settle for a gentleman of no distinction like her sister Mary. Nor will she follow her heart and marry a commoner with no title but Captain—that was Anne’s mistake. As for romance and the tender stirrings of the heart, why, only a simpleton would fall prey to such foolishness!
But when the proud Miss Elliot encounters a pair of smiling Irish eyes in a most unsuitable man of vulgar connections, she is tempted to change her opinion. Almost.
According to Elizabeth Elliot, a man must possess three qualities in order to be considered eligible: good breeding, good looks, and a good income. As her thirtieth birthday draws near, Elizabeth is beginning to wonder if a man can truly possess all three qualities. Surely two out of three isn’t bad…right? As for matters of the heart, one must be a simpleton, indeed, to believe there is a chance of falling in love with a man who bears all of these.
Beautiful as ever, Elizabeth Elliot is determined to end this Season with a secure future. But to whom does she set her cap? Her very rich, yet disreputable cousin, William Elliot, who will make her the next Lady Elliot? The foolish and portly Mr. Rushworth with his large fortune and extensive estate? She can’t possibly consider clerk Patrick Gill a suitable match, even with his captivating conversation, and ability to make Elizabeth smile while also properly humbling her, for he has no title or money. Well! Elizabeth’s options are dreadfully limited as Bath is teeming with more vulgar seaman like Admiral Patrick McGillvary than eligible bachelors. And Elizabeth refuses to make the same mistake her sisters have in marrying a plain gentleman, who will one day become a country squire, or a common sailor with no title besides Captain.
Similar to Admiral McGillvary, I enjoy the chase. For a man whose smile gets him nearly everything he wants, McGillvary accepts the beautiful Miss Elliot’s snub as a challenge. However, being a lowly sailor with a reputation might not get him the reception he desires with the oh-so-proper Miss Elliot. But never one to back down, McGillvary faces this challenge, though not in the way originally planned.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hile’s writing. Using Austen’s Persuasion as a backdrop, as well as bringing in the infamous Caroline Bingley, gave the story a sense of familiarity, yet with her original characters, writing style, and humor, Hile was able to keep me on my toes for what was to come next.
I am curious to see where Hile takes her readers in Book Two, So Lively A Chase. While Sir Walter is still a narcissist, his financial troubles are even more severe, the stress of which is causing him several health problems. With the help of his new doctor friend, Mr. Savoy, Sir Walter appears to be on the mend. Yet, something just isn’t sitting right with Mr. Savoy. What is he really up to? As for Elizabeth’s matrimonial prospects, will she keep her promise to one man, or end up the victim of her heart?
List Price: £10.00
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Wytherngate Press (6 Nov 2009)
From the Publisher:
Twelve-thousand a year and an extensive estate can gild a sow’s ear, or so Elizabeth Elliot has always supposed. But now that she’s fallen for the dashing Patrick Gill, Elizabeth is almost ready to give up Mr Rushworth’s fortune. Painfully aware of her bruised pride and vulnerable heart, Elizabeth can only despise herself for loving so common a man. But it has never occurred to her that darling Mr Gill guards a secret of his own–and that he might be responsible for her father’s disappearance. So Lively a Chase is book 2 of Laura Hile’s delightful series Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s story based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
As Sir Walter Elliot gets even deeper in financial trouble, his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, feels it is up to her to save him. After all, it was she who encouraged him to purchase items beyond their means. Yet, when Captain Wentworth refuses to settle her father’s debts, Elizabeth is left with few options. How can a gentlewoman raise that kind of money? Sell one’s jewelry? Possibly, but that will not cover the vast sums her father owes. Marriage, it seems, is the only answer, but to whom? With Sir Walter willing to sell his daughter in the marriage market, ensuring a settlement that will alleviate his financial burden, will Elizabeth have much say in the matter?
At every turn, Elizabeth Elliot finds herself surrounded by possible suitors. Her cousin, William Elliot, is in need of a woman who will be a credit to him, one who is both beautiful and accomplished. With twelve thousand a year, Mr. Rushworth looks even more enticing. But can either of these men touch her heart as deeply as Mr. Gill, a man with no title, connection, or money? Can Elizabeth afford to follow her heart while still managing to save her father?
I enjoy watching characters like Elizabeth change and develop as a story progresses. I am always amazed when an author can take one of Austen’s secondary characters, and an unpleasant one at that, and make me like and empathize with them. As Jennifer Becton did with Caroline Bingley, Laura Hile does with Elizabeth Elliot, who moves from being a vain, snobby, self-important lady into one who is kind. We see this as she befriends the lowly clerk Mr. Gill as well as Miss Winnie Owen, the neighbor’s cousin and housekeeper.
Whether it is Austen’s characters or her own, Hile’s characterizations are wonderful. They are so well developed, leaving me feeling empathy, dislike, disgust, annoyance, or disbelief with each of them. While some are dynamic, others remain static creating a great comparison, especially between the Elliot siblings.
At the end of So Lively A Chase, I was left with an array of emotions. It was a good thing I had the final book in the trilogy, The Lady Must Decide, in my possession, as I picked it up immediately! And that would be my advice to you: have book three on hand when you finish So Lively A Chase.
What is Elizabeth Elliot to do when she realizes Mr. Gill, the man who has stolen her heart, is none other than the revolting Admiral Patrick McGillvary? Elizabeth’s head is spinning with many questions: how does Admiral McGillvary really feel about her? What if he loses interest in her like other men have? Or worse, given his past, what if he cheats on Elizabeth? This cannot be happening. With his good looks, money, and heir to Kellynch and the Baronetcy, William Elliot seems the more reasonable match. Elizabeth would be crazy to pass up the opportunity to become the next Lady Elliot. After all, this has been her dream. Will Elizabeth choose the seemingly safe and secure path with her cousin or take a chance on getting her heart thoroughly shattered?
After breaking off one apparent engagement, and given her father’s precarious state, Elizabeth’s reputation is hanging on by a thread. Now, the gossips’ tongues are wagging with rumors of Elizabeth being Admiral McGillvary’s latest flirt. Elizabeth’s mind is left whirling with much confusion. Was this all a game? She is unsure whom to trust, and her only friend she can trust, just maybe the biggest player of them all. Elizabeth must finally discover her true self and what she really wants in life before she can make the biggest decision of her life.
It was enjoyable watching Elizabeth change throughout this series. While some of her characteristics stayed the same, like her ability to deliver a proper set-down, those that changed- how she views herself as well as others, was refreshing. Even though McGillvary knows the changed Elizabeth rather well, I wish Wentworth, Charles Musgrove, or her sisters could see this gentler side. Yet, they are too busy with their own lives and dealing with Sir Walter’s disappearance to take a step back and see events through Elizabeth’s eyes. Plus, they do not realize the disparity of Elizabeth’s situation. She is living on the charity of her relations, all of whom seem to be drawing straws for the “privilege” of having Elizabeth live with them.
I have said it before, I enjoy it when secondary characters are further developed. In Mercy’s Embrace, Elizabeth’s sister, Mary Musgrove is in high dudgeon. Between her self-pity, self-importance, and “ailments,” there is plenty of entertainment to be had at Mary’s expense.
Mercy’s Embrace is a delightful romp, and has left many readers begging for more from Miss Elliot and Admiral McGillvary. Personally, I hope Ms. Hile publishes Book 4 sooner than later, as I am dying to see what happens next!
List Price: £10.00
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Wytherngate Press (4 Jun 2010)
Jakki Leatherberry, former high-school language arts teacher and lover of all things Austen, lives in Georgia where she and her husband moved after graduating from a liberal arts college in Ohio. One of her greatest pleasures is reading and analyzing literature. When she is not chasing around her two children (soon to be three in February), Jakki can be found under a quilt, cup of coffee in hand, reading. She also submits her reviews to Goodreads, Amazon and her blog, Leatherbound Reviews.
On Leatherbound Reviews, in addition to reading reviews, readers can also watch vlogs, where Jakki reads an excerpt from the book reviewed, providing readers with a little teaser of what they may find inside the novel.
Your kind Letter my dearest Anne found me in bed, for in spite of my hopes & promises when I wrote to you I have since been very ill indeed. An attack of my sad complaint seized me within a few days afterwards – the most severe I ever had – & coming upon me after weeks of indisposition, it reduced me very low. I have kept my bed since 13. of April, with only removals to a Sopha. Now, I am getting well again, & indeed have been gradually tho’ slowly recovering my strength for the last three weeks. I can sit up in my bed & employ myself, as I am proving to you at this present moment, & really am equal to being out of bed, but that the posture is thought good for me. How to do justice to the kindness of all my family during this illness, is quite beyond me!…… I have so many alleviations & comforts to bless the Almighty for! – My head was always clear, & I had scarcely any pain; my cheif sufferings were from feverish nights, weakness and Languor…as our Alton Apothy did not pretend to be able to cope with it, better advice was called in. Our nearest very good, is at Winchester, where there is a Hospital & capital Surgeons, & one of them attended me, & his applications gradually removed the Evil.– The consequence is, that instead of going to Town to put myself into the hands of some Physician as I should otherwise have done, I am going to Winchester instead, for some weeks to see what Mr Lyford can do further towards re-establishing my in tolerable health In short, if I live to be an old Woman I must expect to wish I has died now, blessed in the tenderness of such a Family, & before I had survived either them or their affection, – You would have held the memory of your friend Jane too in tender regret I am sure. – But the Providence of God has restored me – & may I be more fit to appear before him when I am summoned, than I sh’d have been now! – Sick or Well, beleive me ever your attached friend. J. Austen
Jane Austen to Anne Sharp
May 22, 1817
It is known that Jane Austen spent her final weeks of life in the college town of Winchester, seeking the aid of a Doctor Giles Lyford. During her time there, she lived in a few rooms of a modest brick home, nearby the Cathedral where she would soon be buried, “A building that she admired so much.” Much of what we know about her final days has been gleaned from the few letters the survive from this time, including one to her dear friend Anne Sharp (previously quoted) and another to her young nephew, James Edward Austen (the same nephew who would later write her first biography)
I know no better way, my dearest Edward, of thanking you for your most affectionate concern for me during my illness than by telling you myself, as soon as possible, that I continue to get better. I will not boast of my handwriting; neither that nor my face have yet recovered their proper beauty, but in other respects I am gaining strength very fast. I am now out of bed from 9 in the morning to 10 at night: upon the sopha, ’tis true, but I eat my meals with aunt Cass in a rational way, and can employ myself, and walk from one room to another. Mr. Lyford says he will cure me, and if he fails, I shall draw up a memorial and lay it before the Dean and Chapter, and have no doubt of redress from that pious, learned, and disinterested body. Our lodgings are very comfortable. We have a neat little drawing-room with a bow window overlooking Dr. Gabell’s garden. Thanks to the kindness of your father and mother in sending me their carriage, my journey hither on Saturday was performed with very little fatigue, and had it been a fine day, I think I should have felt none; but it distressed me to see uncle Henry and Wm. Knight, who kindly attended us on horseback, riding in the rain almost all the way. We expect a visit from them to-morrow, and hope they will stay the night; and on Thursday, which is Confirmation and a holiday, we are to get Charles out to breakfast. We have had but one visit yet from him, poor fellow, as he is in sick-room, but he hopes to be out to-night. We see Mrs. Heathcote every day, and William is to call upon us soon. God bless you, my dear Edward. If ever you are ill, may you be as tenderly nursed as I have been. May the same blessed alleviations of anxious, sympathising friends be yours: and may you possess, as I dare say you will, the greatest blessing of all in the consciousness of not being unworthy of their love. I could not feel this.
Your very affecte Aunt,
(May 27, 1817)
The following excerpts are quoted from a small booklet, Jane Austen in Winchester, written by Frederick Bussby and published by the Friends of Winchester Cathedral in 1969.
Jane Austen in Winchester Her Grave
One of the vergers in Winchester Cathedral in the middle of the nineteenth century was very puzzled why so many people enquired for the grave of Jane Austen. Was there, he asked, “anything particular about the lady?” If we read the inscription on her tomb in the eighth bay of the north aisle of the nave we read much about her virtues and her good qualities, but we learn nothing about the creative genius which has made her known throughout the world, and which has held captive innumerable admirers. Today probably more people seek the tomb of Jane Austen in the Cathedral than that of any person associated with Winchester. Then, it was one monument among many which extolled the merits of the departed; today it is the goal of many a pilgrimage for lovers of English literature. The inscription on her grave reads as follows:
In Memory of
youngest daughter of the late
Revd GEORGE AUSTEN
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County
She departed this Life on the 18th of July 1817,
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian.
The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her and
the warmest love of her intimate connections.
Their grief is in proportion to their affection,
they know their loss to be irreparable,
but in their deepest affliction they are consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her
Jane Austen’s Final Days in Winchester
The question naturally arises, “Why is it that she has come to be so closely associated with Winchster, especially as she lived almost the whole of her life elsewhere?” Born in 1775, she grew up to enjoy ill health, like many of her contemporaries. Like them, she tried the benefits that might be derived from a visit to Bath. But in 1817, she resolved to put herself under the a Winchester doctor, Giles King Lyford, then surgeon in ordinary at the County Hospital , situated in Parchment Street in the centre of the city. She therefore left Chawton for the last time one wet Saturday at the end of May. Edward Knight placed his carriage at her disposal. Travelling with her in the carriage was her sister, Cassandra, and accompanying them on horseback was her brother Henry and her nephew William Knight. With the help of the Heathcote family she had fixed up to stay at Mrs David’s in College Street. The house, now belonging to Winchester College, is marked by an oval plaque in grey slate with white lettering, proved by the generosity of Mrs. Jack Read in 1956. The Inscription runs as follows:
Memorials to the David family used to be visible in the churchyard of the Cathedral opposite the east end of the Morely College, but these have now disappeared. The commemorated Matthew David, who died on August 13, 1833, aged 71; and Mary David, aged 85, who died on October 28, 1813. Was this Matthew David the husband of Jane’s new landlady? In her new home she had a “neat little drawing room with a bow window” Here Mr. Lyford attended her and here she spent most of the time on a sofa, only occasionally being able to move round her new home and only once being able to go out in a sedan chair. Her hopes of an excursion in a wheel chair were never fulfilled. But although she had great confidence in Mr. Lyford, she also consulted that “learned and pious body, the Dean and Chapter”, about a grave in the cathedral, a building which, as we know from her sister Cassandra, she greatly admired. The precise nature of this fatal illness has been the study of Sir Zachary Cope, who has studied the observations in Jane’s letters and concludes that she suffered from Addison’s disease. Those with medical interests can find the full details in the Journal of the British Medical Association for July 18, 1964.
We are also curious as to whether during Jane Austen’s final days in Winchester, was she still able to continue her writing. We know that she was deriving interest from money received from her previous novels. Thus from Hoare’s the Bankers on July 9 she received 15, interest on the “600 Navy per cents”. But she seems not to have written any more fiction. She did, however, very shortly before she died, write a poem to mark St Swithun’s Day, July 15, a day still observed in Winchester. She gave her poem the title Venta, the old name for Winchester and she composed it on July 15, the actual St Swithun’s Day, three days before she died.
Written in Winchester on Tuesday the 15th of July 1817
When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of St. Swithin
And that William of Wykham’s approval was faint.
The races however were fix’d and determined
The company met & the weather was charming
The Lords & the Ladies were sattin’d & ermin’d
And nobody saw any future alarming.
But when the old Saint was inform’d of these doings
He made but one spring from his shrine to the roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And thus he address’d them all standing aloof.
Oh subject rebellious, Oh Venta depraved!
When once we are buried you think we are dead
But behold me Immortal. — By vice you’re enslaved
You have sinn’d and must suffer. — Then further he said
These races & revels & dissolute measures
With which you’re debasing a neighbourly Plain
Let them stand — you shall meet with a curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.
Ye cannot but know my command in July.
Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers,
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers.
The events of the last two days of her life we can piece together from the letter and short biography left by Cassandra and Henry Austen. Says Henry: “She retained her faculties, her memory, her fancy, her temper, her affections, warm, clear and unimpaired, to the last. Neither her love of God, nor of her fellow creatures flagged for a moment. She made a point of receiving the sacrament before excessive bodily weakness might have rendered her perception unequal to her wished. She wrote whilst she could hold a pen, and with a pencil when a pen became too laborious. The day before her death she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour (Venta, already quoted). Her last voluntary speech conveyed thanks to her medical attendant; and to the final question asked of her, purporting to know her wants, she replied, “I want nothing but death.”
Cassandra’s account of Jane’s last hours corroborates the more reserved account of her brother. Writing only three days after Jane’s death, she is naturally emotionally involved in the events she describes. She tells of her gratitude that she could be with her sister to the last. She gives poignant details of how she nursed her. She tells of some of her last words, “God grant me patience, Pray for me, oh Pray for me.” She describes that long last night as her dying sister rested her head on the pillow in her lap. And so she breathed her last, and on her face a “sweet serene air”. With overflowing sisterly love she writes: “I have lost such a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed—she was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow.”
On the following Thursday, July 24, the funeral took place in the Cathedral. The service was taken by the Reverend Thomas Watkins, Precentor of the Cathedral and Chaplain of Winchester College, where he had probably come to know members of the Austen family. The service took place in the morning of that day before Morning Prayer.
Commenting on the occasion, Jane’s brother observed that “in the whole catalogue of the mighty dead (the Cathedral) does not contain the ashes of a brighter genius or sincerer Christian”. Looking back on her life, he adds that “one trait only remains to be touched on. It makes all others unimportant. She was thoroughly religious and devout; fearful of giving offence to God and incapable of feeling it towards any fellow creature. On serious subjects she was well-instructed, both by reading and meditation, and her opinions accorded strictly with those of our Established Church.”
The Cathedral Burial Register records her death [and burial as July 16, however] it will be noted that there is a discrepancy in the Register over the date of burial. The entry seems to have been made by two different hands. The name, abode and July are in one hand and the remaining details in a second hand. Perhaps the Clerk wrote the first three items and that the Precentor wrote the remainder, perhaps some weeks after the funeral when precise dates had slipped from his memory. But whatever the explanation, the discrepancy is certainly there.
It was not until many years later that a full-dress biography of Jane Austen appeared. It was written by the Rev. J. E. Austen-Leigh. One result was that from the profits of his book a memorial brass tablet was placed on the north wall of the nave, near her grave, in 1872. It was the work of the well-known architect Wyatt, who had been employed by Austen-Leigh because of his work in his own parish church of Bray. By this time, the “something special” about Jane Austen was well known and the mural table records this as follows:
known to many by her
writings, endeared to
her family by the
varied charms of her
Character and ennobled
by Christian faith
and piety, was born
at Steventon in the
County of Hands Dec.
xvi mdcclxxv, and buried
in this Cathedral
July xxiv mdcccxvii
“She openeth her
mouth in wisdom
and in her tongue is
the law of kindness.”
Prov xxxi. v. xxvi
Over the table is a memorial window bidding us, in Latin, to remember in the Lord, Jane Austen who died on July 18, 1817. It was erected in 1900 by public subscription and was designed by C.E. Kempe. It consists of two rows of three figures. In the head of the window is Saint Augustine whose name, in its abbreviated form, is Austin. The top central figure is David playing his harp.
The central figure in the bottom row is St. John holding a book displaying on an open page the first words of his Gospel, again in Latin. The other two figures in the window represent the sons of Korah mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20:19. Korah and his sons are traditionally associated with Psalms 42 to 49, Psalms 84, 85, 87 and 88. The figures carry scrolls on which are quotations form these psalms indicated the religious side of Jane’s character.
Additional details from Cassandra’s letters to her niece, Fanny Austen-Knight, serve to fill out the final details of Jane’s final days and hours.
Winchester, Sunday, July 20, 1817
My Dearest Fanny,
Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have lost. She did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment.
Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it to me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.
Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.
I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well — not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.
You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.
She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: “God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!” Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.
I hope I do not break your heart, my dearest Fanny, by these particulars; I mean to afford you gratification whilst I am relieving my own feelings. I could not write so to anybody else; indeed you are the only person I have written to at all, excepting your grandmamma — it was to her, not your Uncle Charles, I wrote on Friday.
Immediately after dinner on Thursday I went into the town to do an errand which your dear aunt was anxious about. I returned about a quarter before six and found her recovering from faintness and oppression; she got so well as to be able to give me a minute account of her seizure, and when the clock struck six she was talking quietly to me.
I cannot say how soon afterwards she was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o’clock at the latest. From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a-half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last.
I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.
This day, my dearest Fanny, you have had the melancholy intelligence, and I know you suffer severely, but I likewise know that you will apply to the fountain-head for consolation, and that our merciful God is never deaf to such prayers as you will offer.
The last sad ceremony is to take place on Thursday morning; her dear remains are to be deposited in the cathedral. It is a satisfaction to me to think that they are to lie in a building she admired so much; her precious soul, I presume to hope, reposes in a far superior mansion. May mine one day be re-united to it!
Your dear papa, your Uncle Henry, and Frank and Edwd. Austen, instead of his father, will attend. I hope they will none of them suffer lastingly from their pious exertions. The ceremony must be over before ten o’clock, as the cathedral service begins at that hour, so that we shall be at home early in the day, for there will be nothing to keep us here afterwards.
Your Uncle James came to us yesterday, and is gone home to-day. Uncle H. goes to Chawton to-morrow morning; he has given every necessary direction here, and I think his company there will do good. He returns to us again on Tuesday evening.
I did not think to have written a long letter when I began, but I have found the employment draw me on, and I hope I shall have been giving you more pleasure than pain. Remember me kindly to Mrs. J. Bridges (I am so glad she is with you now), and give my best love to Lizzie and all the others.
I am, my dearest Fanny,
Most affectionately yours,
CASS. ELIZ. AUSTEN.
Chawton: Tuesday, July 29, 1817
My Dearest Fanny,
I have just read your letter for the third time, and thank you most sincerely for every kind expression to myself, and still more warmly for your praises of her who I believe was better known to you than to any human being besides myself. Nothing of the sort could have been more gratifying to me than the manner in which you write of her, and if the dear angel is conscious of what passes here, and is not above all earthly feelings, she may perhaps receive pleasure in being so mourned. Had she been the survivor I can fancy her speaking of you in almost the same terms. There are certainly many points of strong resemblance in your characters; in your intimate acquaintance with each other, and your mutual strong affection, you were counterparts.
Thursday was not so dreadful a day to me as you imagined. There was so much necessary to be done that there was no time for additional misery. Everything was conducted with the greatest tranquillity, and but that I was determined I would see the last, and therefore was upon the listen, I should not have known when they left the house. I watched the little mournful procession the length of the street; and when it turned from my sight, and I had lost her for ever, even then I was not overpowered, nor so much agitated as I am now in writing of it. Never was human being more sincerely mourned by those who attended her remains than was this dear creature. May the sorrow with which she is parted with on earth be a prognostic of the joy with which she is hailed in heaven!
I continue very tolerably well — much better than any one could have supposed possible, because I certainly have had considerable fatigue of body as well as anguish of mind for months back; but I really am well, and I hope I am properly grateful to the Almighty for having been so supported. Your grandmamma, too, is much better than when I came home.
I did not think your dear papa appeared well, and I understand that he seemed much more comfortable after his return from Winchester than he had done before. I need not tell you that he was a great comfort to me; indeed, I can never say enough of the kindness I have received from him and from every other friend.
I get out of doors a good deal and am able to employ myself. Of course those employments suit me best which leave me most at leisure to think of her I have lost, and I do think of her in every variety of circumstance. In our happy hours of confidential intercourse, in the cheerful family party which she so ornamented, in her sick room, on her death-bed, and as (I hope) an inhabitant of heaven. Oh, if I may one day be re-united to her there! I know the time must come when my mind will be less engrossed by her idea, but I do not like to think of it. If I think of her less as on earth, God grant that I may never cease to reflect on her as inhabiting heaven, and never cease my humble endeavours (when it shall please God) to join her there.
In looking at a few of the precious papers which are now my property I have found some memorandums, amongst which she desires that one of her gold chains may be given to her god-daughter Louisa, and a lock of her hair be set for you. You can need no assurance, my dearest Fanny, that every request of your beloved aunt will be sacred with me. Be so good as to say whether you prefer a brooch or ring. God bless you, my dearest Fanny.
Believe me, most affectionately yours,
CASS. ELIZTH. AUSTEN.
Although Jane Austen likely never had a Christmas tree, you can hang a bit of Austen whimsey on your own tree this year with this easy to make ornament, recycled out of a discarded edition of Austen’s works.This is also a lovely favor for an Austen party (Jane’s Birthday is coming up on December 16th!)
Take one page of any of Austen’s works (or print text from her novels onto both sides of a sheet of paper) and cut it into eight strips about 3/4″ wide.
Set two strips aside and cut 1/2″ from two more strips. Cut 1″ from two more and 1 1/2″ from the last two.
Stack your strips in two piles, with the longest strip on the bottom, and so on until the shortest strip is on top.
Place the two piles “face to face” with the short strips facing each other, and staple the bottom of the strips together.
Gently guide the top ends of the strips together until they are even (the paper will bulge slightly to the sides)
Separate your piles again and this time pinch them together with the tallest strips touching (creating a heart shape)
Staple the strips together again, inside the heart.
Form a loop of ribbon and place it in the center, where the strips meet.
Staple the strips together again, a bit higher this time (to create a true heart shape), making sure to catch the ribbon in the staple, for hanging.
Fluff the pages a bit and add a bow to the front.
You can buy Christmas ornament kits at our janeaustengiftshop.co.uk, click here.
Finally, North American viewers have the chance to see the long awaited 2009 BBC production of Emma, three months after its release in the UK. A click on imdb will find no less than 15 different versions of this popular Austen work. Yet another one? It just naturally leads one to question, why? After seeing this first episode, let me give it a shot: just because it’s so much fun to do.
That’s how I felt as I watched the PBS broadcast on Masterpiece
Classic. This newest adaptation of Emma is probably the best I’ve seen, and Romola Garai easily the best-cast Emma so far. Yes, I’m comparing her with Gwyneth Paltrow (1996) and Kate Beckinsdale (1996, TV). She may well be one of the best-cast Austen heroines for their roles in my opinion, let’s just say, neck and neck with Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennet.
What a difference from her guilt-ridden Briony in the movie Atonement. Well, Garai’s Emma is guilt-ridden too as the errant, over-confident matchmaker, but her genuine heart and willingness to own up to her misjudgment have made her personality shine through.
In creating Emma, Austen had said that “I’m going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.” Seems like this adaptation does a great service pulling us over to Austen’s side. Garai’s Emma reflects the probable reasons why the author found her character likable: vivacious, charmingly clueless, and above all, her readiness to admit faults, her genuine heart towards herself and others. Garai’s animated performance is most apt in a comedic genre such as this. In this first episode, the irony and humor have come through.
The impressive cinematography matches perfectly the personality and atmosphere of the novel, brisk, agile, fun, and, as Mr. Knightly narrates in the beginning, golden. That is just the kind of colour scheme for a clever comedy, the exact reflection of its main character. As a comedy, a little exaggeration in the colours is acceptable and quite effective I think. Overall, the visuals are captivating, beautiful shots of the English country landscape, the well situated mansions and their interior renderings. I’ve particularly appreciated the few overhead shots, and some of the contrasting darker scenes in the beginning.
And yes, the beginning is where a film can captivate right away. I enjoyed screenwriter Sandy Welch’s treatment of the plot, drawing out three characters, Emma, Frank Churchill, and Jane Fairfax, who had all lost their mother as a young child, and focusing on how markedly different their lives have turned out.
For the casting of Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightly, however, I had a little reservation, in the first episode anyway. The sparks between Emma and him look more like sibling bickering than the undercurrents of subliminal lovers’ quarrels, which Austen so brilliantly depicts. The 16 years of age difference is almost unobservable here, although in real life they are ten years apart. Despite this, I enjoyed Jonny Lee Miller’s portrayal of the conflicting Mr. Knightly, at times detached, at times involved, and at times, exasperated.
Michael Gambon is excellent as the fastidious Mr. Woodhouse. The legendary actor has delivered a convincing performance as an endearing but taxing hypochondriac. As for Harriet Smith and Jane Fairfax, I’m afraid my preference is the 1996 TV production’s casting of Samantha Morton and Olivia Williams in these roles.
This first episode struck me as a lively, contemporary rendition. While screenwriter Sandy Welch chose to use more modern language in her dialogues, I don’t think she needed to stray too far from the original to achieve this. As I’m re-reading Emma for these screenings, I find the book very accessible for modern readers, the characters are those whom we can relate to, their motives and emotions very similar to what we are familiar with. Austen’s skills in observation and her intelligence in depicting human nature and her characters’ inner world are simply impressive, considering she was writing almost a hundred years before Freud and the birth of modern psychology.
‘An authentic human being’ is how the host of Masterpiece Classic Laura Linney describes Emma. Jane Austen’s characters have no supernatural powers, she notes. But herein lies the magic of her writing. She takes the ordinary and draws out the unnoticed features. From these everyday characters like you and me, she skillfully displays the intricacies woven in their interactions, and reveals the undercurrents of hidden intentions and desires. It is in the revealing of the subtext that makes her story so captivating even for us modern day readers.
Episode 2 continued with this interesting story as we see Emma confused by her own feelings towards Frank Churchill, Harriet’s shifting admiration for the same, Frank Churchill’s seemingly open admiration for Emma, Mr. Knightly’s growing sentiments for the same, and, Jane Fairfax’s hidden anguish, ignored by the subject of her desire. It seems that everyone’s feelings are mixed up with everyone else’s. The comedy of errors gathers momentum.
In this segment, cinematography continues to be a major contributor to the storytelling. I particularly appreciated the several Vermeer moments, like the one with Emma gazing out the window deep in thought, or the camera silently capturing her playing the pianoforte, immersed in diffused light. I’ve also enjoyed how the visual reveals inner thoughts. Mr. Knightly’s longing is projected by the flashback of his dancing with Emma, shifting to the single swan in the pond, warm music enfolding… a beautiful cinematic moment where the visual and music communicate effectively without words.
Mrs. Elton is animatedly played by Christina Cole. In terms of comedic and obnoxious effects, she is of her husband’s equal, a good match indeed. While Rupert Evans is proficient in portraying a sly Frank Churchill, he does not look like the one I have in mind. But that is not important. My main concern is with the role of Jane Fairfax. This second episode confirmed my misgiving from the beginning. I feel there is a miscast here. I miss her elegance, poise and subtleties as described by the author. She is supposed to be Emma’s worthy rival after all.
The dance at The Crown Inn is a delight to watch. That is also the occasion showing everybody’s true colours. Here, Mr. Knightly proves himself to be one considerate gentleman as he invites Harriet to dance after she is slighted by Mr. Elton. Also, we’re beginning to see Mr. Knightly more and more in love, while the object of his desire remains relatively clueless, albeit a sense of appreciation has arisen in her confused heart. The dances are fun to watch too, much more lively and convivial than t
You can purchase Emma at our Jane Austen Giftshop.
A Wordle. It sounds like something from Dr. Seuss– and yet, these word clouds, originally used as a way to gauge the content of a site or database, can be remarkably attractive and even addicting to create!
Now, thanks to Jonathan Feinberg’s site Wordle.net, anyone can create their own wordle using text, or even a web address. You choose your fonts, colors, orientation (horizontal or vertical….or both!), then sit back and let the fun begin. I’ll give you one truth, univerally acknowleged… once you start, you won’t be able to stop!
Simply paste in your text and let the editor do the rest. Once the text has been cataloged, you can edit away to your heart’s content.
The 1995 (Sony/BBC/WGBH) version of Persuasion, ironically the first in the long line of “new” Austen adaptations, has been called “The film most like sitting down with an Austen novel.” High praise indeed.
With it’s timeless story and autumnal feel this film is beautiful and comfortingly familiar while at the same time fresh and surprising. Persuasion remains a first not only time-wise, but is also the first Austen film to benefit from foreign sponsorship (other than the United States) with it’s Sony distributor (based in Japan) as well as being the first WGBH/Masterpiece Theater film created for cinema distribution. 1995 was a big year for costume drama and Persuasion held it’s own against the myriad of BAFTA (British equivalent to the American Oscar) award nominees- even beating rival Pride and Prejudice for best costume design! Other entrants that year (in all categories) included Sense and Sensibility, Braveheart, Rob Roy, The Madness of King George, Cold Comfort Farm, and Apollo 13. Truly a stellar slate and difficult decisions all round.
The combination of Nick Dear’s heartwrenching screenplay, Roger Mitchell’s innovative camera work and Jeremy Sams award winning score create a beautiful, not to be forgotten montage of “everyday” life in Regency England. Also contributing to the overall effect was a phenomenal cast comprised of film and theater veterans including Corin Redgrave (brother of Lynn and Vanessa) as Sir Walter Elliot, John Woodvine (Sir Hew Dalrymple, Horatio Hornblower: The Duchess and the Devil) as Admiral Croft, Phoebe Nicholls (Empress of Lilliput, Gulliver’s Travels)- a properly proud and spiteful Elizabeth Elliot, Sophie Thompson (Miss Bates, Emma2) as the often hysterical hypochondriac sister Mary Musgrove, Judy Cornwall (Daisy, Keeping Up Appearances) as the well meaning Mrs. Musgrove,Victoria Hamilton (Pride and Prejudice2, Mansfield Park2), making another Austen appearance, as the flighty Henrietta Musgrove and Samuel West (Major Edrington, Horatio Hornblower: Frogs and Lobsters) as the ever-so-slightly menacing (or smarmy, if you prefer) Mr. William Walter Elliot. Simon Russell Beale (Hamlet, An Ideal Husband) also makes an appearance as the genial, if rather clueless, Charles Musgrove.
Secondary characters aside, it is the main protagonists that make this film shine- Amanda Root (Anne Elliot) and Ciaran Hinds (Captain Wentworth.) Root’s performance is simply lovely, filled with both inner strength and the sadness of a woman approaching the 19th century equivalent of spinsterhood as an unmarried 27-year-old. Amazingly, she herself actually appears to grow more beautiful as the film goes on and her confidence grows. Interestingly, the viewer is allowed to watch her change almost from the perspective of Capt. Wentworth.
Actress Amanda Root explains her character:“What I think is hard in any film adaptation of a book is that you might have a whole chapter written about your character’s feelings, and then you get a couple of scenes on the film in which you don’t say anything. And yet somehow you have to get across how she’s feeling. That’s the hardest thing. To strike a balance between sharing too much or sharing too little, but actually getting the message across. You might notice that Anne Elliot doesn’t say as much as the other people in the first half of the film, and that’s right. It’s right that she doesn’t say a lot, because that’s the kind of woman she is. Anne’s had to deal with an awful lot of pain because she lost the man of her dreams. She also left him not through her own will but because she was persuaded that that was the right thing to do. That’s part of the tragedy in a sense, that she has coped with it. She’s somebody who accepts her life as it is, and fully prepared to settle down to spinsterhood, and die an old maid. She doesn’t expect Frederick Wentworth to come back, and if he didn’t she would have a relatively happy life, but he does comes back, and she has to readjust. She is now a much more mature woman, and I think she would not make the same choices again, although she has to respect the choice she made when she was younger.”
Captain Wentworth also makes a transformation over the course of the film. A reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “The lease of [Anne’s] father’s estates to a navy man… brings Wentworth back into her life. Now the man she turned away is mature, worldly and rich. But she has so repressed her spirits by becoming plain and kindly that he doesn’t even recognize the woman who only a few years before made his heart leap. And besides, he is distracted by other women now, Anne’s fawning sisters [in-law.]The plot thickens deliciously around a seaside incident in which one of Wentworth’s giddy admirers has an accident. Almost at once, Anne emerges as the inevitable woman Wentworth loves, but there are complications. A young man has shown a strangely impatient interest in her. The captain stammers, stutters and may be too late. This film is… a big one for Hinds (Mr. Rochester, Jane Eyre, 1997) because he goes big with that stormy, darkly handsome look that makes hearts throb. His performance is a wonderful mix of dash and awkwardness — viewers are likely to feel he’s so vulnerable and such a prize, they just want to point him in the right direction. It’s a big part of the film’s ruffled charm.”
Hinds also comments on his character’s turmoil, “I see Captain Wentworth as a man who couldn’t get it together. He is talked about a lot but doesn’t come into the story for quite a while. He has led a tough life at sea and in society he behaves very formally with women. At first he is very cool with Anne Elliot–the woman who rejected him–but in his heart there’s something very different going on. Obviously she’s older, her glow of youth has gone, but seeing her again, his feelings start to come back. What’s extraordinary about him is that in front of this one woman he is socially inept. He is stumbling and nervous. Yet in his professional life, he is personally responsible for hundreds of men.”
By the close of the film, things have worked themselves out the inevitable conclusion, and yet, it is so touching- and so unsettled up until the very end- that you can’t help coming away satisfied and longing for more. Filmed on location in Bath and Lyme the movie brings Austen’s last completed novel to vivid life, avoiding the pitfalls of so many other adaptations- cutting too much, adding new scenes or making life just a bit too pretty and idyllic. The biggest complaint this film can boast is that of not giving Mr. William Elliot his full measure of nastiness.
“The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.” Thus begins the story of two sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood with an emphasis on family, sense of place and society. Forced into reduced circumstances by the sudden death of their father, the Dashwood sisters and their mother move from their home in Sussex to Barton Cottage in Devonshire. Before leaving Sussex, an attachment has been formed between Elinor, the eldest, and Edward Ferrars, her sister-in-law’s brother. In Devonshire, the youngest sister Marianne meets and falls in love with the handsome Willoughby. Both relationships encounter problems: Edward Ferrars has been engaged for years to Lucy Steele whom he feels bound to marry out of a sense of duty, and Willoughby mysteriously disappears. Upon learning of Willoughby’s checkered past and his recent marriage to an heiress, Marianne becomes gravely ill. Things work out in the end: Edward, released from his engagement is free to marry Elinor, and Marianne recovered from her illness, realizes the error of her infatuation and eventually marries the much older Colonel Brandon.
Just as easily as I sketched the story line of Sense and Sensibility, critics from the start have been quick to reduce the theme of the novel to a polar opposition: head versus heart. In its contemporary and original review The British Critic wrote: “The object of the work is to represent the effects on the conduct of life, of discreet, quiet good sense on one hand, and an over-refined and excessive susceptibility on the other. ” I hope to show that things are not so simple. The two words of the title are not there by chance: they represent a literary tradition which Jane Austen was very much aware of. In the seventeenth century, philosophers had become preoccupied with the problem of whether man is a wholly self-centered and self-seeking being. Thomas Hobbes believed man was naturally bad. His pessimistic view of human nature held that if man was self-seeking and depraved, enlightened despotism was needed to curb men’s passions. Contrarily, Anthony Ashley Cooper Shaftesbury and his followers held that man was naturally good, possessed an innate moral sense, and that consequently it was society which was at fault (an idea which lead to Rousseau and the French Revolution.) In the realm of literature such ideas would lead to Romanticism and its attendant emphasis on sensibility and imagination as well as its valuing of human impulses expressed freely. In light of this, we could say that today’s society believes Shaftesbury rather than Hobbes.
But what of Jane Austen and her society? In Jane Austen and the War of Ideas, Professor Butler argues that by the end of the seventeenth century (i.e.: Jane Austen’s formative years) both world views were battling it out and were in favor alternatively. Shaftesbury’s ideas gave rise to the Sentimentalists (1760’s -1770’s) a group of writers identified as individualistic, libertarian and anti-social. Their novels were seen by many as dangerous because they were vehicles for moral relativism. Samuel Johnson and the conservative critics regarded them with great suspicion because, as Marilyn Butler points out, the sentimental tendency “is indeed to work against the exercise of the ethical sense, and actively to enlist the reader, by half conscious and almost subliminal means, in the party of unlimited toleration.”
A glimpse at William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft will help us get a sense of the war of ideas being waged about the time Jane Austen began to write. Professor Butler characterizes Godwin, political essayist and novelist, in the following terms: “Instead of the sentimentalist’s benevolent intuition or fellow-feeling, he believes in the conscious, willed understanding as the essentially human thing, the guarantee of man’s dignity and his sole hope for improvement. He minimizes those aspects of man’s nature which limit the freedom of his mind, such as the pleasures of the senses, tastes and ‘involuntary affections’, which include emotional attachments to family and friends.” As for Mary Wollstonecraft, she writes, in A Vindication of the Rights of Man: “Sensibility is the mania of the day, and compassion the virtue which is to cover a multitude of vices, whilst justice is left to mourn in sullen silence, and balance truth in vain…”
In such a philosophical and literary climate, how does Jane Austen give shape to her characters? Does she truly view reason as being more important than feeling in female affairs? Yes– but not cold Cartesian reason but rather understanding, observation, reflection and poise. The importance of reason in the novel seems to be borne out by the obvious fact that Elinor, the sensible one, is the privileged focus and that the narrative voice, though seemingly objective, is on her side. This is apparent immediately beginning with chapter 1:
“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 counselor 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.”What seems significant in this description of the sisters and mother is the accumulation of words such as understanding, judgment, govern, sensible, moderation, prudent, struggle, exert, strive and forbearance: words seeking to express the degree of effort these women are willing or unwilling to put forth to control the feelings they all have (including Elinor). As a quintessential romantic, of course Marianne deems such efforts as un-natural. Why deny one’s good and true nature simply to please or fit into society? Such are the values in conflict in this “didactic” novel: self versus society. Elinor (and Jane Austen) are on the side of society and politeness. This is what Elinor, who is only nineteen, desires for her sister when she deplores: “Her systems have all the unfortunate tendency of setting propriety at nought; and a better acquaintance with the world is what I look forward to as her greatest possible advantage.” (Chapter 11). Upon learning of the pleasant outing Marianne had visiting Mrs. Smith’s house, Elinor repeats her lesson: “…the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.” (Chapter 13). Oddly, Elinor will consent to lie when politeness requires it. (Chapter 21).Besides civility it is understanding, the power of observation and goodness which are valued when Elinor admires Edward with a bit of Marianne-like enthusiasm: “…he has an innate propriety and simplicity of taste, which in general direct him perfectly right […] The excellence of his understanding and his principles can be concealed only by that shyness which too often keeps him silent […] 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.” (Chapter 4). She also esteems Colonel Brandon because he is “a sensible man, well-bred, well-informed, of gentle address, and I believe possessing an amiable heart.” (Chapter 10). Her intelligence and method guarantee that she will first think and then hope.
Reflecting upon the probability of Marianne and Willoughby being engaged secretly, Elinor does not jump to conclusions: “…and Elinor was then at liberty to think over the representation of her mother, to acknowledge the probability of many, and hope for the justice of all.” (Chapter 15). Her self-control and concern for others also allow her to be the comforter of others in their distress. Most importantly for her, reflection leads to happiness: “She who had seen her week after week so constantly suffering, oppressed by anguish of heart which she had neither courage to speak of nor fortitude to conceal, now saw with a joy which no other could equally share an apparent composure of mind, which, in being the result as she trusted of serious reflection, must eventually lead her to contentment and cheerfulness.” (Vol. 3, Chapter 10). The young woman who seemed so much older than her age can indeed feel joy. She is not cold or devoid of feelings. She betrays warmth when she speaks of Edward: “I do not attempt to deny,’said she,’that I think very highly of him –that I greatly esteem, that I like him.” And when Marianne bursts with indignation at her expression of lukewarm feelings, Elinor responds: “…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.” (Chapter 4).
Here and throughout the novel we witness a softening of the opposition between sense and sensibility, as Ian Watt has remarked. Elinor has feelings and emotions but they are kept in check. Upon meeting Edward at Barton: “His coldness and reserve mortified her severely; she was vexed and half angry; but resolving to regulate her behaviour to him by the past rather than the present, she avoided every appearance of resentment or displeasure and treated him as she thought he ought to be treated from the family connection.” (Chapter 16). Elinor is aware of the temptation to self-righteousness. To follow reason does not mean she will impose her “correct”” view on others: “I will not raise any objections against anyone’s conduct on so illiberal a foundation as a difference in judgment from myself for a deviation from what I may think right and consistent.” (Chapter 15). Elinor can even feel momentary regrets at not being more like her sister: “…and Elinor, in spite of every occasional doubt of Willoughby’s constancy, could not witness the rapture of delightful expectations which filled the whole soul and beamed in the eyes of Marianne without feeling how blank was her own prospect, how cheerless her own state of mind in the comparison, and how gladly she would engage in the solicitude of Marianne’s situation to have the same animating object in view, the same possibility of hope.” (Vol. 2, Chapter 4).
The reader has access to Elinor’s consciousness and knows of her constant struggle to remain the voice of reason in the household. After reading Willoughby’s and Marianne’s correspondence “she was silently grieving over the imprudence which had hazarded such unsolicited proofs of tenderness, not warranted by anything preceding, and most severely condemned by the event…” (Vol. 2, Chapter 7). Her efforts at sparing her family all are finally revealed when she declares to Marianne: “You do not suppose that I have ever felt much. For four months, Marianne, I have had all this hanging on my mind without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature, knowing that it would make you and my mother most unhappy whenever it were explained to you, yet unable to prepare you for it in the least […] If you can think me capable of ever feeling, surely you may suppose that I have suffered now.” (Vol. 3, Chapter 1).
It is, however, without doubt, in the scene where she hears Willoughby’s confession that the sensible Elinor allows herself to listen to her heart: “Willoughby, he whom only half an hour ago she had abhorred as the most worthless of men, Willoughby, in spite of all his faults, excited a degree of commiseration for the sufferings produced by them, which made her think of him as now separated forever from her family with a tenderness, a regret, rather in proportion, as she soon acknowledged within herself, to his wishes than to his merits. She felt that his influence over her mind was heightened by circumstances which ought not in reason to have weight: by that person of uncommon attraction, that open, affectionate, and lively manner which it was no merit to possess; and by that still ardent love for Marianne, which it was not even innocent to indulge. But she felt that it was so, long, long before she could feel his influence less.” (Vol. 3, Chapter 9). Such a scene contributes in no small part to increasing the reader’s sympathy for Elinor who is, at times, in danger of appearing too insensitive and even boring to us readers who have read the Brontes and other assorted Romantics.
I have focused on Elinor, showing how she displays both sense and feelings, but there are also a few passages describing Marianne as “sensible and clever” as quoted above in chapter 1. Reason and sense are good things, it seems, but they do not preclude feelings as long as those feelings are examined prudently, kept in check, and not allowed to cloud the judgment of a person or to shock or offend society. Both Elinor and Marianne have a bit of both: sense and sensibility. The fact that Marianne elicits our sympathy in spite of her seeming foolishness would tend to show that Jane Austen valued both sense and sensibility, the latter perhaps in spite of herself. I will end with the wonderful scene at the end of the novel where we see Elinor overwhelmed by feelings as she discovers that Lucy and Robert Ferrars are newly married and that Edward is free: “Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.” Her joy is intense, yes, but as a young lady always aware of decorum, she remembers not to run and to shut the door. (Vol. 3, Chapter 12).
Françoise Coulont-Henderson teaches French language and literature in a small liberal arts university in the US. She has discovered Jane Austen late in life.