The Affairs of the Family of Dashwood
[ 1 ] The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Norland Park, Sussex. Mr Henry Dashwood lived with his only son, as his wife had passed away. She had had a large fortune, and when she died, she left it all to her son, but with one condition; the money and house would only be passed on to her son once her husband had died as well. After several years, Mr Henry Dashwood married again and had three daughters. His new lady had no money at all and he understood, that to his daughters he would not be able to leave much on his death. Elinor, Marianne and Margaret would only get what Mr Dashwood would manage to save during his lifetime as he could give them nothing from his first wife’s fortune. But Mr Dashwood was a cheerful man and hoped to live many years, and by living economically he would be able to save enough money so that his three daughters would have reasonable incomes. Also, he hoped his eldest son would help his half sisters if such help was needed.
[ 2 ] When his eldest daughter, Elinor, was only nineteen, Mr. Henry Dashwood suddenly became very ill and died within two months, leaving to his widow and daughters only ten thousand pounds. His son was sent for as soon as the danger was known, and Mr Dashwood’s last words were to ask him to help his stepmother and sisters.
[ 3 ] The son, Mr John Dashwood was not a bad person, unless to be rather selfish and rather cold-hearted is to be bad. In fact, had he married a nicer woman, he might have been made a nice person himself. Unfortunately Fanny Ferrars, who he married, was even more narrow-minded and selfish than he. Consequently, during their marriage, her husband, who was very fond of her, had been made a strong caricature of his earlier self.
[ 4 ] When his father was dying, Mr John Dashwood promised to do ‘everything in his power’ to make his stepmother and sisters comfortable. After his father’s death he had to consider how much ‘everything’ really was. At first, he thought he could give them a thousand pounds each.
[ 5 ] ‘Yes, I could spare the sum very easily,’ he thought to himself.
[ 6 ] But his wife did not see it in the same light. To take three thousand pounds from the fortune of their dear little son would be making him almost poor! How could he rob his child of so large a sum? And then give it to his HALF-sisters!
[ 7 ] ‘It was my last promise to my father, my dear Fanny,’ her husband replied. ‘He begged me to do something for my sisters and their mother after his death.’
[ 8 ] ‘Well, then let something be done for them, but that something need not be three thousand pounds!’
[ 9 ] ‘I would not like them to think mean of me, you know...’ added Mr Dashwood.
[ 10 ] ‘There’s no knowing what they might expect, but the real question is what you can afford!’ said the lady. ‘To my mind, they need no more money. They may live very comfortably on the ten thousand pounds they have been left.’
[ 11 ] ‘That is true!’ Mr Dashwood brightened up. ‘Perhaps then, it would be better to do something for their mother while she lives. A hundred pounds a year would make them very comfortable.’
[ 12 ] ‘Undoubtedly,’ answered the lady, ‘but if Mrs Dashwood lives another fifteen years, we shall be ruined!’
[ 13 ] ‘Fifteen years! But my dear Fanny!’ exclaimed Mr Dashwood in horror.
[ 14 ] ‘Well, my experience is that people seem to live forever if there is money to be paid them,’ said Mrs Dashwood calmly.
[ 15 ] ‘Perhaps then,’ said Mr Dashwood after a moment’s thought. ‘I should just help them from time to time, occasionally, whenever we can afford it.’
[ 16 ] ‘Precisely, my dear,’ said the lady with satisfaction. ‘In fact, I think they may live so comfortably on their own money that they will be much more able to help you than you can them!’
[ 17 ] And thus it was agreed between them that it would be absolutely unnecessary if not highly improper to do anything for the Miss Dashwoods or their mother.
[ 18 ] Soon after Mr Henry Dashwood’s funeral, Fanny Dashwood arrived at Norland Park with her servants and made herself the mistress of the house, reducing Mrs Henry Dashwood and her daughters to the status of her guests. Of course, she had the right to come, the house was now her husband’s, but it was a most unkind behaviour to the four ladies who still needed peace after the death of their dear husband and father.
[ 19 ] Mrs Henry Dashwood, the widow, who felt everything in double strength whether it was joy or offence, wanted to leave the house as soon as she could. She immediately started to look for a new house for her and her daughters, inexpensive enough for her to afford it. The task was not easy though, and in the meantime the ladies had to stay in Norland Park, and put up with Fanny Dashwood.
[ 20 ] It was a little easier when Mr Edward Ferrars, Fanny’s brother, came to visit them. Edward was totally unlike his sister. He was a gentlemanly young man, kind-hearted and sensible, even if not very handsome. Mrs Henry Dashwood soon noticed that he showed much interest in her eldest daughter, Elinor, and that Elinor was beginning to fall in love with him too.
[ 21 ] ‘In a few months, my dear Marianne,’ she said to her younger daughter, who had just turned seventeen, ‘Elinor will be happily married to Edward Ferrars.’
[ 22 ] ‘But you do not look happy, my love!’ she added as she saw Marianne’s expression. ‘Don’t you think him a good choice?’
[ 23 ] ‘Edward is... ’ said Marianne with hesitation. ‘the most kind-hearted person in the world...but he has not the spirit which a young man ought to have. He is not lively enough, doesn’t dance or sing well, and is hopeless at reading poetry!
[ 24 ] ‘But, mama!’ she exclaimed after a moment. ‘The more I know of the world, the more I am sure that I shall never find a man who I can really love! I want so much!’
[ 25 ] Such were the strong feelings of the mother and daughter, who were very like each other in the fact that they knew no limits in either their happiness or despair. Elinor, however, did not share this characteristic. She was made very unhappy by her father’s death and her sister-in-law’s unkindness, but she could bear it, and try to make the best of every situation. On the other hand she could not be too enthusiastic about the prospect of marrying Edward Ferrars. Even though she saw his feelings for her, she knew not whether they were for love or friendship. Besides, she understood that there were other things and people to consider. Fanny and Fanny’s mother, Mrs Ferrars, would not be happy to see their eldest son and brother married to a woman with no money.
[ 26 ] And she was right. As soon as Fanny Dashwood noticed the interest that her brother showed in the eldest Miss Dashwood, she became even more impolite to her guests. One morning, she mentioned quite directly how her brother shall be protected from any young girls who tried to marry him. Mrs Henry Dashwood could bear it no longer, and replied that she and her daughters were moving out of Norland the next day as that very morning she had received a letter which would make it possible.
[ 27 ] The letter was from Mrs Dashwood’s cousin, Sir John Middleton from Devonshire. It was a very friendly offer of a small cottage to rent in the closest neighbourhood of the Middletons’ own residence, Barton Park. Barton Cottage was its name, and it was there Mrs Dashwood decided to move.
[ 28 ] Barton Cottage turned out to be situated among very pretty hills. It was small but comfortable, and had a large garden round it. It needed some small changes perhaps, but on the whole, all the ladies were very pleased with their new home. The neighbours, too, appeared to be even more friendly than they expected. They soon met the whole party when they dined at Barton Park two days after their arrival.
[ 29 ] Sir John Middleton was a good-looking man about forty. He was friendly and good-humoured, and determined to do anything in his power to make his cousins comfortable. His wife, Lady Middleton, was certainly very elegant and polite, but reserved and rather cold.
[ 30 ] In the evening, Marianne Dashwood was discovered to be musical and was asked to play the piano. Sir John was loud in his admiration of her every song, and as loud in his conversation with others while every song lasted. Lady Middleton wondered how anybody could not pay their full attention to the music, and then asked Marianne to play a particular song which Marianne had just finished. Only Colonel Brandon, Sir John’s friend and neighbour, listened to her with attention, and Marianne respected him for it.
[ 31 ] The only person who noticed this attention was Lady Middleton’s mother, Mrs Jennings, an elderly lady, who talked a great deal, seemed very happy and rather vulgar. She was full of jokes on the subject of lovers, and soon announced that Colonel Brandon was very much in love with Marianne Dashwood. Marianne found the accusation absurd as Colonel Brandon was on the wrong side of thirty-five, and even though not without charm, was not Marianne’s type in the least.
[ 32 ] When