Friday, 11 March 2011

Sense and Sensibility 200th anniversary post (1)

Have you read Sense and Sensibility? It is a clever novel. They were full of it at Althorpe, and although it ends stupidly I was much amused by it. Letter from Lady Bessborough to Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, 1811

Elinor Dashwood is my favourite Austen heroine and each time I read Sense and Sensibility I discover something new about her. Austen was possessed of what Elizabeth Jenkins refers to as 'the occult power of creating human personality - the rarest form of literary genius.' Depth and nuance of character which may not be apparent on first reading an Austen novel are revealed upon re-reading.

Surprisingly, Elizabeth Jenkins was not fond of Elinor. She describes her as 'too rational.' I would argue the Elinor is the only character who keeps it together and retains a sense of humour despite almost unbearable provocation. Marianne falls to pieces when she is abandoned by Willoughby and it is Elinor who supports her while she is simultaneously aware that the man she loves is secretly engaged to the loathsome Lucy Steele who never misses an opportunity to remind her.

Yet when Marianne goes into raptures about autumn leaves, Elinor can dryly remark. 'It is not everyone who shares your passion for dead leaves.' When Lady Middleton's noisy, spoilt children pull their mother and damage her clothes, Elinor remarks that she 'never thinks of tame and quiet children with any abhorrence.'

Whether the novel ends 'stupidly' depends I suppose on your opinion of Edward Ferrars. I still find him a bit of a sap and think perhaps Colonel Brandon would have been a better match for Elinor.

I know you all have busy reading schedules but if anyone gets the time to re-read S&S this year I'd love to know your thoughts!


InĂªs G. said...

Yes, I agree! Colonel Brandon would be such a better match for Elinor. That was the only possible ending I could perceive when reading the book, and was bitterly dissapointed at what happened in the end!

Audrey said...

Oh, me too! I wanted them to end up together. But it would have been out of character for JA to put two so seemingly well-matched people together, wouldn't it? You've also touched on what I liked best about the Elizabeth Jenkins biography - her insights into the novels, and the fact that she was a little harsh about some of them. (I'm hoping to find a copy for my bookshelves as you did.) I just re-read S&S not too long ago, but I'm going to find time to re-read it again this year in honor of the anniversary.

Karen K. said...

I love S&S -- I just made my hotel reservation today for the annual general meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America -- it's going to be here in Texas this year and the theme is the 200th anniversary of S&S so it should be great fun. Naturally I'll have to reread it before the meeting in October.

I always wondered why Elinor didn't marry Brandon, or what about Mrs. Dashwood? She's almost the same age as Col. Brandon. And I read recently that in the entire novel, Marianne and Brandon don't have single recorded conversation. It's all implied. I wonder about that too.

lyn said...

S&S is my second-favourite Austen (after Persuasion). I will definitely reread it this year in honour of the anniversary. Thanks for the reminder!

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I read my first Austen (Pride and Prejudice, unsurprisingly) last year, and enjoyed it thoroughly, so of course, I'd love to read another. Was planning on reading Northanger Abbey next, albeit I think I'll be reading Sense and Sensibility soon-ish a well - the 200th anniversary's good enough a reason!

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

Your post made me want to reread Sense and Sensibility again. Pride and Prejudice will always be my favorite Austen, but Sense and Sensibility comes in a close second. Elinor was always my favorite sister. :)

Monica said...

I'll be re-reading this, probably this year. It's been a little while, as I always pick up the other Austen beauties.

potterjotter said...

Absolutely agree that she should have married Colonel Brandon - let's re-write the book with our own ending!

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

The book club I'm part of have jsut re read S&S. I've a post planned on that coming soon. I noted the 'dead leaves' quote too. What will your other posts be covering?

Steph said...

I have read S&S at least twice, and while I hadn't settled on which Austen to read this year, I suppose this is a sign that 2011 is the year of S&S for me. I love both Elinor and Marianne for very different reasons... I think I have a hard time choosing because the Emma Thompson film version is so wonderful and I love both Emma T. & Kate Winslet! :D

Kat said...

I haven't read Sense & Sensiblity in awhile but it is one of my favorites. Maybe I'll get back to it soon. I haven't read much Austen in a couple of year. I'm worried I'll read them too much, as I did Emma, and then get less pleasure out of them.

Sunday Taylor said...

Yes, I will reread "Sense and Sensibility," one of my favorite books! Currently I am rereading "Howard's End" with my book club (they didn't fight me on this one) and I am so interested if they will love it the way I do. Maybe next time we do a classic we can do "Sense and Sensibiity." And the movie was fabulous!

Penny said...

OK! That's me decided! I was swithering between rereading Northanger Abbey or Persuasion, but now it has to be S&S!

Reading this has reminded me that I was going to read Claire Tomalin's biography. I'm going to close my laptop lid and go and get it NOW!

Vintage Reading said...

Ines G, I have quite a soft spot for Colonel B. Can't think that Marianne would ever settle with him!

Audrey, every time I read S&S I kind of hope Willoughby will end up with Marianne! I know he was a bounder but he almost redeems himself when he visits Elinor during Mariannes illness and even she finds it hard to resist him! Yes, I didn't always agree with EJ, particularly over Elinor. I was lucky to find a copy in perfect condition.

Karen K, I envy you meeting up with other Austenites. I only know a few in 'real life!' I can't think that Marianne would ever be happy with Colonel B and yes, I never thought of him and Mrs Dashwood who is a very attractive widow we are told.

lyn, I hope you post on S&S. It's in my top three Austen novels, too.

anothercookiecrumbles, I'm very fond of Northanger Abbey - I love it more each time I re-read it adn you've reminded me that I need to read it again.

Darlyn, Elinor fans are always welcome here!!!

Monica, please let me know your thoughts on re-reading S&S. A wonderful novel.

potterjotter, yes a communal re-write I think - maybe we'll get a publishing deal!

Joan Hunter Dunn, I read your blog so I will be looking out for your S&S post. (I need to update my sidebar because quite a few of the blogs I regularly visit have not been added yet!)

Steph, yes although I adore Elinor I'm fond of Marianne, too. Particularly when she defends Elinor and then bursts into tears herself! I don't think I've ever seen a film of S&S. *blush*

Kat, yes I wish Austen has written more. She died too young. An undiscovered Austen novel would be a dream find!

Sunday, oh I love E M Forster and he was an Austen fan, too! I'll look out for your review of Howard's End as I haven't read it - I read A Room With A View earlier this year and enjoyed it.

Penny - put the laptop down, move away, get your Tomalin and pleeeease put a review on your blog!

Anonymous said...

Ah, S&S (I nearly wrote S$S - perhaps that would have been better) is a great novel. I said at my group's meeting yesterday that I often identify with Elinor - way too sensible for my own good sometimes.

One of the issues I raised, as people talked about the ending, is why is that so many critcise her endings - particularly this one and MP, but also to some degree Emma (with Mr K being so much older) - and yet love her books. People can be passionate about this. I can understand finding an ending sad and still loving a book but actually disagreeing with an author and still loving it is something else! (I think I feel a post coming on about this!)

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how many people dislike Elinor. She's either too sensible or too prim for them. To which I say 'patooey'.

I personally like the ending, but that may be because, in spite of Alan Rickman's gorgeous face, I thought both Brandon and Edward were rather foolish.

Vintage Reading said...

makedoandread, Brandon is a kind man, but he has no charisma for me and I can't see how Marianne will be happy with him.

Elinor has such inner strength and she's no pushover. Love her!

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

I had a hankering to see the 2009 Masterpiece Theatre version of S&S recently which I like much more than the Emma Thompson version. Having watched it, I was very curious to compare it to the book which I read a number of years ago. Fell in love with the book again and was surprised at how closely the film followed the book in all major respects. I think each sister married the man who most appreciates her main character trait: sense or sensibility.