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<---More Recent 93. Feminism in P&P 92. Descended from Jane Austen? 91. Comparing Emma to P&P Earlier Answers-->

Name:Aurelija Z
Question 94 Could you help me to make a review on Sense and Sensibility?
Reply Dear Aurelija,

As is well known I began to write S&S in the late 1790s as a young woman emerging into writer-ly maturity, and it was the first published of my works (in 1811), leaving me but a few years to enjoy some status as an author (I was published anonymously but gradual awareness of me as the author grew, not with out some amusing alternative claimants to the role coming forward). As a first draft or version composed in the epistolary or letter-writing mode popular earlier in the century, S&S was originally called ‘Elinor and Marianne’ after the heroines; setting up some relationship between the abstract qualities and the characters (Pride and Prejudice, a comparable title, started life under another title and in another less fashionable form).

Presumably Elinor corresponds to ‘Sense’, here, and we may ask if this precludes ‘sensibility’, just as Marianne’s sensibility, or Marianne as sensibility raises similar problems for her relation to ‘sense’ (are there places where she shows this, e.g.?) Sensibility seems ‘under suspicion’ here, but there is a rather flinty version of rationality the world-ly-minded characters like John and Fanny Dashwood would refer to as ‘sense’, to do with emphasising the need for more money, more land, and more power concentrated in their hands to pass on to the sole male heir, spoilt little ‘Harry’ Dashwood.  

Conversely, sensibility seems to be satirised but emerges strongly as a possible plus as Marianne’s ‘affectionate sensibility’ is put forth to comfort her beloved sister Elinor as unkindly treated by powerful, ill-tempered Mrs Ferrars in London. Fanny Dashwood née Ferrars pretends to sensibility, particularly as it helps give her some leverage over her acquisitive but weak husband, John Dashwood, half brother to Elinor and Marianne, but different as chalk and cheese (doesn’t this mean that there is a strong area of congruence or sense of values between Marianne and Elinor (they don’t contrast in quite the same way). Elinor and Marianne are not designing and acquisitive in a society characterised by this. They have it in them to resist ‘evils’.

A different form of corruption, and a shady or shadowy mirror-image of Elinor and Marianne themselves are Nancy and Lucy Steele, parvenues who make the most of their entrée to good society but with a sort of ethics by-pass, a lack of scruple (although the way Edward, Elinor’s admirer, treats Lucy might actually make us sorry for Lucy?) John Willoughby is a seducer and exploiter of women whose treatment of Eliza Williams suggests a possible fate for Marianne, a relation to Eliza’s mother as loved by the Colonel for whom Marianne will ‘substitute’ (Marianne is a sort of ‘dupe’, but Willoughby did come to love her, sort of.) Stupid and imperceptive or characters might be thought of as having much to answer for even when good-hearted: Sir John Middleton and Mrs Jennings, each with a role to play with respect to the younger people they chaperone or abet. This too is worth analysing. Is the happy ending of the novel (with Marianne and Elinor both married and living near each other at Delaford with sensible spouses who do not quarrel) shaded by our knowledge of unhappier ends for exploited or abandoned women, as a likelier fate for Marianne, who suffers much in any case for her desire to live without concealment, calculation or common prudence? Are there lingering doubts over whether Marianne could really be happy with the Colonel as older man and less showy wooer? Are we left with a sense of the sheer malevolence and selfishness at work in an acquisitive society which darkens the novel? (These are just a few ideas and questions to develop in conjunction with your own readings and ideas. Good luck)

With best wishes.

Jane Austen.

October 25, 2005 20:39:45 (GMT Time)

Name:Menka                     Top
Question 93 Hi Jane, I'm doing a project on the feminist elements in Pride and Prejudice. can you please help?
Reply Dear Menka,

Of course feminism was not entirely predictable given my circumstances as a daughter of the Anglican parsonage whose knowledge of the great feminist of my time, Mary Wollstonecraft, was darkened by the scandal attached to her name after William Godwin’s too-revealing posthumous memoir about her. I also wrote as a family entertainer rather than someone with a programme. Nor did I wish to demonise ‘men’ or ‘angelicise’ women. That completely runs across the gamut of differently inflected types, both male and female, I portrayed—some good, some bad, some indifferent.

Still, the structural device ‘as’ feminism is there for all to see: the sheer fact of five Bennet daughters means that the Bennets cannot keep their own property—it is entailed away to a male heir. And I seem to have underlined the fact that this could be seen as heinous by making Mr Collins the unworthy recipient. Then again women couldn’t really have careers except at servant level, or by teaching, so marriage became of urgent importance, and Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend, show what must have happened all too often—she chooses (chooses?) to marry a man she cannot possibly love or respect. Then Mr Darcy, as well as Mr Collins, and Charlotte herself, assumes ‘Lizzie’ will accept him whether she really likes him or not, given his social position, power and wealth. He is astounded when she does not accept him. Presumably this means that he has a relatively low opinion of women, which I corrected with my magnificent heroine, Elizabeth.

Then again, even Kitty and Lydia, the youngest daughters, although silly and immature, have not been helped by their ‘position’. We intuit that Mr Bennet was inclined to look down on them from the start as they were last throws of the child-bearing dice, as it were, and were ‘supposed to have been’ sons. He never says anything positive to them and makes snide and embarrassing comments about them in public. No wonder they were disobedient! And what about Georgiana Darcy—a shy, embarrassed girl, deeply repressed, who runs off with Wickham. There is something distinctly disadvantageous in her specifically feminine formation and upbringing. But, my dear, surely you wish to do some exploring for yourself now!! Good luck.

With best wishes,

Jane Austen.

October 12, 2005 03:25:38 (GMT Time)

Name:Tony Kerr                     Top
Question 92 I am sure that this is not the usual type of question, but I thought I should try you. Several years ago my grandmother's aunt, Miss Janet Friendship,  said to me that our family was related to Jane Austen. I did not question her more about this before she died, and therefore my details are very vague. My main recollection is that she said that the Friendships were related to the Snow family and that this may be the link to the Austens. Perhaps you might know more? Thanks for any help,
Reply Dear Tony,

As your question gently suggests, this connection is a bit too attenuated, or so it would seem, for me to be able to help you much. For example, there is no mention of ‘Snow’ or ‘Friendship’ in the index to Deirdre Le Faye’s authoritative Jane Austen: A Family Record (2nd. Ed.)(Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004). It will be easier to discover a closer kinship than a more distant one -I had no children of my own of course, but finding the names of direct descendants of my brothers would be easier than those of a distant cousin. There are lots of other texts to consult, and the bibliography to this particular work might suggest many further avenues of explanation, but I could find nothing relevant to your quest either in George Holbert Tucker’s A Goodly Heritage (1983) or his Jane Austen: Some Biographical Insights (1994). But again, his bibliographies might be of some help, as might a work like M.C. Hammond’s Relating to Jane (Minerva, 1998), which has no index (!) but (again) several interesting works listed on the sort family histories you wish to consult.

The same sort of reasoning might apply to a massively erudite biography like David Nokes’s (1997), with its archive research, as, with a differently inflected research direction, would Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen: A Life (1997). Again, Park Honan’s biography, itself reissued in 1997, also takes slightly different research directions to the others and is also worth consulting on such grounds. If you have the energy there are many other biographical works to look at, such as Irene Collins’ Jane Austen: A Parson’s Daughter (1998) or Deirdre Le Faye’s Fanny Knight’s Diaries: Jane Austen through Her Niece’s Eyes (Winchester: the Jane Austen Society, 2000), or Valery Grosvenor Myer’s Jane Austen, Obstinate Heart: A Biography (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1997), or Jon Spence’s recent Becoming Jane Austen (2003). Of course the Jane Austen Society (UK) itself has many excellent publications often providing local or parochial information, so you might wish to consult or even join them at a fee of (I believe) £15.00.

One other way to investigate the matter might be through a Genealogy forum such as this one , although of course people tend to consult them because, like you, they have questions, not answers. Perhaps the names of a few of the more immediate descendants, and also the names of a couple of more recent ones would be of assistance. As to the former, regarding my brother James:
Anna Lefroy, Caroline Austen, and James Edward Austen-Leigh
(Anna's daughters included Fanny Caroline Lefroy and Louisa Langlois Bellas)
(James-Edward's children included: Mary Augusta and Edward Compton, and grandchildren: Richard Arthur and Emma Austen-Leigh)
and Fanny Knight's children included: Louisa Knatchbull and Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen. though that is by no means exhaustive -it is a little difficult to remember everyone, even if they were around in my lifetime.

More recent (living!) descendants include the actress Anna Chancellor (see here) and also Diana Shervington, whom various Austen societies are familiar with. She grew up in Chawton House which is still associated with descendants of the familiar name 'Knight' (Chawton's History). Contacting any of these people with queries would be rather a bold move, but that is up to you. Sorry not to have been able to help you more.  

With best wishes,

Jane Austen.

September 26, 2005 23:13:30 (GMT Time)

Name:Radhika Darbari                     Top
Question 91 Do the opening chapters of Emma and Pride and Prejudice have any relation in style, tone, theme? Were both novels set in the same era? I'm reading both and trying to find if really they have any correlation or not.
Reply Dear Radhika,

It would be better perhaps if I supply the frame for a discussion you yourself would probably wish to control and direct. That would be healthier, I think. It has been noted that despite the realism of detail about social arrangements that P&P gives a feeling of fairy-tale realism, with Elizabeth spirited off to that great good place of Pemberley, and with a linguistic sense of closeness to all that epigrammatic 18th century writing, especially in poetry. With Mansfield Park comes an almost oppressive sense of actual history. In Emma the emphasis is on actuality, and highly ‘mimetic’—the characters speak for themselves so much that a sense of a realistically independent world or life-form is much stronger, and of a real place in a given geographical context, though ironically Highbury itself cannot be identified.

People have definite language registers and identifiable attitudes and features which recur. In P&P the diction and syntax are formal, and people are often in the same style or style of address. The theme is marital, but in P&P also highly financial and connected with the need for social security, especially female. Emma by contrast imbricates a sense of the marital (kicking off with the conversion of Miss Taylor into Mrs Weston) with Mr Woodhouse’s evident fears about the physical basis of life and its physical and chemical and somatic (bodily) processes, but Emma is also busy calibrating social hierarchy from an insecure base (her father’s enfeebled state and status). (Note my appalling clergymen in each work who have something in common—Mr Collins and Mr Elton.)  Emma’s world is much more enclosed and autonomous or self-sufficient, though it has its decisive newcomers. But there is also some overlap between Elizabeth and Emma as presiding heroines. Unlike Fanny Price of Mansfield they are feisty, decisive, witty--mocking, even. There is something in them which may require restraining or indeed retraining. Not that they are equal or, finally, alike. I recognised that Emma was flawed, but I crowed over Elizabeth as something like the standard of a certain kind of female perfection.   

With best wishes,

Jane Austen.

September 24, 2005 01:23:02 (GMT Time)