The Passionate, Evocative Passages
in Jane Austen's Novels
The Sixth Page - Sense and Sensibility
November 10, 2000
Updated: May 30, 2001
By Linda with contributions
from Ashton Dennis
Many people will explain to you that Jane Austen wrote nothing about romance or passion; the worst examples of this view are the petty remarks of Charlotte Bronte. We disagree, we believe that there was a deeply passionate side to Jane Austen. Perhaps Jane Austen's oldest brother, James Austen, said it best when he wrote this about his sister:
On such subjects no wonder that she shou'd write well,
In whom so united those Qualities dwell;
Where 'dear Sensibility', Sterne's darling Maid,
With Sense so attemper'd is finely portray'd
Fair Elinor's self in that Mind is exprest,
And the Feelings of Marianne live in that Breast,
Everyone points to the humor in our Lady's novels - the humor and the intricate logic. These seem to fuel the enduring interest in Jane Austen's novels, but the passionate feelings and the range of emotions are important too. This sensibility is not noticed as often as the other qualities, but its pull is as strong because it is closer to our hearts, and it controls our tides and provides the mixing so that the more obvious qualities are better blended. This web page is devoted to those passages in the novels that evoke our strongest feelings. We purposely allow the sensibilities to eclipse those other qualities, to shade our view from the extreme brightness of the humor and the good sense in order better to view the passion and the sensibility.
You can move from here to the evocative passages of Sense and Sensibility, or advance to the "passionate passages" of
| Emma | Mansfield
Park | Northanger
| Persuasion | Pride and Prejudice |
Sense and Sensibility
Volume 1, Chapter 9: After the death of the Dashwood father, the estate passed to his son by a first marriage, John Dashwood, and his wife, Fanny. The Dashwoods were not accommodated in their former home; but, instead, were settled near relatives at Barton in tolerable comfort.
"The whole country about them abounded in beautiful walks. The high downs, which invited them from almost every window of the cottage to seek the exquisite enjoyment of air on their summits, were a happy alternative when the dirt of the valleys beneath shut up their superior beauties; and towards one of these hills did Marianne and Margaret one memorable morning direct their steps, attracted by the partial sunshine of a showery sky, and unable longer to bear the confinement which the settled rain of the two preceding days had occasioned. The weather was not tempting enough to draw the two others from their pencil and their book, in spite of Marianne's declaration that the day would be lastingly fair, and that every threatening cloud would be drawn off from their hills; and the two girls set off together.
They gaily ascended the downs, rejoicing in their own penetration at every glimpse of blue sky; and when they caught in their faces the animating gales of a high southwesterly wind, they pitied the fears which had prevented their mother and Elinor from sharing such delightful sensations.
'Is there a felicity in the world,' said Marianne, 'superior to this?- Margaret, we will walk here at least two hours.'
Margaret agreed, and they pursued their way against the wind, resisting it with laughing delight for about twenty minutes longer, when suddenly the clouds united over their heads, and a driving rain set full in their face. Chagrined and surprised, they were obliged, though unwillingly, to turn back, for no shelter was nearer than their own house. One consolation, however, remained for them, to which the exigence of the moment gave more than usual propriety,--it was that of running with all possible speed down the steep side of the hill which led immediately to their garden gate.
They set off. Marianne had at first the advantage, but a false step brought her suddenly to the ground; and Margaret, unable to stop herself to assist her, was involuntarily hurried along, and reached the bottom in safety.
A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill, and within a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened. He put down his gun and ran to her assistance. She had raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been twisted in her fall, and she was scarcely able to stand. The gentleman offered his services; and perceiving that her modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms, without farther delay, and carried her down the hill. Then passing through the garden, the gate of which had been left open by Margaret, he bore her directly into the house, whither Margaret was just arrived, and quitted not his hold till he had seated her in a chair in the parlour.
Elinor and her mother rose up in amazement at their entrance; and while the eyes of both were fixed on him with an evident wonder and a secret admiration which equally sprung from his appearance, he apologised for his intrusion by relating its cause, in a manner so frank and so graceful that his person, which was uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice and expression. Had he been even old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would have been secured by an act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings.
She thanked him again and again; and, with a sweetness of address which always attended her, invited him to be seated. But this he declined, as he was dirty and wet. Mrs. Dashwood then begged to know to whom she was obliged. His name, he replied, was Willoughby, and his present home was at Allenham, from whence he hoped she would allow him the honour of calling to-morrow to enquire after Miss Dashwood. The honour was readily granted, and he then departed, to make himself still more interesting, in the midst of a heavy rain.
His manly beauty and more than common gracefulness were instantly the theme of general admiration; and the laugh which his gallantry raised against Marianne received particular spirit from his exterior attractions. Marianne herself had seen less of his person than the rest, for the confusion which crimsoned over her face, on his lifting her up, had robbed her of the power of regarding him after their entering the house. But she had seen enough of him to join in all the admiration of the others, and with an energy which always adorned her praise. His person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story; and in his carrying her into the house with so little previous formality there was a rapidity of thought which particularly recommended the action to her. Every circumstance belonging to him was interesting. His name was good, his residence was in their favourite village, and she soon found out that of all manly dresses a shooting-jacket was the most becoming. Her imagination was busy, her reflections were pleasant, and the pain of a sprained ankle was disregarded."
Volume 2, Chapter 5: Mrs. Jennings was like a overly-large, overly-playful puppy. She was too enthusiastic to be careful and was having too much fun to notice everything that was important. But, she also was as loving, loyal, and well-meaning as that puppy. On the other hand, she was wise in her way, and had a strength of character and will - she was experienced in the world. It was under the care and protection of this woman, that the Dashwood sisters were brought to London - and to London society.
Elinor had learned from Lucy Steele of her engagement to Edward Ferrars, and Marianne was seeking some explanation from Willoughby. Elinor could say nothing of the engagement because Lucy had sworn her to secrecy - Elinor must suffer in silence. Marianne was writing notes to Willoughby and Elinor, thereby, made the assumption that anyone would make in Jane Austen's time - Marianne and Willoughby must be engaged. But, why would Marianne give no information? Instead Marianne was anxious and overwrought for some reason; and, in the next passage, she lashes out at the only target available - her sister. A note arrived and Marianne was sure it must be an answer from Willoughby, but she was wrong and disappointed.
" 'For me!' cried Marianne, stepping hastily forward.
'No, ma'am, for my mistress.'
But Marianne, not convinced, took it instantly up.
'It is, indeed, for Mrs. Jennings; how provoking!'
'You are expecting a letter, then?' said Elinor, unable to be longer silent.
'Yes, a little--not much.'
After a short pause. 'You have no confidence in me, Marianne.'
'Nay, Elinor this reproach from you--you who have confidence in no one!'
'Me!' returned Elinor, in some confusion; 'indeed, Marianne, I have nothing to tell.'
'Nor I,' answered Marianne with energy; 'our situations then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.' "
Volume 2, Chapter 6: Willoughby had called once at Mrs. Jennings's, when they had been out, but he was otherwise inattentive. Marianne grew more distressed. Perhaps Elinor might have thought it a welcome distraction when she and Marianne were invited to attend a large social gathering.
"They had not remained in this manner long, before Elinor perceived Willoughby, standing within a few yards of them, in earnest conversation with a very fashionable looking young woman. She soon caught his eye, and he immediately bowed, but without attempting to speak to her, or to approach Marianne, though he could not but see her; and then continued his discourse with the same lady. Elinor turned involuntarily to Marianne, to see whether it could be unobserved by her. At that moment she first perceived him; and her whole countenance glowing with sudden delight, she would have moved towards him instantly, had not her sister caught hold of her.
'Good heavens!' she exclaimed, 'he is there--he is there! Oh, why does he not look at me? Why cannot I speak to him?'
'Pray, pray be composed,' cried Elinor, 'and do not betray what you feel to every body present. Perhaps he has not observed you yet.'
This, however, was more than she could believe herself; and to be composed at such a moment was not only beyond the reach of Marianne, it was beyond her wish. She sat in an agony of impatience which affected every feature.
At last he turned round again, and regarded them both; she started up, and pronouncing his name in a tone of affection, held out her hand to him. He approached; and addressing himself rather to Elinor than Marianne, as if wishing to avoid her eye, and determined not to observe her attitude, enquired, in a hurried manner, after Mrs. Dashwood, and asked how long they had been in town. Elinor was robbed of all persence of mind by such an address, and was unable to say a word. But the feelings of her sister were instantly expressed. Her face was crimsoned over, and she exclaimed, in a voice of the greatest emotion, 'Good God! Willoughby, what is the meaning of this? Have you not received my letters? Will you not shake hands with me?'
He could not then avoid it; but her touch seemed painful to him, and he held her hand only for a moment. During all this time he was evidently struggling for composure. Elinor watched his countenance and saw its expression becoming more tranquil. After a moment's pause, he spoke with calmness.
'I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley Street last Tuesday, and very much regretted that I was not fortunate enough to find yourselves and Mrs. Jennings at home. My card was not lost, I hope.'
'But have you not received my notes?' cried Marianne in the wildest anxiety. 'Here is some mistake, I am sure--some dreadful mistake. What can be the meaning of it? Tell me, Willoughby; for Heaven's sake tell me; what is the matter?'
He made no reply: his complexion changed, and all his embarrassment returned; but as if, on catching the eye of the young lady with whom he had been previously talking, he felt the necessity of instant exertion, he recovered himself again, and after saying, 'Yes, I had the pleasure of receiving the information of your arrival in town, which you were so good as to send me,' turned hastily away with a slight bow, and joined his friend.
Marianne, now looking dreadfully white, and unable to stand, sunk into her chair; and Elinor, expecting every moment to see her faint, tried to screen her from the observation of others, while reviving her with lavender water.
'Go to him, Elinor,' she cried, as soon as she could speak, 'and force him to come to me. Tell him I must see him again--must speak to him instantly.--I cannot rest--I shall not have a moment's peace till this is explained--some dreadful misapprehension or other.--Oh, go to him this moment.'
'How can that be done? No, my dearest Marianne, you must wait. This is not the place for explanations. Wait only till to-morrow.'
With difficulty, however, could she prevent her from following him herself; and to persuade her to check her agitation, to wait, at least, with the appearance of composure, till she might speak to him with more privacy and more effect, was impossible, for Marianne continued incessantly to give way in a low voice to the misery of her feelings, by exclamations of wretchedness. In a short time Elinor saw Willoughby quit the room by the door towards the staircase; and telling Marianne that he was gone, urged the impossibility of speaking to him again that evening, as a fresh argument for her to be calm. She instantly begged her sister would entreat Lady Middleton to take them home, as she was too miserable to stay a minute longer.
Lady Middleton, ... on being informed that Marianne was unwell, was too polite to object for a moment to her wish of going away, ... they departed as soon the carriage could be found. Scarcely a word was spoken during their return to Berkeley Street. Marianne was in a silent agony, too much oppressed even for tears; but as Mrs. Jennings was luckily not come home, they could go directly to their own room, where hartshorn restored her a little to herself. She was soon undressed and in bed; and as she seemed desirous of being alone, her sister then left her, and while she waited the return of Mrs. Jennings, had leisure enough for thinking over the past.
That some kind of engagement had subsisted between Willoughby and Marianne she could not doubt, and that Willoughby was weary of it, seemed equally clear; for however Marianne might still feed her own wishes, she could not attribute such behaviour to mistake or misapprehension of any kind. Nothing but a thorough change of sentiment could account for it. Her indignation would have been still stronger than it was, had she not witnessed that embarrassment which seemed to speak a consciousness of his own misconduct, and prevented her from believing him so unprincipled as to have been sporting with the affections of her sister from the first, without any design that would bear investigation. Absence might have weakened his regard, and convenience might have determined him to overcome it; but that such a regard had formerly existed she could not bring herself to doubt.
As for Marianne, on the pangs which so unhappy a meeting must already have given her, and on those still more severe which might await her in its probable consequence, she could not reflect without the deepest concern. Her own situation gained in the comparison; for while she could esteem Edward as much as ever, however they might be divided in future, her mind might be always supported. But every circumstance that could embitter such an evil seemed uniting to heighten the misery of Marianne in a final separation from Willoughby--in an immediate and irreconcilable rupture with him."
Marianne was not quite seventeen years old.
Worse reports would soon be made: Willoughby had impregnated and abandoned Colonel Brandon's ward, Eliza Williams.
C. S. Lewis excerpted four epiphanies (sudden realizations of things as they are) experienced by Jane-Austen heroines. Those were used to begin his essay, A Note on Jane Austen, Essays in Criticism, October 1954. All four are dramatic and belong in our collection. For example, he excerpted from Volume 3 of Sense and Sensibility. The first two are from Chapters 1 and 2 of that volume.
Marianne has just learned that Edward is engaged to Lucy Steele and that Elinor had known of it, but had been obliged to suffer in silence and not divulge her knowledge to anyone.
" 'Oh Elinor, you have made me hate myself forever. How barbarous have I been to you!--you, who have been my only comfort, who have born with me in all my misery, who have seemed to be suffering only for me!' "
"Marianne's courage soon failed her, in trying to converse upon a topic which always left her more dissatisfied with herself than ever, by the contrast that it necessarily produced between Elinor's conduct and her own. She felt all the force of that comparison; but not as her sister had hoped, to urge her to exertion now; she felt it with all the pain of continual self-reproach, regretted most bitterly that she had never exerted before; but it brought only the torture of penitence, without the hope of ammendment ... [Elinor later saw in Marianne] an apparent composure of mind which, in being the result, as she trusted, of serious reflection, must eventually lead her to contentment and cheerfulness ..."
Volume 3, Chapter 7: Marianne was grieving at Willoughby's betrayal and now she had Elinor's disappointment to add to her sorrows. The party was headed back to her home - to her mother, when it made a short stop at the Palmer's estate, Cleveland. Marianne's self-neglect was beginning to take its toll in the form of a growing illness. Apparently, Colonel Brandon was more alert to the danger than either of the Dashwood sisters.
"Marianne got up the next morning at her usual time; to every enquiry replied that she was better, and tried to prove herself so, by engaging in her accustomary employments. But a day spent in sitting shivering over the fire with a book in her hand, which she was unable to read, or in lying, weary and languid, on a sofa, did not speak much in favour of her amendment; and when, at last, she went early to bed, more and more indisposed, Colonel Brandon was only astonished at her sister's composure, who, though attending and nursing her the whole day, against Marianne's inclination, and forcing proper medicines on her at night, trusted, like Marianne, to the certainty and efficacy of sleep, and felt no real alarm.
A very restless and feverish night, however, disappointed the expectation of both; and when Marianne, after persisting in rising, confessed herself unable to sit up, and returned voluntarily to her bed, Elinor was very ready to adopt Mrs. Jennings's advice, of sending for the Palmers' apothecary."
The apothecary came and expressed some concern by allowing the word "infection" to pass his lips. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclined from the first to think Marianne's complaint more serious than Elinor, now urged the immediate removal of her daughter with the infant grandson. They set off for the house of a near relation. Mrs. Jennings, however, with a kindness of heart which made Elinor really love her, declared her resolution of not stirring from Cleveland as long as Marianne remained ill, and to supply to her the place of the mother she had taken her from. Elinor found her, on every occasion, a most willing and active helpmate, and often, by her better experience in nursing, of material use.
"Poor Marianne, languid and low from the nature of her malady, and feeling herself universally ill, could no longer hope that to-morrow would find her recovered; and the idea of what to-morrow would have produced, but for this unlucky illness, made every ailment severe; for on that day they were to have begun their journey home; and ... were to have taken their mother by surprise on the following forenoon. The little she said was all in lamentation of this inevitable delay; though Elinor tried to raise her spirits, and make her believe, as she then really believed herself, that it would be a very short one."
The next day, their party was farther reduced; Mr. Palmer, though very unwilling to go, as well from real humanity and good-nature as from a dislike of appearing to be frightened away, was persuaded at last, by Colonel Brandon, to perform his promise of following his wife. Colonel Brandon himself, with a much greater exertion, began to talk of going likewise. Here, the kindness of Mrs. Jennings interposed; telling him at once that his stay at Cleveland was necessary to herself while Miss Dashwood was above with her sister, &c., she urged him so strongly to remain, that he, who was gratifying the first wish of his own heart by a compliance, could not long demur; especially as Mrs. Jennings's entreaty was warmly seconded by Mr. Palmer, who seemed to feel a relief to himself in leaving behind him a person so well able to assist or advise Miss Dashwood in any emergency.
"Marianne was, of course, kept in ignorance of all these arrangements. She knew not that she had been the means of sending the owners of Cleveland away, in about seven days from the time of their arrival. ... [the apothecary], who attended her every day, still talked boldly of a speedy recovery; and Miss Dashwood was equally sanguine; but the expectation of the others was by no means so cheerful. Mrs. Jennings had determined, very early in the seizure, that Marianne would never get over it; and Colonel Brandon, who was chiefly of use in listening to Mrs. Jennings's forebodings, was not in a state of mind to resist their influence. He tried to reason himself out of fears, which the different judgment of the apothecary seemed to render absurd; but the many hours of each day in which he was left entirely alone were but too favourable for the admission of every melancholy idea; and he could not expel from his mind the persuasion that he should see Marianne no more."
At first, the apothecary thought his patient materially better. Elinor, confirmed in every pleasant hope, was all cheerfulness; rejoicing that, in her letters to her mother, she had pursued her own judgment in making very light of the indisposition which delayed them at Cleveland.
"But the day did not close so auspiciously as it began. Towards the evening Marianne became ill again, growing more heavy, restless, and uncomfortable than before. Her sister, however, still sanguine, was willing to attribute the change to nothing more than the fatigue of having sat up to have her bed made; and carefully administering the cordials prescribed, saw her, with satisfaction, sink at last into a slumber, from which she expected the most beneficial effects. Her sleep, though not so quiet as Elinor wished to see it, lasted a considerable time; and anxious to observe the result of it herself, she resolved to sit with her during the whole of it. Mrs. Jennings, knowing nothing of any change in the patient, went unusually early to bed; her maid, who was one of the principal nurses, was recreating herself in the housekeeper's room, and Elinor remained alone with Marianne.
The repose of the latter became more and more disturbed, and her sister, who watched, with unremitting attention, her continual change of posture, and heard the frequent but inarticulate sounds of complaint which passed her lips, was almost wishing to rouse her from so painful a slumber, when Marianne, suddenly awakened by some accidental noise in the house, started hastily up, and, with feverish wildness, cried out,-
'Is mamma coming?'
'Not yet,' cried the other, concealing her terror, and assisting Marianne to lie down again; 'but she will be here, I hope, before it is long. It is a great way, you know, from hence to Barton.'
'But she must not go round by London,' cried Marianne, in the same hurried manner. 'I shall never see her, if she goes by London.'
Elinor perceived, with alarm, that she was not quite herself, and, while attempting to soothe her, eagerly felt her pulse. It was lower and quicker than ever. And Marianne, still talking wildly of mamma, her alarm increased so rapidly, as to determine her on sending instantly for [the apothecary]... "
Yes, but Elinor would not allow herself to see what must be obvious to any reader - we can recognize Marianne's premonition of her own death.
Elinor was seized with the need for dispatching a messenger to Barton for her mother. As soon as she had rung up the maid to take her place by her sister, she hastened down to the drawing-room, where she knew Colonel Brandon was to be found. Yes, he could be consulted with on the best means of getting an urgent message to the mother.
"It was no time for hesitation. Her fears and her difficulties were immediately before him. Her fears, he had, no courage, no confidence, to attempt the removal of: he listened to them in silent despondence; but her difficulties were instantly obviated; for, with a readiness that seemed to speak the occasion, and the service pre-arranged in his mind, he offered himself as the messenger who should fetch Mrs. Dashwood. Elinor made no resistance that was not easily overcome. She thanked him with brief, though fervent gratitude; and while he went to hurry off his servant with a message to [the apothecary], and an order for post-horses directly, she wrote a few lines to her mother.
The comfort of such a friend at that moment as Colonel Brandon,--or such a companion for her mother,--how gratefully was it felt! a companion whose judgment would guide, whose must relieve, and whose friendship might soothe her! As far as the shock of such a summons could be lessened to her, his presence, his manners, his assistance, would lessen it.
He, meanwhile, whatever he might feel, acted with all the firmness of a collected mind, made every necessary arrangement with the utmost despatch, and calculated with exactness the time in which she might look for his return. Not a moment was lost in delay of any kind. The horses arrived, even before they were expected; and Colonel Brandon only pressing her hand with a look of solemnity, and a few words spoken too low to reach her ear, hurried into the carriage. It was then about twelve o'clock, and she returned to her sister's apartment to wait for the arrival of the apothecary, and to watch by her the rest of the night. It was a night of almost equal suffering to both. Hour after hour passed away in sleepless pain and delirium on Marianne's side, and in the most cruel anxiety on Elinor's, before [the apothecary] appeared. Her apprehensions once raised paid by their excess for all her former security; and the servant who sat up with her, for she would not allow Mrs. Jennings to be called, only tortured her more, by hints of what her mistress had always thought.
Marianne's ideas were still, at intervals, fixed incoherently on her mother; and whenever she mentioned her name it gave a pang to the heart of poor Elinor, who, reproaching herself for having trifled with so many days of illness, and wretched for some immediate relief, fancied that all relief might soon be in vain, that every thing had been delayed too long, and pictured to herself her suffering mother arriving too late to see this darling child, or to see her rational.
She was on the point of sending again for [the apothecary], or if he could not come, for some other advice, when the former--but not till after 5 o'clock--arrived. His opinion, however, made some little amends for his delay; for though acknowledging a very unexpected and unpleasant alteration in his patient, he would not allow the danger to be material, and talked of the relief which a fresh mode of treatment must procure, with a confidence which, in a lesser degree, was communicated to Elinor. He promised to call again in the course of three or four hours; and left both the patient and her anxious attendant more composed than he had found them.
With strong concern, and with many reproaches for not being called to their aid, did Mrs. Jennings hear in the morning of what had passed. Her former apprehensions, now with greater reason restored, left her no doubt of the event; and though trying to speak comfort to Elinor, her conviction of her sister's danger would not allow her to offer the comfort of hope. Her heart was really grieved. The rapid decay, the early death of a girl so young, so lovely as Marianne, must have struck a less interested person with concern. On Mrs. Jennings's compassion she had other claims. She had been for three months her companion, was still under her care, and she was known to have been greatly injured, and long unhappy. The distress of her sister, too, particularly a favourite, was before her; and as for their mother, when Mrs. Jennings considered that Marianne might probably be to her what Charlotte was to herself, her sympathy in her sufferings was very sincere.
[The apothecary] was punctual in his second visit; but he came to be disappointed in his hopes of what the last would produce. His medicines had failed; the fever was unabated; and Marianne only more quiet--not more herself--remained in a heavy stupor. Elinor, catching all, and more than all, his fear in a moment, proposed to call in further advice. But he judged it unnecessary: he had still something more to try, some more fresh application, of whose success he was as confident as the last; and his visit concluded with encouraging assurances which reached the ear but could not enter the heart of Miss Dashwood. She was calm, except when she thought of her mother; but she was almost hopeless; and in this state she continued till noon, scarcely stirring from her sister's bed, her thoughts wandering from one image of grief, one suffering friend to another; and her spirits oppressed to the utmost by the conversation of Mrs. Jennings, who scrupled not to attribute the severity and danger of this attack to the many weeks of previous indisposition which Marianne's disappointment had brought on. Elinor felt all the reasonableness of the idea, and it gave fresh misery to her reflections."
And then, matters all turned around.
"About noon, however, she began--but with a caution--a dread of disappointment which for some time kept her silent even to her friend--to fancy, to hope she could perceive a slight amendment in her sister's pulse: she waited, watched, and examined it again and again; and at last, with an agitation more difficult to bury under exterior calmness than all her foregoing distress, ventured to communicate her hopes. Mrs. Jennings, though forced, on examination, to acknowledge a temporary revival, tried to keep her young friend from indulging a thought of its continuance; and Elinor, coming over every injunction of distrust, told herself likewise not to hope. But it was too late. Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious flutter, she bent over her sister to watch--she hardly knew for what. Half an hour passed away, and the favourable symptom yet blessed her. Others even arose to confirm it. Her breath, her skin, her lips, all flattered Elinor with signs of amendment; and Marianne fixed her eyes on her with a rational, though languid, gaze. Anxiety and hope now oppressed her in equal degrees, and left her no moment of tranquillity till the arrival of [the apothecary] at four o'clock; when his assurances, his felicitations on a recovery in her sister even surpassing his expectation, gave her confidence, comfort, and tears of joy.
Marianne was in every respect materially better; and he declared her entirely out of danger. Mrs. Jennings, perhaps satisfied with the partial justification of her forebodings which had been found in their late alarm, allowed herself to trust in his judgment, and admitted, with unfeigned joy, and soon with unequivocal cheerfulness, the probability of an entire recovery."
Remember, this a novel about sisterhood.
"Elinor could not be cheerful. Her joy was of a different kind, and led to any thing rather than to gaiety. Marianne, restored to life, health, friends, and to her doting mother, was an idea to fill her heart with sensations of exquisite comfort, and expand it in fervant gratitude; but it lead to no outward demonstrations of joy, no words, no smiles. All within Elinor's breast was satisfaction, silent and strong.
She continued by the side of her sister, with little intermission, the whole afternoon; calming every fear, satisfying every enquiry of her enfeebled spirits, supplying every succour, and watching almost every look and every breath. The possibility of a relapse would, of course, in some moments, occur to remind her of what anxiety was; but when she saw, on her frequent and minute examination, that every symptom of recovery continued, and saw Marianne at six o'clock sink into a quiet, steady, and to all appearance comfortable, sleep, she silenced every doubt."
The time was now drawing near when Colonel Brandon might be expected back. At ten o'clock, Elinor calculated that her mother would be relieved from the dreadful suspense in which she must now be travelling towards them. The Colonel, too!--perhaps scarcely less an object of pity!
At seven o'clock, leaving Marianne still sweetly asleep, Elinor joined Mrs. Jennings in the drawing-room to tea. Mrs. Jennings would have persuaded her to take some rest before her mother's arrival, and allow her to take her place by Marianne; but Elinor had no sense of fatigue, no capability of sleep at that moment about her, and she was not to be kept away from her sister an unnecessary instant. Mrs. Jennings, therefore, attending her up stairs into the sick chamber, to satisfy herself that all continued right, left her there again to her charge and her thoughts.
And then, it happened.
"The night was cold and stormy. The wind roared round the house, and the rain beat against the windows; but Elinor, all happiness within, regarded it not. Marianne slept through every blast; and the travellers, they had a rich reward in store, for every present inconvenience.
The clock struck eight. Had it been ten, Elinor would have been convinced that at the moment she heard a carriage driving up to the house; and so strong was the persuasion that she did, in spite of the almost impossibility of their being already come, that she moved into the adjoining dressing-closet and opened a window shutter, to be satisfied of the truth. She instantly saw that her ears had not deceived her. The flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in view. By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her poor mother's alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.
Never in her life had Elinor found it so difficult to be calm as at that moment. The knowledge of what her mother must be feeling as the carriage stopped at the door--of her doubt--her dread--perhaps her despair!--and of what she had to tell! with such knowledge it was impossible to be calm. All that remained to be done was to be speedy; and, therefore, staying only till she could leave Mrs. Jennings's maid with her sister, she hurried down stairs.
The bustle in the vestibule, as she passed along an inner lobby, assured her that they were already in the house. She rushed to the drawing-room: she entered it--and saw only Willoughby."
It was Willoughby! - And, he had been drinking.
Volume 3, Chapter 8: Willoughby had come specifically to see Elinor. He had heard of Marianne's illness, was distraught, and had come, "to make you hate me one degree less than you do now. I mean to offer some kind of explanation, some kind of apology, ... and by convincing you, that though I have been always a blockhead, I have not been always a rascal, to obtain something like forgiveness ..." He failed in his wish; in fact, the effort revealed him even more completely as unworthy. This chapter reminds us of those passages in Mansfield Park in which Mary Crawford revealed herself.
Elinor was horrified and her first instinct was to leave him, but he restrained her and made clear that convention be hanged, he would talk to her.
" 'With me!'--in the utmost amazement--'well, sir, be quick--and if you can, less violent.'
'Sit down, and I will be both.'
She hesitated; she knew not what to do. The possibility of Colonel Brandon's arriving and finding her there came across her. But she had promised to hear him; and her curiosity no less than her honor was engaged. After a moment's recollection, therefore, concluding that prudence required dispatch, and that her acquiescence would best promote it, she walked silently towards the table, and sat down. He took the opposite chair; and for half a minute not a word was said by either.
'Pray be quick, sir,' said Elinor, impatiently; 'I have no time to spare.' "
First, Willoughby wanted to know if Marianne was out of danger. Elinor replied that Marianne's friends believed that she was, and then inquired,
" 'Mr. Willoughby, you ought to feel, and I certainly do that after what has passed, your coming here in this manner, and forcing yourself upon my notice, requires a very particular excuse. What is it than you mean by it?' "
Willoughby begged to explain himself.
"'I do not know,' said he, after a pause of expectation on her side, and thoughtfulness on his own, 'how you may have accounted for my behaviour to your sister, or what diabolical motive you may have imputed to me. Perhaps you will hardly think the better of me,--it is worth the trial, however,--and you shall hear every thing. When I first became intimate in your family, I had no other intention, no other view in the acquaintance, than to pass my time pleasantly while I was obliged to remain in Devonshire, more pleasantly than I had ever done before. Your sister's lovely person, and interesting manners, could not but please me; and her behaviour to me almost from the first was of a kind--it is astonishing, when I reflect on what it was, and what she was, that my heart should have been so insensible! But at first, I must confess, my vanity only was elevated by it. Careless of her happiness, thinking only of my own amusement, giving way to feelings which I had always been too much in the habit of indulging, I endeavoured, by every means in my power, to make myself pleasing to her, without any design of returning her affection.'
Miss Dashwood, at this point, turning her eyes on him with the most angry contempt, stopped him, by saying:--
'It is hardly worth while, Mr. Willoughby, for you to relate, or for me to listen any longer. Such a beginning as this cannot be followed by any thing. Do not let me be pained by hearing anything more on the subject.'
'I insist on you hearing the whole of it,' he replied. 'My fortune was never large, and I had always been expensive, always in the habit of associating with people of better income than myself. Every year since my coming of age, or even before, I believe, had added to my debts; and though the death of my old cousin, Mrs. Smith, was to set me free, yet that event being uncertain, and possibly far distant, it had been for some time my intention to re-establish my circumstances by marrying a woman of fortune. To attach myself to your sister, therefore, was not a thing to be thought of; and with a meanness, selfishness, cruelty, which no indignant, no contemptuous look, even of yours, Miss Dashwood, can ever reprobate too much--I was acting in this manner, trying to engage her regard, without a thought of returning it. But one thing may be said for me: even in that horrid state of selfish vanity, I did not know the extent of the injury I meditated, because I did not then know what it was to love. But have I ever known it? Well may it be doubted; for, had I really loved, could I have sacrificed my feelings to vanity, to avarice? or what is more, could I have sacrificed hers? But I have done it. To avoid a comparative poverty, which her affection and her society would have deprived of all its horrors, I have, by raising myself to affluence, lost every thing that could make it a blessing.'
'You did, then,' said Elinor, a little softened, 'believe yourself at one time attached to her?'
'To have resisted such attractions, to have withstood such tenderness! Is there a man on earth who could have done it? Yes, I found myself, by insensible degrees, sincerely fond of her; and the happiest hours of my life were what I spent with her when I felt my intentions were strictly honourable, and my feelings blameless. Even then, however, when fully determined on paying my addresses to her, I allowed myself most improperly to put off, from day to day, the moment of doing it, from an unwillingness to enter into an engagement while my circumstances were so greatly embarrassed. I will not reason here--nor will I stop for you to expatiate on the absurdity, and the worse than absurdity, of scrupling to engage my faith where my honour was already bound. The event has proved that I was a cunning fool, providing with great circumspection for a possible opportunity of making myself contemptible and wretched for ever. At last, however, my resolution was taken; and I had determined, as soon as I could engage her alone, to justify the attentions I had so invariably paid her, and openly assure her of an affection which I had already taken such pains to display. ..."
Then the seamy side of the story began as Willoughby talked of his seduction of Eliza Williams, her subsequent pregnancy, and his abandonment of her. His interpretation of his wealthy cousin's - Mrs Smith's - reaction to these events was no less contemptible.
" '... But in the interim--in the interim of the very few hours that were to pass before I could have an opportunity of speaking with her in private--a circumstance occurred--an unlucky circumstance--to ruin all my resolution, and with it all my comfort. A discovery took place,'--here he hesitated and looked down. 'Mrs. Smith had somehow or other been informed, I imagine by some distant relation, whose interest it was to deprive me of her favour, of an affair, a connection--but I need not explain myself farther,' he added, looking at her with an heightened colour and an enquiring eye--'your particular intimacy--you have probably heard the whole story long ago.'
'I have,' returned Elinor, colouring likewise, and hardening her heart anew against any compassion for him, 'I have heard it all; and how you will explain away any part of your guilt in that dreadful business I confess is beyond my comprehension.'
'Remember,' cried Willoughby, 'from whom you received the account. Could it be an impartial one? I acknowledge that her situation and her character ought to have been respected by me. I do not mean to justify myself, but at the same time cannot leave you to suppose that I have nothing to urge--that because she was injured she was irreproachable, and because I was a libertine, she must be a saint. If the violence of her passions, the weakness of her understanding--I do not mean, however, to defend myself. Her affection for me deserved better treatment; and I often, with great self-reproach, recall the tenderness which, for a very short time, had the power of creating any return. I wish--I heartily wish it had never been. But I have injured more than herself; and I have injured one, whose affection for me (may I say it?) was scarcely less warm than hers; and whose mind--oh, how infinitely superior!'
'Your indifference, however, towards that unfortunate girl--I must say it, unpleasant to me as the discussion of such a subject may well be--your indifference is no apology for your cruel neglect of her. Do not think yourself excused by any weakness, any natural defect of understanding on her side, in the wanton cruelty so evident on yours. You must have known, that while you were enjoying yourself in Devonshire, pursuing fresh schemes, always gay, always happy, she was reduced to the extremest indigence.'
'But, upon my soul, I did not know it," he warmly replied: "I did not recollect that I had omitted to give her my direction; and common sense might have told her how to find it out.'
'Well, sir, and what said Mrs. Smith?'
'She taxed me with the offence at once, and my confusion may be guessed. The purity of her life, the formality of her notions, her ignorance of the world--every thing was against me. The matter itself I could not deny, and vain was every endeavour to soften it. She was previously disposed, I believe, to doubt the morality of my conduct in general, and was, moreover, discontented with the very little attention, the very little portion of my time that I had bestowed on her in my present visit. In short, it ended in a total breach. By one measure I might have saved myself. In the height of her morality, good woman! she offered to forgive the past, if I would marry Eliza. That could not be; and I was formally dismissed from her favour and her house. The night following this affair--I was to go the next morning--was spent by me in deliberating on what my future conduct should be. The struggle was great, but it ended too soon. My affection for Marianne, my thorough conviction of her attachment to me--it was all insufficient to outweigh that dread of poverty, or get the better of those false ideas of the necessity of riches, which I was naturally inclined to feel; and expensive society had increased. I had reason to believe myself secure of my present wife, if I chose to address her, and I persuaded myself to think that nothing else in common prudence remained for me to do. ... To see Marianne I felt would be dreadful; and I even doubted whether I could see her again and keep to my resolution. In that point, however, I undervalued my own magnanimity, as the event declared; for I went, I saw her, and saw her miserable, and left her miserable; and left her hoping never to see her again.'
They were both silent for a few moments. Elinor first spoke.
'Did you tell her that you should soon return?'
'I do not know what I told her,' he replied, impatiently; 'less than was due to the past beyond a doubt, and in all likelihood much more than was justified by the future. I cannot think of it. It won't do. ... Well, I went, left all that I loved, and went to those to whom, at best, I was only indifferent. My journey to town- travelling with my own horses, and therefore so tediously--no creature to speak to--my own reflections so cheerful--when I looked forward every thing so inviting!--when I looked back at Barton, the picture so soothing!--oh, it was a blessed journey!'
He stopped.'Well, sir,' said Elinor, who, though pitying him, grew impatient for his departure, 'and this is all?' "
No - Willoughby's whining continued. He mentioned Marianne in a superior light to his wife. Elinor felt it her duty to check such ideas in her companion, 'This is not right, Mr. Willoughby. Remember that you are married. Relate only what in your conscience you think necessary for me to hear.'
" 'Marianne's note, by assuring me that I was still as dear to her as in former days--that in spite of the many, many weeks we had been separated, she was as constant in her own feelings, and as full of faith in the constancy of mine as ever--awakened all my remorse. I say awakened, because time and London, business and dissipation, had in some measure quieted it, and I had been growing a fine hardened villain, fancying myself indifferent to her, and choosing to fancy that she too must have become indifferent to me; talking to myself of our past attachment as a mere idle, trifling business; shrugging up my shoulders in proof of its being so, and silencing every reproach, overcoming every scruple, by secretly saying now and then, "I shall be heartily glad to hear she is well married." But this note made me know myself better. I felt that she was infinitely dearer to me than any other woman in the world, and that I was using her infamously. But every thing was then just settled between Miss Grey and me. To retreat was impossible. All that I had to do was to avoid you both. I sent no answer to Marianne, intending by that to preserve myself from her farther notice; and for some time I was even determined not to call in Berkeley Street; but at last, judging it wiser to affect the air of a cool, common acquaintance than anything else, I watched you all safely out of the house one morning, and left my name.'
'... If you can pity me, Miss Dashwood, pity my situation as it was then. With my head and heart full of your sister, I was forced to play the happy lover to another woman! Those three or four weeks were worse than all. Well, at last, as I need not tell you, you were forced on me; and what a sweet figure I cut! what an evening of agony Willoughby was! Marianne, beautiful as an angel on one side, calling me such a tone! Oh, God! holding out her hand to me, asking me for an explanation, with those bewitching eyes fixed in such speaking solicitude on my face! and Sophia, jealous as the devil on the other, looking all that was--Well, it does not signify; it is over now. Such an evening! I ran away from you all as soon as I could; but not before I had seen Marianne's sweet face as white as death. That was the last, last look I ever had of her; the last manner in which she appeared to me. It was a horrid sight! yet when I thought of her today as really dying, it was a kind of comfort to me to imagine that I knew exactly how she would appear to those who saw her last in this world. She was before me, constantly before me, as I travelled, in the same look and hue.' "
" 'You are very wrong, Mr. Willoughby; very blamable,' said Elinor; while her voice, in spite of herself, betrayed her compassionate emotion; 'you ought not to speak in this way, either of Mrs. Willoughby or my sister. You had made your own choice. It was not forced on you. Your wife has a claim to your politeness, to your respect, at least. She must be attached to you, or she would not have married you. To treat her with unkindness, to speak of her slightingly, is no atonement to Marianne; nor can I suppose it a relief to your own conscience.'
'Do not talk to me of my wife,' said he with a heavy sigh; 'she does not deserve your compassion. She knew I had no regard for her when we married. Well, married we were, and came down to Combe Magna to be happy, and afterwards returned to town to be gay. And now do you pity me, Miss Dashwood? Or have I said all this to no purpose? Am I,--be it only one degree,--am I less guilty in your opinion than I was before? My intentions were not always wrong. Have I explained away any part of my guilt?'
'Yes, you have certainly removed something--a little. You have proved yourself, on the whole, less faulty than I had believed you. You have proved your heart less wicked, much less wicked. But I hardly know--the misery that you have inflicted--I hardly know what could have made it worse.'
[Elinor's] thoughts were silently fixed on the irreparable injury which too early an independence, and its consequent habits of idleness, dissipation, and luxury, had made in the mind, the character, the happiness, of a man who, to every advantage of person and talents, united a disposition naturally open and honest, and a feeling, affectionate temper. The world had made him extravagant and vain; extravagance and vanity had made him cold-hearted and selfish. Vanity while seeking its own guilty triumph at the expense of another, had involved him in a real attachment, which extravagance, or at least its offspring, necessity, had required to be sacrificed. Each faulty propensity in leading him to evil, had led him likewise to punishment. The attachment, from which against honor, against feeling, against every better interest, he had outwardly torn himself, now, when no longer allowable, governed every thought; and the connection, for the sake of which he had, with little scruple, left her sister to misery, was likely to prove a source of unhappiness to himself of a far more incurable nature... "
Finally, Willoughby began to take his leave.
"He held out his hand. She could not refuse to give him hers: he pressed it with affection.
'And you do think something better of me than you did?' said he, letting it fall, and leaning against the mantel-piece, as if forgetting he was to go.
Elinor assured him that she did; that she forgave, pitied, wished him well--was even interested in his happiness--and added some gentle counsel as to the behavior most likely to promote it. His answer was not very encouraging.
'As to that,' said he, 'I must rub through the world as well as I can. Domestic happiness is out of the question. If, however, I am allowed to think that you and yours feel an interest in my fate and actions, it may be the means--it may put me on my guard--at least it may be something to live for. Marianne, to be sure, is lost to me for ever. Were I even by any blessed chance at liberty again--'
Elinor stopped him with a reproof."
Would it not have been acceptable to have stopped him with a knee? - I suppose not.
" 'Well,' he replied, 'once more good-by. I shall now go away and live in dread of one event.'
'What do you mean?'
'Your sister's marriage.'
'You are very wrong. She can never be more lost to you than she is now.'
'But she will be gained by some one else. And if that some one should be the very he whom, of all others, I could least bear--but I will not stay to rob myself of all your compassionate good-will, by showing that where I have most injured I can least forgive. Good-bye.'
'God bless you!' "
We mentioned that C. S. Lewis excerpted epiphanies experienced by Jane-Austen heroines for his essay, A Note on Jane Austen, Essays in Criticism, October 1954. This one is from Chapter 10 of the Volume 3 of Sense and Sensibility. That is the volume describing the emotional healing of Marianne by her sister.
Marianne's strength was returning, and the day was fine - Elinor and Marianne moved outdoors for a short walk when the conversation turned to the subject of Willoughby.
'I am not wishing him too much good,' said Marianne at last, with a sigh, 'when I wish his secret reflections may be no more unpleasant than my own. He will suffer enough in them.'
'Do you compare your conduct with his?'
'No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.'
'Our situations have borne little resemblance.'
'They have borne more than our conduct. Do not, my dearest Elinor, let your kindness defend what I know your judgment must censure. My illness has made me think. It has given me leisure and calmness for serious recollection. Long before I was enough recovered to talk, I was perfectly able to reflect. I considered the past: I saw in my own behaviour, since the beginning of our acquaintance with him last autumn, nothing but a series of imprudence towards myself, and want of kindness to others. I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, and that my want of fortitude under them had almost led me to the grave. My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself by such negligence of my own health, as I had felt, even at the time, to be wrong. Had I died, it would have been self-destruction. I did not know my danger till the danger was removed; but with such feelings as these reflections gave me, I wonder at my recovery,--wonder that the very eagerness of my desire to live, to have time for atonement to my God, and to you all, did not kill me at once. Had I died, in what peculiar misery should I have left you, my nurse, my friend, my sister! You, who had seen all the fretful selfishness of my latter days; who had known all the murmurings of my heart! How should I have lived in your remembrance! My mother, too! How could you have consoled her! I cannot express my own abhorrence of myself. Whenever I looked towards the past, I saw some duty neglected, or some failing indulged. Every body seemed injured by me. The kindness, the unceasing kindness, of Mrs. Jennings, I had repaid with ungrateful contempt. To the Middletons, to the Palmers, the Steeles, to every common acquaintance even, I had been insolent and unjust; with a heart hardened against their merits, and a temper irritated by their very attention. To John, to Fanny, yes, even to them, little as they deserve, I had given less than their due. But you, you above all, above my mother, had been wronged by me. I, and only I, knew your heart and its sorrows; yet to what did it influence me?--not to any compassion that could benefit you or myself. Your example was before me; but to what avail? Was I more considerate of you and your comfort? Did I imitate your forbearance, or lessen your restraints, by taking any part in those offices of general complaisance or particular gratitude which you had hitherto been left to discharge alone? No; not less when I knew you to be unhappy, than when I had believed you at ease, did I turn away from every exertion of duty or friendship; scarcely allowing sorrow to exist but with me, regretting only that heart which had deserted and wronged me, and leaving you, for whom I professed an unbounded affection, to be miserable for my sake.'
Here ceased the rapid flow of her self-reproving spirit; and Elinor, impatient to soothe, though too honest to flatter, gave her instantly that praise and support which her frankness and her contrition so well deserved. Marianne pressed her hand and replied,--
'You are very good. The future must be my proof. I have laid down my plan, and if I am capable of adhering to it, my feelings shall be governed and my temper improved. They shall no longer worry others, nor torture myself. I shall now live solely for my family. You, my mother, and Margaret, must henceforth be all the world to me; you will share my affections entirely between you. From you, from my home, I shall never again have the smallest incitement to move; and if I do mix in other society, it will be only to show that my spirit is humbled, my heart amended, and that I can practise the civilities, the lesser duties of life, with gentleness and forbearance. As for Willoughby, to say that I shall soon, or that I shall ever forget him, would be idle. His remembrance can be overcome by no change of circumstances or opinions. But it shall be regulated, it shall be checked by religion, by reason, by constant employment.'
She paused--and added, in a low voice, 'If I could but know his heart, every thing would become easy.' "
Elinor had not yet told Marianne about Willoughby's visit - she would not endanger a fragile health. She had now been for some time reflecting on the propriety or impropriety of hazarding that narration. But now, without feeling at all nearer decision than before, heard this; and perceived that as reflection did nothing, resolution must do all.
"[Elinor] managed the recital, as she hoped, with address; prepared her anxious listener with caution; related simply and honestly the chief points on which Willoughby grounded his apology; did justice to his repentance, and softened only his protestations of present regard. Marianne said not a word. She trembled: her eyes were fixed on the ground; and her lips became whiter than even sickness had left them. A thousand enquiries sprung up from her heart, but she dared not urge one. She caught every syllable with panting eagerness: her hand, unknowingly to herself, closely pressed her sister's, and tears covered her cheeks.
Elinor, dreading her being tired, led her towards home; and till they reached the door of the cottage, easily conjecturing what her curiosity must be, though no question was suffered to speak it, talked of nothing but Willoughby, and their conversation together; and was carefully minute in every particular of speech and look, where minuteness could be safely indulged. As soon as they entered the house, Marianne, with a kiss of gratitude, and these two words just articulate through her tears, 'Tell mamma,' withdrew from her sister, and walked slowly up stairs. Elinor would not attempt to disturb a solitude so reasonable as what she now sought; and with a mind anxiously prearranging its results, and a resolution of reviving the subject again, should Marianne fail to do it, she turned into the parlour to fulfill her parting injunction. ' "
To, 'Tell mama.'
In the end, both sisters would marry. Elinor to her first, great love and Marianne to the older man who cherished and honored her. So, Sense's was a marriage of mutual affection and sensibility, while Sensibility's was one of good sense.
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