My Year with Jane Austen: “Pride and Prejudice” [1995]

mv5bmdm0mjflogytntg2zc00mmrkltg5otqtm2u5zjuyytgxzthixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntayodkwoq4040._v1_sy1000_sx706_al_Movie: “Pride and Prejudice”

Release Year: 1995

Actors: Elizabeth Bennett – Jennifer Ehle

Mr. Darcy – Colin Firth

Jane Bennett – Susannah Harker

Mr. Bingley – Crispin Bonham-Carter

Comparison – “Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.”

I am definitely in the camp of fans who believe that this version of “Pride and Prejudice” is the definitive, will-never-be-topped, adaptation of this book. Pretty  much everything is perfect, as far as I’m concerned. The casting in particular is so spot-on that I find it impossible to read the book now without picturing these people as the characters. There are stand-outs, of course, but I don’t have a single quibble with any of the choices. If I had to pick, I might say that I thought Matthew Goode’s Wickham in “Death Comes to Pemberley” might be a smidge better. But that’s only if I was forced to pick, as I have no complaints with Adrian Lukis’ take.

The fact that is a six part mini series allows this version to include not only all the big moments in the book (and many of the little ones to boot), but even add in some smaller, quieter moments that just help to flesh out characters even further. We see hints at Lizzy’s active, independent nature with scenes of her frolicking through the fields (of course making sure she’s not watched; she is a proper lady after all!) Bingley and Darcy have moments as friends, riding horses and viewing Netherfield; and in the end we get to actually see the scene where Darcy apologizes for meddling in his love affair with Jane. The camera drifts through the Bennett household through out the show, giving us small glimpses in the day-to-day ways each member of the household spends their time when not caught up in grand balls and the like. For the romance angle, we get lovely scenes like a recently bathed Darcy being entranced by Elizabeth as she play with a dog during her stay at Netherfield. And, of course, the lake scene, an added element that pretty much turned into the defining moment of this adaptation (so much so that it was listed All of these moments and more just add to the joy that is this story.

The one area in which is lacks, however, is the ending. A proposal while on a walk serves its purpose well enough on the page. But in a movie/mini series, the movement and inability for the actors to look directly at each other as they speak hurts the romance of the moment. And, for all of its length, much of the last few chapters of the book are cut out leaving us without some of the nicer moments of Darcy and Elizabeth while engaged and interacting with various family members. It’s really too bad as the inclusion of these post-proposal scenes was something that really stood out to me in this re-read as a strength of the book. Instead, this movie jumps almost directly from the proposal to the marriage (other than a nice scene between Jane and Lizzy, which, to be fair, if you’re only going to include only one, this was the right choice by far!).

I also love the light, bright score that makes up much of the music for this version. It fits so perfectly with the overall mood  as well as feeling

Heroines – “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

Jennifer Ehle is a treasure. Even more so than Firth’s Darcy, hers is the character that most perfectly fits how I imagined the book character and who now always serves as my mind’s image when I re-read the story. She perfectly balances the wit and vivacity of Elizabeth while never losing touch with the propriety of the times for which Elizabeth was also credited. She has a great ability to, I don’t quite know how to say it, but keep her face active? There’s a lot of sitting and talking in this story, but her face is always telling a story of its own, even if she’s not speaking and it adds to the sense of Elizabeth’s lively and playful nature. Even when she doesn’t laugh out loud (that would be improper!), it’s easy to see that she’s laughing on the inside. Her eyes even do sparkle, for heaven’s sake! I also liked that they really emphasized her independent nature by not only having her out walking about on her own (often used to indicate the passage of a season), but by setting several scenes around walks and being in out of doors settings.

Ehle also has great chemistry with Susannah Harker who plays Jane. The moments between the sisters at night in their bedroom are just the sort of scenes that ground this story in a realistic place that one still recognizes today: sisters sprawled out in their rooms talking about the hot gossip. Of course, they look much more refined while doing it than any of us do, I’m sure. Harker’s Jane is also pitch perfect. She is quiet, calm, and willing to go to great lengths to look for the good in people. But, like Bingley (who I’ll discuss next), Harker gives Jane enough earnestness and sense as to not come across as silly and foolish.

Heroes – “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Of course, I love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. He manages perfectly to be both highly unlikable in the first half of the movie, and then, practically on a dime, turn to being highly likable and heroic. He’s handsome the entire time, which doesn’t hurt. But the movie definitely doesn’t shy away from showing Darcy at his worst in the beginning. He’s rude in public and in private, snobby and insulting of those around him, and, worst of all, playing along with Caroline’s own disdain.

I will, say, however, that the one misstep in this willingness to show Darcy at his worst was the letter he wrote Elizabeth. In the book, there’s a long section in which he details not only his problems with Elizabeth’s family, but also goes on at length about how he was convinced Jane didn’t return Bingley’s affection. There’s a brief line or two about this in the letter in this movie, but there isn’t nearly the amount of explanation around this that we have in the book. There, while still pretty harsh, it is easy to understand that Darcy could really have been lead astray here and, like Elizabeth, begin to forgive him for even that. But in the movie, it’s left feeling still pretty bad on his part. Luckily the Wickham stuff comes next and that’s the part that sticks with you, but it still leaves Darcy kind a worse light than I think he was in in the book.

I do like how they added scenes showing Darcy’s search for Wickham. Not only did it give him more action, but we got to see his heroics in action and it was clearly more than just a rich guy paying someone off to fix it. He’s out there on the streets tracking Wickham down.

I really like Crispin Bonham-Carter’s Mr. Bingley, too. He’s sweet, charming, but, unlike some adaptations, not a buffoon. His romance with Jane is adorable, but his relationship with his sisters and Darcy also makes sense. I particularly enjoy one scene when they’re back at Netherfield and he keeps trying to get a word in only to be interrupted by Caroline. It’s funny and also just adds to the “love to hate” quality for Caroline. I also really enjoy having the scene where Darcy apologizes to Bingley included. It’s also another good moment for Bingley in that we see him angry at Darcy but, just as quickly, go back to wishing for his friend’s approval. But, again, Bonham-Carter manages to play this quick switch with a sense of sincerity and earnestness that doesn’t leave Bingley looking foolish.

Villains – “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” 

As I said above, Adrian Lukis would be my only tough call if I had to pick a character whose been done better elsewhere. But even then, I think it is context dependent. The Wickham in “Death Comes to Pemberley” has a very different story than the Wickham we see here. Most notably, he’s already a known villain, so much so that he’s suspected of murder. Here, however, Wickham must not only be an unknown, but immediately likeable enough to fool our beloved Elizabeth. And in this, Lukis excels. He is charming, easy-going, and completely believable as just an average, good kind of guy. And to contrast that, he’s also equally smarmy at the end of the movie when he attempts to continue ingratiating himself to Lizzy after his “elopement” with Lydia. It’s uncomfortable to watch and just excellent.

Catherine de Bourgh is also particularly good. She sneers with the best of them, and I love the image of her literally chasing Elizabeth through the yard shaking her cane at her as she tries to get her to promise not to marry Darcy. There’s a particular facial expression, a narrowing of the eyes at Elizabeth, that the actress does during the first meeting at Rosings Park that my mom says is a look that I give. To this day I can’t decide whether to be insulted or pleased.

I also enjoy Anna Chancellor’s Miss Bingley quite a lot. She entirely hateable in the most fun way. One particular moment that comes to mind is when she confronts Darcy early in the movie asking what he’s thinking about. He says fine eyes and Chancellor does a very distinct flick of her own eyes at just the right point in her line to make it clear that Caroline is expecting herself to be the answer. It’s great.

Romance – “A lady’s imagination is very rapid: it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

There are quite a few added moments that help build the romance. Of course, the lake scene where its implied that Darcy is so tormented by his love for Elizabeth that he literally has to cool down by diving into the nearest body of water. But there are several other goods ones too. I already mentioned the early moment when he spots Elizabeth playing with a dog outside (notably, another opportunity for the movie to show a drenched Colin Firth as the scene involves Darcy bathing). There’s also another great moment where we see Darcy in London practicing dueling. At the end of a bout, he exclaims to himself “I shall beat this, I shall.” What woman doesn’t  want a man to be so besotted with her that he tries to drive it out of himself physically?

And, of course, the coup de gras: the look of pure adoration that he gives Elizabeth while she plays piano during her visit to Pemberley. My mom, sister and I once put together a list of romantic moments from movies that when put together would make the perfect romantic hero. This look from Darcy to Elizabeth was always top of the list. Firth practically trademarked it, and it’s immediately recognizable when he pulls it out again in “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” a modern retelling of “Pride and Prejudice” where he once again plays Darcy. We’ll get to that movie in a few weeks!

Like I said above, the movie does cut out many scenes from the end of the book as well as one of the visits Darcy and Bingley make before Bingley and Jane’s engagement. The visit makes sense, but I do wish they had included a few more moments of Elizabeth and Darcy happy together. Mostly, we just get a kind of somber wedding scene at the end, before it closes with a few joyful minutes of the happy couples riding off into the sunset. Notably, I think this is the only time in the entire movie that we see Colin Firth smile with teeth.

Comedy – “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

Lydia really shines in this adaptation. In the book, she’s mentioned often enough as ridiculous, but we don’t really get to see her in action other than small snippets of dialogue here and there. But here, she really comes to life: all of the giggling, the running about, the forwardness. By the time she runs off with Wickham, it feels more like it was only a matter of time than a shock. There were a lot of great moments, probably best all around for comedy in general was the ball at Netherfield where we really feel how much of a challenge the elder miss Bennetts have at finding good husbands when surrounded by so much foolishness. But for Lydia in particular I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of her and Kitty coming to meet Elizabeth on her return trip from Rosings Park and Lydia saying how jolly a party they’ll make on the carriage ride home. The scene then immediately switches to the next day and we hear Lydia and Kitty squabbling as the carriage pulls away.

Mr. Collins is also excellent in all of his smarminess. The actor portrays him as hunched over in a false sense of humility and often has him out of breath when accompanying the ladies on walks. The book makes a brief reference to the fact that he doesn’t know all the steps to the dances at the Netherfield Ball, but here we actually get to witness it as he bumbles head first into another lady when dancing with poor Elizabeth.

And, of course, Mrs. Bennett is great, particularly with the actor’s portrayal of when Mrs. Bennett is taken to her room with nerves while Lydia is missing. She’s over-the-top, emotional, and irrational. Throughout the entire movie, this representation of Mrs. Bennett does nothing to excuse her ridiculous behavior as a worried mother figure going to extremes. And, given that so many of her lines are directly from the book, I feel that it’s a pretty honest take on what Austen had in mind.

Fun facts – “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

Jennifer Ehle wanted the part so badly that she dyed her eyebrows a darker color and didn’t wash her hair the day before casting as she was worried that her naturally blonde color would be a mark against her.

Ehle was perhaps right to be concerned about hair color as Colin Firth was almost passed over for being “too ginger.” Andrew Davies, the showrunner, had to be talked into giving Firth a chance with hair dye as an option.

Joanna David (Mrs. Gardiner) and Emilia Fox (Georgianna Darcy) are  mother and daughter. David was cast first and when they were looking for a Georgianna (they went through 70 or so actresses) David’s daughter, Emilia was mentioned.

Susannah Harker, Jane, was pregnant while filming but the flowing outfits worked well enough for her to conceal it. She is also the daughter of Polly Adams who played Jane in the 1967 version of “Pride and Prejudice.”

Best Movie Gif/Meme: “I dearly love a laugh.”

This has been a favorite of mine for quite awhile:

In two weeks, I’ll review the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice.” 

My Year with Jane Austen: “Pride and Prejudice” Part II

1886._sy475_Book: “Pride and Prejudice”

Publication Year: 1813

Book Description: The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen’s radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England.

Part II – Chapters 35 – 61

Story – “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

While out walking the morning after the disastrous proposal, Elizabeth runs into Mr. Darcy once again who quickly passes off a letter to her and leaves. She reads it and discovers some shocking news. First, while she was correct about Darcy separating Jane and Mr. Bingley, she gets a better insight into his evaluation of her family’s behavior. He points to instances where all of her family, her father, mother, and three younger sisters behaved badly in public. He excludes Jane and Elizabeth, noting that they have always been perfectly proper and charming. Elizabeth is angry, but also recognizes the truth in what he says. He also points out Jane’s calm demeanor as misleading him into thinking she didn’t care much for Mr. Bingley. Again, Elizabeth is angry, but then reflects back on what Charlotte had advised months ago about Jane’s needing to show more of what she feels and concedes that perhaps for those who don’t know her, Jane might be hard to interpret.

But then the more shocking tale comes out, that of Darcy’s history with Wickham. While the first half of Wickham’s story is true, Darcy alludes to poor behavior in Wickham’s lifestyle almost from the moment of his reaching adulthood. And once Darcy’s father passed away, Wickham asked for money instead of the living. This was given and Wickham went his own way. But then when the living became vacant, he returned, presumably much in debt, and demanded the living be given to him anyways. This was refused. Later, Wickham went on to pursue Georgiana, only sixteen at the time, when she was staying with a governess and convinced her to elope with him. It was only Darcy’s surprise visit and Geogiana’s love for her brother that prevented her from not sharing the truth that prevented the elopement from happening. Darcy suspected that while Georgiana’s fortune was part of Wickham’s goal, revenge on Darcy was also part of it. He also writes that Colonel Fitzwilliam is also Georgiana’s care taker and thus knows all of these details if Elizabeth is so suspecting of him as to need to double check the truth.

Elizabeth is horrified, not only be the truth of these claims which she quickly realizes can’t be lies (it’s close to Wickham’s story, no brother would make up a story like that about his sister, and, of course, he’d not suggest she check with Fitzwilliam if it were untrue) but by her own lack of solid information to justify her prior opinions. Thinking back, she realizes that Wickham’s behavior has always been odd, sharing this information with her in the first place, having only known her for a day. And his avoidance of Darcy at the ball and the fact that once Darcy was gone from the neighborhood, suddenly the story was everywhere, even though Wickham had first claimed he’d never share it, for his supposed love of Darcy’s father. Elizabeth is miserable and is secretly relieved when she returns to the Collins’ and learns she’s missed Darcy’s leave-taking of the neighborhood.

Elizabeth heads back home. On the way, she stops in London to meet up with Jane and travel the rest of the way back with her. Jane is still obviously upset about Bingley, but Elizabeth distracts her with news of Darcy’s proposal and Wickham’s true history. Jane desperately tried to create a situation where they’re both good people, but Elizabeth claims that she now believes all goodness to be only Darcy’s. Back home, the hear that the regiment is scheduled to leave their town. Elizabeth is relieved. However, Lydia is soon asked to be the special companion of the wife of the colonel of the regiment and accompany them. Elizabeth warns her father about the evils of Lydia continuing to run about as a wild flirt, that it hurts not only Lydia’s own future respectability but she also harms her sisters by proxy. Mr. Bennett essentially pats Elizabeth on the head and says that peace will only be had at home if Lydia is allowed go. And so she does.

Elizabeth’s travels continue as she joins her Uncle and Aunt Gardner on a tour of the countryside. They eventually come into the neighborhood of Pemberley and the Gardner’s express an interest in seeing it. After learning Darcy is not at home, Elizabeth agrees. However, while they’re their, Darcy unexpectedly returns catching Elizabeth by surprise. Much awkwardness ensues, but Darcy is quick to put on the most social and friendly face that Elizabeth has ever seen from him. He is kind to her aunt and uncle and expresses a wish to introduce his sister to Elizabeth while she’s in the neighborhood. He’s so intent on this goal that he brings his sister to visit the very next day, the same day she arrives home. With her comes Mr. Bingley who fishes around for information about Jane.

The next day Elizabeth and her aunt call on Georgiana while at home. While there, Caroline needles Elizabeth about the militia leaving her town, clearing hinting about Wickham, much to Georgiana’s dismay. Later, once the guests have gone, Caroline once again begins negatively evaluating Elizabeth. She finally goads Darcy into speaking only to hear him proclaim that he thinks Elizabeth is one of the most handsome women he knows.

The next day still Elizabeth finally hears from Jane. She writes of terrible news, that Lydia has eloped to London. Worse, they’re not sure the marriage has taken place and she begs for Elizabeth and co. to return. Darcy comes upon Elizabeth right after she finishes the letter and she confesses all of it to him. He comforts her, but leaves fairly quickly; she imagines this is the last she’ll see of him given this new shame on her family.

Once home, Mr. Gardner quickly goes to London to meet up with Mr. Bennett who is already there. Eventually, however, Mr. Bennett has to return after not accomplishing much. Soon enough, though, they hear news from Mr. Gardner that Wickham and Lydia have been found, they are to married, and there will be some money leftover after it all. Mr. Bennett sees this for what it is: Wickham has been paid off handsomely to persuade him to marry Lydia, likely by Mr. Gardner himself. Mrs. Bennett insists they invite the new Wickhams to visit and they do. While there, Mr. Wickham once again starts up conversations with Elizabeth about his wrongs at the hands of Mr. Darcy. She hints enough about knowing the truth that he quickly shuts up.

While visiting, Lydia lets it slip that Mr. Darcy was at their wedding. Elizabeth quickly writes to her Aunt Gardener to get to the truth of the matter. Her aunt writes back saying Darcy did everything: located Wickham and Lydia, arranged all matters, and paid off Wickham to marry Lydia. Darcy claimed responsibility for Wickham’s bad reputation not being known and thus Lydia falling into his clutches. Her aunt also hints that they were OK with him taking such a lead because he obviously has an interest in the family…if Elizabeth knows what she means.

Shortly after Wickham and Lydia leave, Mr. Bingley unexpectedly comes back to the area, bring Mr. Darcy with him. On their visit, Mr. Bingley clearly remains interested in Jane, but Darcy in stand-off-ish. Soon enough, Mr. Bingley finally proposes to Jane. Everyone is overjoyed, but Elizabeth is worried to hear Darcy has gone back to town before she is able to thank him for what he did for her family. Not long later, Lady Catherine makes a sudden appearance. She demands a private audience with Elizabeth and proceeds to inform her that she’s heard that Elizabeth is soon to be engaged to Mr. Darcy; Lady Catherine is not pleased. The two argue, with Lady Catherine insisting that Elizabeth promise never to do such a thing and Elizabeth adamantly refusing to agree to such a ridiculous request. Lady Catherine leaves, unsatisfied.

Soon after, Mr. Darcy returns. On a walk with Elizabeth, while Jane and Bingley  wander behind them, Elizabeth finally manages to thank him for his help with Lydia. He protests and says he did it for her and again asks her to marry him. This time she agrees.

The book concludes with some shorter scenes describing Elizabeth breaking the news to her mother, writing a joyous letter to her aunt, and sharing her happiness with her sister. After the wedding, we learn that she forms a good friendship with Georgiana, and that after a year living close to the Bennett family, Jane and Bingley break down and move close to Pemberley themselves. All is well, and Mrs. Bennett ends with not one, not two, but three daughters married (though no one really wants to talk about the one…)

Heroines – “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

Oh, Elizabeth, our beloved Austen heroine. Many people point to her as the most approachable heroine for modern readers due to her wit and independence. Alongside her, Emma is often also named, another witty, independent lady. But do you know what else both of these favorites have in common? Both of their stories revolve largely around their own personal growth. Each starts out feeling very comfortable with themselves, but over the course of the story, they both realize they have some pretty big flaws that have misled them and hurt people. And then they go on to do the personal work to improve themselves. What’s more, this personal work is directly responsible for bringing about their own happy endings. Elizabeth wouldn’t have ended up with Darcy if she didn’t acknowledge her own role in their previous bad relationship. Emma wouldn’t have ended up with Mr. Knightley if she didn’t realize that she shouldn’t play games with other people. This is what I think truly makes these two heroines people’s favorites. There’s nothing more sympathetic to a reader than a character who reflects ourselves, flaws and all. One who highlights that these flaws can be overcome, past wrongs can be made right (or at least avoided in the future), and maybe this effort will be rewarded with some hot, rich dude falling in love with you! Cuz it’s still a wish-fulfillment book, let’s be real.

For me, personally, the other big appeal of Elizabeth is her smart conversation. Particularly her come-backs to the attacks from Lady Catherine. I’m definitely one of those people who spends too much time in the shower thinking up all the smart responses I should have said in the midst of some argument. I’ve pretty much given up hope of every having the perfect response come off my tongue at the right time. But Elizabeth, she’s a master. Lady Catherine says something rude. Boom! Elizabeth has the perfect zinger in reply. One after another. It’s all very cathartic.

Poor Jane, on the other hand. First she’s in London having to endure the harsh realization that Caroline Bingley is kind of a b. Then she ends up being home without Elizabeth, her other source of sanity, when all of the Lydia nonsense first goes down. And even in the end, with her happy ending in hand, there’s a line about how the Wickhams would often over stay their welcome with the Bingleys. Ah well, there’s the price of too much niceness! It’s all well and good, but Elizabeth had several wise points about there being a line between reason and foolish goodwill. At least they eventually moved away from Netherfield and at least go some semblance of distance from the more immediate Bennett drama.

Heroes – “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

In many ways, the reader experiences a similar sense of surprise and shock as Elizabeth does by Mr. Darcy’s about face at Pemberley. What’s more, we have even more insights into his changed behavior as we see his interactions with Caroline Bingley later. But what makes these changes feel real, and not just a facade put on to please a woman who has called him out (like perhaps the relationship between Fanny and Henry Crawford in “Mansfield Park”) are all the smaller moments they are paired with.

Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle rightly recognize the weight of the praise that comes from the housekeeper. And Mr. Bingley’s good opinion begins to reassert itself as an important testament to Darcy’s long-standing goodness, even if it was shrouded in pride before. We also see enough evidence of Darcy remaining the same in many ways, if better behaved overall. Elizabeth notes that Mr. Bingley likely got something like permission/a blessing from Darcy before pursuing Jane again. Darcy is still removed and distant in large groups. And, of course, the secrecy and rather forceful (if still good) insistence on doing everything himself with regards to Wickham.

Whenever I re-read this book, I always find myself falling into a similar camp as Elizabeth does early on with regards to Mr. Bingley: any man who can be talked out of his love for a woman based on his friends’ criticisms of her is not worth having. But then we get the letter that highlights, in particular, the fact that Bingley was convinced by others that Jane didn’t actually care for him. And then as the book continues, and as we come across Mr. Bingley again at Pemberley, all the smaller character moments for him begin to settle in again and it becomes easy to understand and forgive. From very early moments in the book, we see how, while confident in general, Mr. Bingley does look to Darcy as a source of sound judgement. We also see a lot of reminders of Bingley’s humble nature (of the extreme sort, similar to Jane) that would make him even more prone to not trusting his own opinion with regards to Jane’s feelings for him.

Villains – “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” 

Wickham is by far the most famous of Austen’s villains, and for good reason. While Willoughby was potentially worse (unlike Wickham who probably did intend to marry Georgiana for her fortune and his revenge on Darcy, Willoughby seduces Brandon’s ward for nothing and then ends up abandoning her to her ruin),  we see a lot more of Wickham in this book, both before and after his character is known. But like Elizabeth, it is easy to be taken in by him at first. There are a few clues sprinkled here and there that reveal his true character, but they are of the sort that only become glaring after Darcy’s history is provided and Elizabeth reflects back.

But the letter itself is condemning in all of the worst ways. It’s impossible not to feel for Elizabeth as months-worth of preconceptions come crashing down around her, revealing unflattering aspects of her own self she hadn’t been aware of. But what is even worse is the sheer sense of sliminess that exudes from even the mention of Wickham from there on out. Lydia, on first meeting back up with Elizabeth, crows about how Wickham is freed from having to marry the unpleasantly-freckled Miss King. But Elizabeth sees this for what it was: yet another botched, mercenary attempt by Wickham to pursue a vulnerable young woman.

And, of course, his coup de gras, the elopement with Lydia. But in this re-read, what really stood out was Wickham’s behavior when he and Lydia return to the Bennett household. First off, the sheer ballsiness of returning at all! This is a family whose daughter he recently whisked away and who knows he had planned to simply abandon at a moments notice had he not been paid off! There has to be something off in the head of a person who could walk back through that door, apparently without any shame or remorse. And then, to go a step further, and start up a conversation with Elizabeth again about his past. If it ever needed to be made more clear that Wickham never truly respected or cared for Elizabeth, this conversation confirms it. If he had had any true respect for her, she would have been the one to avoid the most, let alone start up a conversation about lies that he must have suspected she already had begun to question. Even without that, any respect for her or understanding of her character would have a made it clear to him that she would not forgive and forget, even if the more silly members of the rest of her family would. This all makes it clear that his friendship with her was based on nothing more than his enjoyment in basking in her attention and growing esteem without sharing any similar respect for her.

The other villain pales in comparison to Wickham, but I have to think Lady Catherine belongs in this category. That her efforts had no effect on one party and actually encouraged the other is beside the point; her intentions were clearly villainous. Though I will say that this is one of the instances of having a “villain” who you love to hate. I’m pretty sure one of my high school friends, Hallie, loved this book almost purely for this last scene between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine.

Romance – “A lady’s imagination is very rapid: it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

I think it’s fairly undisputed that the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth is one of literature’s greatest love stories. Of course, many lovers of romance stories enjoy the “enemies to lovers” tropes and this is one of the early examples of it. And it still holds up as one of the best examples of it, in my opinion. Mostly because Austen wasn’t lazy about it. Both of these “enemies” had to reconcile within themselves their own failings that lead them to being enemies in the first place. And from there, we see each have to make concrete steps to self-betterment and have the grace to accept what the other is offering. Darcy makes a concentrated effort to be welcoming to the Gardners (two people he had previously scoffed at, if only in theory). And Elizabeth makes her own efforts to re-start their relationship, being open to the revised histories that she’s now hearing of him (from the housekeeper and from Georgiana). All of this leg work that is done in the middle of their romance is the part that is all too often left out of modern “enemies to lovers” stories. There, we often see two characters “hate” each other (usually for no real reason), then realize how super hot the other one is, make out for a bit, and then suddenly be in TRU LUV 4EVER. The middle section is completely skipped over. They literally go directly from enemies to lovers. It’s not only unbelievable, but nowhere near as compelling as the very human changes we see Darcy and Elizabeth go through. Not to mention, we all love that scene where Darcy shuts down Caroline with the line about Elizabeth being one of the most handsome women in his acquaintance.

All of this presents a stark departure from the romances we saw in “Sense and Sensibility.” Like the first half of the book, we have brief moments where we see our heroes experiences (the Caroline/Darcy moment that I mentioned just a bit ago). And we also see the lead up to, the actual engagement itself, and even several scenes after the fact. This is a lot more payoff than we saw between either Elinor/Edward or Marianne/Brandon.

Comedy – “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

There’s really not a whole lot of comedy in this second half. The serious nature regarding Wickham’s past and the even more serious real time events with regards to him and Lydia overwhelm many of the comedic characters. Mrs. Bennett is still ridiculous, but beneath that is a mother who is truly worried about a lost daughter. And her nerves, in the past a largely harmless quirk, become an active burden upon a family who has more than enough on their plate without having to devote extra care to a needlessly bedridden woman. It is also harder to laugh at her nonsense when that nonsense includes the complete 180 back to adoring both Lydia and Wickham, with her fawning over the two of them during their visit, all past harms forgotten. And for her part, Lydia is so obnoxious that it’s hard to not feel viscerally uncomfortable whenever she or Wickham are on page.

Mr. Collins, too, is mostly represented in this half by the truly awful letter he writes to the Bennetts while Lydia is lost, saying that it would be better for her to be dead than their current situation. Sure, there are elements of the comedic here, but again, it’s overwhelmed by the terrible things he’s saying to those who are his family. Also, one can only imagine that he also joined in with Lady Catherine’s toxic assessment of Elizabeth’s failings as a potential Mrs. Darcy.

Favorite quotes – “What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.”

There a bunch of popular quotes from this book, but I want to focus on a few that aren’t always seen on mugs and the like. Not that I don’t love those, too.

“Angry people are not always wise.”

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Very true, very insightful, and should in fact be on a mug.

“If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth’s change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty. But if otherwise – if regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even before two words have been exchanged, noting can be said in her defense, except that she had given somewhat of a trial to the latter method in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill success might, perhaps, authorize her to see the other less interesting mode of attachment.”

This is a very thoughtful little paragraph towards the end of the book. And it’s especially interesting after having just read “Sense and Sensibility.” Between that entire book’s theme and this paragraph, I think we can definitively say that Austen was skeptical to the highest degree of the romantic, sentimental “love at first sight” attitude. I suspect that had Austen been alive today, she’d be writing novels, “Northanger Abbey-like,” in response to the YA trend about ten years ago of over-the-top love at first sight found in books like “Twilight” and its ilk.

“Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”

This line makes me laugh out loud every time. It’s so ridiculous and hyperbolic that in one fell swoop Lady Catherine shows all her cards as far as her poor manners and character go.

Final thoughts – “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

This was my first favorite Jane Austen novel, as it is for many fans, I think. As I’ve re-read all of Austen’s books and gotten older, others have risen, and I’d probably have a hard time now picking an all-time favorite. But it’s easy to see the general appeal of this story. Elizabeth is by far the easiest Austen heroine to immediately love. She’s smart, independent, charming: pretty much everything every woman wants to be! And on top of it all, she has flaws that keep her grounded as a believable character, flaws of the sort that many of us likely catch ourselves struggling with every now and then.

It has a whole host of great comedic characters, with Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Collins likely vying for the best comedy throughout all of Austen’s works (though “Emma” does have a good number of great ones, too). The other supporting characters all offer interesting insights into the story as it goes, with Jane’s goodness (sometimes to the point of blindness) and Charlotte’s sense of practicality (sometimes to the point of foolishness).

And, of course, the romance is of the sort that still greatly appeals to people today. The “enemies to lovers” trope is everywhere and anywhere to be found. But Austen does it best! By grounding both our hero and heroine on solid foundations, their original conflicts are believable and the slow process of their growing to understand and appreciate each other is not rushed. They aren’t even on the same time line with this process, making it all the more realistic. But I think a lot of it comes down to the simple fact that many of us whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment:

“It was gratifying to have inspired unconsciously so strong an affection.”

In two weeks, I’ll review the 1995 version of “Pride and Prejudice.”

My Year with Jane Austen: “Pride and Prejudice” Part I

1886._sy475_Book: “Pride and Prejudice”

Publication Year: 1813

Book Description: The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen’s radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England.

History – “I read it a little as duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me.”

 When “Pride and Prejudice” was first completed, Jane Austen’s father, believing it to be quality writing, submitted it for publication. It was rejected. Austen then moved on to writing “Sense and Sensibility” and self-publishing that title herself. After its success, she sold the copyright to “Pride and Prejudice” to a publisher who listed the title as by the author of “Sense and Sensibility.” Like that first novel, “Pride and Prejudice” was an immediate success, and the publisher ordered several reprints of the story after the first  run sold out. This, of course, resulted in the publisher profiting much more from this title than did Austen who only earned 110 pounds on the original copyright sale. Austen, however, was pleased with its success and especially with the critical praise that was garnered by her heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. (source)

“”I must confess that I think her [Elizabeth] as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.” 

 —Jane Austen, letter to Cassandra Austen,  January 29, 1813

Part I – Chapters 1 – 34

Story – “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

We are first introduced to the Bennet family as we hear Mrs. Bennet share the exciting news that a wealthy gentleman has moved into the neighborhood. To her, this provides much hope that one of her five daughters might marry well, a necessity in a family that is by no means wealthy, has no sons, and whose estate is entailed away to a distant cousin. After teasing his wife and the sillier of his daughters, Mr. Bennet does visit Mr. Bingley.

The rest of the family then meets him at a ball. There, the eldest Miss Bennet, Jane, does in fact gain the attention of Mr. Bingley. But Elizabeth, the second oldest, gets spurned by the more rich but more proud Mr. Darcy, a friend of Bingley’s. Elizabeth finds this mostly amusing and is happy enough to see her sister be happy. As the weeks progress, they see more of Mr. Bingley and his snobby sisters. Jane is invited over for a dinner by the sisters, but comes down with a bad cold after her mother insists she ride in the rain (hoping for an outcome where Jane is forced to stay the night, though illness was not part of the plan.) Elizabeth goes to care for Jane and spends a good deal of time with the entire party. She draws more and more of Mr. Darcy’s attention (who, we learn, has begun to admire her fine eyes), but neither are particularly pleased by this fact. Jane recovers and the two go home.

The Bennet family is then visited by their cousin, Mr. Collins, who is in line to inherit their home. Mr. Collins is a silly, pompous man, much inclined to give nonsensical speeches and praise his wealthy patroness, Catherine de Bourgh. He also sets his eyes on marrying one of the Bennet sisters and decides on Elizabeth once he learns that Jane is out of the question due to her informal attachment to Mr. Bingley. The family also meet a new officer (a regiment of the army is stationed in the town nearby, much to the delight of the two youngest, and silliest, of the sisters), Mr. Wickham. In the process of making their first introductions, Mr. Darcy and Mr Bingley stop by. Elizabeth notes the cold meeting of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham and privately wonders about it.

They are all charmed by Mr. Wickham’s easy nature and open temperament, but Elizabeth is the lucky woman who is singled out by him for more attention. In the course of an evening on their second meeting, he shares the shocking history between him and Mr. Darcy. The two grew up together, Wickham’s father being the late Mr. Darcy’s groundskeeper, and Mr. Darcy’s father was very attached to Wickham. So much so that he left a valuable estate to him on his death. But when the tragic event happened, the son refused to uphold his father’s will and Wickham was cast out into the world to fend for himself. Elizabeth is shocked that Darcy, whom before she had thought was only proud and rather rude, is as bad as this. She later retells the story to Jane who warns her about making quick judgments against either man.

Mr. Bingley hosts a grand ball at Netherfield, an event all of the Bennet sisters look forward to greatly. Once there, however, Elizabeth is disappointed to find that Wickham has decided not to come, not wanting to be near Mr. Darcy. Instead, she ends up having to dance first with Mr. Collins, and then, shockingly, with Mr. Darcy himself. The two have an awkward dance filled with alternating silences and conversation hidden with double meanings as Elizabeth tries to get to understand Darcy better. The evening is a disaster from there on out. Mary, the middle daughter, makes a poor display on the piano, followed by an even more awkward display by Mr. Bennet has he tries to get her off the piano. The two youngest flirt wildly with everyone in their path. Mr. Collins confronts Mr. Darcy without introduction having found out that Darcy is the nephew of Lady Catherine. And Mrs. Bennet loudly congratulates herself on what she suspects to be the likely marriage between Jane and Mr. Bingley.

The next morning Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. She turns him down. And then has to keep turning him down for quite some time before being forced to just leave the room as he insists on not getting the point. But, to everyone’s amazement, his trip does not end with him returning home, still single, because he then proposes to Elizabeth’s dear friend, Charlotte, who, being in her late 20s and from a family without many prospects, agrees.

Around this same time, Jane receives the distressing news that Mr. Bingley and his entire party have removed themselves back to London. His sister, Caroline, even goes so far as to say that she and her sister are hoping for a quick engagement between Bingley and Mr. Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana. Jane is distressed, but Elizabeth is quick to tell her that this is clearly a plot by the sisters and friend who never approved of Jane and Mr. Bingley’s attachment. But weeks go by with no news of their returning. Their Uncle and Aunt Gardner come to visit and Jane is asked to go back with them to London when they return home. All are hopeful that she will meet with Bingley again there.

Charlotte asks Elizabeth to come visit her in her new home with Mr. Collins. Elizabeth agrees, though not particularly looking forward to it. Once there, she gets to meet the famed Lady Catherine. She’s a overly proud woman who takes a great deal of interest making proclamations about even the smallest aspects of the Collins’ lives. While there, Mr. Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fiztwilliam come to visit their aunt. Charlotte notes that Mr. Darcy is making more of an effort to call on her family than usual and says it must be due to Elizabeth. Elizabeth scoffs at this idea, though she does wonder at the number of times she meets him while on walks around the park.

She finds Colonel Fitzwilliam to be a very charming man and gets along with him well. On one walk, Colonel Fitzwilliam share some details about how his cousin, Mr. Darcy, congratulates himself on recently saving his dear friend, Mr. Bingley, from a bad marriage. Elizabeth is furious and hurt that her sister’s happiness was ruined by his friend’s interference. Later, alone at the parsonage, Mr. Darcy arrives and unexpectedly proposes to Elizabeth. She refuses. The encounter ends with the two fighting. Elizabeth accuses Darcy of separating Jane and Bingley and also points to his dishonorable treatment of Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy makes more belittling comments about Elizabeth’s family and her situation saying that he was kinder to Bingley than to himself in preventing his friend from a connection so beneath himself. He is shocked by the accusations about Wickham but doesn’t directly refute them. He leaves and Elizabeth remains behind, stewing.

Heroines – “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

I think it can be reasonably assumed that Elizabeth is one of the most beloved heroines to ever be penned. Her character is one that could be appreciated in the time she was written but who also appeals to modern readers who can be put off a bit by the more reserved leading ladies of books written at a similar time. She handles a lot of uncomfortable situations in a way that I think most of wish we could, with a smirk, a witty reply, and the ability to say what she thinks without offending others. She’s romantic, wishing to marry for love, but also the most practical of her sisters, being much more cynical than Jane. She’s also flawed. But unlike Emma, the other famously flawed Austen heroine, Elizabeth’s flaws are of the sort that many of us can sympathize with, especially her own lack of awareness that she even possesses this flaw. For the most part, she’s clear-eyed and an excellent judge of character. So it’s easy for her to then slip into a judgement of someone and not question or challenge her own thoughts further. It’s not until the second half of the book that she has to confront this challenge, but I think this self-reflection and learned self-awareness is still very appealing to modern readers. That, and, as I’ll go into later, she has the best lines, especially when arguing.

Jane is our other heroine. She’s an interesting character, really. Elizabeth clearly respects Jane, and Jane is spoken about as being of good sense and rationality. But she pairs these traits with an almost aggressive level of optimism that leaves her almost paralyzed in the face of the evils of the world. And yet Elizabeth, and the reader by proxy, never judges her as foolish. Yes, she’s wrong about Caroline. Yes, when she tries to make both Darcy and Wickham into good guys somehow it’s fairly silly. But she’s written so well that it all feels truly earnest; readers are left, like Elizabeth, wishing they could think so well of others as Jane does.

Heroes – “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Our two heroes benefit greatly from the increased time with their respective heroines as well as the added scenes we have of them on their own. This does away with most of the problems that the heroes suffered from in “Sense and Sensibility.” While we don’t see a lot of Mr. Bingley and Jane’s actual romance, we do see enough of the two individually interacting with friends and family to easily understand their relationship. Indeed, I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Bennet’s assessment at the end of the book that, if anything, Jane and Mr. Bingley are almost too alike. It is nice to see so much of Bingley and through the more clear eyes of Elizabeth even. Her time at Netherfield cements readers understanding that Bingley deserves all the credit he gets as a charming, good natured gentleman. Even in the face of his sisters’ poor manners and Mr. Darcy’s standoffishness, Bingley holds true as an excellent host and the only one among them to truly behave well under the circumstances.

And, of course, we see much of Darcy as well, both the good and the bad. In the beginning of the book there’s no denying that he could use some improvement. Even if he has always behaved properly (in his dealings with Georgiana and to gain the respect and friendship of a man like Bingley), he is still fairly lacking. His open rudeness to Elizabeth at their first meaning and general aloofness at his surroundings makes him deserving of the early poor reputation he has in the neighborhood (even if Wickham’s contributions to it aren’t true). And we see even further with his snobby comments after the fact when he willing plays along with Caroline’s game of mocking everyone around her, including Elizabeth.

Knowing what we do about his growing interest in Elizabeth, it’s easier to see his actions through a lens of expressing interest. His attentions at Rosings in particular stand out. But, without that inner knowledge, it’s also very easy to see Elizabeth’s side of things. Even without Wickham’s lies, she’s right about his actions with Jane and at best, he’s taken an interest in her to debate points and to sit in silence. Maybe a big concession from his standpoint, but not so for any reasonable woman.

Villains – “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” 

Since at this point in the story Wickham’s version of his history with Darcy is all we have, we’re left in the awkward position where we at best have no real villain and at worst…maybe the villain is Darcy himself? Obviously even the most oblivious reader sees the writing on the wall about Darcy and the inevitable revelation that he is the true hero of the story and the bogus tale Wickham put out there is just that, bogus. But that fact aside, we’re left with a lot of comedic characters who maybe dabble in wrong-doings but mostly get into trouble more due to buffoonery than any actual ill intent. Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, outright admits to separating Jane and Bingley. Which, again, at this point in the story, is the only real, known, and accepted by the perpetrator himself, wrongdoing we have! We get a better understanding of his reasoning in the letter to come in the second half, but by the end of the book Mr. Darcy still reflects back on his actions with regards to this pair as in the wrong.

Caroline, of course, is the other more true villain. She was complicit in convincing Bingley that Jane didn’t care for him. The text never states this, but one would suspect their her view of this matter might have held even more weigh than Darcy’s. She’s a woman (assumed to be more knowledgeable in matters of the heart, whether true or not) and is still considered to be a dear friend of Jane. Of course she should have knowledge of Jane’s inner heart, and if she  says Jane doesn’t care, it’s pretty understandable that Mr. Bingley would believe her. And, unlike Jane, we see Caroline’s behind-the-scenes cruel commentary about her friend and her friend’s family, especially Elizabeth.

This, truly, is a testament to the wrongness of Darcy’s pride in action, that he tolerates and even agrees with some of Caroline’s early snobbery. By the end of the book, Darcy tells Elizabeth that he had been left to follow the good morals he’d been raised with in pride and conceit and would have still been like that if not for her. More so than even Elizabeth saw, we, the readers see this to be true in the change of his private behavior from a man who criticized Jane for “smiling too much” to the one who welcomes the Gardners to his home and shuts down Caroline when she tries to start up the “Elizabeth isn’t all that much” speech again.

But for much of this half of the book, Caroline and Darcy are on the same side of many matters and work together to quell Jane and Mr. Bingley’s burgeoning love affair. Caroline’s treatment of Jane in London is also a good example of why she deserves to be solidly in this category. The reader, however, like Elizabeth, is almost gratified that at least Jane won’t be duped any more as Caroline has now so thoroughly shown her true colors.

Romance – “A lady’s imagination is very rapid: it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

The most interesting commentary on romance in this first half is the ongoing disagreement between Elizabeth and Charlotte on how to go about courtship and what to expect from matrimony. Charlotte, early in Jane and Bingley’s romance, comments to Elizabeth that Jane should show more affection than she feels to ensure a quick engagement.  Elizabeth laughs at this idea, but later Charlotte puts her own words in action, agreeing to marry Mr. Collins, who she knows to be foolish, after only a few days acquaintance. While Elizabeth is quick to come down harshly against this action, Jane herself weighs in on the argument that different temperments and circumstances will call to different actions. While it is clear that Austen is writing true romances where love is of course necessary for her main protagonists, Jane’s argument here, and even Elizabeth later acceptance of Charlotte’s situation, are nice balances to these lucky few women. Many women of the time would have made a similar choice to Charlotte and, in many ways, her was the more practical and realistic option. We can’t all wait around for handsome, kind, 10,000 pounds a year men to come around! Austen carries this point further in Mansfield Park where we see the other, more unfortunate, side of the “marry for love” choice in Fanny’s mother’s situation.

But, of course, the main romance is between Elizabeth and Darcy. One of the major differences that stood out to me in this re-read, especially reading this one directly after “Sense and Sensibility” is how important are the scenes we witness of Darcy that Elizabeth isn’t privy to. Not only are readers aware of his admiration the entire time, in general, we get a much better understanding of him as a character than we did the romantic leads in the previous book. And there are simply more scenes between Elizabeth and Darcy than we had there, too. We witness scenes of their verbal sparring which reinforce the idea that Darcy would naturally be attracted to her lively nature. There is also Caroline Bingley lingering about as a perfect contrast to Elizabeth.

The failed proposal scene has to be one of my favorite scenes in literature. It’s just so painfully perfect! Darcy’s terrible original attempt, his slow slip into shocked bewilderment at the realization that he’s being turned down, and the sharp anger when the accusations start flying. And Elizabeth’s righteousness and masterclass put-downs are priceless. But what makes it a perfect fight is that in between the honest anger and words, we clearly can identify the moments when each goes overboard in their anger and just gets mean. It’s a point in fighting that almost everyone is familiar with and everything about this scene reads so true to life.

Comedy – “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

There are so many great comedic characters in this book! I mean, other than the four characters from the two couples, almost everyone else in this first half play for laughs at one point or another. But there are two that always come up when talking about this book and for good reason: Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins.

There has been a more sympathetic eye turned towards Mrs. Bennet recently, given the very real uncertainties and struggles of the future should Mr. Bennet die and none of the daughters be married well. It would definitely be hard, and the girls’ future is largely left to Mrs. Bennet to worry about. This is the kind of thing that would almost always fall on the mother anyways, and Mr. Bennet is particularly unsuited to be of help, what with his general lack of concern regarding what he largely sees as frivolities.

But in many ways this is similar to the circumstances of Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. But there, while Mrs. Dashwood could be sentimental and romantic to the extreme, she didn’t materially damage the very goal she had in mind. Mr. Darcy’s letter in the second half of the book will lay this out more clearly, but it doesn’t take an astute reader to pick up on the fact that Mrs. Bennet’s nonsense would have a impact on potential suitors wishing to pursue her daughters. Not only would they have to look forward to a future of her as a mother-in-law, but many would likely assume the daughters to be the same and not bother getting to no them further and discovering that the eldest two, at least, have seemed to escape this familial trait.

All of this to say, while I do have some sympathy for Mrs. Bennet, I think she is pretty firmly written as a ridiculous person, a detriment to her daughters, and a character that is not meant to be largely felt for by the reader. One can both be in a bad situation and also make that bad situation worse, and that’s Mrs. Bennet. But with all the seriousness of the situation aside, she’s great fun to read about. Her inconsistencies (particularly with her quick about-face with regards to Darcy’s handsomeness), her nerves, her crowing over her neighbors. Good stuff all.

And, of course, Mr. Collins. No attempt here to redeem him as he just gets worse in the second half of the book. His humor is tinged with a greater feeling of awkwardness and embarrassment. Reading over some of his interactions with others, I almost felt my own discomfort for what Elizabeth and Jane must have felt. Secondary embarrassment for a fictional character! But, again, it’s the proposals where Austen shines in this book. His “wooing” of Elizabeth is the best/worst. There is a very fine line here that is walked perfectly: his buffoonery and pompousness are at a peak, but it’s also still believable enough that a man like him could exist. And, of course, Elizabeth once again shines in her repeated refusals. This scene in particular is almost impossible for me to read now without picturing the 1995 movie version of it. Spoilers: I loved that movie (but doesn’t every Austen fan??).

Favorite quotes – “What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.”

A decent number of the quotes I use in my section titles come from this book, so there’s that. And one cannot write a “Pride and Prejudice” review with a “favorite quotes” section and not highlight one of the most famous opening lines in all of literature:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

And, if he had left it at this, perhaps…

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

But I always like this meme with regards to Darcy’s first proposal:

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In two weeks, I’ll review the last half of “Pride and Prejudice” and share my final thoughts on the book as a whole.

My Year with Jane Austen: “Sense and Sensibility” [2008]

250px-s26s_dvd_cover_2008Movie: “Sense and Sensibility”

Release Year: 2008

Actors: Elinor Dashwood – Hattie Morahan

Marianne Dashwood – Charity Wakefield

Colonel Brandon – David Morrissey

Edward Ferrars – Dan Stevens

Comparison – “Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.”

The biggest difference between this movie and the 1995 version is the added length. It has at least an hour of extra running time which allows the story to both add in scenes and characters that were cut from the book as well as create some unique scenes that, for the most part, do enhance the story. That said, there were also a few mishaps in these added scenes and in the characterization of Willoughby. But overall, I think it did more right than wrong, in this aspect. Watching the two adaptations back-to-back was an entertaining process. It was clear that as much as this story was attempting to be faithful to the novel and be its own thing, the 1995 version was too beloved to completely ignore. There were several scenes or character beats that were clear mirrors to similar ones in the older movie, like some of the early scenes with Edward, Margaret, and Elinor in the library. It wasn’t a scene in the book, so it was a clear nod to the earlier, beloved movie.

I’ll go into more detail below, but I think I liked both actresses in both movies about equally. But the heroes are more split. I preferred Dan Stevens’ Edward here much more than Hugh Grant’s take on the character. Some of this is due to my own dislike of Hugh Grant, but some of it is also simply due to the choices that were made with the character here. Colonel Brandon is a tougher call. I think Alan Rickman’s is probably better, but the added time, again, does a lot for the character here and David Morrissey is still a good fit.

I really liked the use of the dramatic scenery in this movie. There are several moments when nature itself is used to highlight or mirror the internal emotions of the characters. The waves crashing, the driving rain, even the quiet of a seaside cave. It was all beautiful, and paired with a lovely score, the overall tone of the story felt perfect.

I’ve definitely watched this version more than the 1995 version. As I said in that review, I had almost forgotten how much I liked it and will likely increase my re-watching of it in the future. However, I think this one will likely to continue to beat it out overall, if only because, being longer, there’s just so much more of it to enjoy.

Heroines – “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

Both actresses are superb in their roles. They also both bring very different vibes to the characters than Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet did to theirs in the 1995 version. Morahan’s Elinor feels a bit more in line with the character, perhaps. Emma Thompson was almost a bit too perfect, making Elinor, a character who already walks the line of being unbelievable in her perfection, stand out even more above those around her. The solemnity of Morahan’s Elinor is combated by her wide-eyed bewilderment and innocence to the failings of many of those surrounding her. Wakefield leaned in strongly to the lively aspect of Marianne’s character. Due to the increased run time, more of the original lines from Marianne that highlight some of her more extreme romanticisms were included which helped flesh out her character here. Winslet’s version was a bit more refined, I think, but both are enjoyable. I’d have a hard time picking favorites between the four versions and can only really say that I enjoyed them all thoroughly in the adaptations they were in.

The longer running time was also nice in that it gave the story more room to focus on the the small moments in the Dashwoods family. We see a lot of added scenes with Elinor and Marianne, Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood, and even Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret. The movie was very successful in making the viewer feel that this was a real family with real relationships between them that were just as important, if not more so, than the romantic ones that are developing before us.

Heroes – “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Like the 1995 adaptation, we see the most changes to the original text with how the heroes are depicted. Edward is given many more actual scenes interacting with Elinor in the beginning of the story, and, due to the increased length of this adaptation, we gain back a few scenes with him that were cut in the 1995 version, such as his visit to the Dashwoods about halfway through the story. I particularly liked this inclusion again as it helped keep Edward in the front of the mind (in the 1995 version he kind of fades into the background, making his reappearance towards the end of the movie a bit jarring). It also allowed for an additional small moment where we see him working off his feelings while cutting wood for the Dashwoods. He comments about how little help they have at the cottage and cuts himself off from saying more, though it is clear to the viewer that he is thinking about what he could do for them if he was free to marry as he wishes. I think it works really well as a wholly original added segment, giving viewers a better peak into Edward’s current mindset.

Colonel Brandon, too, benefits from the added time. We see more moments between him and Sir John while they’re hunting, a nice insight into Brandon’s friendship with characters who, on the surface, it would seem are not the type to attract his attention. The movie also adds back in the duel with Willoughby and a few added scenes between these two characters. Unlike the Edward moment, I’m not sure if these added scenes worked as well. I’ll go into more about the Willoughby/Brandon problems below, but even the duel was a bit strange. It seemed out-of-step with the rest of the movie and a Jane Austen story as a whole, feeling too dramatic and too unecessary. Nothing is actually resolved from this duel, it’s never mentioned again, and it doesn’t provide any insights into either character, except, perhaps, lowering Brandon to the level of petty dueling which feels amateurish and boorish and more inline with Willoughby than Brandon overall.

Villains – “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” 

One of my biggest criticisms of this adaption is the character of Willoughby. There are several things working against it for me, but two really stand-out: the choice of actor and several added scenes to the script. As I have more conflicted feelings about the latter choice, I’ll begin with the first. Dominic Cooper is routinely type cast as villainous characters. He’s not super well-known, of course, but for anyone who is familiar with him, it’s an instant giveaway for Willoughby’s being bad. He’s also type cast this way for obvious reasons, he’s simply excellent at being sleazy! So much so, however, that it’s almost impossible to buy his love for Marianne as being anything other than nefarious. This, in turn, makes her own blindness towards him (as well as her mother’s and Elinor’s as well) harder to understand and sympathize with. In the 1995 version of it, it’s easy to see the appeal of Willoughby, and Winslet’s Marianne is blithely shrouded in easy-to-understand youthful naivety.

What’s more, the script makes no effort to keep Willoughby’s villainy a secret. The movie actually opens with the scene of his seduction of Brandon’s ward and her abandonment. Cooper’s face isn’t shown, but he does speak, so careful listeners are immediately alerted when he later shows up. The creator mentioned that this scene was added because they felt that the seduction of Brandon’s ward, a truly awful act, is often easily skipped over, both by book readers and viewers of the 1995 movie. But, while I do think this concern has merit, particularly where the book is involved, it does hurt the movie as far as Willoughby himself. This problem is only compounded when only shortly after meeting Willoughby, the movie adds a scene between him and Brandon in which Brandon asks what his intentions are. Willoughby is shady, Brandon is honorable, it’s all fairly easy to put together.

This movie does include the scene where Willoughby shows up during Marianne’s illness to explain his side of things. But, by token of highlighting the true villainy of his previous acts, the movie undercuts the sincerity of feelings that Willoughby expresses for Marianne. In the book, it’s easier to discern the grey areas in which Willoughby exists and that his decisions are ones that will truly haunt him with the loss of Marianne. Here, you’re too busy disliking him to care about any true regret he may have.

Romance – “A lady’s imagination is very rapid: it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

Like the 1995 movie, this version also flip flops the order of marriage proposals for Marianne and Elinor. It, too, recognizes the greater investment that the viewer likely has in Elinor’s relationship, thus using her happily ever after as the grand finale of the movie. While we don’t have Emma Thompson’s flamboyant crying, Morahan’s break down and frantic cleaning is perfect for the, up to this point, put together Elinor. I also liked how they showed the different circumstances of Marianne and Elinor once they’re married, with Marianne being romantically swept off her feet into a grand house and Elinor and Edward sharing a small domestic moment, laughing together as he chases chickens around their yard. It’s a nice coda to the different versions of love that they both have always aspired to. I also like how it helps highlight that while Marianne’s first choice wasn’t right and some of her extreme sensibilities were taken too far, she’s not “bad” or “wrong” for wanting the typical, romantic ending with the fancy house and grand husband.

This version also, like that earlier movie, makes more effort to show the growing love of Marianne for Brandon, unlike the book with its quasi “love will come with time but I kind of owe him this” approach. There are only a few short scenes, but they are compelling and classically romantic, highlighting the natural fit of Marianne and Brandon.

Comedy – “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

Since this version is so much longer, there was a lot of leeway to add back in characters who were missing in the 1995 version. This includes several characters who played pretty much solely for comedic purposes, like Lady Middleton and the elder Miss Steele. Miss Steele, similarly to her character in the book, has a bigger presence than Lady Middleton, who by definition is bland and uninteresting, and I was glad to see the character return. This also returns the story to the original version where she, not Lucy, is the one to reveal Edward and Lucy’s engagement. As vindicating as it was to see Lucy slapped down in the 1995 one, it did stretch the bounds of the imagination to think she’d be so taken in as to reveal a secret that she felt was important enough to have kept for 5 years prior. Her older sister, perfectly primed as a rather thoughtless blabber mouth, always made more sense, and it plays perfectly here.

While perhaps not “comedic,” I also enjoyed the extended scenes we get with their older brother, Mr. Dashwood. Mark Gastiss, who I knew of mostly from his role as Mycroft in “Sherlock,” is excellent in the role. He’s almost pitiable in how completely ruled he is by his wife, with his every small, good intention being quickly squashed by her.

Fun facts – “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

Hattie Morahan and Dan Stevens appear together in “Beauty and the Beast” with him as the handsome prince/Beast (Edward is supposed to be plainish, so we can all agree that the “Beauty and the Beast” casting was better suited to Stevens’s natural good looks than Edward) and she as the Enchantress.

I knew of Dan Stevens first from “Downton Abbey,” so seeing him as a romantic hero was easy enough. David Morrissey, however, was more familiar as the Governor on “The Walking Dead,” so that was a bit of an adjustment. He also reportedly questioned whether another Jane Austen adaptation was necessary, but eventually signed on once he saw how much more action the men were given. Glad he came around, because he does an excellent Brandon here, a tough job after the superb Alan Rickman’s take on the character. But he shall never live down questioning the necessity of another adaptation!

There are a bunch of period costumes that are used repeatedly in Jane Austen adaptions. The actors, of course, are fun to spot popping up in various things, as I mentioned in the 1995 movie review. The re-used houses and locations are the next step of fandom obsession. But costume spotting between adaptations is truly where you know that you’ve arrived at perhaps an unhealthy state of re-watching. There were a bunch in this one, but the dress I did notice was a dotted dress that Marianne wore in this movie that Winslet’s Marianne wore as well in the 1995 movie. Apparently it’s also seen in “Mansfield Park” and “Persuasion,” so I’ll look for it there, too, when I get to those.

Best Movie Gif/Meme: “I dearly love a laugh.”

The script writer, Andrew Davies, is well-know for his work with many other Austen adaptations. In an interview, he mentioned that he felt pressure to do for “Sense and Sensibility” what he did for the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice,” which is commonly seen as the best adaptation of that work even today, going on 30 years later. To that purpose, he created this scene of Edward chopping wood in the rain in a flimsy white shirt to mirror the iconic scene where Colin Firth parades around in a similarly see-through shirt after jumping in a lake.

In two weeks, we jump into our next novel, the first half of “Pride and Prejudice!”

My Year with Jane Austen: “Sense and Sensibility” [1995]

mv5bnzk1mju3mdqyml5bml5banbnxkftztcwnjc1otm2mq4040._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Movie: “Sense and Sensibility”

Release Year: 1995

Actors: Elinor Dashwood – Emma Thompson

Marianne Dashwood – Kate Winslet

Colonel Brandon – Alan Rickman

Edward Ferrars – Hugh Grant

Comparison – “Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.”

At two hours and 20 minutes, this was definitely a longer film for what was the norm in the 90s, though even that required a lot of adjustments of the original text. Quite a few characters are cut out, as well as several scenes throughout the story. It doesn’t exactly make the case that there were superfluous characters in the book, but I will say that other than some of the humor from the elder Miss Steele (who is cut in the movie), I never really missed any of the characters who were removed. The small changes made to the order of reveals (Brandon’s history comes out much sooner) and the cut scenes towards the middle and the end all feel natural and smooth. This is truly the test of a good adaptation, and this movie passes with flying colors. The heart of the story remains true even when drastically shortened.

Beyond the cuts to scenes and characters, the screenplay works hard to give its heroes a bit more to do, particularly Edward who barely speaks in the first half of the book. We see a lot of scenes with him bonding with Margaret and through this attention gaining notice by Elinor. There’s also an interesting addition here where Elinor responds to Edward’s complaints about not having an occupation that even his situation is better than what women have: no chance of even having an occupation so without income, they have very few options. It’s only a brief scene, but it does shine an important light on the differences between their situations.

Overall, it seems that this movie was quite well-received, both critically and by audiences. Alan Rickman, in particular, is still pointed to as the quintessential Colonel Brandon, and I think many Austen fans file this movie in the positive category of adaptations. I hadn’t re-watched it for quite some time, but now that I’ve been reminded just how good it is, I’m sure it will not be nearly as long before I pull it out once again.

Heroines – “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

Emma Thompson is a treasure. There is no denying this one universal truth. With regards to her casting, I would say that she reads as a bit older than what the book Elinor was supposed to be (around 19 or 20, I believe). However, in some ways, this older version of Elinor fits even better with the character we are given. The age difference being greater between Elinor and Marianne both makes Elinor’s own perfection when dealing with family trials more believable, but also makes Marianne’s youthful naivety and foolishness seem more in line with the silliness of younger person, leaving her basic sense and intelligence intact with the thought that she, like most, only needed to age out of the follies of youth.

The movie also made a few early efforts to give Elinor opportunities to show emotion which I think also helped translate her character better. In the very beginning of the movie, Edward comes across her silently crying as she watches Marianne play a sad piano piece, knowing that it will be one of the last times Marianne will have a chance to play. Towards the middle of the movie, she also shows more emotion when revealing her prior knowledge of Lucy and Edward’s engagement to Marianne.

Kate Winslet does well with Marianne’s character. Her hair is atrocious, but we can forgive her for that, I guess. She plays Marianne’s love affair with Willoughby with a lovely sense of naive innocence and shines in many of the scenes with him early in the movie. As the movie cuts out some things in the second half of the story, she fades largely into the background during the second hour. Though the scene when she looks down upon Willoughby’s home while standing in the raging storm has all of the classic tragic romance once could possibly want.

Heroes – “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Seeming to recognize the want of action given to the heroes in the book, it is clear early on that the movie is trying very hard to give the audience opportunities to connect with our leading men during the few chances they get. Edward has a lot more screen time during his initial visit to the Dashwood family home, going on horse back rides with Elinor, playing swords with Margaret, etc. Hugh Grant does a good job lending his typical affable charm to the character and playing up the humorous side of the script. I’ve never loved Hugh Grant as an actor, but there’s no denying how charismatic he is and he makes Edward immediately appealing. Which makes it all the more weird when Edward disappears for a large chunk of time only to reappear briefly to deal with the Lucy situation, disappear again, and then show up for 5 minutes to reuinite with Elinor. The seriousness of the Lucy situation also makes for an awkward transition from funny, charming Edward to morose, gloomy Edward. Grant clearly does better with the former.

Ah, Alan Rickman. Another actor, like Thompson, who will always be a treasure. He is perfectly cast as Colonel Brandon, I think most people agree. The book itself gave more opportunities for Colonel Brandon to shine than Edward, and the movie follows this. Unlike Edward, his presence is more steady throughout and his characterization seems to flow more naturally. The movie also lets us in on his past much earlier in the story, with Mrs. Jennings revealing much of his past to Elinor even before Willoughby arrives on the scene. With this knowledge in advance, it’s easy to connect with Rickman’s serious, but endearingly earnest, take on Colonel Brandon. His romantic actions during Marianne’s illness also play directly to his strengths, rounding out the almost gothic romance of that entire scene.

Villains – “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” 

Greg Wise is a convincing Willoughby. He has enough of a good-natured face that viewers immediately want to like him, an important aspect of the character to more fully sympathize with one of our heroines being so taken in. He also does a good job with the scene in which he leaves Marianne behind and the one where he meets her again at the ball. In the former, he really sells the idea that it is a torment for him and that he truly feels the loss of his connection with Marianne and the family (even if we later learn it is of his own deciding). And at the ball, he still seems affected, but has a good sense of coldness to his demeaner. The movie, however, omits his later visit while Marianne is sick, so all of the coldness of his letter is left as is and not revealed to have been dictated to him by a cruel fiance/wife. Instead, all of Willoughby’s history is delivered by Colonel Brandon, and we are never given Willoughby’s version of events from his own mouth. This seems like a worthwhile cut, in my opinion, as that scene in the book did little to change my feelings towards Willoughby. And as far as the movie is concerned, there is no reason to attempt to redeem him after the fact.

Imogen Stubbs’ Lucy Steele is particularly slimy feeling. From the very first, the actress manages to instill a certain look into Lucy’s eyes that immediately triggers suspicion to the viewers. This suspicion is, of course, immediately gratified by her revealing her history to Elinor. The movie cuts out her older sister, so instead we see Lucy herself revealing her history to Mrs. John Dashwood. What follows, Mrs. John Dashwood physically attacking her, plays for great comedic value and also as a satisfying moment for the viewers themselves.

Romance – “A lady’s imagination is very rapid: it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

The movie does hard work to try to up the ante for the romance in this story. As I mentioned in my review of the book, there is really very little there. Like I said above in the heroes section, they gave Edward a lot more time in the beginning of the movie to show his growing attachment to Elinor and general character as a whole. This does a lot of good work making their relationship one that viewers become invested in. The movie also adds a scene in the first act where we see Edward begin a confusing conversation with Elinor about his early education that later pays off when we discover his relationship with Lucy and can connect it back to Edward’s attempts to let Elinor know what his hold up is. But, again, there’s no escaping his total absence for much of the rest of the movie. The story also cuts out his visit to the cottage, which is probably for the best, but this choice also just expounds the problem of his dropping off entirely for much of the movie. By the time we get to the romantic conclusion, I, for one, felt more joy in Elinor finally being rewarded just in general than in any real investment in the relationship as a whole.

Colonel Brandon still comes out as the more romantic of the two. Though here, even the movie struggles to really develop a relationship between its two “lovers.” The early scenes between Marianne and Colonel Brandon are barely worth mentioning. We see them playing yard bowling, but never really hear them even talk to each other. But through Rickman’s superb acting and the fact that many of his scenes are with the equally superb Thompson, it’s still easy for viewers to become invested in at least his side of the romance. They add to the ending for Marianne and Brandon as well, since the verging on “marry with the expectation of love to come later” theme of the book for these two wouldn’t work well with modern audiences who want their fairytale ending. So, instead, we get nice scenes of Brandon reading poetry to Marianne quietly as she recovers.

Comedy – “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

They cut out several of the comedic characters, like the elder Miss Steele. But, of course, Mrs. Jennings and Sir John are left intact, re-imagined as living together after Mrs. Jenning’s daughter, Sir John’s wife, died. The actors play off each other very well and the other characters are barely missed.

Hugh Laurie, bizarrely, shows up as the grumpy Mr. Palmer. Just another example of the fact that if you watch enough Jane Austen adaptations and Harry Potter, you’re almost sure to run into every famous British actor we know from the last 30 years or so. His Mr. Palmer is just as surly as ever, but he does bring a more sympathetic turn to the character when he expresses worry for Marianne and regret in his family needing to essentially abandon them when they move due to a concern for their young baby.

Fun facts – “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

Emma Thompson was nominated for “Best Actress” for this movie and won for “Best Adapted Screenplay.” I believe she is the only actor to be nominated for two categories like this in one film?

The movie ends with a double wedding, a change from the book in which the two sisters marry several months apart. But, the fun fact of it all, is that the scene itself is very like that of the ending of the BBC “Pride and Prejudice” which also features a double wedding for two sisters and also came out in 1995. Collusion? Coincidence? You decide!

Gemma Jones, who plays Mrs. Dashwood, will next appear in this re-read as another famous Austen mother: Mrs. Jones (Bennett) in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” She will be joined by fellow cast mate, Hugh Grant, who plays the Wickham character in that adaptation.

Greg Wise and Emma Thompson are married. Wise was told by a palm reader, or some such thing, that he would have a love connection with someone in the movie. He went on a date with Winslet, the only single person at the time, but it wasn’t a match. Later, he and Thompson, who got along well on set, married after she split from the cheating Kenneth Branagh (who cheats on Emma Thompson!? A question we all asked of Alan Rickman’s character in “Love, Actually.” If you’re not careful, the recurring cast members in these films can feel a bit inbred when you start putting them all together…).

Best Movie Gif/Meme: “I dearly love a laugh.”

This is a blatant abuse of category creation purely for self-indulgence.

Image result for sense and sensibility 1995 gif

My best friend in college and I had a running joke/list of the most ridiculous crying scenes in movies, and the performance given by Thompson when Elinor discovers that Edward isn’t married was always at the top of this list. This is not to say that the scene is poorly acted, just that, for a crying scene, it’s definitely not subtle.

In two weeks, I’ll review the much longer 2008  version of “Sense and Sensibility.”

My Year with Jane Austen: “Sense and Sensibility” Part II

14935._sy475_Book: “Sense and Sensibility”

Publication Year: 1811

Book Description: Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Part II – Chapters 32 – End

Story – “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Elinor relates Colonel Brandon’s tale to Marianne, and while it does shine more light on Willoughby’s character, she is still greatly affected. The Willoughby’s marry and leave town and Marianne can be convinced to begin returning to the world. Around this time, the Miss Steele’s and Mr. Dashwood and Fanny all arrive in town as well, greatly expanding their social groups. While out and about, the Miss Dashwoods run across the younger Mr. Ferrars who does not recommend himself by being rather vain and full of himself; he aligns perfectly with what they know of the rest of the family (barring Edward), however.

The Middletons, Steeles, Dashwoods, and Ferrars all begin to mix and mingle forming various opinions on each other. Elinor is caught up in it all and ends up being present when Lucy Steele first meets her future (unbeknownst to her) mother-in-law. The Ferrars, however, are so busy subtly, or not so subtly, slighting Elinor, that Lucy ends up with a good deal of praise and attention. Mariannne, still out of sorts, finds this intolerable and has a few break-downs while in company.

Later, Lucy crows to Elinor over how well-received she was. Elinor makes an effort to temper her enthusiasm, but gives up eventually. Edward arrives and they are all awkward together. From there, the days continue with Elinor and Marianne being thrown routinely into the company of various Steeles and Ferrars. The younger Mr. Ferrars only further proves himself to be ridiculous and Lucy Steele takes every opportunity to throw more barbs Elinor’s way.

Eventually, the Miss Steeles recommend themselves so much to the Ferrars and Mr. Dashwood/Fanny Dashwood that they are asked to come stay with the family. While there, however, the elder Miss Steele lets it slip that her sister is engaged to Edward. The sisters are immediately banished from the premise, but Edward stands by Lucy, losing his own family fortune in the process. With this shocking truth, Marianne finally realizes what Elinor has been suffering  through the last several months. Mr. Dashwood visits and drops several hints that as much as the Ferrars family might have disapproved of other prospective wives for Edward, they would have much preferred that person to Lucy Steele.

Colonel Brandon hears of Edward’s plight, and knowing him to be friend of Elinor and Marianne’s, he offers him a small estate from which Edward can go into work with the church. Elinor is tasked with delivering this news to Edward, which she does, knowing that it will be the final nail in the coffin of what could have been between her and Edward.

Finally, Marianne and Elinor begin their trip home. On the way, they stop at the Middletons and while there Marianne comes down with a bad fever. Over the next few days the fever worsens to the point that Colonel Brandon rushes off to fetch Mrs. Dashwood, in case the worst should happen. Over the night, Marianne’s fever finally breaks. And in the early morning, Elinor receives an unwelcome visitor: Mr. Willoughby. He heard of Marianne’s illness and traveled through the night to check on her. He explains his side of the story, that knowing his own selfishness and after being cut off by his wealthy aunt (after she heard of the incident with Colonel Brandon’s ward), he immediately set off to marry an heiress. He claims that his true love will always be for Marianne, however. And now that his aunt has forgiven him and restored his wealth, he lives in even more regret for not remaining faithful to her. Elinor tells him that none of this does any good for Colonel Brandon’s ward and that Marianne is lost to him forever, though Elinor does now pity him more than she had before.

Later, Mrs. Dashwood arrives and is relived to find Marianne recovering. Eventually, they make their way back home. Elinor relates what Mr. Willoughby told her, and Marianne acknowledges it all in a much more calm manner. From that point, Marianne makes a conscious effort to settle herself and try to emulate Elinor’s approach to life more fully.

One day, they hear from one of their servants that a Mrs. Lucy Ferrars has been spotted in town nearby with her husband. This seems to settle the matter until not long after, Edward himself arrives. After some confusion, it becomes clear that Lucy had broken her engagement with Edward once he lost his fortune and instead attached herself to the younger Mr. Ferrars who now, conveniently, has all of said fortune to himself. Thus, Mrs. Ferrars ends up with Lucy as a daughter-in-law either way. Edward proposes to Elinor, they marry, and move into the small estate near Colonel Brandon’s home. Marianne, eventually, comes to recognize the more important points of character in Colonel Brandon’s person, though less overtly romantic they may be, and they, too, marry.

Heroines – “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

The first half of this half is really torturous for poor Elinor. She first has to contend with an onslaught of jabs from Lucy, all while caring for a despondent Marianne. And then when the truth finally comes out, she’s the one tasked with delivering the news that through Colonel Brandon’s generosity, Edward and Lucy will be able to marry immediately. Marianne finally knowing the truth turns out to also not be as helpful as one would suspect, as she seems to at first think the only way Elinor could have managed to keep this all a secret was if she didn’t truly love Edward anyways, so there wasn’t much real loss. Not one of Marianne’s finer moments. It is, of course, gratifying to see Elinor rewarded in the end. However, I will say that all the traits that make her such an upstanding woman, do, unfortunately, also make her one of the less exciting Austen heroines. She reads more like a commentary from Austen on how women should behave (with Marianne serving as a not-too-subtle example of some of the worst flaws of the women of that time), than as a true character herself.

Marianne, for all of her ridiculousness, is definitely the more entertaining read of the two. Some have reviewed this book and commented that perhaps Marianne’s punishment for giving way to the full onslaught of sensibility common to teenage girls is a bit harsh. She’s smacked down fairly publicly with the Willoughby situation, and then ends up on death’s doorstep to boot. And, as I’ll discuss a bit later, her “romance” with Colonel Brandon reads more as a reward for him being a good person than as anything truly for Marianne herself. There is perhaps also some humor to be found in Marianne’s endeavors to make herself more like Elanor. With the same dogged pursuit that she gave romanticism, we see her here tackling a reading list and strictly minding her own temper. There’s not too much of the book left after her illness, and plot points are being covered quickly one after another. So there isn’t a lot of time devoted to how Marianne ultimately turns out. One can hope that she still retains some of her liveliness and wit, if a bit more evened out by a better sense of reality and calm. If given that, I think she could turn out similar to Emma Woodhouse in some ways. Both are clever and driven by extreme emotions, sometimes to the point of foolishness, but both are also clearly good women who love those in their lives fully.

Heroes – “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

I didn’t really remember this fact as well, since it had been several years since I had read this book before this re-read, but Colonel Brandon is by far the more fully fleshed out character. Not only are we given many more insights into his own history, he simply has at least twice the amount of page time as Edward. I feel like if I went back through the book, I could count on two hands the number of pages that have actual dialogue from Edward on them. I’ll have to keep my eye on it in future books, but I seem to think this is one of the only examples of a primary romantic hero suffering from “tell instead of show” writing. It’s not a common flaw on Austen’s part in general, and definitely not of her main characters. But here, Edward is less of a main character than a plot device, really. We’re simply told of many of his good qualities and, like Colonel Brandon, really, we form most of our opinion on him based on the fact that we know Elinor and she has good judgement. So if she says he’s good, then he must be good.

Colonel Brandon, on the other hand, is given much more room to shine. Not only do we have a better understanding of his character when he lays out his own history prior to meeting the Dashwoods, but we see several examples of his innate goodness. His offering of the rectory to Edward and Lucy is an act of kindness that is almost hard to believe. Again, he doesn’t know this man at all and is doing this purely based on the Dashwoods’ good opinion and his sympathy for a plight that reminds of his own early life. Beyond that, we see the devotion he had for his former love and the care he has taken of her daughter. And, of course, his extreme agitation at Marianne’s illness and how he takes it upon himself personally to fetch her mother. He is definitely deserving of happiness, and it’s gratifying to see Marianne acknowledge the true nobility of his actions.

Villains – “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” 

The Ferrars family takes center stage in this second half, putting on full display why, while Edward may be a loss to Elinor, being part of their family more than she already is, is not. Lucy is also in rare form. She continues to gloat over Elinor and, while we’re told she has some sense, she still seems unable to grasp the bigger story going on: that her seeming easy acceptance by the Ferrars family is meant more as a dig against Elinor than as praise of herself. We’re meant to feel bad for Edward when their engagement is discovered, but I have to admit part of me always revels in Lucy’s take-down, short-lived as it is. I think the biggest tell, however, as far as her character goes, is that even after she’s married the younger Mr. Ferrars, she goes out of her way to send her good wishes to Elinor as “Mrs. Ferrars.” There is no point to this action other than being one last petty dig to a woman who was nothing but tolerant and understanding of her and who had done her no personal wrong. Lucy is a small, small woman.

Willoughy’s explanation to Elinor always read as a bit odd to me. I’m not quite sure I really see the point of his apology. Perhaps in so far as it lets Marianne better understand his character and that in his own selfish way he was in love with her at one point and thus she is able to get full closure? But as a modern reader, I’m even less sympathetic to his plight than Elinor is. She seems to come away from the conversation with some pity for him, but still firm in her censure over the way he treated Colonel Brandon’s ward. But between that action and the pure self-centeredness, lack of empathy, and flagrant pursuit of wealth at all costs, I have a hard time pitying him as Elinor and Marianne do. If he is unhappy, he has brought it on himself. There is no pity from me for someone who treated others as poorly as he did, with eyes wide open about his own actions and priorities.

Romance – “A lady’s imagination is very rapid: it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

Again, the romance is very muted in this last half, even when the happily-ever-afters start rolling in. Edward and Elinor’s actual proposal and acceptance aren’t included, and the story moves quickly to the facts of their new life with them moved into the rectory. Marianne’s story is even more hastily wrapped up, with her “romance” with Colonel Brandon probably reading as one of the least romantic pairings for a heroine in all of Austen’s work. Indeed, it is almost implied that she marries Colonel Brandon with the expectation of coming to love him fully, rather than actually being in love at the moment. It makes sense for the larger points about sense and sensibility that are being made in the book, but purely from a romance satisfaction stand-point, it leaves a lot to be desired. If anything, I’m more disappointed on Colonel Brandon’s part than anything. I’m sure Marianne comes to love him as he deserves, but it doesn’t quite sit right with a modern reader to think of her as “settling” for him based purely on his merits rather than actually feelings.

Comedy – “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

There is mostly dark comedy to be found in this second half, specifically in the round-about way the snobby Mrs. Ferrars ends up with Lucy as a daughter-in-law in the end anyways. Between the serious nature of Edward’s future, the continued fall-out of Willoughby’s actions, and Marianne’s life-threatening illness, it’s rather a serious second half. Mrs. Jennings, in fact, one of the primary comedic characters in the first half, really rises to her own and we the steadfast loyalty and real concern she has for the Miss Dashwoods, even if some improper comments still slip out. It’s gratifying to see Marianne finally acknowledge all that Mrs. Jennings has done for them, even if she has her moments of crassness.

Favorite quotes – “What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.”

“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”

The put-down we all wish we could think of in the moment.

“Always resignation and acceptance. Always prudence and honour and duty. Elinor, where is your heart?”

To some extent, I agree with Marianne here. This is probably why Elizabeth, Emma, and Anne stand out more to me as Austen heroines. All (with the exception of Emma at times) are respected and proper ladies of their time, but they also seem to have more heart to them. Their emotions are better understood and conveyed to the reader. Perhaps the simple fact that each in their way has a more apparent flaw than Elinor makes them read more fully as people and thus easier to become attached to and root for.

“Elinor could sit still 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.”

Finally. And we’ll see that the movies all have fun with this moment of final release for Elinor.

Final thoughts – “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

Here at the end of the first book in this re-read, I’m already thinking of some type of summary post I’ll have to do at the end of it all. Mostly because re-reading this one made me fully realize how much of my memory of some of the books has been impacted by my more frequent watching of movie adaptations. I had forgotten just how little page time was devoted to the men in this book and even more so the specifics of how Marianne/Colonel Brandon’s romance played (or didn’t play) out. That’s just one example, but I caught myself doing comparisons many times.

I’m also curious to see how my memory does with each of the heroines of the other books. I’ve re-read “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma” more than the others, so I feel fairly confident there. But this re-read also highlighted just how little I remembered of how Elinor and Marianne are described on page. In this read through, I really found myself focusing, almost to the point of distraction, more on what Austen was trying to say through her very different depictions of Elinor and Marianne. In some ways, it made this book feel more like “Northanger Abbey” than her other books. Both that book and this seem to be making a fairly distinct commentary on a particular subject rather than reading as a simple story.

Here, Austen is really laying it on thick with her opinions on women who give way to flights of romanticism to the point that they lose sight of reality and perspective. Knowing Austen’s own life, particularly the fact that she never married, it’s easy to see how she might condemn this type of overly-sentimental approach to life. Marianne routinely makes grand pronouncements that anyone who has lived in the world would know won’t hold up. Instead, Elinor is a constant presence as a reminder of all that is good, reserved, and true. She may not be flashy, but she’s clearly Austen’s response to the type of flighty, unmitigated sentimentality that she must have been seeing around herself and that she reflected in Marianne.

I found myself stopping and thinking about passages in this book fairly often as I was reading. While the story was lacking much of the comedy and romance that I think we often expect from Austen’s work, I think this book was tackling an important topic for Austen. Much as “Northnager Abbey” was her attempt to poke fun at the type of silly Gothic romances that were so popular at the time, this was her call to arms for women to give credence to their own self-control and sense. I think it’s also fairly interesting that these were two of her earlier written books. Perhaps, in some sense, she was able to get these larger points “out of her system” (that phrase implies it was a bad thing, but that’s not really it) in these early books, and thus allowed herself more leeway to fully indulge in her storytelling in her later books. We’ll see if my memory holds more true for those when I get there!

In two weeks, I’ll review the 1995 movie of “Sense and Sensibility.”

My Year with Jane Austen: “Sense and Sensibility” Part I

14935._sy475_Book: “Sense and Sensibility”

Publication Year: 1811

Book Description: Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

History – “I read it a little as duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me.”

“Sense and Sensibility” was Jane Austen’s first published work, but it was a long time in the making. It is thought that work was likely started on this book when Austen was only 19 in 1975. The manuscript was originally titled “Elinor and Marianne” and went through several re-writes, including likely a major change from an epistolary format to the current form, before settling as the book we now know. Austen self-published the book with its author only listed as “a Lady.” Over the next two years, the entire first run of the novel was sold out and Austen was able to publish a second run and collect earnings on it for several years. (source)

“I am never too busy to think of S & S.  I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her sucking child; & I am much obliged to you for your enquiries.”

 —Jane Austen, letter to Cassandra Austen, April 25, 1811

Part I – Chapters 1 – 31

Story – “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

In this first half of the book we meet the Dashwoods, a family consisting of Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. They are left without a fortune of their own after Mrs. Dashwood’s husband dies. Their half brother and his wife move into their home bringing with them Mrs. Fanny Dashwood’s brother, Mr. Ferrars. Elinor and Mr. Ferrars form an attachment. Seeing the match as unsuitable, Fanny Dashwood puts pressure on the Dashwoods to leave and find an establishment of their own. Thinking it for the best that Elinor and Mr. Ferrars continue their relationship out of sight of his meddling sister, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters move to the countryside into a cottage rented to them by a distant cousin, a Sir John Middleton.

Sir John and his family are all oddities, though mostly harmless. The Dashwoods also meet a family friend, Colonel Brandon, who, in his upper 30s, is seen as an established bachelor. It is quickly noticed, however, that he seems to have an interest in Marianne. She, however, quickly dismisses him as both too old and too reserved. Instead, through a romantic first introduction, she forms a fast, strong, and apparent to all attachment to a Mr. Willoughby. The two are incredibly open and frank about their attachment, but no formal engagement is ever mentioned. Elinor warns Marianne to curb her enthusiasm and behave in a more reserved manner as her and Willoughby’s current level of attachment is drawing the eyes and gossip of those around them.

Willoughby and Marianne’s attachment reaches a point where her family and friends cannot but assume they are secretly engaged. More questions are raised however when Willoughby suddenly quits the neighborhood and returns to town; Marianne is devastated, but still sure of his attachment. Presently, Mr. Ferrars does appear, though he is out of spirits. The family notes a new ring on his finger that looks to have a lock of hair the same color as Elinor’s. There is speculation, but Elinor says she never gave him any of her hair.

Eventually, a new party of two young women, the Ms. Steeles, join the party. Through the endless jokes of Mrs. Jennings, Sir John’s mother in law, the younger sister, Lucy Steele, guesses that at some point Elinor and Mr. Ferrars might have been speculated to have an attachment. She privately shares with Elinor that she, Lucy, has been in a secret engagement with Mr. Ferrars for several years, only kept secret due to the sure disapproval of his family; it is revealed that it was her hair in the ring. Elinor is hurt, but understands that Mr. Ferrars never made any promises or outright overtures to herself. Instead, she grieves at the poor match between the sensible Mr. Ferrars and the conniving Lucy Steele.

Mrs. Jennings asks Elinor and Marianne to join her in London. They agree, with Marianne becoming increasingly excited by the likelihood of meeting again with Mr. Willoughby. When there, she writes him several times and waits for him daily to make an appearance; he does not. Eventually, they meet at a ball and it becomes clear that Willoughby has broken with her and is now only days away from being engaged to a wealthy young woman. He writes a cruel letter to Marianne, apologizing for her “having been mislead” and returns Marianne’s letters. Marianne confides in Elinor that they were never engaged formally. Marianne sinks into a deep depression, confused and inconsolable.

Colonel Brandon appears, and still attached to Marianne and concerned for her welfare, shares his own personal history. He lost his first love when she was forced to marry her brother. The marriage went poorly and she ended up bereft. Colonel Brandon only rediscovered her when she was on her deathbed with a young girl child. Brandon took the girl under his wing. Early in this year, the girl disappeared from her keepers. When Brandon rediscovered her, she was pregnant and had been abandoned by her lover, Willoughby. Elinor is shocked and agrees that this news must be made known to Marianne.

Heroines – “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

First off, I think that book description is very misleading. For one thing, it represents Marianne as the primary sister of the two, where the book reads very much from Elinor’s perspective (the reader is in on the same secrets she knows, is unclear on the same information she is, and is privy for private conversations between her and other characters). I also think the last line is misleading about the overarching conclusion that Austen leads readers towards in this book, but I’ll go more into that in my concluding thoughts in the second part of this review in a few weeks.

It’s hard to be objective about Elinor and Marianne because of this greater focus on Elinor and said conclusion at the end. We are told that Marianne is sensible, clever, and a fine lady but we see her behave fairly poorly in this first half. But really, she mostly behaves the way most seventeen year old girls would. We are simply used to our young historical fiction leading ladies often doing better. But, of all Austen’s heroines, other than perhaps Catherine in “Northanger Abbey” (who also behaves poorly and like a teenage girl at times), Marianne is the youngest heroine we get. It’s a testament to Austen’s strength as an author that she is able to walk the fine line when creating a character such as Marianne that the reader is never pushed too far over the edge into dismissing her as romantically foolish and not worth rooting for. From the beginning, given that we are seeing things through Elinor’s eyes, the reader understands that Marianne’s actions are not ideal. Beyond that, the reader on their own can read her grandiose statements and see in them the naivety of youth.

Elinor, of course, is our solid rock. Throughout the entire book, we never see her make a misstep. At times, however, this leaves her as reading a bit more dull than some of Austen’s other ladies. She definitely falls on the Fanny Price side of the spectrum, being more reserved and providing most insight through personal reflection rather than witty dialogue. She’s not the most exciting heroine, but there’s a certain comfort in knowing that the story is safe in her hands, and, because it’s Austen, she’ll be rewarded in the end. Her handling of Lucy Steele is probably her at her finest. Here she almost takes her sense of propriety too far! Yes, Lucy told her a secret. But it’s hard to imagine taking that so to heart that you don’t even tell your beloved sister. Marianne, however, while not a blabber mouth, is also not the most discreet in her actions, so I do understand to some extent. However, it is never specified that this is a factor in Elinor’s thought process. Had she had Jane Bennett for a sister, one of the most demure and trust-worthy characters in all of Austen’s books, we can only assume that Elinor would still keep it to herself. Perhaps it is technically the right and honorable choice, but it is also one that almost stretches the believability of Elinor’s character to the breaking point. Is anyone really that dedicated?

Heroes – “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

We will get into this more when I review one of the movie adaptations for this book, because I think it’s the director who addresses this same thought in a commentary section, but the heroes of this book are, in my opinion, the weakest offerings Austen has to offer. Mr. Ferrars and Colonel Brandon are both decent characters and good men. But as romantic heroes, they are lacking. Mostly this because we are given next to nothing as far as interactions between them and our two ladies.

In this first half, Edward and Elinor’s burgeoning relationship happens entirely off page. We get zero examples of their interactions together and only hear about their relationship through the eyes of others and through Elinor’s modest, restrained discussions of her views on him. When he does finally appear again, we are once again limited to few interactions and zero between only Elinor and Edward. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say we hear more dialogue between Marianne and Edward debating various points on appreciation of art. And from there, we are mostly left with a man who is described as being withdrawn and moody. We later learn why, but compelling it does not make him.

Colonel Brandon fairs better as we do get to see more from him. To a certain extent, we can see his admiration for Marianne grow. And through his later communications with Elinor about his past and the comparisons he sees with Marianne, we get real insights into the emotional depth he has. But, again, there is very little to no interactions between him and Marianne herself. We hear their feelings on each other as communicated to Elinor, and very little else.

In this first half, it is clear who the heroes are, but frankly, they don’t feel very heroic. Brandon will ultimately fit this description much better than Edward, but as far as romantic plots lines goes, this first half clearly illustrates why this book fell lower on my preferences when I was looking for a swoon-worthy read.

Villains – “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” 

There are two main villains in this first half, Fanny Dashwood and Willoughby. Mr. Dashwood is also a villain, but mostly from being weak-willed and lead by his wife. In many instances, this plays more for comedic value than as a villainous depiction.

We get more from Fanny in the second half of the book, but the beginning scenes of the book with her talking Mr. Dashwood out of giving his sisters anything are a masterclass in despicable manipulation. That, and her snide comments to Mrs. Dashwood about Elinor and what does/does not belong with the house really cement readers’ feelings towards her early on. Through her, we’re set up pretty well to hate on the rest of the Ferrars family, Edward aside, when we later meet them.

Willoughby is a classic Austen villain. He shows up on the scene under mysterious, romantic circumstance, is charming and charismatic, attracting not only our main ladies, but the general esteem of the neighborhood, and while maybe not the absolute best prospect (Willoughby at least seems more financially secure than other similar characters in other books), would still be an agreeable match. Fans of Austen all know to beware of this type of character, but as we also see him and his courtship of Marianne through the sensible Elinor’s eyes, readers are immediately clued in to all not being well in this arena. While criticism is also thrown at Marianne for her behavior, Willoughby’s independence and control over his destiny, as a man, makes his actions much more reprehensible and Elinor quickly notes the dishonor in what she believes must be partially, if not all, his insistence that the assumed engagement remain secret.

We see most of his villainy laid out in this book, and in many ways he is one of the worst of the men presented in Austen’s books. He does become more pitiable in the second half when he can make his own case, but there is no ignoring the way he treats Colonel Brandon’s ward, a girl whose life has now been upended, her reputation beyond repairing, and at best has a future of quiet isolation in the country to look forward to. Marianne fairs better for being better protected and Willoughby’s own regard seeming to be stronger. But in the end, he makes the selfish decision to give her up for a fortune that has been lost to him (he at least thinks forever) due to his own reprehensible prior actions. Even in his affair with Marianne we see signs of his lack of regard for her reputation, bringing her to his future home and asking for a lock of her hair, all while knowing they are not engaged and these are not appropriate actions.

Romance – “A lady’s imagination is very rapid: it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

As I said above in the heroes section, this book is particularly light on the romance. The biggest romance we see on page is between Marianne and Willoughby, which is obviously not meant as an enjoyable love story so much as a cautionary tale. Elinor reflects quite a lot on both that relationship and that of the one between Lucy Steele and Edward. Lucy, while also perhaps fitting under the villain category, is an interesting character and I had forgotten just how manipulative and cleverly snide she was in her interactions with Elinor. To her credit, Elinor doesn’t downplay any of Lucy’s wits, but is given ample opportunity in personal reflection to list out Lucy’s flaws in case any reader remains unclear. With what little we have of Edward, it’s hard to fully picture how these two came together, but in many ways I see their future together, had it happened, to be somewhat similar to that of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett: a marriage where neither partner can love or respect the other.

We see several other flawed marriages as well. Mrs. Fanny Dashwood clearly manipulates her husband much of the time and he is too weak-willed to hold firm judgments himself. Sir John and his wife seem content enough, though they are painted as two individuals who take pleasure in very different things. And we have Mrs. Jennings’ other daughter and her husband, a marriage that Elinor reflects on with bewilderment. The wife is all smiles and laughs, tittering away about how silly her husband is. For his part, he is rude and dismissive of her and those around her. Elinor wonders at how a woman can be so happy with a husband who is so consistently saying unhappy things about and to her. But, as Austen often notes, marriage is peculiar thing.

Comedy – “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

I’ll have to reflect on this more as I go through this re-read, but I think this book might be one of the less humerous of the bunch. Sir John and Mrs. Jennings are clearly the main comedic figures who don’t also have an element of villainy to their characters. Mrs. Jennings is a familiar neighborhood great lady who often appears in Austen’s works and due to her age and position can get away with saying all kinds of ridiculous things. While many of these are funny to the reader, we also see how it can be very painful for others to be around her. Elinor in particular ends up suffering for Mrs. Jennings essentially cluing Lucy in to Elinor’s past with Edward. But in the second half we see much more of the good of Mrs. Jennings that makes up for some of this.

The elder Miss Steele is also a good comedic figure. She doesn’t get a whole lot of page time, but what she does have is probably some of the funniest parts of the story. Her obsession with “beau” and her constant attempts to get others to ask her about them. She has some great lines of dialogue and there are even several good lines from the narrative itself that really go to town with the silliness of this character. With a page-time to laughs ratio, I think she wins hands down.

Favorite quotes – “What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.”

“If I could but know his heart, everything would become easy.”

I’m sure most of us can sympathize with this thought.

“It is not everyone,’ said Elinor, ‘who has your passion for dead leaves.”

Simple, but a lovely illustration of Austen’s clever writing even in small moments. Plus, one of Elinor’s few funny lines of dialogue.

“She [Marianne] expected from other people the same opinions and feelings as her own, and she judged of their motives by the immediate effect of their actions on herself.”

This is a spot-on observation about people in general. I think most all of us fall in this category at one point or another. These are the type of lines that are just casually inserted in a larger scene that make you do a double-take as you realize that some tidbit of profound wisdom and insight has just been dropped on your lap.

In two weeks, I’ll review the last half of “Sense and Sensibility” and share my final thoughts on the book as a whole.