Sense and Sensibility, or a Group of Ridiculous People
A Collection of Letters
Marianne's diary entry number 1
...John and Fanny have come to Norland. They are not truly welcomed by anyone. Fanny's presence I could certainly do without.... To me, she is like a rigid tree in the center of my beautiful painting, ...a cultivated field amongst fallow,... a fourth cow, ...a distinct object in my background that ought to be hazy....In short, I do not like her...
Letter the First: Sir John at Barton Park to Mrs. Dashwood at Norland
My Dear Madam, With your husband dead, you must be in want of a house. Let me relieve you at once! I offer you Barton Cottage, a house that has failed to hold any of its occupants for more than three months at a time, though I cannot think why! To be sure, the staircases are the darkest and narrowest of any in England, and the kitchen fire smokes so that there is no being inside when supper is prepared. But then everyone who stayed there was always the recipient of the most friendly attentions of my wife and I, and, more frequently than not, my mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings. Who could ask for more? So, my dear madam, if you should not mind having merely a cottage as your humble home, I beg you would come and visit us directly and decide the matter at once. I promise you that, if you deem it necessary, the proper improvements shall be made to fix the holes in the roof, watermarks on the floors, crumbling staircases, smoky fires, drafty sitting and dining rooms, creaky doors, mite-infested woodshed, cracked bedroom windows, and diseased lawn. And I assure you that the pack of gypsies that I suspect has inhabited the place for the last fortnight shall be turned out at once. I remain, dear Madam, in the spirit of friendly accommodation,
Sir John Middleton
Marianne's diary entry number 2
...I have spent all of my pocket money to buy up every copy of Smith's book on old, twisted trees. I am desperate for its guidance and grieve at the thought of any copy falling into unworthy hands. I must begin saving again for I have heard tell of a new book with a most exciting passage on fallow fields and one, equally if not more thrilling, on tree stumps...
Letter the Second: Lady Middleton to her sister, Mrs. Palmer
My Dear Sister, We have some new acquaintance residing at Barton Cottage, family of Sir John. Apparently they are of the reading kind and will be very quiet neighbors. I am troubled, however, at their having been here twice without remarking on little John's lost front tooth. And I have only heard the eldest daughter once, and only when urged by myself, though I would never draw attention to the boy for the world on account of his extreme shyness, notice the perfect height of little William. Impertinence. I dare say she will not make a good mother...
Letter the Third: Mrs. Palmer to Lady Middleton
Dear Sister, I have so much, dear sister, to write to you! We are to be at Barton shortly and long to see your whole dear family and I must make the most of these visits whilst I can, as you know I shall not be traveling so much as I reach my period of confinement. However Mr. Palmer says that shall not stop him and plans to be in London quite a bit (how he does tease! He sends his love of course.). Bless me! I have quite come to the end of my letter! I remain your ever affectionate
Marianne's diary entry number 3
...and so, having spotted the dashing young man at no great distance, I felt the need to take action immediately. I scurried down the hill in the most inelegant manner. And I did fall, and he did come to my rescue, and he shall call on me tomorrow!...
Marianne's diary entry number 4
...So rapturously moved by the poetry was he that, if it was in a man's nature to faint dead away, I believe he certainly would have, possibly twice. I am extremely fond of Willoughby. We are on the most intimate terms. He has promised me that as soon as he acquires a new curricle, we are to drive about most scandalously and shock our soul-deprived neighbors into fits and convulsions. Lord! How happy I am! I can hardly wait to see the expression on Mrs. Jennings's fat face...
Letter the Fourth: A man named Stewart to Colonel Brandon
Dear Sir, Eliza is found, quite damaged. No hurry.
Marianne's diary entry number 5, after Willoughby has left suddenly
... ìHow quick the change from joy to woe...î...I am in agony. If only one could faint at will! I am sure a good fainting fit would help me excessively. I must seek a picturesque spot and recite Cowper... ìOh! to some distant scene, a willing exile...î
Marianne's diary entry number 6
...I wish I were a tree stump...
Marianne's diary entry number 7
...Oh! To be a thistle or a sylvan shade...
Letter the Fifth: Fanny Dashwood to a businessman in London
Dear Sir, I am astonished and outraged by the bill I have just received from you. When this undertaking was first discussed, the total cost was determined exactly. But this bill must be a gruesome mistake. So much for a Grecian temple!...
Marianne's diary entry number 8
....I fainted today! Elinor maintains that it was because I have not eaten in three weeks, but she does not know the nourishment of a broken heart...
Letter the Sixth: Lucy to Edward
Dearest of All Edwards, Let me begin by telling you how daily I miss your dear self and pray for a time when our engagement may be made known. Having written this, I feel you could not blame me for divulging our secret to a great intimate friend of mine, certainly my dearest friend in the world, a Miss Dashwood, whom I believe you may have met in passing at your sister's estate at Norland. I trust her with all of my heart. The ghastly expression on her face as I revealed the happy truth at once convinced me of her approbation.
I remain, most sincerely, your own, affectionate
Letter the Seventh: Edward to Lucy
Dear Lucy, I was pleased to receive your letter today and hope that you are in good health. I sense that this secret engagement is having a very great effect on you. I take this opportunity to remind you that you are free to break the engagement, especially improper in itself, at any time. I shall fully understand any motives you may have. I do not wish you to feel obligated to involve yourself in such an immoral act as the concealment of an engagement from your dear family and friends, who, I gather, trust you very much. I should also like to remind you, if I may, what a terrible bore I am, as you no doubt have noticed. I would not have such a delightful spirit as yours wasted on a dullard like me. So please, examine your conscience carefully. I shall be completely satisfied, whatever your decision.
I regret that I must beg yet another favor of you, even though this probably shall put you past the breaking point, and that is not to tell anyone else of our situation. Please give my best regards to Miss Dashwood. And how does she do?
Marianne's diary entry number 9
...fainted one and a half times today. All around a good day for fainting...
Letter the Eighth: John Dashwood to Elinor in London
Dear Sister, I was pleasantly surprised this morning when I heard that you and my sister Marianne were in town, staying with Mrs. Jennings. I immediately set out to call upon you both, but Fanny stopped me, insisting that they were not our Miss Dashwoods who were now guests of Mrs. Jennings in London. Fanny believed it to be next to impossible, that you would ever leave your comfortable home at Barton Cottage for the dreariness of London. I allowed her to be probably right, but still maintained that I should write to be sure. Fanny then said that if I meant only to waste my time, I better had.
And so I write to you now, Elinor, and express my wish of meeting both you and dear Marianne at some time during your stay. I must confess that Fanny and I were just about to issue both you and your sister an invitation to stay with us in town. You will understand that we could not possibly do so now, as we have no wish to offend Mrs. Jennings, your amiable and generous hostess. Pray how are you both, and my dear stepmother and sister Margaret? And does Colonel Brandon also come to London? I am sure his company would be most welcome in any party within our circle. But, say no more, shall I, on the subject.
Fanny sends her love. (Though she says she does not because you cannot be our own dear Miss Dashwoods.)
Letter the Ninth: Margaret at Barton Cottage to Elinor in London
Dear Elinor, I hope that you are having fine weather in London and are in good health. And have you been to a great many balls and parties? I would you would write Mama and tell her that French is not hardly an important subject for a girl to study, especially considering we are not, fortunately, in France. I quite detest it. And German, too, is highly overrated. One of Marianne's volumes of Cowper was accidentally thrown into the fire. Please do not mention it, but remind her that I am too delicate to be much yelled at.
Letter the Tenth: Fanny Dashwood to her mother, Mrs. Ferrars
Dear Mother, I am pleased to inform you of the progress of little Harry's height. No doubt the speed of his growth is due to my intervention in the matter. I have made him stand on his head for at least a quarter of an hour every night. I also allow him to eat only fish at dinner, as the growth stimulants in fish are well known. Harry will complain that his head hurts more often than not, and that fish is his least favorite of all foods, but I remind him that we do not wish Lady Middleton's son William to be taller than our own dear boy, do we? His sigh that inevitably follows is, I am sure, a sign of acceptance.
If you happen to meet the Miss Dashwoods (Mr. Dashwood's half-sisters, of course) in town, I would advise you not to honor the elder with conversation, for reasons I will explain fully upon our next meeting. You will remember that I never liked her. And do not trouble yourself with the younger one. She is, as I understand it, prone to hysterics.
Letter the Eleventh: Willoughby to Marianne
My Dear Madam, I am exceedingly sorry to learn that I have offended you in any way. You must know that I never intended to cause you any pain. Yours is the friendship that I have valued most, and to hurt you would be doing likewise to myself. I wish to assure you that I ñ but Miss G. is approaching. I do not love you. Please do not attempt to contact me again.
I have burnt your letters and your lock of hair. Best wishes.
Marianne's diary entry number 10
...My hair, I believe, has begun to fall out. And yet I care not...
Letter the Twelfth: Mrs. Ferrars to her son Edward, regarding his disinheritance
Dear Edward, I write to you now to say that you are no longer so dear to me as you once were. In fact, I consider you quite dead. You have shown a heart most unwilling to respect and honor the duties of family. I thought it best that you should be aware that I am no longer your loving
Letter the Thirteenth: Mrs. Ferrars to her son Robert
My Dear Robert, You are now my only son. And since I proportion the length of my letters to the quantity of my thoughts, I shall end here, as I remain your own
Letter the Fourteenth: Elinor to Mrs. Dashwood
Dear Mama, Marianne and I leave shortly for the Palmers' estate at Cleveland, from whence we shall soon continue on to Barton. Mrs. Jennings wishes me to convey to you her assurances of her and her daughter's constant attention to our comfort and safety. I ask you to please keep us in your thoughts.
Letter the Fifteenth: Mrs. Jennings at Cleveland to Mrs. Palmer
My Dear Charlotte, I am monstrous glad that you have left with little Thomas. We cannot be too careful, I think. I feel it is my duty to keep you informed of the young Miss Marianne's condition, also as it gives me occupation. Mr. Harris has said, his exact words were, that she has ìfour fatal diseases.î Ah! The poor Colonel!...
Letter the Sixteenth: Lucy to Edward
My Dearest, Devoted Edward, I, who is so truly blessed by your unswerving affection, hardly know how to break this news to you, you who love me, wretched creature that I am, so devotedly and who surely is the sweetest, most affable man in England, nay, the world: I am to marry Robert, your brother. We are now traveling to Shropshire, an odd destination to be sure, but Robert is quite adamant. Apparently, it is home to a great many fine toothpick boxes! We are to live in a cottage and to have heaps of money, and seven barouches, one for each day of the week.
With mostly sisterly affection, Lucy
Letter the Seventeenth: Mrs. Ferrars to Edward
Dear Edward, I have considered the request you made when last in London, to be forgiven for your gross want of propriety. I have decided that you are once again my son, now my only. On the subject of your present engagement, I have no objection I wish to make known. For, at present, I intend on keeping at least one son, because I do not wish to have only Fanny.
Please consider yourself reborn in the eyes of your
Marianne's diary entry number 11
...I know not what to make of myself. I am seriously considering Colonel Brandon's proposal of marriage! Everyone I have ever met has hinted that the match would be a most happy ending to my recent trials. How they do intimate! And so persuasively.... hardly fair, as they all well know that I am not a strong as I once was...I imagine I shall accept in the end....I wonder what Willoughby would say....Oh!...
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