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|Agonies of Sensibility
Written by Robbin
(10/27/2012 5:11 p.m.)
John Dashwood writes of the aftermath of Robert’s marriage to Lucy: “poor Fanny had suffered agonies of sensibility” (49). Really? Agonies of sensibility seems a good description of Marianne’s preferred state of being after Willoughby departed Barton in Ch. 15. Comparing Marianne, “eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation” (1) to Fanny, cold, insensitive and calculating (especially in Ch. 2) brought on the giggles. I’m not sure it’s possible for two ladies to be of more opposite disposition but sensibility, in Johnson’s 1768 dictionary, is only defined as “quickness of sensation”.
Fanny reportedly fell into violent hysterics, defined as “fits of women” in Johnson’s 1768 dictionary, after learning of Edward’s engagement to Lucy. This seems to have been a swift and increasing (and increasingly loud) anger:
So you may think what a blow it was to all her vanity and pride. She [Fanny] fell into violent hysterics immediately, with such screams as reached your brothers ears…she [Lucy] was used very hardly; for your sister scolded like any fury, and soon drove her into a fainting fit…Mrs. Dashwood declared they should not stay a minute longer in the house, and your brother was forced to go down upon his knees too, to persuade her to let them stay till they had packed up their clothes. Then she fell into hysterics again… (37)
I imagine Fanny’s agonies of sensibility are much like her hysterics in that they are based on mean, materialistic feelings. Was it the frustration of disappointed greed—yet again deprived of a connection to Lord Morton? Is it possible Fanny is something akin to heartbroken? Perhaps Robert was Fanny’s favorite brother? (;D)
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