Sanditon Group Read Chapters 1-4: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day Two Giveaway

“But Sanditon itself – everybody has heard of Sanditon. The favourite – for a young and rising bathing-place – certainly the favourite spot of all that are to be found along the coast of Sussex; the most favoured by nature, and promising to be the most chosen by man.” Mr. Parker, Chapter 1

Quick Synopsis

While traveling through Sussex Mr. & Mrs. Parker have a carriage accident on a steep road. Mr. Parker exits the carriage and sprains his foot. Mr. Heywood, a local gentleman farmer and his family take them in and they stay a fortnight. They depart for home with Mr. Heywood’s daughter Charlotte to Sanditon, a seaside resort community that Mr. Parker is developing in partnership with Lady Denham. She is old, rich, shrewd widow who has buried two husbands. Her companion is her young cousin Clara Brereton. Her deceased husband’s nephew is Sir Edward Denham. Her family, Clara and Edward all vie for her fortune. They enter old Sanditon village and Mr. Parker is excited over shop merchandise and improvements. Civilization! They pass his former residence and climb the hill to his new home Trafalgar House. The Terrace, shopping Mall and sea bathing machines are visible from Charlotte’s rooms.

Musings

The story opens with a carriage accident that is brought about by Mr. Parker’s impetuous nature. On a whim and without investigation he has altered his route home and taken a treacherous and steep road in pursuit of a doctor he read about in the morning newspaper. When his carriage overturns he and his wife are not injured. Only after he steps from the carriage onto the firm ground is he injured by twisting his ankle. This made me smile. Here is Jane Austen beginning with an irony, and then doubling it for us when he discovers that he is in the wrong town and that there are two Willingden’s. Mr. Heywood a local gentleman farmer comes to their rescue and offers aid and refreshments. They stay a fortnight! What hospitality! The two gentlemen could not be farther in temperament or personality: Mr. Parker is all about change and progress and the ‘modern’ life and Mr. Heywood is content to never leave home or change anything about his life. Mr. Parker is seeking a doctor and Mr. Heywood has no need of them! Mr. Parker enthusiastically describes Sanditon, a seaside community he is developing and Mr. Heywood thinks that resorts are “Bad things for a country — sure to raise the of provisions and make the poor good for nothing.” Amazingly, even though they are polar opposites they enjoy each others company and Mr. Heywood trusts him enough to allow his daughter Charlotte to return with them to Sanditon for a holiday. The way Mr. Parker enthusiastically defends the need of another seaside resort reminds me of a modern-day time-share salesman. He rattles off a list of amenities off the top of his head without any effort.

“Such a place as Sanditon, sir, I may say was wanted, was called for. Nature had marked it out, had spoken in most intelligible characters. The finest, purest sea breeze on the coast – acknowledged to be so – excellent bathing – fine hard sand – deep water ten yards from the shore – no mud – no weeds – no slimy rocks. Never was there a place more palpably designed by nature for the resort of the invalid – the very spot which thousands seemed in need of!” Mr. Parker, Chapter 1

His colleague in speculation in this development scheme is piece of work. She is the great lady of Sanditon, Lady Denham. She is old, rich, shrewd and has buried two husbands: Mr. Hollis she had married for his money and Lord Denham for his title. She has no children of her own, but Clara Brereton, a poor young cousin is her companion. Her three sets of relations court her for her fortune. The Hollis’ were not in favor with her husband and were passed over in the will. She got everything. They want it back. Sir Edward Denham of nearby Denham Park was the nephew to her last husband and is her most likely heir. When Clara Brereton enters the scene, she is in competition with Sir Edward and has a fair chance of inheriting the fortune too. Money always makes the plot churn!

“One other hill brings us to Sanditon – modern Sanditon – a beautiful spot. Our ancestors, you know, always built in a hole, Here were we, pent down in this little contracted nook, without air or view, only one mile and three quarters from the noblest expanse of ocean between the South Foreland and Land’s End, and without the smallest advantage from it.” Mr. Parker, Chapter 4.

And then their carriage reaches Sanditon and we begin to learn more about the area, the town and the people. As they pass Mr. Parker’s former home, “the house of my forefathers” now occupied by a tenant, we begin to understand Mr. Parker’s ideals of a modern community and see how Austen plays off the old vs. new Sanditon. Mr. Parker has built a new home on the hill in an unprotected spot, opposite of what his ancestors would have chosen. He has named it Trafalgar House in honor of the famous 1805 battle, but now regrets his choice and favors the more trendy Waterloo in honor of the 1815 battle! He is a man of the moment. Ironically, his wife Mary is not. Mrs. Parker looks at their former home with regret and fondness missing its gardens and shade trees “But you know,” still looking back, “one loves to look at an old friend at a place where one has been happy.” This does not faze Mr. Parker in the least. He is immediately distracted when they pass the church and the neat village of old Sanditon with its fishermen’s cottages all tidied up with curtains for “Lodgings to let,” two females in elegant white with books and harp music coming from a home. “Such sights and sounds were highly blissful to Mr. Parker.” He had no hand in the improvements, but it was “valuable proof of the increasing fashion of the place altogether.” After seeing blue shoes in the shoemaker’s window he is certain that civilization has indeed entered the town.

“Civilization, civilization indeed!” cried Mr. Parker, delighted. “Look, my dear Mary, look at William Heeley’s windows. Blue shoes, and nankin boots! Who would have expected such a sight at a shoemaker”s in old Sanditon! This is new within the month. There was no blue shoes when we passed this way a month ago. Glorious indeed!” Mr. Parker, Chapter 4

They begin ascending the hill and pass Sandition House, the last bastion of the former days of the parish and climb to the modern area. (More old vs. new civilization examples by Austen) Charlotte Heywood has been a silent observer so far. No wonder since this is her first experience traveling to another town, and compared to her parent’s staid existence in Willingden this is awe inspiring new scenery. When they reach Trafalgar House and she is installed in her apartments, she looks out her Venetian windows (what luxury) that face the ocean and sees The Terrace where people take the air, the Mall with its shops and library and the descent to the beach and the bathing machines.

And this was therefore the favourite spot for beauty and fashion. The Narrator, Ch 4

I think our young heroine is dumbfounded.

Favorite words: portentous, remonstrances, effluvia, insalubrious, sanguine, coadjutor, perturbation, pecuniary.

Further reading

By the Seaside with Sanditon: Day 2 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Oxford World’s Classics edition of Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about Sanditon, or who your favorite character is by 12:00 pm PDT  Friday, March 26th, 2010. Winner to be announced on Saturday, March 27th. Shipment to continental US addresses only.

Upcoming event posts

Day 3 – March 17 Regency seaside resorts
Day 4 – March 18 Group Read Chapters 5-8
Day 5 – March 19 Regency seaside fashions

© 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

 

43 thoughts on “Sanditon Group Read Chapters 1-4: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day Two Giveaway

  1. I find Lady Denham intriguing and am intrigued by the book as well. I am waiting for further reviews on this book. Please count me in.

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  2. I love the irony that a novel about a seaside resort that is suppose to promote well-being and health starts off with an accident by the proprietor of said resort and who belongs to a family of hypochondriacs. Austen couldn’t have set it up better and I can’t wait to meet these characters! =)

    My initial impression of Mr. Parker: the narrator describes him to be a complete Enthusiast about Sanditon. Oxford World’s Classics notes that ‘Enthusiast’ during Austen’s time carries a pejorative meaning pertaining to fanaticism, and so connotes self-delusion. Yet, he also admits to Charlotte the occasional glimpses of ‘Littleness’ in Lady Denham. He knows how to straddle a fine line, this one. I don’t know why, but somehow, I imagine him to be the brother of Mrs. Bennett in terms of their pragmatism. She and her poor nerves will find compassion with the Parkers.

    I am also looking forward to getting better acquainted with Charlotte Heywood. Her first direct quote at the beginning of Chapter 4 is such a refreshing voice and shows her to be an astute observer, despite being not well-travelled. She may be the voice of sanity in this cast of colorful characters.

    Favorite lines: “They were anti-spasmodic, anti-pulmonary, anti-sceptic, anti-bilious and anti-rheumatic. Nobody could catch cold by the Sea, Nobody wanted Appetite by the Sea, Nobody wanted Spirits, Nobody wanted Strength.’ Now that’s a great tagline for an ad… from the seventies. ;P

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    • Your first paragraph sums up the irony of the accident well. to me, he Parker’s carriage turnover is token of Mr Parker’s hectic pursuit of changes… Sanditon heading for a crash ?
      Currently, I see Mr Parker as a well-meaning man although an airhead in his ‘vision’ for Sanditon.
      The narrator describes him as ‘an amiable, family-man, fond of wife, children, brothers and sisters-and generally easy to please;-…., with more imagination than judgement’. (ch.2)
      As yet, I don’t know what to make of Lady Denham. Will she be merely the poor man’s Lady Catherine ? =)
      Seems nice of her to take on poverty stricken Clara as her companion.
      I quite agree Charlotte Heywood is a common sense charecter. Maybe Charlotte is the real fresh air in speculative Sanditon ?

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      • Hi Mandy, no, I do not think Lady Denham will be a poor man’s Lady Catherine. We learn much more about her personality and motives in the next few chapters and I will not get ahead of myself. I do think that Lady Catherine was more educated than Lady Denham and approaches thing differently. We se this in Mr. Parker’s comment early on about their being of different minds on some business ideas. The two Ladies are both officious and value money.

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        • Hi LA, Naturally, ‘Every neighborhood should have a great lady’.
          Maybe I was too toungue-in-cheek to suggest a ‘poor man’s Lady Cat’ . ;)
          Yet, I doubt she has Lady Cat’s breeding. JA describes Lady Denham as ‘born to wealth but not to education’ (ch.3) My impression is she was born into a monied middle class family. I note she avoided London due to poor relatives. Despite a title, my impression is Lady D. is ‘new rich’. Perhaps a merchatile (?) background gives her incentive to try money-making ventures ?
          Interesting to see if she is as bossy or patronizing as Lady Catherine. lol !
          Charlotte Heywood is described as ‘genteellooking’ and I’ll be interested to find a description of Lady D as at all genteel. ;)
          I think Lady D’s inter-class marriages show the progess of monied middle class in early C19th society.

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    • You are so sharp RegencyRomantic. You are noticing all of Austen’s ironies: starting the novel with an accident, Mr. Parker and Mr. Heywood different views on the medical profession, differences in their views of progress etc. Interesting tidbit abut the Regency meaning of enthusiast. Very insightful. Changes my view and makes him more excessive. I call myself an Austen enthusiast so glad that the meaning is now positive. Yes, yes about the anti- everthing medical. Right out of a TV commerical.

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  3. I was struck by a real contrast between the Parkers’ two houses. The first Parker home is sheltered, and hardly aware of winds (of change ?) Charlotte sees it is ‘a very snug looking house’…rich in garden & meadows. A house of tradition and of the land.
    Contrast, fashionably named Trafalgar House as a structure of a new consumer society…’a light, elevated building’ (ch.4) with fine sea views & venetian blinds. Instead of a sturdy, enduring house of the land; perhaps it’s a house built on sand ?
    My impression is with windswept Traflagar House and a ‘snug dwelling’; JA marks a difference betweeen the old & well tried, and the smart & new.

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    • A house built on land vs a house built on sand…
      Carriage crash portentous for Sanditon heading for a crash…
      Charlotte as the refreshing breath of air…

      Oh, I love all your metaphors, Mandy N! =)

      I can’t seem to find the right words, but the ironic tone of the narrator does seem ‘darker and more pronounced’ in this work, even compared to Persuasion. Or maybe the better words are ‘sharper and more foreboding’? Can’t put my finger on exactly why either, but that’s the feeling I get. In spite of the sense of anticipation that ends chapter 4.

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  4. It’s so lovely to be back at Sanditon. I feel all of Charlotte’s enjoyment in first arriving at the beach for a holiday, but I don’t think I would describe her as dumbfounded. Her’s is a very collected excitement: she enters the town “with the calmness of amused curiosity” and she only find “amusement enough” at the lovely view from her windows. Yet you get that sense of anticipation of things to come. The possibilities are endless.

    I love how Mrs. Parker’s lament for her “excellent garden” is so quickly replied to with her husband’s assurances that they “may be said to carry [it] with us” before talking her out of taking any but the smallest provisions from it, only enough to keep old Andrew employed, in order to patronize another. Classic Austen, just like the irony of the opening scene, as already commented on above.

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    • Hi Alexa, your are right. Dumbfounded is not the right word to describe Charlotte’s reaction to her new surroundings. Amusement is a word that Austen often uses to describe Charlotte’s reactions, so I am glad you picked that up also.

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  5. I like your comment about the time-share salesman. Thats exactly how Mr Parker sounds, but he does sound sincere. He really does love and believe in Sanditon.

    I’ve only read the first four chapters so far (just finished Ch.4) but I like it so far. My copy has no paragraphs and has wd instead of would, but I am getting used to it, and am intrigued by Lady Denham and her family.

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    • Hi Bella, Austen manages to make Mr. Parker very likeable in spite of his over ambition and impulsiveness. Maybe she thought that these two qualities were not bad enough to admonish.

      Interesting that your copy has no paragraphs. It may follow the original manuscript exactly. I understand that it is a very rough draft with many corrections, no paragraphs or chapter breaks. Time was short for her and she may have put her thoughts down as rapidly as possible.

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      • I have the Illustrated Oxford set of JA volumes, and the minor works has Sanditon in it. It definitely seems like a manuscript, but while its a little frustrating its also really fun reading exactly what she wrote, unedited. I totally agree it is like she was rushing, even though the story seems very good so far.

        I was expecting Mr Parker to be a bit more annoying but he’s not, so far!

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        • I have a similar copy and also got the impression that the story advances at a much quicker pace than most of JA’s other works. It creates a feeling of being carried away with the flow of things and getting swept up in the possibility of change.

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  6. Great summary! I thought the opening was hilarious and typical Jane Austen. I, too, noticed all the differences between Mr. Parker and Mr. Heywood and even Mr. Parker and Mrs. Parker, the old vs. new dichotomy.

    I can’t wait to meet Lady Denham. I wonder if she’ll be at all like Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

    –Anna

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  7. I would have loved to get to know Mr Heywood a lot more! He seemed like he would be a wonderful person to have a fireside chat with. I was struck by the fact that they would never want to leave their home.. but their gaggle of kids could feel free to come and go .. silently screaming please take them!! That was comical.

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    • Hi Marie, Mr. Heywood reminds me of Joe in Great Expectations. A homebody and very content with his life the way it is. I like to imagine that Austen brought him to Sanditon just to do a fish out of water comedy thing.

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  8. You did such a wonderful job summarizing and laying the setting and characters out before us, Laurel Ann. Thank you!

    Lady Denham is the character I’m must fascinated by–not necessarily the one I like best (I’m leaning toward Charlotte), but the psychology of Lady D. interests me. I’d also love to read more of whatever is in the “Kentish Gazette.” :)

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  9. Thanks for this invitation! I’m terribly busy but I couldn’t decline it. I couldn’t deny myself such a pleasant experience. I love the seaside. One of my favourite places. And reading Jane Austen by the sea can be bliss! Long premise to introduce my opinion on this unfinished novel, Sanditon, I’m re-reading with pleasure.
    • I’m particularly intrigued by the seaside resort setting. It’s quite different from the usual in Jane Austen’s novels. I know some scenes of Persuasion or Manfield Park are set at the seaside but this novel, Sanditon, would have dealt with worldly life in that elegant place by the sea at Regency time. This would have make it different from a trip to Lyme Regis (Persuasion) or from the poor heroine’s native place (Fanny Price comes from Portsmouth).
    • I’m also quite interested in Jane Austen’s representation of her time conception of modernity and progress. But we have too little in this fragment to reflect on . It’d be great to have more to read and analyze in order to discover what Jane actually thought of modernity. I bet she was not so conservative. What do you think?
    • Finally, my favourite character/s. I feel Sir Edward Denham might have developed into an interesting male figure … The same for Sydney Parker – who will be introduced only in the 12th chapter. They might have become rather round characters (using E. M. Forster’s categories), meaning complex ones, with a solid background and chances for redemption thie first, strong temper and smart intelligence, destined to improve the second one. I think Jane Austen would have developed them more and more positively in order to make them become worthy to woo and win the heroines. Only suppositions. Who knows?
    I only know I can’t be entered the giveaway, living in Italy, but I just didn’t want to lose the precious occasion you gave us , Laurel Ann, to join such an interesting discussion.

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    • Hi Maria, thanks for joining in despite your busy schedule. We are yet to meet Sir Edward Denham, so I will not get ahead of myself and will discuss my thoughts with you later on his character. I do think it quite interesting that Austen chose such a new topic and setting for her book. Instead of the indvidual in a community, it is the community as an individual. I think I read that In B.C. Southam’s essay and shall not take credit for his analysis. ;-)

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      • Community as an individual instead of the individual in a community… Thanks for sharing that, LA! =)

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    • I, too, would have wanted to know what Jane thought of modernity, Maria Grazia! If she had lived through to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, she would have peppered her works with ‘unconservative’ heroines and ideas… That’s my wishful thinking! =)

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    • Hi Maria,

      I would have also liked to learn more about Austen’s views on progress; the fragment offers us a fascinating glimpse. It seems such a departure from Austen’s country society. I find that it offers a shrewd look at change and speculation, something that I am more accustomed to seeing in the works of Elizabeth Gaskell than Jane Austen.

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      • Yes, Jane Austen’s other novels do mention social change i.e rise of monied families- Bingleys (P&P) Mr Weston and the Coles (Emma); Repton’s new ideas for estates (MP). I find Sanditon is her most direct comment on change on the countryside by it’s description of physical changes; new houses, cottages as lodgings; the growth of consumerism with bonnets at Jebbs, parasols at Whitby’s and in Heely’s window; blue shoes. ‘Civilization indeed !’
        I don’t know if Jane makes a joke on blue shoes- impractical for walking or hard to keep clean ?
        I think Sanditon is a debate or begins as a friendly debate between Mr Parker and Mr Heywood on relative virtues of progress Vs. status quo.
        Jane likely realized progress would win and the England she knew would change forever.
        I think Jane would accept modernity but I’m less sure she’d feel comfortable with it. Thecharecter Mr Heywood puts forward good points re: raising prices. The journey to Sanditon hints at upheaval- people are seperated from the land and traditonal food supplies. I doubt Jane Austen approved thoughtless, heedless change for the sake of change.
        Don’t tell Mr Parker but fresh air is free. ;-)

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  10. Upon reading the first four chapters, I came to like Mr. Heywood and his wife. They are very old-fashioned and are comfortable living in their humble town of Willingden, but they’re kind and listen to Mr. Parker prattle on about Sanditon.

    Yes, Mr. Parker does sound like quite a salesman, doesn’t he? Always ready to give the pitch to whomever is curious about his seaside town (and even those who aren’t).

    I’m excited to learn more about Lady Denham. The way Austen describes her character before we even meet her definitely piqued my interest — to have married twice, gained a fortune in the process, and have ‘family’ members vying for a piece of the pie.

    (The words ‘coadjutor’ and ‘sanguine’ stuck out at me as well!)

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    • Hi Little Yuzu, so far Lady Denham seems to be the Frank Churchill of Sanditon in the respect that everyone is in anticipation of meeting her. Next few chapters will enlighten you. She is an interesting and amusing character. Two husbands dead and married both to get ahead! LOL

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  11. Very insightful comments! I enjoyed Laurel Ann’s synopsis and musings as well. What a great idea to add the favorite words!

    Often, Jane writes an amusing phrase or paragraph about a character and, suddenly, we “know” that person! Here are some examples:

    Mrs. Parker-“not of a capacity to supply the cooler reflection which her own husband sometimes needed; and so entirely waiting to be guided on every occasion that whether he was risking his fortune or spraining his ankle, she remained equally useless.”

    The Heywoods-” they were older in habits than in age.”

    Sidney- ” He has always said what he chose, of and to us all. Most families have such a member among them, I believe, Miss Heywood. There is someone in most families privileged by superior abilities or spirits to say anything. In ours, it is Sidney, who is a very clever young man and with great powers of pleasing.”

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  12. I forgot to enter my favorite character so far. I like Mary Parker- she is the only kind of wife for someone like the whirlwind Thomas Parker.
    Although she has no backbone at all, she does express wistful opinions which often balance the idealism of Mr. Parker.

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  13. What has stood out for me so far in the first four chapters is how the male characters have really dominated the story so far. I generally feel that a lot of the male characters are developed more gradually in Jane Austen’s writings.

    Sandition intrigues me because of the seaside setting; as mentioned above it’s quite a change of pace for Jane.

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  14. As others have already said, I too laughed at the irony and the wonderful opening scene of the overturned carriage! It set the stage for the relationships that have begun. In my mind I too was thinking of Persuasion and the journey to the sea… even thought about the 2008 BBC version in the scene where land drops off into the sea. I could visual Mr. & Mrs. Parker tipping over!

    It also made me think of if Jane herself longed to be near the sea while she was so sick.

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  15. Out of the listed 4 books Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition, by Jane Austen – I can only say that I’ve read Northanger Abbey. I know that many of the unfinished works get completed years later by people who admire and are extremely familiar with that particular author’s work. Such as Claire Boylan who added her version onto the Charlotte Bronte’s unfinished novel “Emma Brown”, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s son who finished some of his late works (Children of Hurin). But it still remains a mystery about those novels of how the original author would write out their works.

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  16. Excellent summary of the first chapters. I’m curious about the exact location of Sanditon on the coastline. Maybe it is based on Eastbourne? Mr Parker makes a disparaging comment about Brighton at some point so by implication Sanditon must be smaller, more elegant and refined.

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  17. I’m interested so far! I’m really curious about the seaside setting. I’m assuming Austen knew she was ill when she wrote this? I think it’s interesting that she chose to write about a health resort (if it can be called that?), if she did.

    I feel like these first four chapters have definitely been a lot of setting up, so I’m glad to hear the meat of the story is coming up. Keeping all the characters straight is a little tough, but I’m learning who they are. Like someone above me said, I’m surprised at how much we’ve seen of the male characters so far, and how little we’ve seen of Charlotte. I’m most interested in meeting Clara; she sounds, situation-wise, sort of like a Jane Fairfax.

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  18. Excelletn synopsis and musings, Laurel Ann! Most of what I wanted to say has already been said, I don’t want to bore everyone by repeating it. I think this is a really magnificent piece, if only Jane Austen had been able to finish it! I love your favorite words, I need to look up the meaning of some of them. It would be great to be able to add them to my vocabulary.

    I’m very interested in seeing how the three families who want Lady Denham’s fortune act. Is there going to be tension? Hostility? Excessive flattery? Malice?

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  19. This is a first read for me…having only read the first four chapters, I am going to say that thus far my most favorite character is Miss Clara Brereton. I’m fascinated with the “Cinderella” aspect of character and truly hope she will become the heiress to Lady Denham’s fortune!

    I am curious if you recommend any of the novels that “finish” this story?

    Thank you for this opportunity!

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  20. I finally was able to sit down and start reading Sanditon, I’m sorry to be joining so late.

    I can’t tell you how many times I smiled inwardly. Mr. Parker is quite a character. One of my favorite scenes in these first few chapters is when Mr. Parker describes Brinshore to Mr. Heywood:

    “… lying as it does between a stagnant marsh, a bleak moor and the constant effluvia of a ridge of putrefying seaweed — can end in nothing but their own disappointment. What in the name of common sense is to recommend Brinshore? … And as for the soil …it can hardly be made to yield a cabbage. Depend upon it, sir, that this is a most faithful description of Brinshore — not in the smallest degree exaggerated — and if you have heard it differently spoken of — ”
    “Sir, I never heard it spoken of in my life before,” said Mr. Heywood. “I did not know there was such a place in the world.”
    “You did not! There, my dear,” turning with exultation to his wife, “you see how it is. So much for the celebrity of Brinshore! This gentleman did not know there was such a place in the world. Why, in truth, sir, I fancy we may apply to Brinshore that line of the poet Cowper…”
    “With all my heart, sir — apply any verses you like to it. But I want to see something applied to your leg.

    I look forward to learning more of him and can imagine him perfectly! In some respects he reminds me a little of Sir John Middleton very friendly and enthusiastic but not the strongest common sense.

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  21. I’m so amused by Mr. Parker and his enthusiasm for his favorite child, Sanditon. What a place he makes it sound! Heaven on earth.

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