SENSE AND SENSIBILITY -
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY -
The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.
Their estate was large and their residence was at Norland Park
in the centre of their property where for many generations
they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage
the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance.
The late owner of this estate was a single man who lived
to a very advanced age and who for many years of his life
had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister.
But her death which happened ten years before his own
produced a great alteration in his home; for to supply
her loss he invited and received into his house the family
of his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood the legal inheritor
of the Norland estate and the person to whom he intended
to bequeath it. In the society of his nephew and niece
and their children the old Gentleman's days were
comfortably spent. His attachment to them all increased.
The constant attention of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood
to his wishes which proceeded not merely from interest
but from goodness of heart gave him every degree of solid
comfort which his age could receive; and the cheerfulness
of the children added a relish to his existence.
By a former marriage Mr. Henry Dashwood had one
son: by his present lady three daughters. The son
a steady respectable young man was amply provided
for by the fortune of his mother which had been large
and half of which devolved on him on his coming of age.
By his own marriage likewise which happened soon afterwards
he added to his wealth. To him therefore the succession
to the Norland estate was not so really important as to
his sisters; for their fortune independent of what might
arise to them from their father's inheriting that property
could be but small. Their mother had nothing and their
father only seven thousand pounds in his own disposal;
for the remaining moiety of his first wife's fortune was
also secured to her child and he had only a life-interest
The old gentleman died: his will was read and
like almost every other will gave as much disappointment
as pleasure. He was neither so unjust nor so ungrateful
as to leave his estate from his nephew;--but he left it to him
on such terms as destroyed half the value of the bequest.
Mr. Dashwood had wished for it more for the sake of his
wife and daughters than for himself or his son;--but to
his son and his son's son a child of four years old
it was secured in such a way as to leave to himself
no power of providing for those who were most dear
to him and who most needed a provision by any charge
on the estate or by any sale of its valuable woods.
The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child who
in occasional visits with his father and mother at Norland
had so far gained on the affections of his uncle
by such attractions as are by no means unusual in children
of two or three years old; an imperfect articulation
an earnest desire of having his own way many cunning tricks
and a great deal of noise as to outweigh all the value
of all the attention which for years he had received
from his niece and her daughters. He meant not to
be unkind however and as a mark of his affection
for the three girls he left them a thousand pounds a-piece.
Mr. Dashwood's disappointment was at first severe;
but his temper was cheerful and sanguine; and he might
reasonably hope to live many years and by living economically
lay by a considerable sum from the produce of an estate
already large and capable of almost immediate improvement.
But the fortune which had been so tardy in coming was his
only one twelvemonth. He survived his uncle no longer;
and ten thousand pounds including the late legacies
was all that remained for his widow and daughters.
His son was sent for as soon as his danger was known
and to him Mr. Dashwood recommended with all the strength
and urgency which illness could command the interest
of his mother-in-law and sisters.
Mr. John Dashwood had not the strong feelings of the
rest of the family; but he was affected by a recommendation
of such a nature at such a time and he promised to do
every thing in his power to make them comfortable.
His father was rendered easy by such an assurance
and Mr. John Dashwood had then leisure to consider how
much there might prudently be in his power to do for them.
He was not an ill-disposed young man unless to
be rather cold hearted and rather selfish is to be
ill-disposed: but he was in general well respected;
for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge
of his ordinary duties. Had he married a more amiable woman
he might have been made still more respectable than he
was:--he might even have been made amiable himself; for he
was very young when he married and very fond of his wife.
But Mrs. John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself;--
more narrow-minded and selfish.
When he gave his promise to his father he meditated
within himself to increase the fortunes of his sisters
by the present of a thousand pounds a-piece. He then
really thought himself equal to it. The prospect of four
thousand a-year in addition to his present income
besides the remaining half of his own mother's fortune
warmed his heart and made him feel capable of generosity.--
"Yes he would give them three thousand pounds: it would
be liberal and handsome! It would be enough to make
them completely easy. Three thousand pounds! he could
spare so considerable a sum with little inconvenience."--
He thought of it all day long and for many days successively
and he did not repent.
No sooner was his father's funeral over than Mrs. John
Dashwood without sending any notice of her intention to her
mother-in-law arrived with her child and their attendants.
No one could dispute her right to come; the house was
her husband's from the moment of his father's decease;
but the indelicacy of her conduct was so much the greater
and to a woman in Mrs. Dashwood's situation with only
common feelings must have been highly unpleasing;--
but in HER mind there was a sense of honor so keen
a generosity so romantic that any offence of the kind
by whomsoever given or received was to her a source
of immoveable disgust. Mrs. John Dashwood had never
been a favourite with any of her husband's family;
but she had had no opportunity till the present
of shewing them with how little attention to the comfort
of other people she could act when occasion required it.
So acutely did Mrs. Dashwood feel this ungracious
behaviour and so earnestly did she despise her
daughter-in-law for it that on the arrival of the latter
she would have quitted the house for ever had not the
entreaty of her eldest girl induced her first to reflect
on the propriety of going and her own tender love for all
her three children determined her afterwards to stay
and for their sakes avoid a breach with their brother.
Elinor this eldest daughter whose advice was
so effectual possessed a strength of understanding
and coolness of judgment which qualified her
though only nineteen to be the counsellor of her mother
and enabled her frequently to counteract to the advantage
of them all that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood
which must generally have led to imprudence. She had
an excellent heart;--her disposition was affectionate
and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern
them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn;
and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.
Marianne's abilities were in many respects
quite equal to Elinor's. She was sensible and clever;
but eager in everything: her sorrows her joys could have
no moderation. She was generous amiable interesting: she
was everything but prudent. The resemblance between
her and her mother was strikingly great.
Elinor saw with concern the excess of her
sister's sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued
and cherished. They encouraged each other now in the
violence of their affliction. The agony of grief
which overpowered them at first was voluntarily renewed
was sought for was created again and again. They gave
themselves up wholly to their sorrow seeking increase
of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it
and resolved against ever admitting consolation
in future. Elinor too was deeply afflicted; but still
she could struggle she could exert herself. She could
consult with her brother could receive her sister-in-law
on her arrival and treat her with proper attention;
and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion
and encourage her to similar forbearance.
Margaret the other sister was a good-humored
well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed
a good deal of Marianne's romance without having
much of her sense she did not at thirteen bid fair
to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.
Mrs. John Dashwood now installed herself mistress
of Norland; and her mother and sisters-in-law were degraded
to the condition of visitors. As such however they were
treated by her with quiet civility; and by her husband
with as much kindness as he could feel towards anybody
beyond himself his wife and their child. He really
pressed them with some earnestness to consider Norland
as their home; and as no plan appeared so eligible
to Mrs. Dashwood as remaining there till she could
accommodate herself with a house in the neighbourhood
his invitation was accepted.
A continuance in a place where everything reminded
her of former delight was exactly what suited her mind.
In seasons of cheerfulness no temper could be more cheerful
than hers or possess in a greater degree that sanguine
expectation of happiness which is happiness itself.
But in sorrow she must be equally carried away by her fancy
and as far beyond consolation as in pleasure she was
Mrs. John Dashwood did not at all approve of what her
husband intended to do for his sisters. To take three
thousand pounds from the fortune of their dear little boy
would be impoverishing him to the most dreadful degree.
She begged him to think again on the subject. How could
he answer it to himself to rob his child and his only
child too of so large a sum? And what possible claim
could the Miss Dashwoods who were related to him only by
half blood which she considered as no relationship at all
have on his generosity to so large an amount. It was very
well known that no affection was ever supposed to exist
between the children of any man by different marriages;
and why was he to ruin himself and their poor little Harry
by giving away all his money to his half sisters?
"It was my father's last request to me" replied
her husband "that I should assist his widow and daughters."
"He did not know what he was talking of I dare say;
ten to one but he was light-headed at the time.
Had he been in his right senses he could not have thought
of such a thing as begging you to give away half your
fortune from your own child."
"He did not stipulate for any particular sum
my dear Fanny; he only requested me in general terms
to assist them and make their situation more comfortable
than it was in his power to do. Perhaps it would
have been as well if he had left it wholly to myself.
He could hardly suppose I should neglect them.
But as he required the promise I could not do less
than give it; at least I thought so at the time.
The promise therefore was given and must be performed.
Something must be done for them whenever they leave Norland