Jane Austen Illustrators: Imagining Sense and Sensibility

“Four years you have been engaged?” said she with a firm voice.  

“Yes; and Heaven knows how much longer we may have to wait. Poor Edward! It puts him quite out of heart.” Then taking a small miniature from her pocket, she added, “To prevent the possibility of mistake, be so good as to look at this face. It does not do him justice to be sure, but yet I think you cannot be deceived as to the person it was drew of. — I have had it above these three years.”  

She put it into her hands as she spoke, and when Elinor saw the painting, whatever other doubts her fear of a too hasty decision, or her wish of detecting falsehood might suffer to linger in her mind, she could have none of its being Edward’s face. She returned it almost instantly, acknowledging the likeness. Lucy Steele & Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 22 

With the recent viewing of the mini-series of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility on Masterpiece Classic fresh in my mind, it is interesting to remember the very first images of Jane Austen’s characters depicted in print in 1833, and published by Richard Bentley, London. This edition was the first illustrated edition of Sense and Sensibility to be published in England, and contained only two images; one a full page illustration on the frontis page of Elinor Dashwood and Lucy Steele, and the other a vignette on the title page of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood. The steel- engravings were by William Greatbatch after a painting by George Pickering. (Gilson 127)

Since the artist was faced with the prospect of an entire volume to interpret, one wonders why the two scenes that are depicted were selected. I believe that they were excellent choices, revealing breakthrough moments in the story; Elinor’s discovery that Edward is secretly engaged to Lucy Steele, and the seriousness of Marianne’s illness. In hindsight, if I had been at the illustrator’s ear in 1833, I would have suggested Willoughby’s gallant rescue of the fallen Marianne, or Fanny Dashwood’s discovery of Edward’s secret engagement to Lucy Steele. The publisher Bentley who commissioned the artwork obviously thought that the story was about the two sisters depicted, and rightly so. 

It is also interesting to note that no care was taken in depicting the era appropriate attire in the illustrations. Elinor Dashwood and Lucy Steele sport the larger bonnets and fuller skirts of the early Victorian age in an attempt to appeal to the readers of 1833. Gone are the out of fashion Empire wasted frocks and simple bonnets. The publisher Richard Bentley had purchased the copyright of all six of Jane Austen’s novels, and being a businessman marketed them in a modern light. He would continue to re-issued this edition separately and in sets, and publish them in this format until 1892. 

The repose of the latter became more and more disturbed; and her sister, who watched with unremitting attention her continual change of posture, and heard the frequent but inarticulate sounds of complaint which passed her lips, was almost wishing to rouse her from so painful a slumber when Marianne, suddenly awakened by some accidental noise in the house, started hastily up, and with feverish wildness, cried out — 

“Is mama coming?” Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43

Source citation: Gilson, David, “Later publishing history, with illustrations”, p. 127 Jane Austen in Conext, edited by Janet Todd, Cambridge Univeristy Press (2005)

Sense and Sensibility 2008: Cast Preview

Image of the Dashwood ladies, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)

“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.” 

“On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.” Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 13

Some say that Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility is her darkest, dealing with the struggle of the principles of common sense against free sensibility, the English inheritance laws of stifling primogeniture and it’s crushing affect on the female line, and the ever-present question of marrying for love, or money?

All of these critical issues are addressed in the new BBC adaptation of Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility which will be presented on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, March 30th and April 6th at 9:00 pm on PBS. You can read the plot synopsis here.

Adapted by Andrew Davies, of Pride and Prejudice fame, it aired in the UK in January to mixed reviews that were mostly favorable. Never one to miss an opportunity to stir the pot, Davies continues on his theory that Jane Austen is all about sex by adding some provocative scenes and enhancements to the story to suit his purpose; in order to make the story accessible and interesting to the modern audience by sexing up relationships and showing what Jane Austen implied, but did not write!

Never one to shun a good story, I have mixed feelings about this approach that I will discuss further in my review of episode one on Monday. In the meantime, I hope that you find this cast preview helpful. Sense and Sensibility has a very large list of characters in the novel, each of which adds to the progress of the plot, and reminds us of Jane Austen’s talent as a keen observer of human nature, foibles and all.

Cast Preview

Image of Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Elinor Dashwood (Hattie Morahan). Heroine age 19. Unmarried, eldest daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Sensible, responsible and reserved. Some-what saintly in her abilities to place the welfare of her friends and family above her own concerns. Elinor’s strong good ‘sense’ and her stoic composure can be a comfort to her family, but stifles her emotions and can be interpreted as coldness by others.

Image of Charity Wakefield as Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Marianne Dashwood (Charity Wakefield). Heroine age 16. Unmarried, second daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Romantic, spontaneous and unguarded, she frequently thinks with her heart over her head, and often lacks proper propriety. Quick to judge, and often intolerant of different temperaments than her own, her ‘sensibility’ causes concern to her sister Elinor, and places her outside of societies dictum.

Image of Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Mrs. Dashwood (Janet McTeer). Widow, age 40. Second wife of Henry Dashwood (recently deceased) of Norland Park, Sussex. Now of Barton Cottage, Devonshire owned by her cousin Sir John Middleton. Mother of Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. Step-mother to John Dashwood. Unprepared for widowhood and the responsibities of their new diminished financial situation. She and her daughter Marianne share an emotional and impulsive temperament, often making decisions based on feelings rather than reason.

Image of Lucy Boynton as Margaret Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Margaret Dashwood (Lucy Boynton). Child, age 13. Third daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Good-humored and well-disposed. Romantically influenced by her older sister Marianne, she is inexperienced and adventurous. Her character is expanded in the movie and serves as the inquisitor, often asking critical questions that her family needs to know, but because of propriety, can not ask.

Image of Dan Stevens as Edwards Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens). Hero. Bachelor, age 23 of Oxford. Son of Mrs. Ferrars (father deceased), brother of Fanny and Robert. Heir to the Ferrars fortune and his mother’s hope to achieve public status and distinction in politics. Educated, amiable and highly eligible, he is attentive to Elinor but guarded, distant and troubled at times. Secretly engage to Lucy Steele for four years hence. Honorable and principled, he is willing to forgo his fortune and future happiness to keep his word instead of being with the woman he loves.

Image of Linda Bassett as Mrs. Jennings, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Mrs. Jennings (Linda Bassett). Widow of Berkeley-street in London. Mother to Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire and Charlotte Palmer of Cleveland, Somersetshire. Talkative, overactive matchmaker who is often an embarrassment to the Dashwood’s. Wealthy empty-nester, bored, and determined to find matches for the Dashwood sisters. Gregarious, unrefined and excessively fond of gossip and a good tale, her well intentioned meddling into the Dashwood sister’s love lives is often unwelcome.

Image of Daisy Haggard as Anne Steele, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Anne (Nancy) Steele (Daisy Haggard). Unmarried, age nearing 30, of Exeter. Mr. Pratt of Plymouth’s niece. Sister to Lucy Steele. Cousin of Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire. “With a very plain and not a sensible face, nothing to admire.” All “vulgar freedom and folly“. On the quest for prodigious, handsome, smart, and agreeable beaus. Can’t keep a secret, and often says the wrong thing and admits as much. Aggressively in pursuit of beaxs.  Unguarded, revealing her sister Lucy’s secret.

Image of Anna Madeley as Lucy Steele, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Lucy Steele (Anna Madeley). Unmarried, age 22, of Exeter. Mr. Pratt of Plymouth’s niece. Sister to Anne Steele. Cousin of Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire. Monstrous pretty and naturally clever, but unrefined and uneducated, whose nature “joined insincerity with ignorance.” Secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars for four years hence, using this to hold Elinor at bay. A sly, scheming gold-digger, she is a chameleon of many colors, changing her alliances to suit her pocketbook.

Image of David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon, (2008)Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey). Hero. Bachelor, age 35, of Delaford in Dorsetshire. 2000 pounds a year. Retired from the Army. Rheumatic and wears flannel waistcoats.  Over-the-hill, infirmed and past romance according to Marianne. “if he were ever animated enough to be in love, must have long outlived every sensation of the kind.”. Sentimental. In his youth, he fell in love with a young woman who reminds him of Marianne, but his family did not approve of the match, and he was packed off into the army and sent aboard. Stoic, practical, and steadfast, his amiable qualities eventually outweigh his age.

Image of Claire Skinner as Fanny Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Mrs. Fanny Dashwood (Claire Skinner). Wife of John Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex who is half brother of the Dashwood sisters. Daughter of Mrs. Ferrars, sister of Edward and Robert Ferrars. Mother of Little Henry (Harry) Dashwood. Arrogant, manipulative and selfish she knows the true value of a pence, and convinces her weak-minded husband to keep as much of the recently inherited Dashwood fortune as possible, slighting the second Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters, and forcing them into poverty.

Image of Dominic Cooper as John Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)John Willoughby (Dominic Cooper). Bachelor, age 25 of Combe Magna, Somersetshire. Nephew of Mrs. Smith and heir of her estate Allenham Court, Devonshire. An outwardly dashing romantic Byron-esque hero, but in actuality, is an unprincipled deceitful rogue who trifles with young ladies affections by courting them for his own amusement. Later revealed to be a seducer, he is disinherited and is compelled to marry for money because he has squandered his own fortune. Ironically, he later regrets his marriage after his inheritance in restored. His callous quest for money over love is his downfall.

Image of Jean March as Mrs. Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Mrs. Ferrars (Jean Marsh). Widow of Park Street, London. Mother of Edward, Robert and Fanny. “a little, thin woman, upright to formality, in her figure, and serious, even to sourness, in her aspect.” The wealthy, manipulative and officious matriarch of the Ferrars family. Her son Edward is her favorite, and she and his sister Fanny “longed to see him distinguished” in public life. He prefers the opposite, a quiet private life. Money and social position are her precept. Her attempts to control her children’s lives by threats of disinheritance are feared, but shallow, as they all choose their own rout anyway.

Image of Morgan Overton as Little Henry Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Little Henry (Harry) Dashwood (Morgan Overton). Child, age 4 (but looks about 6). Son of John and Fanny Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and heir to that estate. Likes to visit the wild beasts at Exeter Exchange. Spoiled and obnoxious. For Little Harry’s sake, the Dashwood sisters live like impoverished gypsies after his mother Fanny convinces his father John Dashwood to greatly reduce his financial support of his step-mother and half-sisters after the death of Henry Dashwood, his grandfather.

Enjoy the film!

Images courtesy of Masterpiece Classic PBS © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2008, Austenprose.com

Parting injuction

Illustration by Chris Hammond, “Marianne…walked slowly upstairs”, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 46, (1899)INJUNCTION

As soon as they entered the house, Marianne with a kiss of gratitude, and these two words just articulate through her tears, “Tell mama,” withdrew from her sister and walked slowly up stairs. Elinor would not attempt to disturb a solitude so reasonable as what she now sought; and with a mind anxiously pre-arranging its result, and a resolution of reviving the subject again, should Marianne fail to do it, she turned into the parlour to fulfil her parting injunction.The Narrator on Elinor Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 46

This chapter is such a turning point in the novel for Marianne Dashwood. She has survived the shock of John Willoughby’s rejection and it’s subsequent debilitating illness, and has passed within a very short time from a romantically impulsive young woman into self-imposed regulated reserve, “checked by religion, by reason, (and) by constant employment.”  

My heart aches for her. That hollow empty feeling of an irreconcilable loss of a first love. Nothing can match it. Nothing.

Some say that Jane Austen never experienced the loss of a true love. I find that hard to believe. How could she have written such an emotionally wrenching character as Marianne Dashwood who experiences the heights and depths of love, without experiencing it herself? This can not be imitated. Any thoughts? 

*Illustration by Chris Hammond, “Marianne with a kiss of gratitude”, page 348, Sense & Sensibility, published by George Allen, London (1899)  

No conscience

Illustration of Marianne & Elinor Dashwood, Cover of Sense & Sensibility, Books on TapeCONSCIENCE

“A man who has nothing to do with his own time has no conscience in his intrusion on that of others.” Marianne Dashwood on Colonel Brandon, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 31

This is a profound statement from a young lady who herself, has nothing to do with her own time! Isn’t this like calling the kettle black, or … throwing stones when you live in a glass house? Hmm?

The British Gentry had time at their disposal. If you had an estate such as Colonel Brandon’s Delford that earned 2000 pounds a year, you had the means to be a gentleman that could schedule his own time to his liking. Now, Marianne is another situation. After the death of their father and the transfer of his estate to their half brother John Dashwood, she and her sister Elinor are impoverished, and are at the mercy of time. They must marry well, and quickly.

I am puzzled by time in Jane Austen’s novels. Sense & Sensibility was written in the late 1790’s, but was not successfully published until 1811. I may have entirely missed this nuance, but how does one know in which era the novel is set? Late 1790’s or 1811? That is a 15 year time frame. Should we assume that it is contemporary to when it was published?

I think that others may be confused also, because many of my illustrated editions contain artist’s conceptions of characters that place them in context, and include clothing and furnishing of the time. Some scenes appear late Georgian, and others are Regency. To complicate matters further, some are Victorian!

So I went on an Internet hunt and Googled “Sense and Sensibility” + “time frame” and was fortunate after a bit of digging to find an answer on Austen scholar Ellen Moody’s web site. She had investigated the exact subject and wrote a paper called A Calendar for Sense and Sensibility; – – and after wading through all of her expert scholarly investigation, I discovered the bottom line…

1799 September. “Two years” after Marianne had declared Colonel Brandon to be too old to marry, she marries him. She is 19, Brandon 37.

So the novel begins in 1797! Phew. But that does not explain why different artists have illustrated the characters in fashions from the 1790’s to the 1860’s! Well, that is another story!

*Illustration from the cover of Sense & Sensibility, published by Books on Tape, circa 2000 showing Marianne and Elinor Dashwood in mid Victorian attire.

Cold insipidity

Illustration of an Evening Dress from Ackermann’s Repository of 1817INSIPIDITY

There was nothing in any of the party which could recommend them as companions to the Dashwoods; but the cold insipidity of Lady Middleton was so particularly repulsive, that in comparison of it the gravity of Colonel Brandon, and even the boisterous mirth of Sir John and his mother-in-law, was interesting. Lady Middleton seemed to be roused to enjoyment only by the entrance of her four noisy children after dinner, who pulled her about, tore her clothes, and put an end to every kind of discourse except what related to themselves. The Narrator on Lady Middleton, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 7

I can not abide an insipid snob, and Lady Middleton’s cold and removed manner certainly qualifies her in ever measure on that point. Jane Austen paints a florid picture of her personality, “Lady Middleton piqued herself upon the elegance of her table, and of all her domestic arrangements; and from this kind of vanity was her greatest enjoyment in any of their parties.” Her true nature is further revealed when after her marriage she “celebrated that event by giving up music, although by her mother’s account she had played extremely well, and by her own was very fond of it.” Can one assume that she was pressed into playing to attract a husband of good fortune, and once her objective had been attained, had no further use of it?

I am both annoyed and amused by her elegant facade. Is she a clever calculating woman, or just insipid and ignorant? Author Rachel Lawrence thinks she is one of Jane Austen’s Dumb but Elegant Ladies. 

“Lady Middleton is quieter than her gossiping mother, but her reserve is “a mere calmness of manner with which sense had nothing to do.” She prefers the company of the Steele sisters, who flatter her and fuss over her children, to the company of Elinor and Marianne, who do not. The Dashwoods, with their interest in books and music and art, are a bit of a threat to her elegant dumbness.”

She may very well be dumb, but it serves her purpose well. Need further enlightenment on the nuances of those annoyingly irksome ignorant insipid snobs in Jane Austen’s novels? You can read the entire article on-line from the Northern California Region of JASNA.

*Illustration from Ackermann’s Repository, “Evening Dress” 1817 

Exquisite enjoyment

Illustration by Hugh Thomson, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 10EXQUISITE

His society became gradually her most exquisite enjoyment. They read, they talked, they sang together; his musical talents were considerable; and he read with all the sensibility and spirit which Edward had unfortunately wanted. The Narrator on Mr. Willoughby, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 10

From first appearances, John Willoughby is a gentleman whose ardent attentions to Marianne Dashwood are only equaled by her own imprudent enthusiasm. Her sister Elinor shows concern. Their mother does not.

Those first meetings in a new romantic relationship can be so heady. That intoxicating spark of mutual attraction. You share your life stories, your interests, and your ideals with the anticipation of a lasting connection. Sigh … Marriane and Willoughby are at that point when everything is all smiles, laughs and hope.

Like Elinor, I am cautiously on alert. They have so much in common and converse with such ease I should be happy for them, but I am concerned for Marriane’s exquisite enjoyment!  Are Willoughby’s intentions sincere in wooing an innocent lass, or is he just a cad, a libertine, a rake in disguise? Is Jane Austen setting us up for a fine fall?

To spot a cad, one must be able to recognize one. According to UK news reporter John Walsh The Cad Rides Again, and Jane Austen’s characters Willoughby and Wickkam rank among the best in English literature.

“Jane Austen’s cads are also classics of the type, polished charmers, habitués of pump room and ballroom until the moment comes when they elope with a younger sister (like Wickham in Pride and Prejudice) or leg it to London to marry an heiress (like Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility).

The trouble is, of course, that we secretly admire their bad behaviour. Without Wickham and Willoughby, the Austen novels would be studies in propriety rather than warnings of social ruin.”

Too true!

*Illustration by Hugh Thomson, “they sang together” page 37, Sense & Sensibility, published by Macmillan & Co, London (1937) 

Disposition alone

Illustration from Journal des Dames, 1814DISPOSITION

“You are mistaken, Elinor,” said she warmly, “in supposing I know very little of Willoughby. I have not known him long indeed, but I am much better acquainted with him, than I am with any other creature in the world, except yourself and mama. 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. Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility, Chapter 12

Prior to this passage, Marianne has confided with the greatest delight to her sister Elinor that her suitor Mr. Willoughby has offered her a gift of a horse which she has accepted! The ever practical Elinor takes this news in stride and tempers her concerns of Marianne’s imprudence by transferring them to the expense to their mother’s purse. How well she knows her sisters moods and cleverly side steps expressing her own reservations of her impropriety.

Marianne’s passionate defence of Willoughby’s disposition is amiable, but misplaced in the Regency world. As a single lady it is improper for to accept a gift from a gentleman that is not within her immediate family. Elinor comprehends the unhappy truth, but is so tactful that Marianne eventually declines.

The irony of Marianne’s speech is that under different circumstances, knowing someone’s true disposition, be it seven years or seven days is so true! It does not happen often, but from personal experience, chemistry does not own a calendar.

Learn how Marianne could have conduted herself within the rules of propriety in this updated edition of the original source book Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces, by A Lady of Distinction (1811)