Sense and Sensibility: Volume I, Chapters 13 - 15

To Austen-l

October 23, 1996

Re: Colonel Brandon & Marianne do converse in the novel

It has sometimes been said that Colonel Brandon and Marianne never speak to one another in Austen's S&S. From this assertion inferences are made or explanations concocted (I have done the latter). Today I found an instance of Marianne speaking directly to the Colonel, with Colonel Brandon responding directly in a gesture that signifies more than a flat no, but his unwillingness to disappoint her as well as his disturbed state of mind:

"'But if you write a note to the housekeeper, Mr Brandon,' said Marianne eagerly, 'Will it not be sufficient?' He shook his head" (Chapman I:13, 64).

I will be hunting for any further instances which have been overlooked. If I find any, I will report back. In the meantime I remembered that in the movie there was a parallel silence after the words ceased:


Shall we continue tomorrow?


No--for I must away.


Away? Where?


That I cannot tell you. It is a secret.

He rises to leave

MARIANNE (impulsive)

But you will not stay away long?

CLOSE on BRANDON's reaction.

Ellen Moody

To Janeites

July 14, 1999

Re: S&S, Ch 13: Another Aspect of the Debate

Again and again in this novel we find Elinor and Marianne talking about a situation from opposed points of view which constitute a kind of debate. When Marianne returns from her long ride in a curricle with Willoughby (unchaperoned) and their visit to a house to which she was not invited, where the mistress was not at home, and which she might hope to inherit, Mrs Jennings plays on a series of unspoken innuendos and assumptions about such behavior:

'Mrs. Jennings sat on Elinor's right-hand; and they had not been long seated, before she lent behind her and Willoughby, and said to Marianne, loud enough for them both to hear, "I have found you out in spite of all your tricks. I know where you spent the morning."

Marianne coloured, and replied very hastily, "Where, pray." "Did not you know," said Willoughby, "that we had been out in my curricle?"

"Yes, yes, Mr. Impudence, I know that very well, and I was determined to find out where you had been to. I hope you like your house, Miss Marianne. It is a very large one, I know; and when I come to see you, I hope you will have new-furnished it, for it wanted it very much when I was there six years ago."

Marianne turned away in great confusion' (Oxford S&S, Chapman, I:13, 67).

Marianne is embarrassed, and Elinor 'can hardly believe this to be true'. When they are left alone, it emerges that while Marianne was confused because the subject was brought up in public (and intimate relationships when discussed in public take on a different colouring then when in private), she is not asumed of having spent her afternoon so this way. I like this dialogue because Marianne beautifully deflects Elinor's first argument that she should not have visited Allenham because it subjected her to impertinent remarks: 'we are all offending every moment of our lives', i.e., if we are to be controlled by fear of impertinent remarks, we will never do anything. Some people never talk on the Net lest there be someone somewhere they might offend who might be able to do something for them :). Or hurt them in some way as yet unthought of.

However, the debate squares off on a Rousseauistic argument. Marianne also says she knows she did nothing of which she is ashamed: "if here had been any real impropriety in which I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong" (I:13, 68). It is by the way Marianne's strong sense she did nothing wrong, the way she spent the afternoon, plus the later scenes of the gift of the horse, the cutting of a lock of Marianne's hair that makes Elinor more than half-believe Marianne and Willoughby are engaged. If they were engaged, there would be no impropriety, even were it secret. Except of course secret engagements were much frowned upon.

By-the-way not only are scenes with horses in many novels used to suggest sexual and physical innuendos of all sorts, but the reference to Queen Mab is itself interesting. It's possibly an allusion to Romeo and Juliet and Mercutio's long speech. I seem to remember John Dussinger wrote about Queen Mab and the sexual/physical innuendoes of horseback riding scenes in English novels, but cannot remember where; there was a long interesting debate on Austen-l a long time ago on the gift of the horse and Queen Mab and all its implications (including the simple but important one that it's a very expensive gift, one the Dashwoods can ill afford to keep, and Willoughby is heard to insinuate to Marianne (through the horse) that he is thinking marriage (i.e., it will someday be available to her anyway).

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

Re: Elinor and Marianne

A few points in response to Christopher L. Reese. He writes:

"I still see Elinor as not being "right" because she is SO reserved and lets the ideas of what society says are proper dominate her feelings and ideas so much."

Remember where Elinor and Marianne's conversation in Chapter 17:

"But I thought it was right, Elinor," said Marianne, "to be guided wholly by the opinion of other people. I thought our judgments were given us merely to be subservient to those of neighbours. This has always been your doctrine, I am sure."

"No, Marianne, never. My doctrine has never aimed at the subjection of the understanding. All I have ever attempted to influence has been the behaviour. You must not confound my meaning. I am guilty, I confess, of having often wished you to treat our acquaintance in general with greater attention; but when have I advised you to adopt their sentiments or to conform to their judgment in serious matters?" (Penguin ed, p. 82).

In things of no moment -- whether to help fill out a card table, or go for a walk in a group of people where you don't like most of them very much and all bore you -- Elinor is willing to meld into the group. In things that count, she is not. And she does not adopt the sentiments (thoughts and feelings) of others nor conform to their values in serious matters.

There is no hard or rigid distinction between individual loss and what society demands; some acts cost us more and some less. This way of thinking guides Elizabeth Bennet too; by the time we meet Anne Elliot she has learnt after 8 years of pain and a bad loss to think and act this way. On the other hand, Elinor would be willing to concede, with Emma about Jane Fairfax, that some people in our society are so desperate they must flout outer rules to get what they want that counts (she understands though she does not like Lucy Steele), and some so vulnerable that flouting rules will cost them too much (Fanny Price's case).

It is very difficult to draw a line about preference nor be able to put into finally certain terms what Austen meant by the opposition of these complex words as applied to these two complex characters and their complicated parallel stories. I have always identified with both heroines. I think it is interesting that the one contemporary comment by a family member (a poem) suggests that her family saw her as drawing herself in Marianne. Of course that's their view and comes from 1797-8; it's not Austen's in 1811. The book probably underwent 3 full scale revisions, never mind small changes over the years.

Ellen Moody

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