Posted tagged ‘Anne Steele’

Sense and Sensibility 37-40: Colonel Brandon’s “Proposal” of Sorts

January 27, 2009

My notes from Sense and Sensibility Chapters 37-40.

Plot Points

Chapter 37 sees full disclosure of the Elinor-Edward-Lucy situation as it is revealed that, while visiting the John Dashwoods and Mrs. Ferrars, Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars are engaged. This causes anger not only for John and Fanny Dashwood, who are sympathetic to Elinor, but to Mrs. Ferrars, who had wanted Edward to marry Miss Morton. Elinor informs Marianne who, though very upset about this, is convinced that remaining amiable toward Edward and Lucy is the appropriate thing to do.

Elinor receives various accounts of the strength of Lucy and Edward’s relationship, including from Anne Steele, a letter from Lucy Steele, from Colonel Brandon, and finally from a visit by Edward himself.

The Palmers invite the Dashwood sisters on a short trip, which of course Marianne disapproves as it would have them near Somersetshire. Elinor convinces her that attending would be the proper thing to do. While watching them talking, Mrs. Jennings thinks that she has overheard a proposal of marriange to Elinor by Colonel Brandon. A sort of comedy of errors ensues, but is soon corrected as having been an invitation by Brandon to have Edward and Lucy—his would-be wife—live and take over a house that he owns. Later, Elinor conveys this offer to Edward in person, who is glad to have it.

Themes and Threads

Austen’s desire to create comparison in Sense and Sensibility is shown in the juxtaposition between the Miss Dashwoods and the Miss Steeles. While at the park, the younger Steele passes along some information to Elinor which is later revealed to have been gotten by rumor (or whatever you’d call listening at the door). This, of course, disgusts Elinor, who rebukes her counterpart and wishes to have not heard something that had not been honestly gained. The Dashwoods, by comparison, are more genteele and honest, perhaps more sensitive and sympathetic to each other.

In Context

Much is made by John Dashwood—as he visits Elinor Dashwood to discuss the revelation about Lucy and Edward—about the money that Edward is forfeiting by marrying Lucy instead of Miss Morton. Morton has more than Lucy, of course, and is the preferred candidate for Mrs. Ferrars, and she would bring him more wealth. And though John Dashwood is sympathetic to Elinor because she is her sister, he is also at least equally (if not more) saddened by the situation that Edward is in, to see the revenge of Mrs. Ferrars taken in the giving of her inheritance to his brother Robert:

“‘Can anything be more galling to the spirit of a man,’ continued John, ‘than to see his younger brother in possession of an estate which might have been his own? Poor Edward! I feel for him sincerely.'”

John Dashwood can certainly be said to relate to Edward in this case. He’s the possessor of an inheritance given in the custom of the day: the money and wealth is handed to the eldest male heir. So in Mr. Dashwood’s eyes, the tumult that has come about House Ferrars is troubling indeed.


“‘You have heard, I suppose,’ said he with great solemnity, as soon as he was seated, ‘of the very shocking discovery that took place under our roof yesterday.'”

“‘The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less.'”

Looking Ahead

The misunderstanding between Mrs. Jennings and Elinor was a farce, but there may be something to a potential Elinor-Brandon hook-up, if I am reading their ease of conversation correctly. Afterall, Jennings’s comment which obviated the misunderstanding, “Sure you do not mean to persuade me that the Colonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr Ferrars!” begs an important question even after there is no confusion for Mrs. Jennings: could Brandon have some other motives in the offering to Edward, in expressing the desire to please him or make his life easier (though he refutes that fact himself)?


Sense and Sensibility 21-23: The Miss Steeles; Explicating Elinor

January 15, 2009

I have recently read through Chapters 21-23 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

The Palmers exit, and Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are left with the Middletons. They are introduced to the Steeles, two girls names Lucy and Anne, with whom they socialize via the Middletons. It is in this setting that they learn that Lucy is acquainted with Edward Ferrars. Currious about the connection, Elinor inquires. Yet it is by the confidence of Lucy that Elinor learns—to her great horror—that Lucy has been engaged to Edward for some time. Elinor is very distressed, but is successful in suppressing her emotions regarding this revelation. At the close of Chapter 23, Elinor is hoping to learn more about their relationship.

Character Commentary

Two new characters make their appearnce in these chapters: Lucy and Anne Steele—the Miss Steeles. And they sure do shake things up for the lives of the Miss Dashwoods, particularly Elinor. Lucy is described by Sir John as “monstrous pretty, and so good-humoured and agreeable!” She seeks to please those around her, especially Lady Middleton, by way of superficially coddling her children, especially Annamaria. “What a sweet woman Lady Middleton is,” exclaims Lucy. Later, Lucy uses these sentiments to escape the card table, claiming that it would displease the little girl if she didn’t finish the basket meant for her.

The Dashwoods generally view the Steeles as superficial. Elinor perceives that Lucy’s “powers had received no aid from education, she was ignorant and iliterate, and her deficiency of all mental improvement, her want of information in the most common particulars, could not be concealed…”

Continued is Elinor’s characterization as someone who suppresses emotion for the better, or at least what she perceived to be the best action. Note Austen’s saying of her that “upon Elinor … the whole task of telling lies when politeness required it always fell.” She suppresses her emotion, perhaps ultimately to her advantage if she wants to learn more about the situation surrounding the apparent love triangle.

Style Points

I was generally pleased with the way Austen moved from the dialogue-heavy chapter 22 (in which Elinor learns of the probable unfaithfulness of Edward) to the explication of Chapter 23 (in which thoughts of Elinor are given in detail). The opening sentence of Chapter 23 give the tone of the mix between intense thought and subdued action of which Elinor has become familiar: “However small Elinor’s general dependence on Lucy’s veracity might be, it was impossible for her on serious reflection to suspect it in the present case, where no temptation could be answerable to the folly of inventing a falsehood of such a description.”

Elinor goes through all the possibilities: did Edward lie to her? did he really care about Lucy?: “Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart?” These lines and others do well, I think, to draw the reader in to the thoughts of a character. I have questioned this ‘open’ method before, both in the words of Austen here and in those of George Eliot at The Modern Dash, but here it is successful—partly after its coming off of the heels of the previous conversation between Elinor and Lucy, which I feel is muddy (though necessary) due to the descriptions of opposing interests. After that intense conversation (and revelation about Edward), we need a time of reflection.

By the end of the Chapter, Elinor has made an effort to seek more information: “And as she could now have nothing more painful to hear on the subject than had already been told, she did not mistrust her own ability of going through a repetition of particulars with composure.” Here, we see what I think Austen has intended all along. Sure, Elinor is sensible, but let’s see how she does in a real crisis. Putting one’s characters to the test—sending them clueless into the crucible—is a component of great fiction, in my opinion.


“The young ladies went, and Lady Middleton was happily preserved from the frightful solitude which had threatened her.”

“… she had … suffered the extinction of all her dearest hopes…”

Looking Ahead

What more will Elinor find about about Lucy and Edward? Their relationship still seems a bit vague, but Elinor seems determined—though careful—to dig more. Also, is there is a confrontation coming? Edward’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.