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Time flies by in Sense and Sensibility

There is a curious lacuna in Jane Austen studies one would have thought had been filled long ago. No-one has as yet drawn out and explained the chronology of Sense and Sensibility. From Austen’s other five novels scholars have educed detailed calendars most of her readers have accepted as really in Austen’s novels because these have explained hitherto puzzling elements in her novels. Only Sense and Sensibility has been left out.1 There has been one brief attempt to draw out the chronology of Sense and Sensibility, Patricia Craddock’s “The Almanac of Sense and Sensibility.”2 Craddock did not carry her project through consistently or thoroughly. Throughout most of her essay she remains undecided between wide-ranging pairs of years (1794- 95, 1797-98, 1800-1, and 1805-6). When, at the end of her piece, she suddenly dates the Easter of the novel as 31 March, as this date enables her to suggest the calendar of Sense and Sensibility as we now have it was based on a 1792-93 almanac, she ignores the fact that the dates we have for the Juvenilia are precisely these and that the Juvenilia are the work of a much younger mind.3She also does not cite Austen’s sister, Cassandra’s memorandum, in which, if Cassandra is somewhat vague about the date of an earlier version of the book, she nonetheless most decisively said: “I am sure something of the same story & characters had been written earlier & called Elinor and Marianne,” and that the Sense and Sensibility we have is a text “begun Nov. 1797.”4 More importantly–for the whole

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