Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility: Ch. 10

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Chapter 10

Marianne's preserver, as Margaret, with more elegance than precision, styled Willoughby, called at the cottage early the next morning to make his personal enquiries. He was received by Mrs. Dashwood with more than politeness; with a kindness which Sir John's account of him and her own gratitude prompted; and every thing that passed during the visit tended to assure him of the sense, elegance, mutual affection, and domestic comfort of the family to whom accident had now introduced him. Of their personal charms he had not required a second interview to be convinced.

Miss Dashwood had a delicate complexion, regular features, and a remarkably pretty figure. Marianne was still handsomer. Her form, though not so correct as her sister's, in having the advantage of height, was more striking; and her face was so lovely, that when in the common cantw of praise, she was called a beautiful girl, truth was less violently outraged than usually happens. Her skin was very brownd, but, from its transparency, her complexion was uncommonly brilliant; her features were all good; her smile was sweet and attractive; and in her eyes, which were very dark, there was a life, a spirit, an eagerness, which could hardily be seen without delight. From Willoughby their expression was at first held back, by the embarrassment which the remembrance of his assistance created. But when this passed away, when her spirits became collected, when she saw that to the perfect good-breeding of the gentleman, he united frankness and vivacity, and above all, when she heard him declare, that of music and dancing he was passionately fondd, she gave him such a look of approbation as secured the largest share of his discourse to herself for the rest of his stay.

It was only necessary to mention any favourite amusement to engage her to talk. She could not be silent when such points were introduced, and she had neither shyness nor reserve in their discussion. They speedily discovered that their enjoyment of dancing and music was mutual, and that it arose from a general conformity of judgment in all that related to either. Encouraged by this to a further examination of his opinions, she proceeded to question him on the subject of books; her favourite authors were brought forward and dwelt upon with so rapturous a delight, that any young man of five and twenty must have been insensible indeed, not to become an immediate convert to the excellence of such works, however disregarded before. Their taste was strikingly alike. The same books, the same passages were idolized by each—or if any difference appeared, any objection arose, it lasted no longer than till the force of her arguments and the brightness of her eyes could be displayed. He acquiesced in all her decisions, caught all her enthusiasmh; and long before his visit concluded, they conversed with the familiarity of a long-established acquaintance.

"Well, Marianne," said Elinor, as soon as he had left them, "for ONE morning I think you have done pretty well. You have already ascertained Mr. Willoughby's opinion in almost every matter of importance. You know what he thinks of Cowper and Scotth; you are certain of his estimating their beauties as he ought, and you have received every assurance of his admiring Pope no more than is properd. But how is your acquaintance to be long supported, under such extraordinary despatch of every subject for discourse? You will soon have exhausted each favourite topic. Another meeting will suffice to explain his sentiments on picturesque beautyh, and second marriagesh, and then you can have nothing farther to ask."—

"Elinor," cried Marianne, "is this fair? is this just? are my ideas so scanty? But I see what you mean. I have been too much at my ease, too happy, too frank. I have erred against every common-place notion of decorum; I have been open and sincereh where I ought to have been reserved, spiritless, dull, and deceitful—had I talked only of the weather and the roads, and had I spoken only once in ten minutes, this reproach would have been spared."

"My love," said her mother, "you must not be offended with Elinor—she was only in jest. I should scold her myself, if she were capable of wishing to check the delight of your conversation with our new friend."— Marianne was softened in a moment.

X [w] cant

Formulaic, insincere compliments, related to hackneyed jargon; "phraseology taken up and used for fashion's sake, without being a genuine expression of sentiment; canting language" (OED).

X [d] very brown


Perhaps not simply her complexion but a result of her active outdoor life. To maintain their porcelain complexion, upper-class women remained out of the sun as much as possible.

Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, is criticized by jealous women for her dark complexion and for her tromping about the fields.


X [d] of music and dancing he was passionately fond


 Of the arts, music, it had been agreed for centuries, drew most deeply on the emotions. Willoughby's blending of frankness with a love of music links him with Marianne. 

This little passage is an instance of free indirect discourse (Search). Austen is in effect quoting but compression his statement (heard him declare) that he was passionately fond of dancing. …

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X [h] enthusiasm


Samuel Johnson in 1755 defined enthusiasm as "heat of the imagination" and "violence of passion."

The word, which comes from ancient Greek and meant "in god" is associated by Austen's time with evangelicalism and "vital religion" and above all John Wesley's Methodism. In that context the word would not be entirely appealing to Tory Anglicans such as Austen, though in Mansfield Park and toward the end of her life she becomes far more accepting of religious enthusiasm.  …

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X [h] Cowper and Scott

Writing & Reading

Cowper and Sir Walter Scott (Search) are a litmus test, Elinor suggests, for Marianne's approval of someone. Elinor is teasing Marianne by referring to the prior discussions about landscape and painting and the latter's allusions to Edward.

X [d] admiring Pope no more than is proper

Writing & Reading

Elinor is teasing Marianne for her stringent criteria regarding whom to read. She's already judged Edward and Elinor severely on that score.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744; Search), the poet of "The Rape of the Lock," "The Dunciad," "Essay on Man," and "Essay on Criticism," wrote a witty, often satiric, urbane poetry that appealed to the intellect more than to the emotions. He was a mas…

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X [h] picturesque beauty


Elinor gently mocks Marianne's judgment of people according to their position on picturesque beauty. They must prefer the rustic cottage to the town house, the blasted oak to the trimmed hedge. 

Initially the Picturesque (Search) meant an object or scene conforming to a picture. Painters don't paint precisely what's there but alter the original in the interests of symmetry and a ba…

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X [h] second marriages

To a romantic mind such as Marianne's, the first marriage originated in a unique love, that between soul mates; the second marriage, a result of a spouse's death, was merely practical.

The subject will reappear in the next chapter in relation to "romantic."

X [h] sincere

Manners & Morals

Another key word in the Romantic lexicon. Marianne dislikes elegant manners because, she believes, they suffocate sincerity. Austen's views manners as capable of revealing who we are while making us in general more social and agreeable. She's not at the other extreme from Marianne but, as so often, occupies a middle position between Marianne and the extremely formal (and lifeless) attitude of some like Lady Middleton. …

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