|Country United Kingdom|
Originally published 1811
Genre Romance novel
|Publication date 1811|
Followed by Pride and Prejudice
Original language English
|Publisher Thomas Egerton, Military Library (Whitehall, London)|
Characters Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood
Adaptations Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Similar Hugh Thomson books, Works by Jane Austen, Novels
Jane austen week sense and sensibility
Sense and Sensibility is a novel by Jane Austen, published in 1811. It was published anonymously; By A Lady appears on the cover page where the author's name might have been. It tells the story of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, both of age to marry.
- Jane austen week sense and sensibility
- Plot summary
- Main characters
- Minor characters
- Development of the novel
- Critical views
- Publication history
The novel follows the young women to their new home with their widowed mother, a meagre cottage on the property of a distant relative, where they experience love, romance and heartbreak. The novel is set in southwest England, London and Sussex between 1792 and 1797.
The novel sold out its first print run of 750 copies in the middle of 1813, marking a success for its author, who then had a second print run later that year. The novel continued in publication throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Because of primogeniture, when Mr Henry Dashwood dies, his house, Norland Park, passes directly to his son John, the child of his first wife. His second wife, Mrs Dashwood, and their daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, inherit only a small income. On his deathbed, Mr Dashwood extracts a promise from his son, to take care of his half-sisters. John's greedy wife, Fanny, soon persuades him to renege on the promise. John and Fanny immediately move in as the new owners of Norland, while the Dashwood women are treated as unwelcome guests. Mrs Dashwood seeks somewhere else to live. In the meantime, Fanny's brother, Edward Ferrars visits Norland and soon forms an attachment with Elinor. Fanny disapproves of the match and offends Mrs Dashwood with the implication that Elinor is motivated by money.
Mrs Dashwood moves her family to Barton Cottage in Devonshire, near the home of her cousin, Sir John Middleton. Their new home is modest but they are warmly received by Sir John and welcomed into local society—meeting his wife, Lady Middleton, his mother-in-law, Mrs Jennings and his friend, Colonel Brandon. Colonel Brandon is attracted to Marianne, and Mrs Jennings teases them about it. Marianne is not pleased as she considers the thirty-five-year-old Colonel Brandon an old bachelor, incapable of falling in love or inspiring love in anyone else.
Marianne, out for a walk, gets caught in the rain, slips and sprains her ankle. The dashing John Willoughby sees the accident and assists her. Marianne quickly comes to admire his good looks and outspoken views on poetry, music, art and love. His attentions lead Elinor and Mrs Dashwood to suspect that the couple are secretly engaged. Elinor cautions Marianne against her unguarded conduct, but Marianne refuses to check her emotions. Abruptly, Mr Willoughby informs the Dashwoods that his aunt, upon whom he is financially dependent, is sending him to London on business, indefinitely. Marianne is distraught and abandons herself to her sorrow.
Edward Ferrars pays a short visit to Barton Cottage but seems unhappy. Elinor fears that he no longer has feelings for her, but will not show her heartache. After Edward departs, Anne and Lucy Steele, the vulgar cousins of Lady Middleton, come to stay at Barton Park. Lucy informs Elinor in confidence of her secret four-year engagement to Edward Ferrars that started when he was studying with her uncle, and she displays proof. Elinor realises that Lucy's visit and revelations are the result of Lucy's jealousy and cunning calculation, and understands Edward's recent behavior towards her. She acquits Edward of blame and pities him for being held to a loveless engagement by his sense of honour.
Elinor and Marianne accompany Mrs Jennings to London. On arriving, Marianne rashly writes several personal letters to Willoughby, which go unanswered. When they meet at a dance, Mr Willoughby greets Marianne reluctantly and coldly, to her extreme distress. Soon Marianne receives a curt letter enclosing their former correspondence and love tokens, including a lock of her hair and informing her of his engagement to a young lady with a large fortune. Marianne is devastated. After Elinor has read the letter, Marianne tells her that she and Willoughby were never engaged, but she loved him and thought that he loved her.
Colonel Brandon visits the sisters and reveals to Elinor that Willoughby's aunt disinherited him after she learned that he had seduced Brandon's fifteen-year-old ward, Miss Williams, then abandoned her when she became pregnant. This is why he chose to marry for money rather than love. Brandon was in love with Miss Williams' mother as a young man, when she was his father's ward, but she was forced into an unhappy marriage to Brandon's brother that ended in scandal and divorce; Marianne strongly reminds him of her.
The Steele sisters come to London as guests of Mrs Jennings and after a brief acquaintance they are asked to stay at John and Fanny Dashwood's London house. Lucy sees the invitation as a personal compliment, rather than what it is, a slight to Elinor and Marianne who should have received such invitation first. Too talkative, Anne Steele betrays Lucy's secret. As a result, the Misses Steele are turned out of the house, and Edward is ordered to break off the engagement on pain of disinheritance. Edward refuses to comply and is immediately disinherited in favour of his brother, gaining respect for his conduct, and sympathy from Elinor and Marianne. Colonel Brandon shows his admiration by offering Edward the living of Delaford parsonage.
Mrs Jennings takes Elinor and Marianne to the country to visit her second daughter. In her misery over Willoughby's marriage, Marianne becomes dangerously ill. Willoughby arrives to repent and reveals to Elinor that his love for Marianne was genuine. He elicits Elinor's pity because his choice has made him unhappy, but she is disgusted by the callous way in which he talks of Miss Williams and of his own wife. He also reveals that his aunt forgave him after his marriage, meaning that if he had married Marianne he would have had both money and love.
When Marianne recovers, Elinor tells her of Willoughby's visit. Marianne realises that she could never have been happy with Willoughby's immoral and expansive nature. She values Elinor's conduct in her similar situation and resolves to model herself after Elinor's courage and good sense. Edward arrives and reveals that, after his disinheritance, Lucy jilted him in favour of his now wealthy brother, Robert. Edward and Elinor soon marry, and later Marianne marries Colonel Brandon, having gradually come to love him.
Development of the novel
Jane Austen wrote the first draft of the novel in the form of a novel-in-letters (epistolary form) sometime around 1795 when she was about 19 years old, and gave it the title Elinor and Marianne. She later changed the form to a narrative and the title to Sense and Sensibility. The title of the book, and that of her next published novel, Pride and Prejudice (1813), may be suggestive of political conflicts of the 1790s, as well as the movement from the Neoclassic to the Romantic Era (Elinor representing the Neoclassic, and Marianne representing the Romantic).
Austen drew inspiration for Sense and Sensibility from other novels of the 1790s that treated similar themes, including Adam Stevenson's "Life and Love" (1785) which he had written about himself and a relationship that was not meant to be. Jane West's A Gossip's Story (1796), which features one sister full of rational sense and another sister of romantic, emotive sensibility, is considered to have been an inspiration as well. West’s romantic sister-heroine also shares her first name, Marianne, with Austen’s. There are further textual similarities, described in a modern edition of West's novel.
"Sense" means good judgment or prudence, and "sensibility" means sensitivity or emotionality. "Sense" is identified with the character of Elinor, while "sensibility" is identified with the character of Marianne. By changing the title, Austen added "philosophical depth" to what began as a sketch of two characters.
Austen biographer Claire Tomalin argues that Sense and Sensibility has a "wobble in its approach", which developed because Austen, in the course of writing the novel, gradually became less certain about whether sense or sensibility should triumph. Austen characterises Marianne as a sweet lady with attractive qualities: intelligence, musical talent, frankness, and the capacity to love deeply. She also acknowledges that Willoughby, with all his faults, continues to love and, in some measure, appreciate Marianne. For these reasons, some readers find Marianne's ultimate marriage to Colonel Brandon an unsatisfactory ending.
As quoted by the writers at Create Space "Other interpretations, however, have argued that Austen's intention was not to debate the superior value of either sense or sensibility in good judgment, but rather to demonstrate that both qualities are equally important, but must be in balance." The novel is an early example of the category romance novel.
In 1811, Thomas Egerton of the Military Library publishing house in London accepted the manuscript for publication in three volumes. Austen paid to have the book published and paid the publisher a commission on sales. The cost of publication was more than a third of Austen's annual household income of £460 (about £15,000 in 2008 currency). She made a profit of £140 (almost £5,000 in 2008 currency) on the first edition, which sold all 750 printed copies by July 1813. A second edition was advertised in October 1813.
The novel has been in continuous publication through to the 21st century as popular and critical appreciation of all the novels by Jane Austen slowly grew.
The book has been adapted for film and television a number of times, including a 1981 serial for TV directed by Rodney Bennett; a 1995 film adapted by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee; a version in Tamil called Kandukondain Kandukondain, released in 2000, starring Ajith Kumar (Edward Ferrars), Tabu (Elinor), Aishwarya Rai; and a 2008 TV series on BBC adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by John Alexander.
Sense & Sensibility, the Musical (book and lyrics by Jeffrey Haddow and music by Neal Hampton) received its world premiere by the Denver Center Theatre Company in April 2013 staged by Tony-nominated director Marcia Milgrom Dodge. In 2014, the Utah Shakespeare Festival presented Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan's adaptation of the novel. In 2016, the Bedlam theatrical troupe mounted a well-received minimalist production, adapted by Kate Hamill and directed by Eric Tucker, from a repertory run in 2014.
In 2013, author Joanna Trollope published Sense & Sensibility: A Novel as a part of series called The Austen Project by the publisher, bringing the characters into the present day and providing modern satire.