Willoughby, who for two-thirds of the book arouses the readers' detestation as a brutal scoundrel, is shown by a wonderful transition whose suddenness is equalled only by its complete convincingness to be actually an object of sympathy. Elizabeth Jenkins, Jane Austen, 1948
The wild and stormy night of Willoughby's return is one of my favourite chapters in Sense and Sensibility. Elinor is keeping vigil over her dangerously ill sister and the wind is howling around the house when she hears a coach and horses draw up. Thinking it is her mother she rises to greet a grief-stricken and remorseful Willoughby. Such is Austen's genius - what Eudora Welty calls 'fairy gifts' - the heartless and mercenary Willoughby actually arouses our pity and even the cool-headed Elinor is overwhelmed by his charisma and physical attractiveness. I suspect Austen quite likes Willoughby too, as she slyly says:
His wife was not always out of humour, nor his home always uncomfortable; and in his breed of horses and dogs, and in sporting of every kind, he found no inconsiderable degree of domestic felicity. Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, 1811
The new annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice is printed on thick creamy paper with beautiful photos and detailed notes by Patricia Meyer Spacks. Some of the annotations seem to state the obvious. Anyone familiar with Austen will know that 'vulgar' means of a low social class and 'dirt' is mud. It is a lovely book, but at £25 I think this is probably one for Austen addicts only!