Sense & Sensibility – Context

Jane.jpgComposition / Publication of Austen’s Novels

1795 – Elinor & Marianne (Sense & Sensibility)

1796/7 – First Impressions (Pride & Prejudice)

1798 – Susan (Northanger Abbey)

1811 – Sense & Sensibility

1813 – Pride & Prejudice

1814 – Mansfield Park (Composition 1811-13)

1816 – Emma (Composition 1814-15)

1817 – Death

1818 – Persuasion & Northanger Abbey

Reading Practices by Alan Richardson

Key issue of the expectations of the reader of the time / dangers to the reader (woman) of the time:

  • “anxious schemes for controlling [literacy]” – would Austen be a proponent of controlling reading material?
  • “expose the dangers of fashionable novels”
  • “an uncritical absorption in improbable fictions caricatured by Austen” – “everything he did was right, everything he said was clever”
  • “promiscuous reading” – scandalous – is Marianne a victim of “promiscuous reading”? (Vs faithful reader of Elinor)
  • “individual autonomy of choice”
  • “unspeakably perverting” – Marianne’s constant reading – unrealistic expectations / romantic imagination – but not for Elinor – showing…
  • “inflammatory”

Pastimes by Penny Gay

  1. “A gentleman, unless he belongs to one of the accepted professions, had a great deal of time to be filled with activities, some more obviously useful than others. The same can be said of the ladies, though the professions were barred to them.”

“To some few of the company it appeared rather a bold undertaking considering the time of the year and that it had rained every day for the last fortnight.”

  1. “Women often spent considerable time every day writing letters thus putting fresh local and family news in circulation.”

 

“I can guess what his business is, however; said Mrs. Jennings.” (p49)

  1. “Women’s pursuits and pastimes were mostly indoor and domestic, men’s outdoor and sporting.”

“Sir John was a sportsman, Lady Middleton a mother.” (p24)

  1. “Austen distinguishes her heroines and heroes from their social peers in their unconventional leisure interests.”

“They mean no less to be civil to us”, said Elinor, “by those frequent invitations than by these which we received from them a few weeks ago. The alterations is not in them if their parties are grown tedious and dull.”

 

At some point Jane Austen stopped calling what she did “writing “ and started referring to it as “work”. This marks a semantic shift away from the standard idea that women’s “work” was needlework.

Rank in Sense and Sensibility

 

  • Rank, being something innate that you were born into, was still the common model for social hierarchy
  • However, the growing term “class” was becoming more integrated, as people began seeing social standing as less structurally stationary, and more moveable

1) “Personal mobility of status was becoming more achievable”

“That I think very highly of him- that I greatly esteem, that I like him” – from Elinor

2) “Traditional dynastic alliances give way to modern love matches”

“All his wishes were centred in domestic comfort” – about Edward

  • Men can marry on their love interests, but women should be more careful as they have no way of securing social status on their own
  • Austen suggests that women should be artful when choosing their partners because of this, as they now can ascend in rank if they find a man of higher status who is attracted to them
  • Here, Edward is in a better financial position than Elinor, as the Dashwood’s inheritance went to John Dashwood. However, he rejects his sister and mother’s desires to see him established in a distinguished position in society, which would be enhanced by marrying a wealthy woman – favouring “domestic comfort”. He can do this because he is male and can work for his income – whereas a female must be more careful, as her status largely depends on her husband’s.
  • This explains Elinor’s hesitance to say she “loves” Edward, using euphemistic terms such as “esteem” and “like”, partly because love is not the determining factor for her marriage. As a woman, she must consider who would secure her financial status the best. Both her and Edward’s distancing from each other suggests a mutual understanding that, especially because of their physical distance, if a partner who would better secure Elinor’s status better than Edward presents himself, she should choose him.

3) “Pseudo Gentry” …   “They devoted their lives to acquiring the trappings of gentry status for themselves and especially their children” (David Springs)

“How could he answer it to himself to rob his child, and his only child too, of so large a sum?” – from Mrs John Dashwood’s point of view

  • The concept of the pseudo gentry adds justification to Mrs John Dashwood’s persuasion of Mr Dashwood, using this emotive imagery, to decrease the amount of money given to his sisters from his inheritance
  • Although we dislike her because we perceive this action too far on the side of logic and lacking in any sensibility, Austen could be suggesting this ruthless behaviour is necessary for a woman such as Mrs John Dashwood, because in order for her and her son to have the best life they can achieve, she must rise in social rank.
  • Although John Dashwood is not gentry, Austen seems to place a greater important on lineage and finance than nobility. This is example in Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, who has an estate worth more than £10,000 a year (more than many nobles). “Men of wealth and lineage for whom plain “Mr” was a badge of honour”
  • This explains why Mrs John Dashwood is so anxious for Mr John Dashwood to sustain his finances. Although neither are nobility, keeping Mr Dashwood’s inheritance would better her and her son’s quality of life and status among gentry. Therefore, although we see her actions as quite cold, they are more justifiable to us because it was necessary for women to behave this way.

“Philosophy” – Peter Knox-Shaw

 

 

Enlightenment (understanindg, reason, logic & sciecne) Vs Romaticism

 

Rousseau / Voltaire  Vs Romatic Backlash – Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelly, Blake, Keats

  • “This stress on the importance (and difficulty) of attuning the mind to context is highly reminiscent of Hume and Smith”
  • Austen’s work corresponds to David Hume’s remarks on how “an irrational and universal ‘propensity to believe’ generates a momentum of its own, so that ‘any train of thinking is apt to continue, even when its object fails it, and like a galley put in motion by its oars, carries on its course’.”
    • Linking quotation from S&S: Chapter 4, “She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next – that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.”
    • Austen’s thinking accords to the philosophical / rationalist positions fo the time

 

  • “though human propensities have to be accepted as a given, and are relatively stable, their expression is modified by the way societies pass through different phases.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Hume insists that “in aristocratic societies … a premium is placed on birth with the result that ‘spiritless minds remain in haughty indolence, and dream of nothing but pedigrees and genealogies’ (Enquiry, Section VI).”
    • Linking quotations from S&S: Chapter 19, “you would be a happier man if you had any profession to engage your time and give an interest to your plans and actions”; “I always preferred the church”; “idleness was pronounced on the whole to be the most advantageous and honourable”; “they will be brought up … to be as unlike myself as possible”
  • “Hume had argued that a natural propensity to over-value the self made pride offensive unless it was kept ‘well-regulated’”
  • “Austen never let slip an opportunity to expose the motives lurking behind social concealment”
  • On S&S, “central characters find their sympathies enlarged as their chastened pride leads them to a firmer grasp of the world around them”
  • (Just thought this might be relevant when we finish the novel and see Marianne’s full arc) “Her aim as a writer of comedy was to laugh readers into clear-eyed recognition of a self-love that had been vilified, demonised, or otherwise disowned by a strain of lift-by-the-shoelace rationalism still active within the Enlightenment In company with those latter-day sceptics, Hume and Smith, she preferred a poised and good-humoured acceptance of human frailty to a blinkered and anxious idealism; … she viewed the individual as subject both to sweeping cultural change and to continuous alteration in the private life, even indeed to improvement there – thanks to an inborn capacity for correcting bias towards the self.”

(Austen seems to follow “Hugh Blair’s advice that writers should at all costs avoid ‘the affected and frivolous use of ornament’” – inspired Austen to set the guidelines for the “‘new style of fiction’” – opposition to the fashionable Gothic.)

Nationalism and Empire- Warren Roberts

 

French Revolution- 1789

Sense and Sensibility- written in 1795 (most probable)

Austen had many connections to the British Empire and her brother’s participated in the military struggle between Britain and France- seen as heroic, brave, honourable etc

1Soldiers who had participated in military struggles were seen as ‘contemporary heroes dedicated to the nation’

Colonel Brandon is a ‘good husband’ according to Mrs Jennings

‘French manners entered the rural gentry world of Steventon’

‘Trappings of gentry status’

Women living in a buddle (where is the historical chaos?)

Professions by Brian Southam and ‘Sense and Sensibility’

‘(the cost of being in the army) brought to the army ‘men of fortune and education’, men with a stake in the country’s welfare’

‘She was perfectly convinced of it. It would be an excellent match; for he was rich and she was handsome’

We are guided throughout the novel by Austen to view Colonel Brandon as the superior suitor over Willoughby and the ‘best match’. She does this by making Willoughby seem nasty, Colonel Brandon seem gracious and kind, and also subtly, by making Brandon’s character a high ranking figure in the army. It was a profession that was ‘prestigious and popular’, and by fighting for his country, it not only makes Brandon seem brave and patriotic (something that could maybe appeal to Marianne’s romanticism) but it also is a show of his wealth, as ‘the price of commission rose up to £6,700 for lieutenant-colonel in the Foot Guards and the price of living in the army was also expensive, with ‘those moving in London society in the elite regiments needed no less then £500’ for a private allowance. This wealth, bravery and prestige of position suggests to readers even further that Colonel Brandon is a perfect suitor for Marianne.

‘employment came to be valued for its own sake as a force in character building and a safeguard against idleness’

‘Edward Ferrars was not recommended to their good opinion by any peculiar graces of person or address’

Colonel Brandon is a Colonel, Willoughby has his romanticism making him interesting and he still has to do business for his aunt. Edward has almost nothing about him, and I think his distinct lack of ambition (disregarding domestic, but then again that is an inherently feminine trait) and lack of profession, especially as a young man who has the means to be involved in law, politics, religion or the armed forces, makes him a weak character, and adds to his lacking in social skills and from Marianne’s view, his distinct lack of affection. Austen herself had brothers who were naval officers and male family who were doctors and clergymen and I think her portrayal of Edward as finding the idea of a profession as inconceivable shows a privilege to modern readers and a dislike from readers of the time.

‘this was a privileged setting’

‘I have no wish to be distinguished; and I have every reason to hope I never shall’

I’m unsure of how completely relevant this is due to the calibre and wealth of Austen’s readership, however it is important to understand the privilege in Edward’s position, something that modern readers would almost certainly pick up on. Firstly, he is a man, so regardless of class he has the privilege to be a doctor, priest, barrister or officer that women wouldn’t have for a while. He states the second quote to the three relatively well educated women, and whilst I’m sure Austen didn’t intend this to be a feminist statement, there is some irony in a man denouncing the tantalizing idea of fame and wealth which he could very easily achieve in front of three women who have lost everything due to the patriarchy. Secondly, there’s the privilege of class. Ordinary people could never come close to becoming a barrister for example simply because of the immense amount it cost – ‘it required an income sufficient to support five years keeping terms at one of the four Inns of Court’, ‘pupillage fees paid to the barristers’ and ‘further money to support themselves in the early years of practice’. The class divides at this time were clear cute and whilst Edward has the privilege to become great and famous, he simply wants domestic bliss, something that at first glances could seem endearing, but not after taking in the inequalities of the time.

‘the church, the law and medicine, ‘the liberal professions’, ‘liberal’ in the sense of befitting a gentleman’

‘they wanted him to make a fine figure in the world’

Edward’s idea of being ‘domestic’ is not ‘befitting a gentleman, and whilst his sister and mother have ambitions for him that may seem unfair, they aren’t allowed ambitions of their own. Another example of inequality and Ferrars ignorance of his privilege. Almost like he doesn’t want to be a gentleman – best example of a gentleman we have seen so far is Brandon.

 

Psychology- John Mullan

  1. “Sir Edward Denham, we hear, ‘had read more sentimental Novels than agreed with him’…the sublimities of intense feeling…progress of strong passion.”

“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;- it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.”

More suggested that sensibility is something you learn from books, which explains why Marianne and Willoughby connected quite quickly as they both shared an interest in books and music.

  1. “The earliest version of Sense and Sensibility was, reportedly, an epistolary novel…who wanted to get the reader into the minds of her main characters.”

“No letter from Willoughby came, and none seemed expected by Marianne.”

An epistolary novel is a novel written in the form of letters. Austen may have included Marianne’s letters to Willoughby in order for us to get into her mind.

  1. “One expectation against which she rebelled…’Heroine a faultless character herself…with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least wit’… ‘Pictures of perfection as you know; wrote Jane Austen to her niece, make me sick and wicked’… Austen’s rejection of the faultlessness.”

“She’s just the sort of person you’d want to get drunk, just to make her giggling and silly.”

Austen does not like perfect characters as she finds them boring and uninteresting. Elinor is seen as a ‘perfect’ character in Sense and Sensibility. She’s too serious and doesn’t know how to have fun.

MANNERS – PAULA BYRNE

  • “She was exacerbated by – and made comic capital out of – excessively ceremonious behaviour and over-studied civility”
  • “Austen’s authorial voice is much more sympathetic to Marianne than some critics allow: she shares some of her character’s scorn for the ‘common-place and mistaken notions’ of proper female behaviour”

○ “Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve…to aim at the restraint of sentiments…appeared to her…a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions.”

Marianne views politeness and etiquette as silly notions and does not abide by these societal rules or expectations. She refuses to regulate her emotions as expected and thus suffers the consequences. Austen is sending a message to the reader that in order to have a happy, successful life, achieve ‘domestic bliss’, you must follow the rules set out for you, or risk being ostracized.

However, Austen recognises the stupidity of many of these rules, sharing in Marianne’s irritation. Elinor follows them, remaining almost completely neutral in her relationship of Edward for fear of retribution should she express her feelings without knowledge of his. In the end, this lack of emotion almost results in her downfall. Therefore, Austen is suggesting that while we must maintain this societal structure, some rules are perhaps meant to be broken, and must be, if you are to achieve your own happiness.

  • “Many of her most ‘well-born’ characters are moral hypocrites or lacking in warmth and openness”
  • “Austen’s loathing of hypocrisy and snobbery…sincerely good manners are bound up with goodness of heart rather than social status.”

○ “Money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it” – Marianne.

○ “Her manners…would have been improved by some share of his frankness and warmth” of Lady Middleton.

A lot of the focus in the novel is on the wealth and reputation of the characters, which is reflective of the focus of society at the time; wealth and breeding were highly important factors in choosing a wife or husband. However, Austen is suggesting here that riches and social standing are not indicative of a person’s character. Lady Middleton is a well-bred lady yet she is cold and reserved, interested in few things but her children and her own elegance.

In contrast, Elinor has little wealth and yet remains polite and kind to everyone in the novel, despite her negative opinions of a few. Elinor remains courteous to Edward even after she learns of his engagement to Lucy Steele.

  • “Chaperoning was of vital importance for young women of marriageable age: it was not acceptable for a young unmarried woman to be alone in the company of a gentleman”

○ “we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.”

Should a woman show her feelings so plainly for a man only to come to learn he does not return her sentiments, she risks being ostracized by society. She would lose other possible suitors, her home, her life and her place in society.

Marianne denies that her actions were unacceptable since she enjoyed herself. This clearly shows the naivety of her character. However, it could also suggest she knows she was wrong to venture out alone with Willoughby but does not want to admit it. Marianne would have known the risks of her displaying her feelings so plainly however she feels certain that Willoughby does love her back. Yet, Marianne is soon rejected by Willoughby.

Austen is warning her female readers of men like Willoughby, warning them not to be led astray or manipulated in the same way. Marianne’s experience serves as a cautionary example for women who employ far too much sensibility rather than sense.

  • ”’Politeness’ was the means by which social improvement could be realised, the passions regulated and conduct refined”

○ “She was without any power, because she was without any desire of command over herself” – of Marianne.

Here we see the sheer importance of Manners in Austen’s society. Without manners, you hold no place in society, no social standing. Mrs John Dashwood is a clear example of how control and regulation of manners can put you in a favourable position. She is able to manipulate her husband and exert power over him, resulting in her keeping all his inheritance for her and her children.

Marianne often has problems with regulating her ‘passions’, whether it’s because she can’t or doesn’t want to, and is taught a lesson in this when Willoughby leaves her. In this Austen suggests that one must learn self-control in order to be successful and gain a suitable husband.

  • “…keeping one’s intelligence ‘a profound secret’, especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on women of…cultivated understanding…’Wit is the most dangerous talent you can possess’”

○ “It would be an excellent match, for he was rich and she was handsome”

For a woman, the most desirable trait was beauty and etiquette, whereas for a man it was intelligence, success and, most importantly, wealth. Austen challenges this with multiple characters within the novel. The ‘femininity’ of Edward Ferrars due to his desire for ‘domestic comfort’ along with his lack of wealth due to his family’s disapproval of his engagements would usually make for an unsuitable match. However, Austen presents him as a polite and kind character who, in the end, marries Elinor.

In addition, both sisters, Marianne and Elinor, are smart and well learned, often reading books and music. Yet, the intelligence of the sisters is presented as a desirable trait –  the sense and logical thinking of Elinor is especially championed by Austen throughout the novel.

Money – Edward Copeland

  • ‘The Austen fictional economy draws on a real economy in a state of rapid and unsettling transition: an expanding commercial sector, a rapidly developing consumer culture, an economy tied to the ups and downs of foreign wars, high taxes, scarce capital, inadequate banking and credit systems and large sums of money to be made and spent’
  • ‘Everything in Austen’s novels seems to add up to the cash register’

+ Money is one of the main themes running throughout, everything in the book is linked to it

+Made clear by the first page with the mentioning of words like, ‘estate’, ‘property’, ‘inheritor’, ‘marriage’, ‘fortune’ so highlights the importance at the time to help with understanding and the context

  • ‘People without money, living on fixed incomes or tied to older patriarchal systems of financial support were in big trouble’

+ Shown by the Dashwood sisters and their mother, they relied on the father, when he died it left them financially vulnerable because they are women and women weren’t able to earn money in the same ways men were and weren’t able to inherit they had to rely on a the male role (ie their father, brother or a husband)

+ Mr JD had to inherit the property, not the girls because that was how it was at the time

+ ‘To him, therefore, the succession to the Norland estate was not really so important as to his sisters as their fortune, independent of what might arise to them from their father […] could be small. Their mother had nothing.’

  • ‘Austen reflects more widely on social changes brought about by the economic upheavals of the war years and the following post-war adjustments, a time marked by a decline in agricultural profits, an expansion of the credit economy and the sense’[…] the movement of money was the key to the disturbing new shifts in the arrangements of power’

+ ‘But the fortune, which had been so tardy in coming was his only one twelve month. […] twelve thousand pounds including his legacies was all that remained for his widow and daughters’

  • ‘ Wealth is comparative: that which would make one man rich, another shall be poor with’

+ ‘Come what is your competence? Elinor asks Marianne, and can only laugh when she gets the answer ‘Two thousand a year! One is my wealth! I guessed how it would end’

+ ‘As a comparison. A common labourer at the lowest end of the economic scale would earn £25 a year including extra work at the harvest’

  • ‘When Mrs Jennings believes that Lucy and Edward are to marry on only £100 a year she immediately takes pity on them’

– ‘ I must see what I can give them towards furnishing their house. Two maids and two men indeed! ‘

Medicine, illness and disease by John Wiltshire

  1. “..the novels understand how social conditions register themselves in the body, especially in the bodies of women. Sexuality and illness are often intertwined.”
  2. “…how widely the relation between mental state, social conditions and the body’s vulnerability were understood.”
  3. “…the ideology of benevolence, so much the source of genteel self-satisfaction… is scanned for its hidden virus” (i.e. virus = genteel self-satisfaction)
  4. “…the conception of infectious fevers, their modes of transmission and the remedies proposed are ‘still almost medieval’” – affording authors great freedom in the use of illness to signify a range of meanings
  5. “the notion of natural ‘sensibility’ …a new and more refined definition of the genteel. It is as if the medical understanding of sensibility offered a platform… for [the belief that] …sensibility, both a physiological and a moral endowment, might vary among individuals, allowed the quality to become a marker of superiority, and, more broadly of class difference. ‘Nerves’ were the lady’s claim to superior social status, the mark, indeed, of her being a lady.
  6. “Sensibility is so interesting because it twists between the social and the psychological realms: Marianne’s natural sensitivity is heightened, and to her validated, by cultural fashion. It has both a material aspect – as a reflection of real social conditions – and a cultural aspect – as a sign of delicacy and refinement. The contempt with which Austen treats most of her characters with ‘complaints’ of whatever kind does not obscure her recognition of this.”
  7. “[Austen’s] interest is really, though, in the social and cultural aspects of illness behaviour. …she observes the way people use physical symptoms for social advantage… the ‘secondary gains’ of illness – the advantages of power and access to services that the ill, or the sickly, can extract from their identity as sick persons…”
  8. “…illness in Austen’s novels is not simply assumed or ‘put on’… the symptoms… may be heterogonous or vague, but they are not perceived to be without meaning, or merely… as comic foibles, presented for the reader’s amusement. They signal, if not physiological or organic causation, certainly causation of a sort. They register, in their different ways, social conditions, and in particular the malaises, the ‘nervous diseases’ of a leisured class… the ‘English malady’.”
  9. “…the lady with no intellectual interests and little to do, whose symptoms are a prefiguring of that recursion of vacuity and idleness into physical malaise found in many genteel figures.”
  10. “…’nerves’… signal, and are a conversion of, frustration, including sexual frustration, and the need to obtain control of some sort.”
  11. “…sickness and sexuality are entertainingly entwined in all her major texts.”
  • “social conditions register themselves in the body, especially in the bodies of women”
  • “Austen was sceptical about the fashionable cults of sensibility and ‘nerves’”
  • “Sensibility is so interesting because it twists between the social and physiological realms: Marianne’s natural sensitivity is heightened, and to her validated, by cultural fashion”
  • “sexuality is everywhere understood, understated and assumed”

Money by Edward Copeland

  1. “…conspicuous and deeply felt changes in the distribution and management of wealth were made even more acute by an unheard of rate of inflation of prices, punctuated by periodic economic depression. In this unstable economy, marriage, Austen’s narrative mainstay, was a legitimate and common means of gaining access to all-important capital. …People without money, or living on fixed incomes, or tied to older patriarchal systems of financial support were in big trouble, or so it seemed, in the 1790s where Austen’s first three novels, Sense and Sensibility (1795, 1797), Pride and Prejudice (1796-7) and Northanger Abbey (1798-9) were conceived. These early novels share a common economic vision – the danger of losing it all, the chance of hitting it rich, huge losses, huge gains, everything riding on luck and the main chance.”
  2. “Money comes into view in Austen’s novels mainly through the focussing lens of her own social rank. This group of genteel professionals, situated in the country and consisting of clergymen of the Anglican church, men in the law (preferably barristers), officers in the army and the navy and rentiers retired from business and of large fortune, has been called by the historian David Spring the ‘pseudo-gentry’, a mischievous but sharp description of the group’s social position. They were, writes Spring, ‘gentry of a sort, primarily because they sought strenuously to be taken for gentry’. Sandwiched between commerce and the landed gentry, the pseudo-gentry made use of consumer goods to assert their claims to social consequence. Consumer power drove the value of that negotiable concept of an income that contemporaries called the ‘competence’…. Adam Smith defined as… ‘whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without’.” (S&S – “Come, What is your competence?” Elinor asks Marianne… “Two thousand a year! One is my wealth! I guessed how it would end.”)
  3. “The great question for modern readers of Austen’s novels …concerns the consumer power of the incomes …the effort to understand the power of incomes is not idle speculation, then or now… Contemporaries are actively interested in knowing the incomes of their neighbours, which were scarcely private since the values of clerical livings, landed estates and great inheritances were publicly known, but also because the topic itself was not hedged with the secrecy it possesses today.”
  4. “With the instability that an expanding consumer economy inevitably brings to hierarchies of rank, it was essential to evaluate and to fix, if possible, acceptable relationships between incomes, rank and spending practices.”
  • Austen’s novels can be read as an attempt to do precisely this – navigating the changing social structures that were then so much in flux – partly because of a flood of money and the rise of purchasing power / the consumer.
  1. “Elinor and Edward, Lucy’s superior in rank and in consumer expectations, are neither of them quite enough in love to think that three-hundred and fifty pounds a year would supply them with the comforts of life.”

 

‘The Austen fictional economy draws on a real economy in a state of rapid and unsettling transition: an expanding commercial sector, a rapidly developing consumer culture, an economy tied to the ups and downs of foreign wars, high taxes, scarce capital, inadequate banking and credit systems and large sums of money to be made and spent’

‘Everything in Austen’s novels seems to add up to the cash register’ – Money is one of the main themes running throughout, everything in the book is linked to it. Made clear by the first page with the mentioning of words like, ‘estate’, ‘property’, ‘inheritor’, ‘marriage’, ‘fortune’ so highlights the importance at the time to help with understanding and the context

‘People without money, living on fixed incomes or tied to older patriarchal systems of financial support were in big trouble’ – Shown by the Dashwood sisters and their mother, they relied on the father, when he died it left them financially vulnerable because they are women and women weren’t able to earn money in the same ways men were and weren’t able to inherit they had to rely on a the male role (ie their father, brother or a husband) + Mr JD had to inherit the property, not the girls because that was how it was at the time

S&S – ‘To him, therefore, the succession to the Norland estate was not really so important as to his sisters as their fortune, independent of what might arise to them from their father […] could be small. Their mother had nothing.’

‘Austen reflects more widely on social changes brought about by the economic upheavals of the war years and the following post-war adjustments, a time marked by a decline in agricultural profits, an expansion of the credit economy and the sense’[…] the movement of money was the key to the disturbing new shifts in the arrangements of power’ – ‘But the fortune, which had been so tardy in coming was his only one twelve month. […] twelve thousand pounds including his legacies was all that remained for his widow and daughters’

‘ Wealth is comparative: that which would make one man rich, another shall be poor with’ – ‘Come what is your competence? Elinor asks Marianne, and can only laugh when she gets the answer ‘Two thousand a year! One is my wealth! I guessed how it would end’ – ‘As a comparison. A common labourer at the lowest end of the economic scale would earn £25 a year including extra work at the harvest’

‘When Mrs Jennings believes that Lucy and Edward are to marry on only £100 a year she immediately takes pity on them’ – ‘ I must see what I can give them towards furnishing their house. Two maids and two men indeed! ‘

 

Nationalism and Empire by Warren Roberts

  1. “Far from being isolated from the great events of her day [Austen] was open to them; in her novels she dramatized issues that were of central importance to the Evangelical reform programme… For Gisbourne, Bowdler, Wilberforce and the Evangelical movement as a whole the reform of manners and the inculcation of a sense of moral principle in English society was the essential vehicle of national salvation, the means by which Britain, internally strengthened, would prevail in the struggle with France.”

The Clapham Sect or Clapham Saints were a group of Church of England social reformers based in Clapham, London, at the beginning of the 19th century (active 1780s–1840s). The members of the Clapham group were chiefly prominent and wealthy evangelical Anglicans who shared common political and social views concerning the liberation of slaves, the abolition of the slave trade and the reform of the penal system, amongst other issues, and who worked laboriously towards these ends over many years, motivated by their Christian faith and concern for social justice and fairness for all.

Evangelicalism emerged from the religious revivals of the 18th century. While previous movements in the Church of England had revolved around issues of church order and authority, evangelicals stressed lifestyle, doctrine and conduct. Evangelicals emphasized domestic religion, especially family prayer. Evangelical concern for the moral reform of society manifested itself in large scale support for missions, schools, charitable societies for the poor, and the formation of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It was also demonstrated by political campaigns in the British Parliament, the most important being the movement to abolish slavery led by William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a prominent figure in a network of evangelical social reformers nicknamed the Clapham Sect.

  1. “Opposed to the theatrical world of play and fancy is a different set of values, rooted in limit, restraint, self-denial and respect for authority, as seen in Fanny (‘Mansfield Park’), the only person who refuses to participate [in the theatricals]. …the moral struggle taking place within ‘Mansfield Park’. The positive characters in ‘Mansfield Park’ are more serious, less brilliant, than those who represent negative choices; they are more sober, more plain, more English than the more fashionable characters, whose manners and superficiality bear the stamp of French culture. …Plain spoken, forthright, not given to witticisms or repartees, Knightly (‘Emma’) is an English type, a magistrate, active in local affairs, a working farmer and closely connected to village society…”

 

“The civilised cosmopolitanism of an age of classicism and enlightenment gave way to the turbulent forces of nationalism”

  • Cosmopolitanism and internationalism was previously reserved for the middle classes, eg. Samuel Johnson defined patriotism as the ‘last refuge of a scoundrel’
  • This shift in public attitude was determined by Britain’s success in the Seven Years’ War in 1763, experienced throughout the West & made stronger by the start of the French Revolution
  • Nationalism was presented in art, eg. Benjamin West – painting ‘The Death of General Wolfe’ 1770, Seven Years’ War
  • Did this sentiment extend to Jane Austen? Or did she have narrower concerns constrained to a smaller social circle, unaffected by changes of public opinion?

“Her world was that of the English gentry, a civilised, elite social group”

  • Austen being part of the elite section of British society – would have placed her as someone cosmopolitan rather than patriotic/nationalistic
  • Although her social group was small/elite, she had family connections with international political events eg. her cousin Eliza de Feuillide, a French Aristocrat whose husband was guillotined during the Terror
  • Because of her familial ties – Austen’s social circle was widened, as was her knowledge of international affairs

“[Austen read] newspapers, which kept her abreast of contemporary events”

  • Austen herself was educated on current affairs eg. Britain’s struggle with France and Napoleon’s plans to invade England (which she learnt about through correspondence with her brother Francis – familial ties)
  • However she kept her reaction to these events mostly private and guarded her political opinions in her novels through use of irony
  • Main criticism of Austen – why doesn’t she discuss issues eg. the abolition of slavery more explicitly in her novels?

“She shared the patriotic feeling that was part of a larger British response”

  • Read Captain William Pasley’s essay which was a plan for military defeat of France – initially ‘protested against it’, but came round to supporting his view of ‘protecting the British constitution’
  • Discarded own reservations and the prescribed beliefs of her class (internationalism) for a sense of patriotism for the sake of the country

“Far from being isolated from the great events of her day she was open to them”

  • She introduced discussion of current events through the protagonists in her novels – adopted a kind of subtlety when discussing this
  • Naval characters – represented her brothers & their experience during the war with France
  • Mansfield Park – incorporates themes of Evangelism & patriotism.
  • Fanny – represents restraint and respect for authority, only character who is interested in what Thomas has to say after returning from Antigua & his views on slavery

Pastimes by Penny Gay

  1. “A gentleman, unless he belonged to one of the accepted professions (the law, the church, the army, or the navy), had a great deal of time every day to be filled with activities, some more obviously useful than others. The same can be said of the ladies of Austen’s world, though the professions were barred to them. Women’s pursuits and pastimes were mostly indoor and domestic, men’s outdoor and sporting. But there was also time spent together… which provided opportunities flirtation, gossip and even occasionally self-improvement.”
  2. “Most houses had several sitting-rooms, in one of which the ladies of the household would gather after breakfast to ‘work’. By this is meant needlework, an accomplishment which was both useful and artistic, and which was considered a necessity for women of all social classes. …When not doing needlework, women might spend hours improving their accomplishments, generally either music or drawing and watercolour painting.”
  3. “One of the ways that Austen distinguishes her heroines and heroes from their social peers is in their unconventional leisure interests: Elizabeth Bennet (P&P) rarely takes up her needlework with eagerness; neither she or Anne Eliot (Pers.) like card games. On the other hand, the fascinating Henry Tilney (NA) is knowledgeable about muslins.”
  4. “At some point Jane Austen stopped calling what she did ‘writing’ and started referring to it as ‘work’. This marks a semantic shift away from the standard idea that woman’s ‘work’ was needlework. Women had, of course, been writing – and even publishing – for over a century (letters, verses, essays, novels); but for the quiet daughter of a country clergyman to think of herself as working to contribute to her (all-female) household’s income by her writing was a revolutionary change in the idea of what a woman might do wither her time.”

 

Willoughby and Marianne “Engage in heightened opportunities for flirtation that making music together supplies.”

  • Music = closeness
  • Music is used to express emotion. Marianne play how she feels.
  • Enjoyment of music had a motive of flirtation
  • Common way to get to know someone
  • Judging others on their ability to person music not on personality – Is that why Marianne is wooed by Willoughby at first? Blinded by his surface of talent.

“One of the ways Austen in which Austen distinguishes  her heroines and heroes from their peers is in their unconventional leisure interests.”

  • Edward isn’t looking for the traditional high careers such as lawyer.
  • “All his wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life.”
  • Edward also lacks sensibility in his reading
  • He prefers the church
  • Although he appreciated Elinor’s artwork Marianne doesn’t seem to believe that he admires it enough
  • Willoughby fits the stereotype of the perfect man of the time but he is much less than perfect – “there is not a bolder rider in England.”

“Women walking substantial distances alone were on the whole frowned upon as eccentric, unfeminine…”

  • Marianne gets hurt when wandering in the outdoors
  • “eccentric” sums up Marianne
  • Although she tries to be the ‘perfect’ lady in front of men thyer is more than meets the eye
  • More adventurous that Elinor

“Fillagree – work, making little ornaments out of rolled paper, was intricate yet pointless craft, entirely appropriate for the self-serving Lucy Steele.”

  • Pretty but selfish
  • Goes for the best prospect
  • Austen’s characters are a reflection of their hobbies

Austen “was a revolutionary change in the idea of what a woman might do with her time,”

  • Austen herself worked which in itself was extraordinary for the time
  • Work referred to needle work, painting and reading which were all hobbies
  • Although none of the Dashwood women worked. Elinor was presented to have a wide outlook on matters such as property and money.
  • Elinor was a less traditional woman compared to Marianne.
  • Elinor wasn’t obsessed with getting a husband.

 

“A gentleman, unless he belongs to one of the accepted professions, had a great deal of time to be filled with activities, some more obviously useful than others. The same can be said of the ladies, though the professions were barred to them.”

S&S – “To some few of the company it appeared rather a bold undertaking considering the time of the year and that it had rained every day for the last fortnight.”

“Women often spent considerable time every day writing letters thus putting fresh local and family news in circulation.”

S&S – “I can guess what his business is, however; said Mrs. Jennings.” (p49)

“Women’s pursuits and pastimes were mostly indoor and domestic, men’s outdoor and sporting.”

S&S – “Sir John was a sportsman, Lady Middleton a mother.” (p24)

“Austen distinguishes her heroines and heroes from their social peers in their unconventional leisure interests.”

S&S – “They mean no less to be civil to us”, said Elinor, “by those frequent invitations than by these which we received from them a few weeks ago. The alterations is not in them if their parties are grown tedious and dull.”

Philosophy by Peter Knox-Shaw

Enlightenment (understanindg, reason, logic & sciecne) Vs Romaticism

Rousseau / Voltaire  Vs Romantic Backlash – Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelly, Blake, Keats

 

The New School (of novel writing) – Didactic novels out of fashion – the “new realism” – Austen as the naturalistapproaching human nature with the experimental method of the new humanities

  1. “Unions of fiction and philosophy have generally turned out for the worse, and novelists of the great tradition in its later phase are famous for having shrunk at the prospect… If Jane Austen was untroubled by these post Romantic demurs it was not because she was a didactic novelist of an older mould, but rather that she shared the outlook of a movement that itself arose in reaction against the dogmatic.”
  2. The early nineteenth century critic Richard Whately… “was not alone in distinguishing the central features of the new novel as fine observation and a deep concern for probability, but he based his high claims for Janes Austen on Aristotle’s idea that mastery of the probable is a guarantee of insight into the way things work.”
  3. Richard Whately… “equated Austen’s approach to human nature with the method of the naturalist who relates minute detail to a range of suppositions about function and form…. the experimental method of the new humanities…”
  4. “…Walter Scott’s uneasy review of ‘Emma’ which shows him eager to praise the new realism but reluctant to relinquish faith in the tonic effects of heroic example and high romance.”
  5. “…some of her readers find truth to ordinary life demeaning or at least no advance on the ordinary; others have only applause for an author intimately or ‘experimentally’ acquainted with the society she describes.”
  6. Philosophy had a major role to play in boosting the status of day-to-day experience throughout the eighteenth-century, and the tradition most relevant to this process starts in England with Shaftsbury, who insisted that morals should be founded on human nature rather than on speculative ideas about divine will or law.”
  7. “Hutcheson …urged followers to ‘quit the disputes of the Learned’ and observe men in their common settings.”
  8. “Rationalists like Locke held that ethics could be deduced from first principles like algebra; out-and-out sceptics like Hobbes argued that there was nothing to choose between different kind of motive; and even intuitionists like Hutcheson believed in a watertight ‘moral sense’. For David Hume and Adam Smith, however, it was precisely in the society around them that the proof of moral activity and the key to its workings lay. In the long run the ‘experimental method’ cut against both idealistic and cynical trends. It granted full meaning to the language of moral discrimination while yielding a more worldly account of sociability than had yet been current, and it led particularly to a new appreciation of the way judgement depended on specific contexts, and to a sharper sense of the difficulties faced by the subject in constructing these. If there ever was a philosophical school in search of a novelist it was surely the Scottish Enlightenment in its later phase.”
  9. “Gilbert Ryle… Austen had a true interest in ‘theoretical problems about human nature’ even if her approach to them was from a sunnier aspect than the philosopher’s.”
  10. …those who pushed an “anti-Jacobin and Evangelical Austen” favoured “a version of the Enlightenment that was strongly anti-clerical and anti-establishment” …however… “the receptivity of eighteenth century Anglicanism to new ideas could hardly be better illustrated than by the household of Austen’s adolescence.”
  11. One of Austen’s favoured books as a child – Thomas Percival’s ‘Moral Tales’ – “a manual on science and liberal opinion masquerading as a conduct book …” introduced his readers to Shaftsbury, Voltaire, Robertson and Smith; led them through experiments (Archimedes, Boyle, Hooke, Harvey, Newton, Franklin, Priestley); taught them to abhor slavery; and urged them, above all, to be observant and alive to the wonders of the ordinary… it took some time for the young Jane to come around to Percival’s views that stories should be ‘comfortable to the usual course of things’” …Austen’s own guidelines on narration… “plain style, fidelity to public fact and the avoidance of anything ‘so little usual as to appear unnatural in a book’ …soon to be seen as the defining features of the ‘new style of fiction’”
  12. The new school? “…Austen extols work that conveys ‘the most thorough knowledge of human nature’, whilst meting out scorn to the improbable and outdated.”
  13. “…intended as her first book, ‘Northanger Abbey’ preserves the character of a manifesto. Its comic parade of romance and Gothic conventions brings home just how far removed popular fiction is from the stuff of ordinary experience, but the demands for a more serious, inspirational fiction is also found wanting.”
  14. In ‘Northanger Abbey’ Austen discusses the “rewards of challenging reading matter, and singles out the imaginative qualities that have transformed the chronicle into a form that adds the lustre of drama to analysis.”

‘the central features of the new novel as fine observation and a deep concern for probability’

‘some of her readers find truth to ordinary life demeaning or at least no advance on the ordinary; others have only applause for an author intimately … acquainted … with the society she describes’

  • Was Austen trying to promote the idea that realism is the way forward?
  • What was she trying to show through this naturalistic depiction of her society?

‘a new appreciation of the way judgement depended on specific contexts’

‘she preferred a poised and good-humoured acceptance of human frailty to a blinkered and anxious idealism’

Sense and Sensibility … makes an eloquent plea for the power of sympathy and benevolence – chiefly through the central relationship between the sisters themselves’

  • How concerned was Austen with characters who show ‘human frailty’?
  • How do her characters’ flaws impact our ability to sympathise with and learn from them?
  • What is she trying to tell us about how to approach judgment (of people)?

‘Hume [a philosopher with whose work Austen was familiar] insists that ‘character’ is a truer object of approbation than ‘rent-rolls’, however much store the world sets by riches and power’

‘The Rector of Steventon [Austen’s father] has been well described as ‘a true son of the Enlightenment [a philosophical movement which valued reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy]’’

  • How far are Austen’s worthy characters in a social position which matches their virtue?
  • Is Austen making a comment on how individuals are/ought to be judged in society?

Reading Practices by Alan Richardson

…the prejudices of the time re. novel reading

Attempt to manage the sudden rise in literacy levels / Anxious schemes for controlling literacy, especially among women:

“Those taught to read, to write, to reason, we now see grasping with curiosity every pernicious treatise within reach.”

Is Austen anxious about / mindful of the effect her literature will have on this new female readership from the lower middle-classes?

Austen is instilling class aspirations in people?

Or – is Austen cautioning lower class people (e.g. Lucy Steele’s of this world) from getting ideas above their station: a cautionary tale

Is Austen stirring up dissent in her own middle-class readership? Arguing for more flexibility in the class system pertaining to marriage?

With MD and ED marrying above them in S&S…

“anxious schemes for controlling… the dangers of fashionable novels”

The Gothic Novel & the Sentimental novel: “uncritical absorption in improbable fiction”

“the impressionable miss avidly reading away in her closet” – the cliché

An “escapist or self-deluding pursuit”

  1. “anxious schemes for controlling [literacy]” – would Austen be a proponent of controlling reading material?
  1. “expose the dangers of fashionable novels” – were Austen’s novels dangerous? Benign? Or educational – improving minds?
  1. “an uncritical absorption in improbable fictions caricatured by Austen” – “everything he did was right, everything he said was clever” of Willoughby inS&S
  1. “promiscuous reading” – scandalous – is Marianne a victim of “promiscuous reading”? (Vs faithful reader of Elinor)
  1. “individual autonomy of choice”
  1. “unspeakably perverting” – Marianne’s constant reading – unrealistic expectations / romantic imagination – but not for Elinor – showing…
  1. “inflammatory” – were young ladies so easily inflamed? Their sensibilities so easily excited? Their emotions so easily aggravated?

Manners by Paula Byrne

“The idea that novels as opposed to didactic moral treatises were a means to paint ‘manners and morals’ – a common pairing of terms – was relatively new and seriously controversial. The epistolary novel, which was formative of Austen’s early art, emerged out of the genre of the conduct book through the agency of Samuel Richardson in the mid eighteenth century. Young women of middling class – newly literature, newly articulate – were the primary intended readers of both genres.”

“Conduct books addressed the newly emerging middle class rather than the aristocratic elite; the new watchword was ‘Politeness’, a code of behaviour that emphasised benevolence, modesty, self-examination and integrity. These virtues were seen as the product of nurture and education as opposed to innate superiority. ‘Politeness’ was the means by which social improvement could be realised, the passions regulated and conduct refined. ‘Conversation’ and the arts were inextricably linked; decorum, protocol and elegant ease were all linked to an ethical code of civic virtue.”

“…Austen’s loathing of hypocrisy and snobbery, and her conviction that sincerely good manners are bound up with goodness of heart rather than social status.”

“…Austen’s authorial voice is much more sympathetic to Marianne than some critics allow: she shares some of her character’s scorn for the ‘common-place and mistaken notions’ of proper female behaviour.”

“…Austen was often less interested in observing the customs of the day than in showing her heroines transgressing them.”

“Austen satirised the excessively ceremonious behaviour and over-studied civility that sometimes characterised the upper echelons of the gentry. Many of her most ‘well-born’ characters are moral hypocrites or lacking in warmth or openness – two of her most damning charges.”

The question of whether a person’s observable ‘manners’ in the sense of ‘polite behaviour’ reveal or conceal their ‘manners’ in the sense of ‘character of mind and morals’ was at the core of Austen’s world. Perhaps the key question was the true nature of good breeding or ‘politeness’. Characters such as General Tilney in Northanger Abbey and Sir Thomas Bertram in Mansfield Park are extremely ‘well-bred’ and yet their behaviour is morally culpable. To be well  born was not necessarily to be well bred. Lady Middleton in Sense and Sensibility and Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion have ‘elegant’ and ‘well-bred manners’, but they are cold and selfish. In a striking phrase, Anne Elliot refers to the ‘heartless elegance of her father and sister’ (P, 2:10). Darcy has a ‘noble mien’, but he is ‘haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting’ (PUP, 1:4). The Bingley sisters are well-bred women of fashion but proud and contemptuous, whereas ‘in their brother’s manners there was something better than politeness; there was good humour and kindness’ (P&l), 1: 17). Again, Austen reveals the fault-lines between theory and practice: in theory, ‘politeness’ embodied both elegance of manners and the virtues of ‘good humour and kindness’, but in practice ‘manners and morals’ did not always go together.”

“Jane Austen repeatedly ironises the term ‘well-bred’, nowhere more damningly than in the case of Lady Middleton: ‘As it was impossible, however, now to prevent their coming, Lady Middleton resigned hersclf to the idea of it with all the philosophy of a well-bred woman, contenting herself with merely giving her husband a gentle reprimand on the subject five or six times every day’ (SYS, 1:21). It manifests itself in the gift of sensitivity and what would now be called emotional intelligence.”

‘a portraitist of her own social world’

  • What is Austen trying to say about the conventions and manners of her society?

‘The idea that novels as opposed to didactic moral treatises were a means to paint ‘manners and morals’ … was relatively new and seriously controversial.’

‘Young women of middling class – newly literate, newly articulate – were the primary intended readers’

  • Was Austen writing with the view of educating?
  • Did she intend to write for and/or instruct this new audience?
  • Was she consciously writing as part of this ‘new and seriously controversial’ tradition?

‘the new watchword was ‘Politeness’ … [it] was the means by which social improvement could be realised, the passions regulated and conduct refined.’

‘”Visiting and visited is the whole of a Woman’s life in England,” observed one commentator.’

  • How far is Austen mocking the social conventions of her society?
  • How far does she agree with and value them?
  • Does she agree with this idea of ‘social improvement’ where ‘passions are regulated’?

‘Austen’s real interest, however, is not the minutiae of these conventions, but the ways in which they can be morally revealing.’

‘The question of whether a person’s observable ‘manners’ in the sense of ‘polite behaviour’ reveal or conceal their ‘manners’ in the sense of ‘character of mind and morals’ was at the core of Austen’s world.’

‘That is why her chosen form was the novel, in which the code of politeness could be dramatised (and sometimes ironised) rather than reduced to a set of rules.’

‘Marianne, in contravention of all conduct book rules, pointedly refuses to conform to false modesty in courtship….[Austen] shares some of her character’s scorn for the ‘common-place and mistaken notions’ of proper female behaviour…[she] was less interested in observing the customs of the day than in showing her heroines transgressing them.’

  • How important are the ‘observable manners’ of Austen’s characters?
  • How big a distinction does she make between morals and manners/’good behaviour’?
  • How far is she agreeing with the idea that good manners can hide bad morals?
  • To what extent does she satirise/mock social convention and politeness?
  • To what extent does she value them?

The essay details and notes the importance of etiquette surrounding calling and cards, correspondence, chaperoning, coming out and ‘gentlemanly behaviour’

“She was exacerbated by – and made comic capital out of – excessively ceremonious behaviour and over-studied civility”

“Austen’s authorial voice is much more sympathetic to Marianne than some critics allow: she shares some of her character’s scorn for the ‘common-place and mistaken notions’ of proper female behaviour”

S&S – “Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve…to aim at the restraint of sentiments…appeared to her…a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions.”

Marianne views politeness and etiquette as silly notions and does not abide by these societal rules or expectations. She refuses to regulate her emotions as expected and thus suffers the consequences. Austen is sending a message to the reader that in order to have a happy, successful life, achieve ‘domestic bliss’, you must follow the rules set out for you, or risk being ostracized.

However, Austen recognises the stupidity of many of these rules, sharing in Marianne’s irritation. Elinor follows them, remaining almost completely neutral in her relationship of Edward for fear of retribution should she express her feelings without knowledge of his. In the end, this lack of emotion almost results in her downfall. Therefore, Austen is suggesting that while we must maintain this societal structure, some rules are perhaps meant to be broken, and must be, if you are to achieve your own happiness.

“Many of her most ‘well-born’ characters are moral hypocrites or lacking in warmth and openness”

“Austen’s loathing of hypocrisy and snobbery…sincerely good manners are bound up with goodness of heart rather than social status.”

S&S – “Money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it” – Marianne.

S&S – “Her manners…would have been improved by some share of his frankness and warmth” of Lady Middleton.

A lot of the focus in the novel is on the wealth and reputation of the characters, which is reflective of the focus of society at the time; wealth and breeding were highly important factors in choosing a wife or husband. However, Austen is suggesting here that riches and social standing are not indicative of a person’s character. Lady Middleton is a well-bred lady yet she is cold and reserved, interested in few things but her children and her own elegance.

In contrast, Elinor has little wealth and yet remains polite and kind to everyone in the novel, despite her negative opinions of a few. Elinor remains courteous to Edward even after she learns of his engagement to Lucy Steele.

“Chaperoning was of vital importance for young women of marriageable age: it was not acceptable for a young unmarried woman to be alone in the company of a gentleman”

S&S – “we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.”

Should a woman show her feelings so plainly for a man only to come to learn he does not return her sentiments, she risks being ostracized by society. She would lose other possible suitors, her home, her life and her place in society.

Marianne denies that her actions were unacceptable since she enjoyed herself. This clearly shows the naivety of her character. However, it could also suggest she knows she was wrong to venture out alone with Willoughby but does not want to admit it. Marianne would have known the risks of her displaying her feelings so plainly however she feels certain that Willoughby does love her back. Yet, Marianne is soon rejected by Willoughby.

Austen is warning her female readers of men like Willoughby, warning them not to be led astray or manipulated in the same way. Marianne’s experience serves as a cautionary example for women who employ far too much sensibility rather than sense.

”’Politeness’ was the means by which social improvement could be realised, the passions regulated and conduct refined”

S&S – “She was without any power, because she was without any desire of command over herself” – of Marianne.

Here we see the sheer importance of Manners in Austen’s society. Without manners, you hold no place in society, no social standing. Mrs John Dashwood is a clear example of how control and regulation of manners can put you in a favourable position. She is able to manipulate her husband and exert power over him, resulting in her keeping all his inheritance for her and her children.

Marianne often has problems with regulating her ‘passions’, whether it’s because she can’t or doesn’t want to, and is taught a lesson in this when Willoughby leaves her. In this Austen suggests that one must learn self-control in order to be successful and gain a suitable husband.

“…keeping one’s intelligence ‘a profound secret’, especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on women of…cultivated understanding…’Wit is the most dangerous talent you can possess’”

S&S – “It would be an excellent match, for he was rich and she was handsome”

For a woman, the most desirable trait was beauty and etiquette, whereas for a man it was intelligence, success and, most importantly, wealth. Austen challenges this with multiple characters within the novel. The ‘femininity’ of Edward Ferrars due to his desire for ‘domestic comfort’ along with his lack of wealth due to his family’s disapproval of his engagements would usually make for an unsuitable match. However, Austen presents him as a polite and kind character who, in the end, marries Elinor.

In addition, both sisters, Marianne and Elinor, are smart and well learned, often reading books and music. Yet, the intelligence of the sisters is presented as a desirable trait –  the sense and logical thinking of Elinor is especially championed by Austen throughout the novel.

Rank by Thomas Keymer

“Social position is of consuming importance in the novels with individuals and families measuring their relative standings to the finest degree while devising long-term strategies for advancement in status.”

“Where ‘class’ would be measured in terms above all in productivity and income, locating individuals in socio-economic positions attained through material success, ‘rank’ placed primary emphasis on lineage, implying that social status was more or less inalienably conferred by birth and descent. Where ‘class’ brings with it overtones of structural antagonism and conflict, moreover, ‘rank’ suggested stratifications that were harmonious, orderly and stable.”

“The eighteenth-century novelist most admired by Jane Austen, Samuel Richardson, wrote innovatively about emerging fault-lines in the strata of rank, and in ‘Pamela’ (1740) – in which a maid servant wins her master’s hand – he pioneered the plot of marital elevation that Austen was to use herself in more muted form. The self-made Richardson had no secure grasp of titles, conditions and modes of address in the gentry world, however, and in his novels frequent solecisms result from what he ruefully called ‘my ignorance of proprieties of those kinds’. Jane Austen, by contrast, was native to this world, and writes with unfailing alertness to its codes and conventions.”

…of the ‘pseudo-gentry’ – which populate Austen’s novels and who are her subject of study: “‘They devoted their lives to acquiring the trappings of gentry status for themselves and especially their children’, as David Spring describes the ambitions and practices of this group: ‘the schooling, the accent, the manners… the habit of command, the large house in its own grounds, servants, carriages and horses, appropriate husbands and wives, and last, but not least, appropriate income.’”

“All [in JA’s novels] subscribe to the hierarchy of rank in general while seeking to breach it in person. Social acceptance proves harder to achieve than material wealth, however, and is secured at best with glacial pace… Yet personal mobility of status was becoming more achievable as Austen wrote… the novels deal in more than mere romance in their characteristic endings, where traditional dynastic alliances give way to modern love matches. Elizabeth Bennet is not a gentlewoman’s daughter, and has an uncle in trade, but marries into the largest squirearchy.”

“Other processes promoting the interpenetration of social layers arose from the Napoleonic Wars, which not only threw up new opportunities for trade and industry or for success in the profession of arms, but also conferred new prestige on leaders in either field.”

  • “Social position is of consuming importance”
  • “Austen thus ignores a group that continued to hold the reigns of political power”
  • “a long and finely graded continuum of genteel rank that was widely seen as ensuring social stability and cohesion”
  • “The tensions arising from the dual importance of nurturing community while also preserving distinction”
  • “polite but unrelenting competition for positional advantage”
  • “Social acceptance proves harder to achieve than material wealth”

Rank, being something innate that you were born into, was still the common model for social hierarchy. However, the growing term “class” was becoming more integrated, as people began seeing social standing as less structurally stationary, and more moveable

1) “Personal mobility of status was becoming more achievable”

“That I think very highly of him- that I greatly esteem, that I like him” – from Elinor

2) “Traditional dynastic alliances give way to modern love matches”

“All his wishes were centred in domestic comfort” – about Edward

Men can marry on their love interests, but women should be more careful as they have no way of securing social status on their own

Austen suggests that women should be artful when choosing their partners because of this, as they now can ascend in rank if they find a man of higher status who is attracted to them

Here, Edward is in a better financial position than Elinor, as the Dashwood’s inheritance went to John Dashwood. However, he rejects his sister and mother’s desires to see him established in a distinguished position in society, which would be enhanced by marrying a wealthy woman – favouring “domestic comfort”. He can do this because he is male and can work for his income – whereas a female must be more careful, as her status largely depends on her husband’s.

This explains Elinor’s hesitance to say she “loves” Edward, using euphemistic terms such as “esteem” and “like”, partly because love is not the determining factor for her marriage. As a woman, she must consider who would secure her financial status the best. Both her and Edward’s distancing from each other suggests a mutual understanding that, especially because of their physical distance, if a partner who would better secure Elinor’s status better than Edward presents himself, she should choose him.

“Pseudo Gentry” …   “They devoted their lives to acquiring the trappings of gentry status for themselves and especially their children” (David Springs)

“How could he answer it to himself to rob his child, and his only child too, of so large a sum?” – from Mrs John Dashwood’s point of view

The concept of the pseudo gentry adds justification to Mrs John Dashwood’s persuasion of Mr Dashwood, using this emotive imagery, to decrease the amount of money given to his sisters from his inheritance

Although we dislike her because we perceive this action too far on the side of logic and lacking in any sensibility, Austen could be suggesting this ruthless behaviour is necessary for a woman such as Mrs John Dashwood, because in order for her and her son to have the best life they can achieve, she must rise in social rank.

Although John Dashwood is not gentry, Austen seems to place a greater important on lineage and finance than nobility. This is example in Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, who has an estate worth more than £10,000 a year (more than many nobles). “Men of wealth and lineage for whom plain “Mr” was a badge of honour”

This explains why Mrs John Dashwood is so anxious for Mr John Dashwood to sustain his finances. Although neither are nobility, keeping Mr Dashwood’s inheritance would better her and her son’s quality of life and status among gentry. Therefore, although we see her actions as quite cold, they are more justifiable to us because it was necessary for women to behave this way.

Psychology by John Mullan

“Jane Austen was an avid novel realer and well aware of how her work might compare with the fiction of her predecessors or contemporaries.”

 “…a reader who comes to Burney’s or Edgeworth’s novels (which precede Austen’s) after Austen’s is likely to think that their ‘human nature’ often excludes psychological probability. He or she would notice, in particular, that their heroines are models of feminine rectitude. They may be placed in difficult situations, and variously tricked or misinformed, but they do not exactly have faults. One useful way of understanding Austen’s psychological subtlety is as an escape from models of the heroine offered by fiction before her.” 

“Richardson had made novels morally respectable and, by his extraordinary use of epistolary form, had seemed to recreate the shifts of the character’s mind. We might remember that the earliest version of Sense and Sensibility was, reportedly, an epistolary novel, and infer Richardson’s direct influence on a novelist who wanted to get the reader into the minds of her main characters.

 “The habit of setting her own characters and situations against those of other novelists ran deep. Herr burlesque ‘Plan of a Novel’, probably composed in 1816, is a menu of-novelistic clichés and emphasises one expectation against which she rebelled. ‘Heroine a faultless Character herself – perfectly good, with much tenderness & sentiment, & not the least: Wit.’ She was thinking of many heroines of many novels.”

“Between Richardson and Austen, ‘virtue’ is invariably the leading characteristic of any novel’s heroine. ‘All the Good will be unexceptionable in every respect – and there will be no foibles or weaknesses,’ wrote Austen in her ‘Plan of a Novel’. Escaping such goodness was essential to her psychological realism. When Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy banter in ‘Pride & Prejudice’ about each other’s possible deficiencies, or when Mr Knightley and Mrs Weston discuss ‘dear Emma’s little faults’ (E, 1 :5), we might hear in the comedy Austen’s rejection of the faultlessness of the Richardsonian heroine.”

“It is no accident that she began her career as an author by interrogating the quality possessed by all Richardsonian heroines, and synonymous with inwardness in eighteenth-century fiction: ‘sensibility’. ‘Sensibility’, which had originally referred to merely bodily sensitivities, began to stand for emotional responsiveness in the early eighteenth century, and came to designate a laudable delicacy in the second half of the century. It was natural human faculty often displayed by characters in novels.”

 “Emily St Aubert, the protagonist of her own favourite book (Ann Radcliff’s ‘The mysteries of Udolpho’), is typically susceptible to her feelings, just like Richardson’s heroines. They have sensibilities keen enough to make them ill. They are always trembling, fainting, turning sick with feeling. The best people are so attuned to their own feelings that they can be weakened by them. As they are also laudably responsive to others’ feelings, especially of distress, they can be sure that this sensibility is virtuous. In fiction, this was sometimes true of men as well as women. The sensitive hero of Henry Mackenzie’s hugely successful novel The Man of Feeling (1771) feels and weeps for others so much that, by his sympathies, he wastes and dies – a man too good for an unfeeling world.”

The Invention of ‘Feelings’ – c1770

“The OED suggests not only that ‘feelings’ were first identified in the later eighteenth century, but also that novels might have been where they were first explored. The word ‘feelings’ — used in its now most common sense to mean ’emotions’ has its first recorded use in the 1770s. The two earliest examples cited are both taken from novels: by Elizabeth Griffith and Ann Radcliffe. ‘Feeling’ (singular noun) dates from at least the fourteenth century; ‘feelings’ (plural) is an eighteenth-century coinage: a new concern or possession of refined individuals. We might say that the polite culture of novel consumers that Richardson helped to make was one whose members were learning to have ‘feelings’, and to value them. 

“Novels were where you went to have those feelings. This is why some novels began to use the declaration ‘A Sentimental Novel’ on their title pages especially in the wake of Laurence Sterne’s ‘Sentimental Journey’ (1768). ‘Sentimental’ was a word for a type of text, promising an occasion for fine feeling. This line feeling could be experienced by both the book’s characters and its reader. A sentimental novel at once depicted sensibility and appealed to it.”

“It was not only novelists. To the historian of ideas, this pursuit of feelings looks like a much wider cultural preoccupation. David Hume, notably in his ‘A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), and Adam Smith in his ‘A Theory of Moral Sentiments’ (1759), are the leading examples of how empiricist philosophy turned to the workings of feelings in the mid-eighteenth century. They both set out to describe the properties of ‘sympathy’, the faculty by which ‘the passions and sentiments of others’ become our own’. Like the sentimental novelists, they were trying to understand how ‘sentiments’ might be both vivid emotions and moral judgements. Though the philosophical psychologists of the eighteenth century rarely noticed contemporary novelists, Smith did single out Richardson as one of those ‘poets and romance writers’ who are good ‘instructors’ because they celebrate ‘that extraordinary sensibility, which we naturally feel for the misfortunes of our nearest connections’. From Locke onwards, philosophers had explored the psychology of the individual, his (or her) mind supplied only by experience and the activity of reason. The philosophers of sympathy elaborated a means of rescuing that individual from isolation. “

“By the 1790s, however, the psychological refinements of the novel of sensibility had come to seem deeply suspect to many. As Marilyn Butler was to point out, opposition to sentimental literature as being individualistic, possibly politically radical, grew up just in the period ‘when the apprentice Jane Austen formed her literary attitudes’ From early on there was the suspicion that the display of sensibility was artificial — at best merely fashionable, at worst deeply hypocritical. The literary cult of sensibility produced its own descant — voices like those of the respected moralist Hannah More, in her Sensibility: A Poetical Epistle (1782). More valued the tender effects of reading Richardson or Sterne, and readily conflated feeling with virtue.

“For More and Coleridge, it was all to do with reading. Fine feelings, depicted in novels and experienced by their readers as they read, had become a guarantee that those novels were morally elevating.”

Sensibility is something you learn from books. In her first conversation with WiIloughby, Marianne discovers a shared sensibility in their shared tastes in reading when ‘her favourite authors were brought forward and dwelt upon with so rapturous a delight, that any young man of five and twenty must have been insensible indeed, not to become an immediate convert to the excellence of such works, however disregarded before’ SFS, 1.:3). WiIloughby has quite enough sensibility to respond to the right books in the right way — but also to respond to the raptures of this attractive, enthusiastic young woman. And, as far as Marianne is concerned, he has himself walked out of a book. ‘His person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story’ (SFS, 1:9).”

“Sceptical responses to the cult of sensibility did not only come from conservatives. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) Mary Wollstonecraft was concerned that celebrations of sensibility taught young women to be weak and ill. She convicted ‘the herd of Novelists’ of fostering in women ‘a romantic unnatural delicacy of feeling’, depicting ‘sensibility’ as a fashionable female weakness encouraged by men, and by bad habits of reading. Austen also suggests that sensibility involves sickness. When she first appears to have been jilted by Willoughby, Marianne Dashwood weeps all night and gets up with a headache, ‘unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment’ (SFS, 1:16). ‘Her sensibility was potent enough!’ exclaims the narrator. The implication is that Marianne’s susceptibilities are manufactured — that she imposes upon herself. She vaunts her sensitivity at a cost to her mother and sister: she is so busy showing how fine her nerves are that she does not’ notice their distress.”         

Sensibility is suspect because it can become an affectation. Reliant as it is on gesture and display, it can be faked. The calculating Lucy Steele weeps readily enough and dotes on children. Yet it is not merely bogus. Marian ne eventually becomes genuinely, indeed dangerously, ill in the true manner of a heroine of sensibility. It has been thought that Marianne’s illness is a kind of punishment. She emerges suitably chastened, speaking not in surges of enthusiasm but measured Johnsonian periods, and now quite ready to marry the flannel-waist-coated Colonel Brandon. Yet the illness also suggests that Austen believes that sensibility is something real. The influence of mind on body is evidence of its operation and roots Austen’s psychology in its times.

“So Jane Austen may satirise the cult of sensibility, but she remains intrigued by the idea. In its positive use it refers us to the selfawareness that characterises all her heroines.”

1)” Sensibility is something you learn from books,”

  • Before the late 18th century sentimental novels were unheard of.
  • Sensibility had a sematic change influenced by authors like Austen
  • Marianne’s obsession with books and poetry implies she has been influenced
  • Elinor has less regard for books and she is more sensible – not innate

2) “They [Austen’s heroines] are always trembling, fainting and turning sick with feeling, ”

2) “The illness also suggests that Austen believes that sensibility is something real.”

  • Especially true for Marianne – Hurts her ankle, wakes up with headache after Willoughby doesn’t reply to her letters, she only realizes the positives of Brandon after she is critically ill.
  • Is Austen claiming that women feel so strongly that they are made physically ill?
  • However this shows the acceptance that feelings are real.

3) “Austen may satirize the cult of sensibility, but she remains intrigued by the idea.”

  • Mock the idea of sensibility
  • Hyperbole in expressing emotion – Mrs. Dashwood & Elinor
  • “I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter into all my feelings; the same books, the same music must charm us both.”
  • Her presentation of Marianne, she seems to be parodying the romantic heroine
  • Yet Austen attempts to find the correct balance between sense & sensibility
  • “Cult” – Sensibility was the ‘fashionable’ thing

4) “Novels were where you went to have those feelings.”

  • Marianne gets Edward, Brandon & Willoughby to read and judges a lot from their delivery
  • New kind of reading. Not looking at the words but how they make a person feel
  • Austen certainly had feelings in S&S but was she implying that too much feeling can be bad?
  • Catharsis = Freudian interpretation
  • “those feelings” were they fantasy? Can only get them from a novel

5)”As far as Marianne is concerned, he [Willoughby] has himself walked out of a book,”

  • “His person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story,”
  • Links to (3) Marianne’s over exaggerated sensibility
  • Austen is implying that some women have a fantasy view of men
  • Unreal
  • Willoughby appears to be too good to be true which he is!
  • Real life isn’t perfection as Austen shows with Edward and Brandon
  • “Sir Edward Denham, we hear, ‘had read more sentimental Novels than agreed with him’…the sublimities of intense feeling…progress of strong passion.”

S&S – “It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;- it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.”

More suggested that sensibility is something you learn from books, which explains why Marianne and Willoughby connected quite quickly as they both shared an interest in books and music.

  • “The earliest version of Sense and Sensibility was, reportedly, an epistolary novel…who wanted to get the reader into the minds of her main characters.”

S&S – “No letter from Willoughby came, and none seemed expected by Marianne.”

An epistolary novel is a novel written in the form of letters. Austen may have included Marianne’s letters to Willoughby in order for us to get into her mind.

  • “One expectation against which she rebelled…’Heroine a faultless character herself…with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least wit’… ‘Pictures of perfection as you know; wrote Jane Austen to her niece, make me sick and wicked’… Austen’s rejection of the faultlessness.”

S&S – “She’s just the sort of person you’d want to get drunk, just to make her giggling and silly.”

Austen does not like perfect characters as she finds them boring and uninteresting. Elinor is seen as a ‘perfect’ character in Sense and Sensibility. She’s too serious and doesn’t know how to have fun.

Politics by Nicholas Roe

“…William Wordsworth, who visited France during 1790 and 1791-2, accounted it ‘a glorious time’… Shelly… ‘the French Revolution may be called the master theme of the epoch’”

“…Edmund Burke… ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’ (1790)… attacked the revolution in France as ‘evil’ and precicted it would lead to bloodshed…”

“While Burke and his kind were drawn to an idealised past of nurturing customs and traditions (‘the age of chivalry’) …Blake, Wordsworth, et al responded to the millenarian excitement of the times and looked for reform of the Parliamentary system…”

“Jane Austen’s lifetime spanned the Age of Revolutions (American and French). As the daughter of a Church of England clergyman in the rural village of Steventon, Hampshire, she might appear as the perfect embodiment of Burkean conservatism in an age of unprecedented and at times violent change.”

“Country houses and mansions were the most visible symbols of aristocratic power in the English countryside, and the possession and maintenance of such property expressed the continuity and stability of rule. That such a house could be mismanaged, or fall into the wrong hands, might be a matter of anxiety, especially so at a time when a French invasion was feared to be immanent. …Although mothing so momentous is anticipated in Austen’s novels, the country houses are an arena for related tensions and fears. While patriarchal authority was being championed by Edmund Burke and challenged by Mary Wollstonecraft and other early feminist writers, Austen’s novels focussing on domestic authority reflected urgent debates on the national political scene.”

“Beneath the surface appearance of unruffled calm and continuity, Austen’s novels focus on families and individuals confronted with the upheaval of births, marriages and deaths; inheritance or failure to inherit; increasing wealth, and declining prosperity; the perils and prospects of social advancement. Her novels typically focus on sections of English society that inhabit the vulnerable cusp or borderline between different groups or classes, so that we are always aware of the extraordinary mobility of English society as individuals move across that threshold. Austen’s heroines usually marry (or aim to marry) ‘up’ – Elizabeth Bennet most spectacularly so. But her male characters are sometimes equally vulnerable to the contingencies of fortune: Willoughby’s dependence on his wife’s money is such that he allows her to dictate his separation from Marianne.”

“Money dictates whether characters are dependent or independent of patriarchal or matriarchal rule, and in this way the jostling of generations reflects a comparable struggle in English politics.”

Eighteen Hundred and Eleven: A Poem (1812)… a poem by Anna Laetitia Barbauld criticizing Britain’s participation in the Napoleonic Wars.

Britain had been at war with France for a decade and was on the brink of losing the Napoleonic Wars, when Barbauld presented her readers with her shocking Juvenalian satire. She argued that the British empire was waning and the American empire was waxing. It is to America that Britain’s wealth and fame will now go, she contended, and Britain will become nothing but an empty ruin. She tied this decline directly to Britain’s participation in the Napoleonic Wars:

And think’st thou, Britain, still to sit at ease,

An island Queen amidst thy subject seas,

While the vext billows, in their distant roar,

But soothe thy slumbers, and but kiss thy shore?

To sport in wars, while danger keeps aloof,

Thy grassy turf unbruised by hostile hoof?

So sing thy flatterers; but, Britain, know,

Thou who hast shared the guilt must share the woe.

Nor distant is the hour; low murmurs spread,

And whispered fears, creating what they dread;

Ruin, as with an earthquake shock, is here (lines 39–49)

This pessimistic view of the future was, not surprisingly, poorly received; “reviews, whether in liberal or conservative magazines, ranged from cautious to patronizingly negative to outrageously abusive.

Yet… “Barbauld’s poem captures the restive mood in Britain at this moment… Bankruptcies were at an all-time high; industrial unrest and ‘Luddite’ machine breaking spread across the north of England. The evocation of ‘low murmurs’ and ‘whispered fears’ in ‘Eighteen Hundred and Eleven’ tapped into anxieties lying deeper than present discontents, stirring uneasiness about the nation’s future.”

“To Unitarians… God’s purposes were being fulfilled through advances in political knowledge and a glorious dawn, the millennium, was in prospect. Coleridge struck a note of jubilant optimism in his poem of 1796, ‘Religious Musings’ in which his ‘young anticipating heart’ welcomed a ‘blest future’ and ‘promised years’ of unimaginable glory. But the millennium had not arrived on cue and, as years passed and the century turned, it became more and more difficult to proclaim the imminence of paradise reclaimed.”

“These sublime prospects of paradise regained and ‘evil days seem a world away from Austen’s novels – a kind of parallel universe where day-to-day events were understood in a framework of apocalyptic meaning. But perhaps we could think of the quiet, interpersonal discoveries and enlightenments in Austen’s narratives as an ironic mirror of sensational revelations of self-invented prophets such as Joanna Southcott and Richard Brothers.”

“Austen depicts new dawns and realisations as her heroines come to fuller self-knowledge – a less eventful period than the millennium expected by some but a more sustainable one.”

“[Austen] might appear as the perfect embodiment of Burkean conservatism in an age of unprecedented and at times violent change”

  • Edmund Burke – Conservative philosopher. ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’, response to Thomas Paine. Condemned French revolution as ‘evil’
  • Austen’s social standing would dictate she supported this, do her novels?
  • Little social mobility – characters on the cusp of social classes
  • Revolution – her characters wouldn’t support this, as the landed gentry – have the most to lose

“She was by no means ignorant of contemporary events”

  • Politics – background influence but omnipresent in her novels eg. her inclusion of characters in the navy
  • Family situation meant she had awareness of contemporary events eg. cousin Eliza whose first husband was guillotined during Robespierre’s Terror.
  • Read newspapers and correspondence with family focussed on current affairs, but kept opinions in her novels guarded with irony

“[In Austen’s novels] the organisation of society is always at issue”

  • In Austen’s novels, marriage is how society is organised and how class barriers are transcended
  • The way Austen writes about the organisation of society and social mobility – does she instill class inspirations in people, or does she present a cautionary tale for lower class people getting ideas above their station?

“Country houses are an arena for related tensions and fears”

  • Country houses were a symbol of aristocratic power, and Austen presents them, and the battle for control of them, as a microcosm for wider political conflicts occurring at the time
  • Writes about wider events on a scale her middle class readership would understand/relate to. Although she is not taking a political side – indirectly enfranchises women into the political system before they were granted the franchise by writing about larger events on this comprehensible level?

“The domestic political scene looked desolate”

  • At the time of Austen’s writing – war in France in its 18th year, Burke’s treatise and Burkean thought dominated, hopes of political and social renewal were bleak
  • Austen was writing at a time of stagnation/Conservatism in British politics – unfair to blame Austen for not commenting on domestic affairs, or doing so on a smaller scale.

 

Education and Accomplishments by Gary Kelly

“As one critic declares, ‘All Jane Austen’s novels, and many of her minor works, unfinished works and juvenilia, are about education.’ They are ‘about education’, however, in critical and complex ways. Education as usually understood today— schooling in certain skills, practices and bodies of knowledge — formed only part of education as Jane Austen and her contemporaries understood it: a process of socialisation and acculturation based on moral self-discipline and designed to fit the individual for a range of related roles in life, according to sex and rank. Furthermore, during the prolonged national and imperial crisis of Austen’s day education became a field of ideological struggle in which the social groups who read Austen’s novels — the upper middle class and the gentry — were deeply implicated. Austen’s novels are ‘about education’ because they demonstrate the importance of female education to these social groups and particularly to their material interests in an age of revolutionary change.”

“Female education had caused increasing concern for over a century. ‘The Lady’s New-year’s Gift; or, Advice to a Daughter’ (1688) by George Savile, Marquess of Halifax, was reprinted into the late eighteenth century; Francois de la Mothe Fénelon’s ‘Traité de l’éducation des filles’ (1687) was reprinted several times in English, and enjoyed a revival in Austen’s day. Both books prescribe education for moral self-control and social usefulness within family and class. Similar conduct or advice books proliferated after mid-century as female education was implicated in accelerating social change and the national and imperial destiny. The Scottish clergyman James Fordyce’s ‘Sermons to Young Women’ (1766), reprinted into the early nineteenth century, advised readers to cultivate femininity for moral ‘reform and leadership in the national cause — Britain had just emerged from the Seven Years’ War with France. The English clergyman John Gregory urged a more resolutely middle-class programme in his frequently reprinted ‘A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters’ (1774), advising education for domesticity, moral self-discipline and fortitude in married life.”

“Women writers joined the debate. Early contributions such as Bathsua Makin’s ‘An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of a Gentlewoman’ (1677) and Mary Astell’s ‘A Serious Proposal to the Ladies’ (1694) were almost forgotten by Austen’s day, but Lady Sarah Pennington’s ‘An Unfortunate Mother’s Advice to Her Absent Daughters’ (1761), which advised education for moral fortitude against the inevitability of female suffering, was reprinted into the early nineteenth century. Twice as popular was Hester Chapone’s ‘Letters on the Improvement of the Mind; Addressed to a Young Lady’ (1773), which resumed Makin’s and Astell’s emphasis on intellectual attainments and moral self-discipline. Such ideas circulated farther in numerous novels of education. One of Jane Austen’s favourites was Samuel Richardson’s ‘Sir Charles Grandison’ (1753— 4), and Félicité de Genlis’s Les Veillées du chåteau (1784) circulated widely in French and English, but Austen’s immediate model was Frances Burney, who developed the form in ‘Evelina’ (1778), ‘Cecilia’ (1782) and ‘Camilla’ (1796). During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic crisis the form became more openly political.”

“Such works emphasised moral, ethical and social education, but their underlying concern was women’s role in reproducing the dominant economic, social, cultural and political order — the order structuring the world depicted in Austen’s novels. In the view of Austen’s contemporaries this order was established at the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and consolidated through the long eighteenth century, but was being challenged by radical economic transformation, emergent lower- and middle-class social forces, imperial crisis and global warfare. The dominant order was based on agrarian landed property developed by capitalist practices of investment and improvement and managed by a variety of professions — hence increasing concern with schooling upper- and middle-class boys in professional method and discipline.”

“For, although women of the classes depicted in Austen’s novels were marginalised in this complex economic and social order, they were increasingly thought essential to maintaining it and to need appropriate education for doing so. Property, in the principal form of the landed estate or other forms, was a family concern in both senses — a matter of family interest and a family enterprise. The upper-class family was a corporate entity dependent on landed property to provide the rents underwriting the family’s material prosperity and, more important, its status and power. Middle-class families were similarly situated, on a smaller scale. Stability of the family estate across generations was ensured by primogeniture, or inheritance by the first son (rather than division of the estate among all the sons or all the children), and by entailing the estates in default of a direct male heir, on the nearest male relative. Judging by her novels, Jane Austen had reservations about these practices. Women’s interests were entirely subordinated by them, and women had few property rights in or outside marriage.”

“Yet women were necessary to successful transmission of such property from one generation of men to the next in three related ways — biological reproduction, capital-investment and social culture all directed by education. First, secure generational transfer of property depended on woman’s biological ability to bear a male heir, usually with one or two spares for insurance. Failure to produce a male heir could mean transference of the family concern to a distant male relative; such failure underpins the plot of Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Persuasion. Biological ability had to be governed, however, by education that would deter a woman from producing an illegitimate heir, with potentially ruinous contested inheritance. Jane Austen, unlike many contemporary novelists, ignores this possibility to emphasise women’s potential moral, intellectual, social and cultural contribution, based on education, to the family estate. She similarly shifts emphasis in treating women’s second major contribution to an estate — bringing capital or property in marriage. All Austen heroines except Emma are almost Cinderellas, bringing to marriage more of the intellectual, moral and cultural capital accumulated through education than the cash or property necessary for what was called ‘improvement’ of the estate.”

“Austen knew that her chosen literary form was itself considered an article of fashionable consumption and condemned not only as such but also for glamorously representing conspicuous consumption and thereby stimulating desire to participate in it. In response, Jane Austen not only makes novel reading, and reading generally, an index of education and thus of character in her novels, but she makes her novels into a process of education for the reader. In doing so, she accords with the widespread view that education could both appropriately restrain and properly direct dangerous desires of all kinds, for which women were supposed to bear particular responsibility.”

“Women were widely regarded as instrumental in conspicuous consumption because they were conventionally characterised as creatures of desire, and moralists warned that their fashionable conspicuous consumption might extend to other excesses, including illicit amours, undermining the family estate and indeed the entire dominant order. A wide range of literature depicted these dangers, blamed fashionable female education for exacerbating them and prescribed ‘proper’ education as the antidote. In Austen’s Mansfield Park the fashionably educated Bertrams, Rushworths and Crawfords engage in various extravagances, from improper entertainments through reckless estate improvements to an illicit amour, while the properly educated Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price undertake the moral, intellectual and cultural renewal of the estate.”

“’Accomplishments’ enabled marriageable and married women to display the cultural distinction that demonstrated social distinction and advanced upper- and middle-class family interests. Accordingly, ‘accomplishments’ were preferred to two main alternatives. A woman lacking ‘accomplishments’ might be merely ‘notable’ — the period’s term for a woman who knew little more than domestic economy and was consequently incapable of cultivated socialising, though some commentators asserted the ‘notable’ woman’s usefulness to her family, especially in uncertain times. If being ‘accomplished’ was set against being ‘notable’, both were set against being ‘learned’, or a ‘bluestocking’, supposed to unfit a woman for the marriage market, genteel society and even ‘notability’. ‘Learning’ was accordingly condemned by female conduct books, satirised by male and female writers and excluded from most females’ education. ‘Learning’ meant knowledge proper to male education and restricted to male participation, and included classical and Biblical languages, analytical and scientific discourses, controversial writing, theology and mathematics. The Austen sisters were not ‘Iearned’ in this sense, though they were both ‘accomplished’ and ‘notable’.”

“By their day ‘accomplishments’, too, were increasingly criticised. This was less for subordinating women to men and family interests and more for failing to provide women with the sovereign subjectivity and intellectual resources thought necessary for their roles in family, society and nation, for independence when unmarried or widowed and for their individual spiritual salvation. Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ (1792) argued that educating women to be ‘accomplished’ or ‘notable’ denied them the intellectual independence and moral self-discipline conferred by a professional education, thus leaving them an obstacle to social progress and reform. Jane Austen would more likely agree with Wollstonecraft’s further argument that ‘accomplishments’ left women dependent on men’s judgement and authority, consequently incapable of using God-given reason to guide desire to good rather than evil and therefore barred from spiritual salvation. In the national and imperial crisis of the day a more frequent criticism, voiced forcefully by Hannah More in ‘Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799), was that education in mere ‘accomplishments’ disabled women for their role as moral, cultural and social reformers within the home and local society and thus in the great national patriotic struggle then underway.”

“Like many contemporaries, including Wollstonecraft and More, Austen used the novel to illustrate these concerns; unlike them, she eschews overt didacticism and develops the theme of female education through novelistic form, especially character and plot. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Mr Bennet and Mr Bingley marry women of beauty, but whereas Mrs Bennet was only beautiful and ‘notable’ and thus unable to govern her houseful of daughters or impress the right kind of suitors, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet have a good education thanks to their father and their relatives the Gardiners (apt name for cultivators) and both achieve proper marriages. Jane Austen does present under-, ill-, or mis-educated heroines, in Catherine Morland, Emma Woodhouse and Marianne Dashwood, but there are more poorly or wrongly educated minor female characters, such as the comically pedantic Mary Bennet and her dangerously superficial sister Lydia in Pride and Prejudice and the sympathetic but ignorant Harriet Smith in Emma. In each case, character is attributed to education, affecting the individual’s, family’s and even nation’s destiny.”

“There are two further and more important differences between Austen’s and her contemporaries’ treatment of female education. She and they correlate education with moral and intellectual character, but, as Jane Austen told her niece Fanny Knight, ‘pictures of perfection’ — presumably properly educated — ‘make me sick & wicked’ and she also excludes from her novels the ‘improperly’ educated and consequently ‘fallen’ women found in many other novels. In Austen’s novels, neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ education guarantees anything: both the well-educated Elizabeth Bennet and her badly educated sister Lydia are fallible, though in different ways; the properly educated Fanny Price is tempted by the viciously educated Henry Crawford, the viciously educated Mary Crawford loves the virtuously educated Edmund Bertram and despite his education he is attracted to Mary rather than Fanny for most of the novel. Moreover, very few of Austen’s badly educated females — Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park is a rare exception — end in the ‘ruin’ that would be their fate with many another novelist. Austen does distribute novelistic justice according to a character’s education, but all are fallible despite education.”

“Austen’s avoidance of overt didacticism and extremes in her novelistic treatment of education may owe less to conscious artistry than to her religious education, Anglican theology held that human sinfulness could only be redeemed by free will exercised for good and sanctioned by divine grace. Like contemporaries from Wollstonecraft to More, Austen believed that an educated mind was necessary for this task. As a Christian and Anglican, however, Austen rejected more reformist contemporaries’ view that education or ‘Enlightenment’ could eventually create a humanly made paradise on earth; equally she rejects the common conduct-book doctrine that education would at best help women endure the inevitable miseries of female and at worst inspire unachievable and thus afflicting aspirations.”

“…Jane Austen similarly aims to educate her readers, again indirectly, through novel form. Her use of the recently developed narrative technique of free indirect discourse, or reported inward speech and thought, encourages readers to sympathise, identify and agree with the heroine; when Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse realises her error in reading her world, readers are forced to recognise theirs in reading her: all are fallible, all in need of continuing education, all awaiting grace, divine or humane, This technique makes Austen’s novels, unlike most of their contemporaries, different on rereading, and a re-readable book is, if only by cultural convention, a ‘classic’, or canonical literature.”

“They demonstrate the importance of female education… their marital interests in an age of revolutionary change”.

  • Women in Sense marry above their status – better educated women allows for rise in social groups.
  • Women were only educated in “accomplishments” to be housewives for their husbands.
  • Women becoming more independent.

 

“Often recommended as an antidote for dangerous novel reading”.

  • ‘Elegant’ learning – historiography, poetry, travelogues.
  • Women influenced by novels – aspirations, love, status.

 

“Education would deter a woman from producing an illegitimate heir”.

  • Education allows for women to fulfill their purpose of giving a male heir – the transfer of property and inheritance is dependent on this.
  • Austen ignores this idea and demonstrates women’s educational abilities to contribute.
  • Elinor is just as wise as many of the male characters.

 

“She makes her novels into a process of education for her readers”.

  • Educate women or men? – interpreted differently.
  • Sees women as never being able to gain more social status through education, only marriage.
  • Educate readers on the implications of being too full of sense or of sensibility.

 

“At worst inspire unachievable and thus afflicting aspirations”.

  • Reading novels in which women are educated allows for women to believe they can achieve more.
  • Austen not concerned about the ideas she embeds in the reader’s mind – effect on women.
  • Believed that education would not form equality between men and women and her literature conveys this – allows women to become obsessed with unachievable dreams.

 

 Religion by Michael Wheeler

 “The moderate eighteenth-century Anglicanism that Jane Austen imbibed at Stevenson frim her father, the Revd. George Austen, emphasised divine wisdom and atonement in theology, order and patriotism in politics and common sense and morality in private life. Most Church of England Clergy steered a safe middle course between Enlightenment rationalism, with its attendant dangers of agnosticism and secularisation, and Evangelical enthusiasm, characterised by intense personal piety. The Established Church was thus in danger of becoming simply a quiet moral presence, rather than a dynamic body which lived out a radical gospel message.”

“The moderation that characterises both Austen’s fiction and her Anglicanism flows from a pragmatic approach to moral issues and theological truths. Aspects of modernity and progress associated with the Enlightenment project may have threatened conservative Anglican values like Austen’s, but an emphasis upon freedom of thought and enquiry was reassuringly Protestant. Faith in miracles may have been weakened, but the disappearance of witch-hunters was a welcome product of rationalism.”

“Much of the energy associated with revivalism had gone out of the Church of England by the middle of the eighteenth-century, through the departure of the Wesleys and the growth of Methodism. In the second half of the century however, Evangelicalism gradually strengthened within the Anglican fold… At the end of the century, William Wilberforce and the ‘Clapham Sect’ gave fresh impetus to an Evangelical revival which was later to have a profound effect upon the private lives and public manners of the Victorians…  ‘Clapham Sect’… These wealthy Anglicans believed that their faith should be reflected in good works. They led the campaign to abolish the slave trade, founded the British and Foreign Bible Society, and supported missionary work at home and abroad.”

“Evangelicalism, with its emphasis upon conversion and a new life in Christ, sanctification and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, mission and acts of love (or ‘charity’) and a personal life set apart from worldly immorality, clearly influenced Jane Austen, but without recruiting her to its ranks.”

“A regular reader of sermons, Austen was closer theologically to the successors of John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury in the late seventeenth-century, whose sermons were a model for preachers in the eighteenth: “Ever man is sent by God into this world, and hath a work given him to do in it, which he is concerned vigorously to mind and to prosecute with all his might. And though every man be not sent to save the whole world, as the Son of God was, yet every man is sent by God into the world, to work out his own salvation, and to take care of that in the first place, and then to promote the salvation of others, as much as in him lies.’”

“On matters of religion, Austen avoids extremes. She can be scornful not only of selfish worldliness, as in her treatment of Mary Crawford at Southerton (MP), but also of intrusive pietism, epitomised in Mary Bennet (P&P). Some of the comedy in the fiction plays between these two extremes, as Austen acknowledges that human beings can be both spiritual and worldly at the same time.”

“Jane Austen’s three extant prayers… contains some or all of the following elements: a plea for grace, a petition for mercy on the day’s sins, thanksgiving for blessings, a petition for protection this night and a petition for a heightened awareness of God’s grace in the redemption of the world:

‘Look down with mercy on thy servants here assembled and accept the petitions now offered up unto thee. Pardon oh! God the offences of the past day. We are conscious of many frailties; we remember with shame and contrition, many evil thoughts and neglected duties; and we have perhaps sinned against thee and against our fellow-creatures in many instances of which we have no remembrance. Pardon oh God! whatever thou has seen amiss in us, and give us a stronger desire of resisting every evil inclination and weakening every habit of sin. Thou knowest the infirmity of our nature, and the temptations which surround us. Be thou merciful, oh heavenly Father! to creatures so formed and situated.’ 

“To the modern ear, ‘evil’ perhaps seems too strong a word to apply to Emma Woodhouse’s upbringing – ‘The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself’ (Emma), or to the invalided Mrs Smith’s ‘power of turning readily from evil to good’ (Pers.), or to Anne Elliot’s misery at the concert at Bath, as she thinks of Mr Elliot’s attentions – ‘Their evil was incalculable.’ (Pers.). The scrupulousness with which Austen sifted the ‘evils’ of each day in her prayers, however, indicates that we need to retune.”

“Although Austen’s sympathies are clear in Mansfield Park, where the Christian heroine is finally rewarded with marriage and happiness, she eschews the kind of fervent religiosity that characterised much of the religious fiction of her day, particularly Evangelical fiction.”

“As in other aspects of her religious life and understanding, Austen is moderate in her representations of her characters’ fallen state and future hope: most are ‘not greatly at fault’ and deserve ‘tolerable comfort’ (MP).”

“A pragmatic approach to moral issues and theological truths”.

  • Austen’s novels are based on this.
  • Issues in society along with that of religious beliefs.

 

“But without recruiting her to its ranks”.

  • Takes a religious approach, but not fully dependent on the fact.
  • Austen influenced by evangelicalism (according to the teaching of the gospel or the Christian religion) in her personal life.
  • Portrayed onto characters in Sense.

“Human beings can be both spiritual and worldly at the same time”.

  • Spiritual – in touch with emotion and God/religion.
  • Worldly – sense/knowledgeable.
  • Balance of the two.

“To ensure that the parsonage reflects their future status in rural society”.

  • Elinor and Edward – mention religion but more concerned with views of society.
  • More worldly than spiritual – lack of sensibility plays part in dismissal of religion.

 

“Novelists often played God in writing ‘last judgments’ for their characters”.

  • Marianne’s illness – mentions name of God.
  • Death (heaven/hell) – judgment of God.
  • Austen acts in place of God when illness occurs.
  • As the author Austen changes the course of the novel at her will – Godlike.

MW: “moderation that characterises both Austen’s fiction and her Anglicanism flows from a pragmatic approach to moral issues and theology”

S&S: “that I greatly esteem, that I like him”

  • Elinor’s best quality is her defining sense that is prevalent enough to solve problems but not overwhelming enough to make her cold and unlikeable

MW: “examine our consciences, not only till we see our sins, but until we hate them”

S&S: “for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time”

One of the few books she owned herself, not borrowed, by preacher Vickers that influenced her

MW: “Similarly, there was a ‘vein of shrewd sense’ in Thomas Sherlock’s sermons, of which Jane Austen was ‘very fond’, preferring them to ‘almost any’”

S&S: “a strength of understanding, and a coolness of judgement, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother”

Austen heavily praises sense and control of feelings throughout the novel, especially through Elinor, and this reflects in which sermons she appreciated, epecially with religion as a more fantastical aspect of life

MW: “preachers also dwelt upon the heavenly reward for which those who strive for holiness may hope, through the atoning work of God”

S&S: “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”

The stress on reward for atonement from preachers would have heard is reflected in the writing, with Austen taking the role of God in benevolently offering her further life after repenting for her sins and flaws

 Professions by Brian Southam

“In the colder moral climate that arrived towards the turn of the century, employment came to be valued for its own sake as a force in character building and a safeguard against idleness, benefits available to eldest and younger sons alike.”

“…in line with the leading moral and educational writers of the time, Jane Austen makes the choice of a profession, and issues of professional knowledge, professional duty, income and the sense of vocation, topics of discussion and debate among her characters.”

BS: ‘(the cost of being in the army) brought to the army ‘men of fortune and education’, men with a stake in the country’s welfare’

S&S – ‘She was perfectly convinced of it. It would be an excellent match; for he was rich and she was handsome’

We are guided throughout the novel by Austen to view Colonel Brandon as the superior suitor over Willoughby and the ‘best match’. She does this by making Willoughby seem nasty, Colonel Brandon seem gracious and kind, and also subtly, by making Brandon’s character a high ranking figure in the army. It was a profession that was ‘prestigious and popular’, and by fighting for his country, it not only makes Brandon seem brave and patriotic (something that could maybe appeal to Marianne’s romanticism) but it also is a show of his wealth, as ‘the price of commission rose up to £6,700 for lieutenant-colonel in the Foot Guards and the price of living in the army was also expensive, with ‘those moving in London society in the elite regiments needed no less then £500’ for a private allowance. This wealth, bravery and prestige of position suggests to readers even further that Colonel Brandon is a perfect suitor for Marianne.

BS: ‘employment came to be valued for its own sake as a force in character building and a safeguard against idleness’

S&S – Edward Ferrars was not recommended to their good opinion by any peculiar graces of person or address’

Colonel Brandon is a Colonel, Willoughby has his romanticism making him interesting and he still has to do business for his aunt. Edward has almost nothing about him, and I think his distinct lack of ambition (disregarding domestic, but then again that is an inherently feminine trait) and lack of profession, especially as a young man who has the means to be involved in law, politics, religion or the armed forces, makes him a weak character, and adds to his lacking in social skills and from Marianne’s view, his distinct lack of affection. Austen herself had brothers who were naval officers and male family who were doctors and clergymen and I think her portrayal of Edward as finding the idea of a profession as inconceivable shows a privilege to modern readers and a dislike from readers of the time.

BS: ‘this was a privileged setting’

S&S – ‘I have no wish to be distinguished; and I have every reason to hope I never shall’

It is important to understand the privilege in Edward’s position, something that modern readers would almost certainly pick up on. Firstly, he is a man, so regardless of class he has the privilege to be a doctor, priest, barrister or officer that women wouldn’t have for a while. He states the second quote to the three relatively well educated women, and whilst I’m sure Austen didn’t intend this to be a feminist statement, there is some irony in a man denouncing the tantalizing idea of fame and wealth which he could very easily achieve in front of three women who have lost everything due to the patriarchy. Secondly, there’s the privilege of class. Ordinary people could never come close to becoming a barrister for example simply because of the immense amount it cost – ‘it required an income sufficient to support five years keeping terms at one of the four Inns of Court’, ‘pupillage fees paid to the barristers’ and ‘further money to support themselves in the early years of practice’. The class divides at this time were clear cute and whilst Edward has the privilege to become great and famous, he simply wants domestic bliss, something that at first glances could seem endearing, but not after taking in the inequalities of the time.

BS: ‘the church, the law and medicine, ‘the liberal professions’, ‘liberal’ in the sense of befitting a gentleman’

S&S – ‘they wanted him to make a fine figure in the world’

Edward’s idea of being ‘domestic’ is not ‘befitting a gentleman, and whilst his sister and mother have ambitions for him that may seem unfair, they aren’t allowed ambitions of their own. Another example of inequality and Ferrars ignorance of his privilege. Almost like he doesn’t want to be a gentleman – best example of a gentleman we have seen so far is Brandon.

BS: “employment came to be valued for its own sake as a force in character building.”

  • The upper class consisted of highly professional jobs
  • The entire family would be dedicated to one profession, Navy, Medicine etc.
  • Class’ were difficult to change- high professions ran in family, you stay in a high profession vice versa.

BS: “distinct hierarchies and ambitions of their lowlier members answer Austen’s style of social comedy, with its attention to the snobberies of rank, status and class.”

  • Comes back down the status and class
  • Hierarchies in work

BS: “Austen’s focus is upon the cultivated and prosperous middle gentry society… But this was a privileged setting.”