Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

By: Jane Austen
Published by: T. Egerton
Publication Date: 1811

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Description

By the time Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811, Jane, her unmarried older sister Cassandra, from whom she had always been inseparable, and their widowed mother, found themselves, much like the Dashwood ladies in our story, bereaved of husband and father, deprived of income, impoverished, and removed to a country cottage—entirely dependent on their own thrift and the goodwill of kindly relations. Unlike the Austen sisters, whose romances were behind them, Elinor and Marianne’s are about to begin. In her title Jane has cleverly juxtaposed the dispositions, and thereby the strengths and weaknesses, of our heroines. She presents them to us with the following insight,

“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 counsellor 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.”

Sensibility is a word the meaning of which is largely lost to us today, but if we had nothing left to define the word except for Marianne Dashwood herself, we would have enough. Her sensibility: her susceptibility to impression whether painful or pleasurable, her acuteness of feeling, the keenness of her every emotion, leaves her at the mercy of her untethered heart. Elinor’s sense: her sound perception, her careful reasoning, her correct moral judgement, permeates her every decision. She never acts without first having willed. It is the contrast between these two natures that allows us to see them in such sharp relief and thereby so clearly. These sisters are not, however, the opposites they first appear to be; it is in how Elinor, caring for the hearts of others with tender yet tempered sensibility, nonetheless discovering her own heart to have eloped despite her head, and in how Marianne learns that one may love with abandon only if the love is sensibly entrusted, that we find the heart of this thoroughly enchanting story.

— Written by Johanna Bittle

Reprints

Sense and Sensibility Reprint

Sense and Sensibility
Reprinted in 2015 by The Folio Society
Reprint illustrated by Philip Bannister
Reprint foreword by Elena Ferrante
Available formats: Hardcover
View on the The Folio Society site


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