The Great Jane Re-Read: Sense and Sensibility

Time for the great Jane Summer Re-Read!  We're talking about Sense and Sensibility@emily_m_deardo

We’re doing this slightly out of order–I read S&S first this year, so we’re starting there.

Since this is the first post on the Jane Re-Read, let’s do some basic ground rules:

1) Yes, she’s Jane here. I can’t call her “Austen” like I would “Dickens.” Jane just seems like a friend to me. Hence, Jane.

2) Abbreviations: S&S–Sense and Sensibility; P&P–Pride and Prejudice; MP–Mansfield Park; E–Emma; P–Persuasion; NA–Northanger Abbey; JA–Juvenilia, (not her initials. 🙂 )

3) In each entry–which will come up every two weeks–we can talk about anything related to the book. I’ll post links to other things I’ve written about the particular book, and I’ll also post my favorite movie version of each book (there are multiple versions of every book except NA, I think.)

4) I won’t summarize the book. You can google it for that. I’m assuming you’re going to read (or have read) the book. So it’ll just be notes. So, if you haven’t–spoilers, y’all.

Ready, y’all? Let’s start with Jane’s “darling child,” S&S.

I wrote two pieces about S&S here and here, and my favorite version of the movie is the 1995 one, although the BBC’s latest effort is more faithful to the book, overall.

S&S was originally titled Elinor and Marianne, and Jane took time off between the first draft and the published version we know as S&S. She wrote the first draft when she was younger, but it wasn’t published until several years later. Her family relocation to Bath, the death of her father, and the fallout from that made for a peripatetic life. Finally, her brother Edward settled Jane, her mother, and her sister and best friend Cassandra , at Chawton Cottage in the village of Chawton. It was there that Jane revised S&S, P&P and NA, and wrote MP, E, and P. 

The Great Jane Re-Read: Sense and Sensibility @emily_m_deardo

The Dashwood sisters: (l-r) Marianne, Margaret, and Elinor.

Much of S&S deals with a topic Jane was intimately familiar with–what happens to the wife and daughters of a man when he dies. The Dashwood women do not fare nearly as well as the Austen women did. Jane’s brothers all pooled their resources to provide for Jane, Cassandra, and Mrs. Austen. (Cassandra was engaged, but her fiance died in a shipwreck.)  Regency society was very hard for unmarried and widowed women, and that’s illustrated well in the novel. Without Sir John’s easy rent terms for Barton Cottage, the family would’ve been very hard pressed to find anything near their former situation. While the Dashwood women now live in a cottage instead of handsome Norland Parkthey still have at least one maid and a manservant, and are able to live in an approximation of their former life (none of the women have to work, for example, to earn money). But their lives could’ve been much easier if John Dashwood had kept his promise to his dying father.

The closeness of the two sisters is also true to life for Jane. Jane endowed Marianne with several of her qualities: Marianne adores Cowper (Jane’s favorite poet), and shares some of Jane’s personality; also, Jane was the younger sister (and second youngest child in the Austen family). It is easy to imagine Cassandra as Elinor, especially since Elinor is an artist, as Cassandra was. The closeness of sisters is examined in many of Jane’s novels, but particularly here and in P&P (with Jane and Lizzie). In Persuasion, Anne Elliott isn’t close to either of her sisters; Fanny Price in MP is close to one of her younger sisters, and Emma’s older sister, Isabella, is a sort of non-entity since she is married and lives in London, not Highbury, with her husband and children.

The Great Jane Re-Read: Sense and Sensibility @emily_m_deardo

Col. Brandon gives Marianne (Kate Winslet, second left) a new piano.

It’s interesting that only MP deals with brothers–Fanny is very attached to her brother William, who serves in the Royal Navy (as did almost all of Jane’s brothers). Edmund Bertram treats Fanny like a sister for much of MP, but they’re cousins. There are no “true” brothers in any of the other novels: In S&S, he’s the girls half-brother, from their father’s first marriage; there are no Bennet boys, which is a major plot point, and both the Woodhouse and Elliott families have only girls. (This is also a major plot point in Persuasion, not so much in MP.)

I have a lot in common with Marianne. We both love music and romance and poetry, but I also have a bit of Elinor in me. I would never act like Marianne does in the ballroom scene in London, for example. The old-fashioned girl part of me waits for the man to approach and to do the asking. Like Elinor, I’m aware of social norms and what’s acceptable behavior, and 99% of the time, I follow it. (The other 1%…well, sometimes we all go nuts. :-)) But I also am fiercely loyal, like Marianne is, and don’t take fools lightly, although I generally use my Elinor side to refrain from saying whatever I think. (See, Marianne and the Middletons.)

Am I the only one who wanted Edward to buck up? You are not in love with Lucy anymore–break off the engagement! I totally support him keeping his word, but come on, Edward! You were willing to spend your life with a woman who drove you crazy because when you were young you made a mistake and got engaged?! Boo.

The Great Jane Re-Read: Sense and Sensibility @emily_m_deardo

Elinor (Emma Thompson) and Edward (Hugh Grant)

I think every girl has her Willoughby–that man she falls head-over-heels for, the one that seems so perfect. And then you find out he’s not. Maybe he’s not a scoundrel, a la Wickham, but he’s not perfect, and he’s not the man for you.

It’s a fine line between Marianne and Elinor. If you stay silent, like Elinor does, you could miss your chance. But if you’re overly eager, as Marianne is, it can cause you problems later on. I always wondered what Margaret would end up like–more Elinor, or Marianne? Or a good mixture of both?

Like all of Jane’s heroines, Marianne learns a lesson by the time she weds the Colonel (who, incidentally, is never given a first name in the books. He’s just Colonel Brandon.), but I think she’s happier for it. I think she and Elinor both have good, solid marriages, where both of them can love and esteem their husbands (as Mr. Bennet exhorts Lizzie to do in P&P). 

The Great Jane Re-Read: Sense and Sensibility @emily_m_deardo

Marianne (Kate Winslet) and Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) after their wedding.

What do you think of S&S? Are you more a Marianne or an Elinor?

Catholic Women’s Almanac No. 62/ Weekend Rewind

Outside my window::

Man, it’s a gorgeous Memorial Day. Sunshine, blue sky, a few clouds, nice and warm. (The swim this morning was excellent due to weather.) One of my neighbors is grilling out and it makes everything smell yummy.

In the CD player::

The Bridges of Madison County. Oh my gosh, people. This show is awesome. I’m sad it’s closed.:( Here’s a clip of Kelli O’Hara, who plays the female lead, Francesca, singing the show’s opener. It’s a stunner.  (I mean, of course, it’s Jason Robert Brown, but still. It’s so much better than you may think.) I’m alternating between this and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, because who doesn’t need some 80s music every once in awhile?


Sense and Sensibility (Marianne just met Willoughby), Watership Down (I’m about finished and it’s really good), The Pickwick Papers, Keeping Home (a Christian perspective on housekeeping).


Around the house::

Getting ready for the Disney trip which is rapidly approaching! SO excited. I may have mentioned how excited I am. 🙂  So I’m packing clothes and books and toiletries and all the gear I need for a trip to the House of Mouse. Also doing regular cleaning so that when I leave the house (and come back to said house) it won’t be a disaster of Epic Proportions. I also have to make sure I have all the meds ordered and ready to go for the trip, since I don’t want to track down a pharmacy in Orlando that may or may not carry the drugs I need. 🙂



Only one rehearsal this weekend, and it was to run through our existing Act I blocking, block Trouble and work on polishing Iowa Stubborn, which is going really well. I love this show and the cast more every rehearsal, which is great and really exciting, since we also get better every rehearsal.

Well, blocking for three hours counts, right? 🙂 There has also been much swimming since the pool officially opened on Thursday. (I’ve gone twice, which is good for me.) And of course there will be lots of swimming/walking at WDW.

Fun links::

This Jane  discovery.  (Everyone needs more Jane in their lives) and where Richard III will be buried.  So, yes, a British flavor to these today. 🙂

Weekend Rewind::

There was swimming, there was X-Men: Days of Future Past (I will say it is probably helpful to have seen the other movies before this one, but I don’t think you’ll be irrevocably lost if you haven’t seen them before seeing this), there was a cookout with perfect burgers. In general, great summer kick off. 🙂

X-Men, by the by, is definitely worth seeing, especially for James McAvoy’s disillusioned and mournful Charles Xavier. Also, Ellen Page has a small but very well done and important role in this installment. And Jean-Luc Picard! (I know, I know. Patrick Stewart, Okkkayyyyy! I grew up with a Trekkie Dad, what do you expect? )

Plans for the week::

More rehab (W and Fri), packing, and then The Happiest Place on Earth. 🙂








Found: A “Lost” note from Jane Austen

Found: A “Lost” note from Jane Austen

A handwritten note by Jane Austen “hidden” for 150 years on the back of a fragment of paper has been revealed.

Experts have linked the text on both the front and back to themes in the author’s novel Mansfield Park.

The fragment was stuck to a letter discovered in a first edition of her memoirs, written by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh.

The revealed text is part of a sermon apparently composed by her brother, the Reverend James Austen in 1814.


(more at the link) 

Seven Quick Takes No. 45


You may have noticed it’s been Jane Austen week here at LA. If you missed them, here are links: Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility; Femininity in Sense and Sensibility; Northanger Abbey’s Unlikely Heroine; The Relationships in Pride and Prejudice. Today is the last day in the series, so I’ll have a post on that up later today (on Emma, I think).


And, also, here are my retreat recap notes.


This week I also turned 32 (on Wednesday). Yeehaw! I always get excited when I get a year older. I defy people who do not acknowledge how old they are. 🙂 I had a really nice birthday, got lots of books and got myself some Doctor Who Series 2 on sale, so even better. We had ice cream cake and there were hockey victories and overall it was glorious.


OK, so on Goodreads, I notice that everyone who reads Moby-Dick likes it but me. Am I the only one who really despises it, or are my friends on GR just crazy literate and/or nuts? Help?

Fun fact: I actually got into an argument with one of my boyfriends about this topic. That’s my life, folks.


Rehab continues apace. It seems to be going really well so we might actually extend it. I’m fighting a cold so I’m going to be on increased steroids, which means I’ll probably want to eat the table. Oh well. Whatever, right? Could be worse. I have to do the treadmill today–dratness–but it’s also Friday so that’s happy.

Today is also National Blue and Green Day for Organ Donation Awareness. Are you an organ donor? If not, please be one.Thank you. I’ll be at Lifeline of Ohio’s Candlelight Vigil for Donation tonight. Actually, all of April is Donate Life Month. It’s very a propos for me. So, if you’re not an organ donor–be one? Please? 🙂


And finally: went to yoga class this week for the first time in a long time. It was pretty epic and I had a blast.

An Unexpected Heroine: Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey

Catherine Morland in the PBS production of Northanger Abbey

Catherine Morland in the PBS production of Northanger Abbey

“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her to be born a heroine.” So beings Jane Austen’s first written–but last published–novel, Northanger Abbey. Written in 1788-1789, slightly revised in 1802, and finally published in 1818, Catherine Morland is an ordinary, tomboyish girl, in contrast to Austen’s other characters, who are usually “gentlemen’s daughters”, as Elizabeth says in Pride and Prejudice. 

Northanger Abbey is a mishmash of things: a Gothic burlesque–Gothic romances, like Anne Radcliffe’s The Mystery of Udolpho (which you can still read, by the way), were very popular at this time, and Austen “sent in up” in Northanger Abbey–but it also has other questions and themes. Catherine’s imagination clearly runs way with her–the expectations she has from the gothic romances she has read have colored her perception of reality to an insupportable degree. But it’s also a novel of the difficulty of growing up (which is something Marianne Dashwood also faces in Sense and Sensibility).

In today’s Dominicana post, “The Way of Shame: Moral Education in Northanger Abbey”:

Northanger Abbey is quite often the most difficult book for the Austen reader to enjoy, as it appears to lack the gravitas that underlies her other novels. Apart from a satirical reflection on the value of the Gothic genre, the novel seems to lack consideration of any serious issue. The language of the novel is replete with playful banter, pointing to the author’s youthful age when she penned the work, and the heroine is extremely naïve. Finally, there is the seeming mismatch of hero and heroine; Catherine Morland is a young and rather silly girl whose only purported source of attraction for the more mature Henry Tilney was “a persuasion of her partiality for him,” suggesting a certain shallowness in the hero. Given such a match, how could the narration of their history be gratifying for the demanding expectations of the avid Jane Austen reader?

Well of course it lacks the gravitas–it was written by Jane when she was a teenager! It has a rather complicated history of revising, but even with the revisions, it is, at its heart, a novel that parodies the gothic romance. Catherine is a silly girl, on purpose. She’s not quite seventeen when the novel opens. She is the oldest of ten children, born to a clergyman–a situation much like Austen’s own–and she is, in most respects, simply young. She has little experience of the world outside her family, which a trip to Bath quickly remedies. An avid Austen reader–who, let’s face it, are probably mostly women–can relate to Catherine, because a lot of us were probably that way when we were seventeen. We were a bit silly, a bit romantic, a bit tomboyish. The “playful banter” is a Jane Austen trademark, not a pointer to the author’s youth when she penned the work.

The article then states:

In light of the theme of virtue and the stark contrast that Northanger Abbey presents with regard to her other novels, I suspect that the key to getting over many of these concerns lies in a careful consideration of the importance Austen gives to moral education as a source for plot development.

I don’t know if I would say the moral education is the key. Obviously, Jane focuses on the morality of her characters. It’s expressed many times in all her novels. In all of her novels there is a general theme of maturity, of growing up, as a whole. The heroines tend to grow in virtue, yes, while those without it tend to be what they always were, even as they grow older (see Lydia Bennet for a good example of this).

I’m not really disagreeing with the author about Jane’s use of virtue and moral education. I am somewhat disagreeing with the idea that it’s quite as overtly a moral message as the author is implying. While she was the daughter of a clergyman (and the sister of several),one of the things that makes Austen different from other novelists of her time, and makes her still readable today, is that she doesn’t hit her reader over the head with the 2×4 labeled “virtuous women”. Yes, she writes heroines that grow in mortality and maturity; yes, the themes of virtue and vice are seen in her works. But they are imbedded in the novel with skill and art.

Femininity in Sense and Sensibility

This is an addendum to my last piece, but I couldn’t figure out a good way to incorporate this there, so: a PS, of sorts.

Elinor and Marianne are two sides of the same coin–womanhood. In the Catholic idea of womanhood, women have warmth, receptivity, intuition, and sensitivity. Not emotionalism–not what “sensibility” was called in Jane’s time–but being sensitive to others, feeling things, responding to people’s needs and emotions.

Elinor and Marianne both do this, to different degrees, and both fail to embody these things, to different degrees. Elinor is the “sense”, and she has much more common sense than her mother, to begin with, and even Marianne in some places. Elinor has a good head on her shoulders, we could say. But she is also a bit scared of love, I think, afraid of attachment, afraid of being in too deep. And yet, with Edward, she is those things. She allows herself to fall in love with her brother-in-law, and then the discovery of Lucy Steele’s “engagement” to him wounds her deeply. She does not show it openly, like Marianne does, and that’s no doubt a more mature reaction–Marianne’s loss of Willoughby almost leads to her death. Elinor would never allow herself to do that. But in a way, she tries to hide her affection for Edward and stuff it down in herself so deep that it could scar her heart. Would she have survived, living in her cottage with her mother and without marriage? Yes. But would she be happy? No. Probably not.

Marianne, on the other hand, loves too freely. She has abundant receptivity and intuition when it comes to other people’s feelings, and she is right that Willoughby loved her truly (much more than he will ever love the woman he married for fifty thousand pounds). But she allows herself to sink too deeply into her emotions and allows them to rule her. As a musician, having her feelings so easily accessible allows her to turn in tremendous performances. But it isn’t a healthy way to live.

Finally, both of them come to learn from the other–Marianne, perhaps, more than Elinor. But Elinor isn’t a perfect character, either, and she has to allow some warmth into her heart, which, eventually, she does, with Edward’s proposal. Once Elinor feels free to love, I believe she does it well. But there is such a thing as being too practical and too pragmatic.

A woman needs her special characteristics, and she needs to use them–but with reason, as Aquinas would surely advocate. A cold heart is just as dangerous as one that is too easily tipped to brimming.

Catholic Women’s Almanac No. 44

Outside my window::

It’s not snowing! For the record, this has been the 8th snowiest December on record in Columbus–and it’s not even winter yet. Oy vey! It will, however, be snowing later today……about an inch of so.


Tan pants, a navy blue boatneck top, my Pandora charm bracelet, and really warm wool socks. Smartwool, thou art my friend.


One Thousand White Women, The Fiery Cross (re-reading the Outlander series), Writing Down the Bones (a Christmas gift from Tiff)

In the CD player::

A Midwinter Night’s Dream. I have swapped out Frozen, but now I have the Frozen sheet music, so…. 🙂

Keeping Advent::

The O Antiphons start today with Wisdom. I love the O Antiphons!

Christmas Prep::

That last scarf! And writing a list of gifts received so I can write Thank You notes.


Birthdays. Today is the Pope’s, and Beethoven; Jane Austen’s was yesterday. Let’s party!

From the kitchen::

Nothing tonight, but I did have a very successful dinner party on Saturday! Beef and cider pot along with a salad (greens, capers, red onion, and a vinaigrette with dijon mustard, EVOO, worchestershire, steak seasoning, white wine vinegar)

Around the house::

I think my vacuum cleaner is broken. 😦 So this makes me a bit unhappy. Thankfully it will warm up to the 50s (!) and rain this weekend so my car will get clean!


There is another very ordinary expression that I wonder how often we ponder: someone has a job to “wait on tables”. What do we mean by that? Not that you stand there and do nothing–quite the opposite! You are moving all the time. You are taking care of people’s needs. You are watching out for needs; you don’t even wait until they are expressed. You see that everyone is taken care of, that no one is missed. This is what we mean by waiting. And our dear Lord tells us that he rewards waiting–with waiting! Isn’t that marvelous? “Blessed are those whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them (Lk 12:37).” The reward for focus, for service, for active waiting upon the Lord is that he will wait on us. I think that is the most marvelous truth that the Church shows us in the Scriptures. This is how we rewards us for right, energetic, focused, joyous waiting for him. God always does this. When we wait upon him, then he waits upon our needs.

Who would not want to wait upon Jesus hand and foot? Well, so often the answer is that we are the ones who do not want to do this. Where is he? In the tabernacle, yes; in the world of Scripture, yes; and in the  persons in this room. We want to wait upon him hand and foot in one another, so that he may wait upon us. The more we do this, the more do we enter into the joy of the child, who says in the right way, with the wisdom peculiar to the child, unencumbered by the complexities and rationalizations of the adult, “I can’t wait! I can hardly bear the deliciousness of this activity of waiting!”

How do you wait for someone whom you really love? You do all kinds of things; you have all kinds of surprises awaiting the loved one. It is an expression of love. Real waiting always begets this loving “doing.” It eases the burden of waiting, which otherwise can scarcely be borne, as the child knows so well. The person waiting at the window is full of activity. When we are waiting for the loved one to come down the road, our heart is poudning, our eyes are straining, our whole body is taut, leaning forward. Someone is coming! Someone whom we love above all is coming! And now, in Advent, the One who we love about all is coming. The Church is giving us these precious days to focus the eye, to let the heart pound because he is coming. He will come. By the love of waiting for his little red lights that say, “Step back, now, because someone else needs to be served”, we will enter into the deliciousness of the real “Can’t wait.” We shall understand that when waiting is rightly comprehended, it is a deliciousness that is already indeed a wink of bliss.

–Mother Mary Francis, PCP, Come Lord Jesus, December 17: Waiting

Plans for the week::

Blood drive at work on Thursday and office Christmas lunch; Friday my parents and I are going out to lunch, and Saturday I’m planning to see The Book Thief with a theater pal.