Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility: Ch. 1

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Sense and Sensibilityd

Chapter 1

The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussexh. Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Parkw, in the centre of their property, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance. The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to a very advanced age, and who for many years of his life, had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister. But her death, which happened ten years before his own, produced a great alteration in his home; for to supply her loss, he invited and received into his house the family of his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intended to bequeath ith. In the society of his nephew and niece, and their children, the old Gentleman's days were comfortably spent. His attachment to them all increased. The constant attention of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood to his wishes, which proceeded not merely from interest, but from goodness of heart, gave him every degree of solid comfort which his age could receive; and the cheerfulness of the children added a relish to his existence.

By a former marriage, Mr. Henry Dashwood had one son: by his present lady, three daughters. The son, a steady respectable young man, was amply provided for by the fortune of his mother, which had been large, and half of which devolved on him on his coming of age. By his own marriage, likewise, which happened soon afterwards, he added to his wealth. To him therefore the succession to the Norland estate was not so really important as to his sisters; for their fortune, independent of what might arise to them from their father's inheriting that property, could be but small. Their mother had nothing, and their father only seven thousand poundsh in his own disposal; for the remaining moiety of his first wife's fortune was also secured to her child, and he had only a life-interest in ith.

The old gentleman died: his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure. He was neither so unjust, nor so ungrateful, as to leave his estate from his nephew;—but he left it to him on such terms as destroyed half the value of the bequest. Mr. Dashwood had wished for it more for the sake of his wife and daughters than for himself or his son;—but to his son, and his son's son, a child of four years old, it was secured, in such a way, as to leave to himself no power of providing for those who were most dear to him, and who most needed a provision by any charge on the estate, or by any sale of its valuable woods. The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child, who, in occasional visits with his father and motherh at Norland, had so far gained on the affections of his uncle, by such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old; an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise, as to outweigh all the value of all the attention which, for years, he had received from his niece and her daughters. He meant not to be unkind, however, and, as a mark of his affection for the three girls, he left them a thousand pounds a-piece.d

Mr. Dashwood's disappointment was, at first, severe; but his temper was cheerful and sanguineh; and he might reasonably hope to live many years, and by living economically, lay by a considerable sum from the produce of an estate already large, and capable of almost immediate improvementw. But the fortune, which had been so tardy in coming, was his only one twelvemonth. He survived his uncle no longer; and ten thousand pounds, including the late legacies, was all that remained for his widow and daughters.

His son was sent for as soon as his danger was known, and to him Mr. Dashwood recommended, with all the strength and urgency which illness could command, the interest of his mother-in-laww and sisters.

Mr. John Dashwood had not the strong feelings of the rest of the family; but he was affected by a recommendation of such a nature at such a time, and he promised to do every thing in his power to make them comfortable. His father was rendered easy by such an assurance, and Mr. John Dashwood had then leisure to consider how much there might prudently be in his power to do for them.

X [d] Sense and Sensibility


For students, teachers, scholars, and the inquisitive general readerTo employ the full capacity of the annotations, please go to bookdoors.com and click on ReSearch Engine. You will discover a variety of illuminating ways to use the annotations to this and to any one of the other BookDoors In Context editions. You will also be able to search the text of all of the other works on the site. …

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X [h] Sussex


A prosperous county on England's southern coast and offering a quintessentially English landscape. Owing to the milder weather and the proximity to London, one of the most desirables place in England to live.  

X [w] Park


The fenced or hedged area surrounding the manor, a bucolic setting that might include some grazing. To insure an unbroken view,  the fences, "haha's," would be sunk in ditches. The name is the exclamation of surprise at discovering a fence. 

Increasingly from the mid-18th c., estate owners became interested in planting and manicuring the park so as to make it an aesthetic complement to the manor.

X [h] he intended to bequeath it

Custom & Law

Inheritance is an issue of supreme importance to the landed gentry, as it is, along with money, to Austen. 

This novel's plot originates, as do Pride and Prejudice's and Persuasion's in a matter of inheritance that has baleful consequences for the women of the family. This is a patrilineal society (property almost without exception descends through the nearest male relation, and pr…

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X [h] seven thousand pounds


In view of the place money has in this and the other Austen novels, we need to try to convert £ in the period of her novels to $ today. This is at best an uncertain science, for we need to cover nearly two centuries of inflation, cross to another currency, and recognize that the relative costs of things such as food, rent, labor, and clothes, horses, books, horses, and land have al…

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X [h] moiety of his first wife's fortune was also s…

"Moiety" is legally one-half, though it can vary in ordinary speech.

The gist is that the interest on the remainder of his first wife's money went to him, Henry Dashwood. The arrangement was conventional: he was allowed to use throughout his life the interest on the principal but upon his death the principal and interest go to their son, John, thus eliminating his second wife and their daughters.

X [h] this child, who, in occasional visits with hi…


The parents are John Dashwood and his wife.

Austen takes a dim view of parents who indulge and spoil their children. In this instance the parental coddling and lenience, perhaps deliberate, have encouraged the spoiled boy to charm his dotty great-great uncle.

X [d] as a mark of his affection for the three girl…

Custom & Law

Austen is being sardonic. As a "mark of his affection" £1000 or $90,000 for each is less a mark than a stain. The girls will have to depend on that money for living expenses (it will yield 4% per year or £40) and for a dowry. They attended him through "goodness of heart."…

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X [h] sanguine


Means optimistic here.

The word, which derives from the Latin for blood, refers to the theory of the bodily humors or humor theory (Search). The preponderance of one of these determines our temperament. An abundance of red choler makes us happy and vigorous; black or melan choler predisposes us toward melancholy and depression. The novel will return to this theme.

X [w] improvement


The word (Search) and concept are central to Austen's fiction. The cardinal responsibility of, first, parents (consider the defective parents here), then of the extended family and finally circle of friends is to provide the means and impetus for improvement of each member but emphatically of the young. The well-administered and regulated country house and the right manners and mor…

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X [w] mother-in-law

Our "stepmother"; the sisters referred to here are in fact half-sisters.