The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard – A Review

The Annontated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Annotated & Edited by David M. Shapard (2011)How appropriate that The Annotated Sense and Sensibility is being published during the bicentenary year of Jane Austen’s first published novel.

This new book includes the complete text of Jane Austen’s classic with annotations by Dr. David M. Shapard, an expert in eighteenth-century European History who also brought us similar annotated editions of Pride and Prejudice in 2007 and Persuasion in 2010. I enjoyed both of his previous works. I find annotated editions of classics fascinating, especially if they are written from the perspective of historical and social events and not weighed down with scholarly opinions. Dr. Shapard’s agenda here is obviously to enlighten the reader by opening up Austen’s two hundred-year old text with facts, tidbits, asides, and information that a novice reader or veteran can relate to so they can appreciate the story even more.

This volume weighs in at a hefty one pound and six ounces and contains 784 pages of wow factor for any Jane Austen fan or literature lover. Jane Austen’s complete and unabridged text is included on the left hand page and the enumerated annotations on the right. No stone has been left unturned. Even the illustration on the front cover depicting two fashionably attired Regency-era young ladies walking in the countryside with an umbrella receives its own corresponding page of enlightenment on the history of the umbrella, walking as an amusement, large muffs as a winter accoutrement, and an observation on the picturesque landscape depicted in the illustration. This keen sense of the era in relation to the text continues throughout the over 2,000 annotations including: textural explanations of historical and social details, black and white illustrations of art works, caricatures, cartoons and maps, definitions of archaic words, citations from Jane Austen’s life and letters, a chronology of the novel, extensive bibliography, fifteen page introduction by the editor, and his literary interpretations of plot and characters. It is a monumental achievement that I will spend years coming back to and exploring.

I know that there has been criticism of Dr. Shapard’s unscholarly approach to annotation in his two previous editions. He uses open and accessible language for the layperson, and for the sake of clarity, he repeats definitions so the reader does not have to jump back and forth throughout the book for answers. In my view, this is considerate and not tiresome as some have complained. After all, who is this book’s primary audience? Pleasure readers and students, or scholars?  If you are a scholar you should be seeking primary source material and interpreting it in your own style, as Dr. Shapard has chosen to do in this volume. Amusingly, I find objections to the un-pedantic qualities of his writing an irony that Jane Austen would take delight in.

Overall, this new edition was mesmerizing. My only complaint is that not every inch of the right hand page is packed to the brim with annotation – but I am a greedy Janeite. Retailing at $16.95, this is a bargain resource book that every Jane Austen and Regency-era history enthusiast should own.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard
Anchor Books (2011) New York
Trade paperback (784) pages
ISBN: 978-0307390769

© 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

40 thoughts on “The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard – A Review

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  1. I’m not sure if this is the location for comments regarding the Grand Giveaway, but here it goes…

    Mrs. Jennings is my favorite character in the delightful Sense and Sensibility. The robust way she fills her scenes with mirth, silliness, and volume, is a wonderful diversion in an otherwise sometimes heavy and pedantic periods of writing. I love all of Jane’s prose, do not misunderstand, but Mrs. Jennings, although mostly annoying, brings lightness and heart and another form of irritation to Elinor’s and Marianne’s world.
    Mrs. Jennings takes delight in her ability to “read” people. She enjoys teasing and causing her friends slight embarrassment, but at the center of her seemingly harmful behavior is a heart of gold. She desires all around her to be happy and content. She may be elemental in her thinking and actions, but she puts forth the good of all in her sphere of influence.
    The levity she brings to the story is a pleasure. Although a minor character, Jane uses Mrs. Jennings, to disclose the hidden things in Elinor and Marianne that even their mother, nay each other, know or will talk about with their family. Even if it is in a way that brings discomfort to her main characters.
    I appreciate the way Jane doesn’t coddle her heroines, but instead reveals their sensitivity through their interaction of their close society. In a time where less was revered as more, I am glad that Jane gives us more with Mrs. Jennings.


  2. Great post above! I would never thought of Mrs. Jennings as a favorite character, but great support for her.

    I’m a hugh Marianne fan. I know she’s over the top, but I love that about her.

    I’m excited to read this! I’m in the Sense and Sensibility salon. It would be helpful to have the annotated copy!

    For my Austen bookclub, I’m rereading Persuasion with the annotated one.



  3. Thank you for this review! I fell in love with his annotated P&P, and am so excited that he’s continuing to do the other novels!!

    I would have to say that my favorite character is Elinor. I really feel for her feeling like she has to hide her true feelings to not only shield herself from vulnerability, but to keep her mother and sisters from even more excited reactions.

    But my runner up favorite is Mr. Palmer. He is definitely my favorite male character. I laugh at his perpetual gloominess and thinly veiled sarcasm and annoyance with his lot in life every time I read this book!


  4. I was curious about this book when you first mentioned it, and after that review it sounds just wonderful! I’m shocked at the bargain price as well. As for favorite characters I gotta go with Mrs Jennings, followed closely by Mr Palmer. I am greatly amused by the two foils!


  5. I’m so glad to see the Annotated Sense and Sensibility. I have two favorites in S&S, I love Elinor and of course the lovely hero Col Brandon.


  6. Elinor or Col. Brandon are favourites of mine – although
    I like the Jennings and the Palmers. Something to be said for
    Mrs Dashwood (Elinor and Mariannes mother) as well.

    Af far as annotated editions go – if the annotated Pride
    and prejudice is an indes the annotated edition of
    Sense and sensibility should be a keeper.

    Thanks for alerting me to the Annotated Sense and


  7. Well, I must say that Elinor Dashwood is my favorite character because my daugher Elinor is named after her.

    Some people have complained that Elinor does not change much during the course of the novel, but I loved her for her persistence, affection, and ability to guard her tongue in the face of insult and insipidity.

    She has such admirable self-control — a quality that I do not have that I wish upon my daughter! I also like her wisdom in healing Marianne’s shredded heart and bruised psyche. In the last chapters of the book, Austen shows Elinor taking such pains to assist Marianne to come to terms with her feelings for Willoughby. It’s hard to believe the book was written when Austen was so young! She really was a gifted psycho-analyst!

    I look forward to finding out more about the book through this annotated version.


  8. My vote for favorite character in Sense and Sensibility is Elinor; she has the burden of being the “grown-up” in the family as Marianne and their mother can’t seem to cope with the everyday realities, unless it hits them squarely in the face. The other character I like to loathe is Lucy Steele. She is manipulative, petty, and selfish. She is one of Jane’s better awful characters.
    The annotated S & S looks like a terrific read!


  9. Elinor is my favourite character as well, because of her self-control. The few times that we see her lose control make those scenes more meaningful and memorable. Self-control is one of the qualities I admire.
    I haven’t read annotated versions before, but after your wonderful review, I would like to read one.


  10. I like Elinor because she is so sensible. The thing that excites me about the annotated text is that it will be really interesting to read historical facts, etc. that I wouldn’t have known otherwise!


  11. Wow…that’s a tough question… I would have to say that Marianne is my favorite character, because she doesn’t want to conform to what everyone else is doing. And I’m a big history buff, so the annotated text sounds great!


  12. I think Mrs. Jennings has to be my favorite character. She is full of silliness and very boisterous but she still clearly has a good heart even if she isn’t as perceptive as she could be. She does add liveliness to any of her scenes, but she is used only as much as she is needed, because like in real life, she can be a bit much. I suppose this is also just as much a love of how well Austen utilizes her too.


  13. I identify quite a bit with Elinor,being an older sister myself and in some ways,my younger sister can be a Marianne:) I also adore Mrs. Jennings who, as the Emma Thompson film version points out,”talks about things” unlike some of the other folks in the novel.

    One of my favorite scenes from the book is between Elinor and Mrs. Jennings, after that discussion with Col. Brandon over giving Edward Ferrars that much needed living. Mrs. Jennings is only too eager to believe that Elinor has received an offer of marriage instead,which makes for great comedy indeed-wonder what the annotated edition says about that part!


  14. I own a copy of this annotated edition (just arrived) and cannot WAIT to read it.

    No need to enter me in the contest, but my favorite character is Marianne. (Based solely off the Thompson/Winslet movie. This will be my first time reading this book.) :-)


  15. I do love Mrs. Jennings – but even more, her son-in-law, Sir John Middleton – he literally saves the Dashwood women’s lives by offering them a place to stay, and then forcing his friendship upon them, he brings about Marianne’s salvation, and brings them more into society. They could easily have languished away alone in that remote cottage and never met anyone – he wouldn’t let them!



  16. I really enjoyed Dr. Shapard’s annotated Pride and Prejudice, so I recently bought his annotated Persuasion. For me, having the annotations RIGHT THERE, next to the text, is the only way to print such a book! I also greatly appreciate his “open and accessible language for the layperson.” As wonderful as Jane Austen’s writing is, it IS 200 years old, and his annotations have made her work even more enjoyable. What more could I ask?

    My favorite character is Elinor; I aspire to BE her, someday, when I grow up. (Considering my advanced age, it had better be SOON!) :-)

    P.S. I’m happy to see that he will have his annotated Emma out next year!


  17. What a great review! There is no need to enter me in the contest since I just received this book in the mail last week.

    My favorite character is Elinor. I wish I could be more like her since like Marianne I wear my emotions on the outside.

    @ Cathy Allen. You made my day telling me that an annotated Emma will be coming out next! Thanks!


    1. You’re welcome; he does an outstanding job of annotating, in my opinion, and I plan to get them all!


  18. Oh my goodness! I LOVE my copy of the Annotated Pride & Prejudice, and must-must-MUST get my hands on a copy of the Annotated Sense & Sensibility! :D And Emma comes out next year?! Oh happy day indeed …


    As a Literature & History double major, I love the Annotated versions for everything ‘extra’ they bring to the table. I will be very interested in seeing what new depth I get from S&S …

    And favorite character? It’s been so long since I read the book, that I’m having to draw heavily from movie versions of Sense & Sensibility that I’ve seen, and am going to have to pick Edward — he’s a bit intriguing, you know? I mean, what exactly was going on in his head during it all? :)


  19. Sense and Sensibility is rich in characters. However in choosing my favorite, I go with Elinor Dashwood. In the remarkable chapter where it is revealed that Edward is engaged to Lucy Steele, Elinor, whose heart is breaking, is concerned about how Marianne will respond to the news. “Elinor was to be the comforter of others in her own distress,” Jane Austen tells us. Elinor’s standards of behavior are so high, that 200 years later, I still find myself trying to live up to her.


  20. My favorite character in S&S often switches back and forth between Elinor and Marianne. I feel great fondness for both characters, but feel more empathy for each sister at different times. As for what intrigues me about an annotated S&S, I feel that everything (even spectacular JA novels) is proven more enjoyable when it is annotated. ;)


  21. While I completely identify with Elinor, I find Marianne just delightful. There is such a thing as being too practical and reliable. She’s also so polite that annoying people are always getting her ear. I personally know that life becomes very restricted and burdensome if too much of those qualities are present.
    However, Marianne lives completely in the moment. She lacks the desire to temper her feelings and actions, and she suffers for that. After all, she is just seventeen and in the throes of teenage hormones! After she completely wallows in her misery and almost kills herself for it, she seems a great deal calmer and more in control of herself. It does seem quite a stretch for her to be attracted to Col. Brandon, but he humors her and allows her to be herself. His fine home and income may have had some part in that also!
    Sense and Sensibility is my favorite of the novels. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read it!


  22. How to pick one’s favorite character from Sense and Sensibility? I think Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman have ensured that Marianne and Col. Brandon will always have a place in my heart, but I think steady Elinor is probably the character I like best. I would love to have this book!


  23. I’m always sad when I see a classic book that doesn’t have a good introduction or glossary, or any annotation. I think of those poor readers caught unaware and reading a book without being able to understand many parts of it. Either it was written before anyone alive on the planet now was born, or the setting is so foreign to the reader, that it needs some extra information beyond the story itself (or both). Thanks for the review. It definitely recommends the book as necessary for my Jane Austen shelf.

    As far as favorite characters, Elinor is by far at the top of my list. I can’t imagine what would have happened to her family if she hadn’t been there to hold things together. Her mother would have overspent and her sister would not have learned from her mistakes. At least they all had a good example to follow.


  24. Can’t wait to see this annotated S&S! My favorite character is Elinor–I love her maturity and the way she takes care of her family. The more I think about these characters, the more I think it’s time to revisit this book!


  25. David Shapard’s edition of P&P changed my life. I was a lazy helpless reader of Austen until I stumbled across his edition. It translated the 200 year old language for me, and much more.

    (I wore out my Shapard paperback edition of P&P and discovered that a hardback replacement was impossible to find — or at least to pay for. If you own his hard cover version take good care of it.)
    As I read an re-read Austen, Shapard is the annotator of choice. The others are always interesting, but he is great.


  26. I just finished reading Sense & Sensibility (my last unread Austen), and I really enjoyed it. I can’t really name my favorite character in the novel because I think it is a tie between Elinor (I love how her name is spelled!), Edward, and Colonel Brandon.


  27. I’m so excited to check this out. It has definitely been added to my “to read list.” It’s too hard for me to pick a favorite character in Sense and Sensibility. It definitely comes down to Elinor and Marianne, of course, but how to pick one or the other? I think the best I can offer is this: I love Marianne because she is who I would like to be and I love Elinor because she is who I am.


  28. I like annotated book since it explains and gives an summary on specific words, events. etc. Favorite character would have to be edward Ferrars. I like him due to him being different from the rest of his family and following what he wanted and not what others wanted him to do


  29. Sense and sensibility is the first Austen I read and my favorite. Of her characters, I admire Elinor, her sense, her patience, her heart.


  30. Marianne has always been my favorite, but Margaret is rather overlooked a lot of times. I sometimes wonder how her own romance went eventually. The annotated version would be such a cool book to own, for studying and reference. I never get tired of this story!


  31. These seem to be the usual favorites in Sense and Sensibility, but Elinor and Marianne are probably my favorite characters, and I like Mrs. Jennings a lot as well. She is so silly and kindly!

    Sense and Sensibility contrasts the issues of sense vs. sensibility, two differing views that were being debated at that time. I would be intrigued to see what an annotated edition might have to say on those subjects. Putting the novel into historical context would be very helpful and enlightening.


  32. My favorite character is Elinor. Everyone comes to her with their problems, and she has to always try to remain strong even when she’s dying inside. I’ve always admired how Austen creates strong silent heroines, like Fanny and Anne and Elinor.


  33. The annotated version of this, one of my favorite Austen books, sounds so intriguing because of the additional information to be learned. I would love to read Mr. Shapard’s perspectives on the characters and learn more historical facts of the time period. My favorite characters are Elinor and Col. Brandon.


  34. My favorite has to be Elinor, as I can really relate to her. And I have a younger sister who is quite like Marianne. My favorite part of the entire book is the relationship those two have. Why would I want an annotated version? Because I am a nerd and love reading extra notes and tidbits of information.


  35. This has to be my favorite Austen novel. My favorite character has to be Marianne. She is so relatable, so real. Any women can relate to her struggle, her mistakes. I think we’ve all had a Willoughby in our lives. She can be so melodramatic at times, something I can relate to, but its genuine. I love the evolution of her relationship with Col Brandon. I also love Fanny, she is so delightfully mean. I would love to read this annotated edition, having studied literature in college. I never was able to take a class on Austen’s time period and I’d love to learn more!


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