Bout of Books fail. Ah, well, who can focus for a week? My laser-like focus, like a laser, lasts mere moments. I did, however, finish Sense and Sensibility. If you haven’t read it, don’t read on, because it’s not the sort of book I can talk abut without spoiling everything. Two young women named Dashwood embody Sense and Sensibility or Feeling as we would probably say now. This is the emotions vs. thinking slapdown. Marianne voted Miss Sensibility 1796 falls for the perfect man in chapter 3 or so. They appear to be all set to live happily ever after, except they never quite say they are definitely going to do that. Compared with her sister, who won Miss Sense in 1795, who is apparently quite solidly engaged to Edward Ferrars, (not sure why Willoughby is always known by his last name Willoughby while Edward is Edward) but then it turns out this engagement is all in her head as well. So there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them. Each has lost her heart to a guy who then leaves abruptly and starts acting peculiar and distant. Edward shows up wearing someone else’s hair in a ring on his finger! Does this set off any alarm bells? Nope. It must be his sister’s hair, though it doesn’t look like his sister’s hair.
But Edward gets all the points for being a fine upstanding citizen though in my book he lead Elinor on and didn’t have the guts to clearly indicate he was not free to marry. She has to find this out from his secret fiancee, Lucy. Elinor and Marianne hang out with their neighbors and their friends and go to London and generally look down on everyone except Colonel Brandon, and I’m thinking how are they both going to marry the Colonel because there’s not another eligible boy for miles even after they go to London.
I was rather shocked by this book. The only Austen I’ve read previously is Pride and Prejudice which is just oh so decorous next to S&S, whose characters are only decorous when they legitimately need to know something and won’t ask, like, Marianne, are you engaged to this engaging young man who has just cut a lock of your hair, because that doesn’t seem like something nice ladies allowed except to their betrotheds. Oh, but no, can’t ask. Just let him go off with his intentions kept carefully to himself.
Unexpectedly they journey to London with Mrs. Jennings. Marianne writes to Willoughby who ignores her. Col. Brandon shows up and calls frequently as the only person worth marrying in the book. He tells Elinor the horrible truth about Willoughby which is that he seduced, impregnated and abandoned Brandon’s 15 year old ward, Eliza. It took Brandon months to find her and now he’s put her in a nice little house in the country. I am the only one truly appalled by this apparently because while Elinor says she’s appalled, she never really writes off ol’ Willoughby who is pictured below:
Marianne is devastated by the loss of Willoughby even after she learns what he’s done. He marries for money, is horribly cold and disdainful and then later on when she might be dying he rides breathlessly to say he’s not as bad as they all think. Elinor buys this. He’s actually worse, because it turns out in the beginning he was just toying with Marianne and only fell for her later. A feeling he ignored in favor of filthy lucre and didn’t have the guts to just tell her. He partially blames Eliza for her own downfall and says she could have found out his address if she wanted. He didn’t know she was living in abject poverty. One of the worst scumbags in 19th century lit. And they’re all like, well, he’s not so bad. He was sorry in the end, and he kind of liked Marianne at one point. Unbelievable.
The one thing that makes partially forgivable all this nonsense is they’re 17 and 19 which I forgot in the process of reading this and was reminded at the end. Thank the good Lord we don’t get married that young any more. And Edward at least is man enough to make straight for Elinor when released from his engagement, so they don’t have to be bigamists and no one has to be killed off. This was Austen’s first published book, so I’ll cut her some slack and not go off about what a ridiculous coincidence it was that Willoughby happened to seduce Brandon’s ward.