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formergothardite

Jane Austen Reading Club

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Depressed
formergothardite

This was suggested by @PurpleCats in another thread. This is for people who have never read Austen but want to or who have read her and want to reread her books. Purplecats suggested we pick a book and discuss each chapter, which sounds good to me. What  book should we start with? 

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PurpleCats

Shall we just start at the beginning of her work with Sense and Sensibility? 

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Depressed
formergothardite

That works for me. I haven't read that in a while. Here is a link to an online free copy for people who don't have it, don't want to buy it, and/or can't get it from their library.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/161

Here is the free audio version.

https://librivox.org/sense-and-sensibility-by-jane-austen/

When do we want to start? Should I start different threads for each chapter to make it easier to keep up with the discussions? 

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CTRLZero
15 minutes ago, formergothardite said:

When do we want to start? Should I start different threads for each chapter to make it easier to keep up with the discussions? 

I'm ready to chime in whenever other people are ready to go.  "The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex."  Ah, the joys of Austen (that sounds like a Duggar thread title) are coming back to me.

As far as chapters, I wonder if it should be larger divisions to keep it from being unwieldy.  It looks like there are 50 chapters.  

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Depressed
formergothardite
3 hours ago, CTRLZero said:

As far as chapters, I wonder if it should be larger divisions to keep it from being unwieldy.  It looks like there are 50 chapters.

That is true. Maybe we should start the discussion in this thread and if it gets to unwieldy we can't move to smaller threads. 

I'm reading the first chapter and I had forgotten that Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood had fed off each other when it came to grief and anger at their situation. They were the very definition of wallowing in grief. 

 

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CTRLZero

I'm looking through chapter one, and Austen is setting the stage for a financial fail for the Dashwood women.  This is similar to the entailment set up in Pride and Prejudice, where the estate is meant to transfer to a male.  In both novels, the continued financial well-being of the females is dependent on the kindness of the inheritor (male).  Austen was brilliant in pointing out the difficulties this tradition of inheritance placed women financially.

And then Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood arrive at Norland Park...

Note how young Elinor is, and she is described as "the counsellor of her mother."   And you are right, Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne are "seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it" [aka wallowing].  Elinor has her hands full with her emotionally overwrought siblings and mother, not to mention trying to maintain a relationship with the new arrivals.

 

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Depressed
formergothardite
Posted (edited)

Isn't it odd how Mr. Henry Dashwood didn't end up with much of his first wife's money? I would have thought that he would have, but it went to their son. 

In my mind Mrs. Henry Dashwood was older, but I just realized she was in her very early 40's!

Quote

Certainly not; but if you observe, people always live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them; and she is very stout and healthy, and hardly forty. 

 

Edited by formergothardite

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CTRLZero
1 hour ago, formergothardite said:

Isn't it odd how Mr. Henry Dashwood didn't end up with much of his first wife's money? I would have thought that he would have, but it went to their son. 

It was a pretty common practice to transfer estates through the male line, especially first born (primogeniture).  In this case, since Mr. Henry Dashwood had a son with his first wife, and then that son had a charming male infant, all the money connected to the estate was secured to the menfolk down the line.

Mr. John Dashwood had every intention of honoring his father's last wishes to maintain the widow and their three daughters in comfort, but was derailed by the selfishness of his wife, Mrs. John Dashwood.  It's interesting to follow her entreaties to her husband to reduce the money going to the dependent women.

Gads - I was going to do a list but it got too long - she was utterly ruthless, preying on his conscience and everything else she could think of.  And ultimately:

Quote

They will be much more able to give YOU something.

 

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DancingPhalanges
Posted (edited)

It's been a long time since I've read this book and look forward to reading with all of you. 

I feel like I need a breakdown in bracket form of who is who in what marriage with what kids to explain chapter 1!

It didn't take much more than a paragraph for Mr. John Dashwood to be talked out of honoring his father's last wish. Why didn't the father at least leave a sum of money to the widow and daughters? Or is all money and assets entailed and that would not have been possible? 

And it wasn't just money, it was a home they loved and would have to leave. 

I've forgotten how much I love Jane Austen's writing, I love the images and emotions her writing creates as I read. 

Edited by DancingPhalanges

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CTRLZero
2 hours ago, DancingPhalanges said:

Why didn't the father at least leave a sum of money to the widow and daughters? Or is all money and assets entailed and that would not have been possible? 

It is confusing, because it says in chapter one that Henry Dashwood, the nephew of the owner of Norland, who was "the legal inheritor...and the person to whom he intended to bequeath it."

Henry's wife (mother of the three daughters) had nothing, and Henry Dashwood apparently had only seven thousand pounds left over from his first wife's estate, which she left to their son, John, and Henry "had only a life-interest in it."

So the old bachelor dies, and designates his estate to go to John Dashwood and charming little Harry.  The daughters received one thousand pounds a-piece, Henry Dashwood is given a life estate.  Henry foolishly dies after a year, so all that remains is the three thousand pounds the daughters were given, plus his seven thousand from his late wife, which I think also could have gone to John, but I'm not clear on this.

I'm typing this out because I'm a little lost in the math of it all.  It says "they [the three daughters] will each have about three thousand pounds on their mother's death" (so the 3 + 7) and "they may all live very comfortably together on the interest of ten thousand pounds."

Does this sound right?  I'm sure Austen's contemporaries could follow this with no problem, but I get a little (or a lot) lost!

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DancingPhalanges

That does sound right. It's a small fortune vs a large fortune mentality. The estate was tied to Henry and his son. Henry wasn't free to leave the estate to his wife or daughters. He expected to live long enough and save money from the earnings of the estate to leave to his wife and daughters. Of course he dies after a year and they are left with the ten thousand pounds? plus what they could sell. 

We know Jane writes from a place of irony and makes fun of her own peers. This is beautifully written in the scene with the already wealthy John Dashwood family patting themselves on the back for not giving money to a widow and her daughters because why would they need it, duh.

Henry knew the status of land ownership and a decent marriage settlement were needed for his daughters. There was no cash to make it happen and they were in fact left with a less desirable situation after his death. 

 

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Depressed
formergothardite

I've been puzzling through who owned what and who got what. Here is what I have so far.

Uncle who isn't named - owned Norland Park and was going to leave everything to his nephew but was charmed by the antics of a preschool boy. 

Mr. Henry Dashwood - nephew and the legal inheritor of the Norland estate. It says that the Uncle intended to bequeath the estate to him. His first wife left a large estate, but by the time this story takes place he only has 7,000 pounds, but has a lifetime interest in his first wife's estate. After his uncle's death he also has a lifetime interest in the Norland Estate(not clear on this part)

Mrs. Henry Dashwood - she brought no money to the marriage. But after her husband's death was left 7,000 pounds

Three daughters of Mr. Henry Dashwood - they were left a thousand pounds each by the old uncle

Mr. John Dashwood - left significant money by his mother, got more money when he married, and then he and his son were left Norland Estate.

So despite having lifetime interests in various estates, Henry Dashwood doesn't really own them in a way that he could make sure his wife and children were cared for after he died. It seems like that as long as he was alive they lived fairly well off, but were plunged into poverty when he died. 

Fanny is a first class bitch and Austen makes it clear that she brought out the worst in John, who wasn't the most awesome person to begin with. 

Quote

He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted and rather selfish is to be ill-disposed

 

 

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CTRLZero

Looking into the timeline, going back to chapter one, it looks like the Henry Dashwood family moved to Norland approximately 11 years before Mr. Henry Dashwood dies, leaving the widow and daughters at the mercy of Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood.  Elinor is probably the only daughter with any real memories of their life before moving to Norland. 

I wonder if John moved with them to Norland, or if he was away at some boarding school, or if the age gap is such that he was already married and gone.   It says John and his wife visited Norland occasionally.  I wonder where they were living -- with Fanny Dashwood's parent(s), since they are described as "very rich?"  (ch. 3)

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DancingPhalanges

I'm definitely going back to read with a closer eye on the details tonight! I'm going to dig up my hard copy instead of reading on my iPad. 

My family likes to eat so that means errands today, I'd rather read!

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CTRLZero

@DancingPhalanges - I know what you mean when you say you need a breakdown in bracket form to keep track of everything.  I am trying to understand all the relationships and timeline, but I'm probably missing some things.  It's always great to read and re-read, though, because there's always something new to learn.

I had forgotten how early Edward Ferrars (an eldest son!) is introduced.  A key phrase about his family's fortune:  "the whole of his fortune depended on the will of his mother."  (ch. 3)  I love that he was "not handsome...too diffident...natural shyness."   But when you get to know him, he's a great guy.  It takes me about a year to warm to people, so I get the concept!  He's constantly under pressure to be something he's not by his mother and sister.  I get that, too. 

I love the snark of Mrs. Dashwood:  "It is enough," said she; "to say that he is unlike Fanny is enough."   Sixteen-year-old Marianne, of course, thinks he is not dashing and romantic enough.  Marianne can be so over the top.

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Giddy
Carm_88

God I hated Fanny! I read Sense and Sensibility not that long ago! So it's still fresh in my mind. Good to have people to encourage me to read the others. I have the whole complete collection! :) 

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Depressed
formergothardite
11 hours ago, CTRLZero said:

I wonder if John moved with them to Norland, or if he was away at some boarding school, or if the age gap is such that he was already married and gone.

I can't really get a sense of how old John is. It doesn't seem like he grew up with his sisters, but then that might just be because he was sent to boarding school. There seems to be no real sibling affection between them. 

Fanny is just pure evil. She even begrudges them the breakfast china that was brought from their home when they moved to Norland. 

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DancingPhalanges
Posted (edited)

John married not long after coming of age to inherit his mother's fortune and they have a four year old at the time Margaret is 13. 

If Margaret became an aunt at 9, John would have to have been in his early 20's at the earliest. So, maybe mid to late 20's when the book opens? It just depends if John and Fanny had a baby right away. 

Just a guess!

I like the art of subtle shade Jane Austen throws around! As mentioned above about John being an asshole and this line at the end of chapter 1 about Margaret:

"Margaret, the other sister, was a good-humored, well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne's romance, without having much of her sense, she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life."

And I absolutely love that Mrs Henry Dashwood has the best linens, china, etc. that Fannie covets. She can't do one damn thing about it despite her wealth. I like the image of the coveted items being removed from the house and shipped away for good. 

I know I'm all over the place, ready to move on just needed to go back and read some details. 

*not good with math, only thing good about word problems were the words. 

Edited by DancingPhalanges

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CTRLZero

I am reading the conversation between Elinor and Marianne regarding Edward (ch. 4), and I am struck by how language has changed over time.  Although I know all these words, I wouldn't use them conversationally with my sister when talking about a potential mate.  Here are a couple examples of the exchange between the sisters:

Quote

At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived.

Quote

Believe them [Elinor's feelings for Edward] to be stronger than I have declared; believe them, in short, to be such as his merit, and the suspicion--the hope of his affection for me may warrant, without imprudence or folly.  But farther than this you must not believe.  I am by no means assured of his regard for me.

Elinor also brings up the fact that Edward "is very far from being independent" and suspects based on the evil Fanny's observations "we have never been disposed to think her [Edward's mother] amiable."  Looks like Edward is in a difficult situation at home and it troubles him.

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Depressed
formergothardite
28 minutes ago, CTRLZero said:

I am reading the conversation between Elinor and Marianne regarding Edward (ch. 4), and I am struck by how language has changed over time. 

I agree. That is one thing most time travel books leave out is the change in language. I'm sure that if I was dropped back in Austen's time I would struggle to have a conversation because while I can understand all those words, I couldn't reply the the same fashion. 

The only time travel book I have read that really addresses it is Outcasts of Time where every time the people go hundred years in the future they discover meanings of words change, accents change and words they have never heard of are used. 

It really stands out to me this time reading Sense and Sensibility how passive Edward seems. 

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CTRLZero

Re:  language change.  Look at the difference between Shakespeare's time and Austen's time, roughly 200 years apart in the same country.  Another time travel book which somewhat addresses this is Connie Willis' novel, The Doomsday Book.  It's one of my all-time favorites (love time travel!), and they use technology to get around the language barriers.   I'll check out Outcasts of Time.  Thanks!

Edward is definitely passive in the opening chapters.  In his case, he's naturally reticent, is tied to his domineering mother's financial apron strings and so has to please her in all aspects of his life, and probably knows if he offers for Elinor he would be unable to offer her much.  In a sense, he is like Mrs. Dashwood, who is in a miserable situation under Fanny's rule.  Fanny and Edward's mother must be like two peas in a pod--twin horrors.

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Depressed
formergothardite
Posted (edited)

It is interesting how even though Edward is a man and you would think that would mean he would be fairly independent, but in reality he depends on the goodwill of his mother. His mother is the one in control of his finances. 

Fanny really wanted their furniture, lined and dishes. I bet she was greatly annoyed she couldn't just take them.

Quote

she could not help feeling it hard that as Mrs. Dashwood's income would be so trifling in comparison with their own, she should have any handsome article of furniture.

 

Edited by formergothardite

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CTRLZero

I'm up to chapter 7 now, where the Dashwood family has relocated to their snug little cottage.  I wanted to post the description of Sir John and Lady Middleton, because it is so on point and delights me:

Quote

...for however dissimilar in temper and outward behavior, they strongly resembled each other in that total want of talent and taste which confined their employments, unconnected with such as society produced, within a very narrow compass.  Sir John was a sportsman, Lady Middleton a mother.  He hunted and shot, and she humoured her children; and these were their only resources.

This is such a typical picture of upper class living, which others aspired to.   The gentleman of the family being a sportsman and man of the world; Lady Lydia Middleton in charge of all things domestic.

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DancingPhalanges

I'm a little behind. Going back just a little to the conversation between Marianne and her mother. I agree the conversations are so formal and interesting. And Edward's fortune is dependent on the goodwill of his mother, I wonder why. They want him to be a dashing, distinguished figure, why isn't getting married and settling down good enough? I guess they want to show off a brother/son in parliament, etc. Poor guy! It's. It nots good enough to want to be happy in the country and Marianne finds him lacking because he's not as emotional as she is! She was so upset when he read poetry so boring in her opinion. However Elinor's mom likes him because he's the opposite of Fanny, me too! I would like a nice quiet country life  

I'm on mobile and reading, trying to catch up. Forgive my lack of paragraphs and thrown together writing! 

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CTRLZero
5 minutes ago, DancingPhalanges said:

And Edward's fortune is dependent on the goodwill of his mother, I wonder why. 

I am guessing that Mrs. Ferrars was given a life estate when her husband (Edward and Fanny's mother) died.  Like Fanny, Mrs. Ferrars seems to be evil controlling and probably trying to increase the family's fortunes.  So they are pushing Edward to be something he is not, probably hoping that he will make better (richer) connections by entering one of the flashier professions.  Edward is anything but flashy, as Marianne points out.

Don't stress!  I don't think we are on any reading schedule.  I had a quiet evening, and was intrigued by the Dashwoods' move to a new locale and new characters, so took the opportunity to read a couple chapters.  Austen is really to be savored.  I'm also jumping back and forth, still trying to understand the characters, relationships, and motivations, etc.  :my_smile:

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