“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
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.
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.
- Sanditon: On line text at The University of Virginia Library
- Sanditon: List of Characters
- Sanditon: Summary of Chapters 1-4
- Sanditon: Quotes & Quips Chapters 1-4
- Sanditon: Group reading schedule
- Sanditon: Additional Resources
- By the Seaside with Sanditon Event Schedule
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