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|A possible answer
Written by Vicki I.
(8/11/2003 12:21 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, GR-Glad You Brought This Up, penned by BarbaraB
] ] ....Did he know that the girls virtually had nothing, while John and Fanny and Harry had money of their own? Was he more generous with them because they were male, and the Dashwood girl were female. And if he did know that they had virtually nothing, why didn't he leave them more than 1000 each? Was he expecting the elder Mr. Dashwood to outlive him by more than a year?
] I felt as disgusted by the elderly Mr. Dashwood's actions as by John's because he, in fact, initiated this business of giving the John Dashwoods the power of exerting their meaness over the lady Dashwoods...... The Dashwoods, "not merely from interest, but from goodness of heart gave him every degree of solid comfort," companionship, attention and affection. John contributed merely the visits of a cute and noisy child. What could the gentleman have been thinking?
This is my third read of S&S and I continue to find "new discoveries". Althoug JA mentions the old gentleman only in this first part of the novel she delivers (IVHMO) a scathing commentary on the injustices of 16th-17th (1700s & 1800s) century law in regards to what women were allowed to inherit. The secure future of a widow and her female children was precarious to say the least and depended largely on the good will of her in-laws.
In keeping with the norm of the age, I believe the idea of "firsts" was all important. We know that Henry Dashwood was the old gentleman's nephew and he was the legal heir of Norland which mean he was probably his family's eldest(1st)son. Henry's first child by his first wife was a son(John Dashwood)and, by law, stood to inherit the house and all the lands of Norland. The Dashwood girls' mother was Henry's second wife so the girls were, for all practical purposes, "seconds" and female. This was not an advantageous position in eyes of the laws that governed high society in Regency England.
]He had plenty of time (what, ten years?) to observe that John is a cold-hearted selfish young man greatly influenced by an even more cold-hearted and selfish wife.
EXACTLY! Remember though that Fanny was also a manipulator and I don't for one moment believe that she allowed her real self to show through when she was in the presence of the old gentleman. We don't know how long she'd been married to John but Fanny had at least 5 years (Harry is 4)to make sure the old gentleman saw exactly what she wanted him to see especially after the birth of her first child--young Harry who would carry on the family name. This was all important in the England of the age and Fanny (odious as she was) was no slouch. She manipulated the affections of an aging patriarch and it worked--the old gentleman played right into her hands.
]And, oh my goodness, he bypasses ensuring the welfare of his daughter-in-law and nieces who have basically nothing and who all these years been so good, cheerful and affectionate to him. This, to instead, leave pretty much everything to the John Dashwoods who already have so much with more to come.
Sadly, this is where luck comes in and Mrs. Henry Dashwood and her girls were not lucky. The old genlteman was swayed by false pretentions on Fanny's part and by propriety. He might also have been more partial to Henry Dashwood's first wife and been resentful of Henry marrying a second time, especially since the male heir to Norland had already been provided. In spite of the 2nd Mrs. H. Dashwood's genuine affection and care for the old gentleman, I think he was swayed by the fact that she did not produce a son. In his eyes, the three girls represented a financial burden that would detract from the total worth of the estate John Dashwood would inherit. I don't think he was inherently mean like Fanny, but influenced by what society deemed respectable. He was aging and allowed his own need to be doted on to fall into Fanny's manipulating hands. John's intentions to the girls after Henry's death were well meant but John was spineless and even more easily manipulated than the old gentleman. The old gentleman should have been more considerate towards the futures of those who truly loved and respected him but he wasn't. I don't like what he did but I tend to see him in the same light I see the Dashwood girls and their mother, a victim of wrong thinking and a coniving, selfish Fanny.
I know I may sound harsh but I'm try to look at it through the eyes of a 16th century gentleman-----not easy when you're a 21st century woman! Vicki I.
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