I chuckle a bit over the description of the picnicking party assembled at Barton Park: "They were all in high spirits and good humour, eager to be happy, and determined to submit to the greatest inconveniences and hardships rather than be otherwise" (p. 120). Boy, if that's not a perfect description of people ready to set off on a pleasurable outing, what is? It especially makes me think of going on field trips with our homeschool co-op.
If you're wondering why they're having breakfast all together first, and so late in the morning, my annotated edition's notes explain that 10 am "was a common breakfast time. It resulted from the generally late hours of wealthy people... and their habit of late evening suppers" (p. 121). Now you know.
Goodness, I could shake Mrs. Jennings for her ridiculous nosiness! Pestering poor Colonel Brandon when he clearly has Important Things on his mind! Grr. And then Sir John as the effrontery to suggest, "I suppose it is something he is ashamed of" (p. 124). More grr. :-( I'm not pleased by this behavior toward my avowed favorite!
So, just in case anyone here doesn't know what a "natural child" is, it's a genteel way of talking about an illegitimate child. Mrs. Jennings is convinced that Colonel Brandon, who has never been married, has an illegitimate daughter called Miss Williams. People were supposed to be very shocked by the idea of children born of out wedlock, and young maidens such as Marianne and Margaret, and possibly even Elinor, really weren't supposed to be aware of them, or at least not to acknowledge that they understood how an unmarried person could create a child. It's kind of shocking that Mrs. Jennings will talk so openly about this to Elinor, who's not only unmarried, but only nineteen! Her doing so is evidence of her enjoyment of gossip outweighing her consideration of propriety or how her words could hurt or harm even her listeners.
Anyway, isn't Elinor and Marianne's argument in chapter 13 interesting? Elinor insists that "the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety" (p. 130), but Marianne maintains that "we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure" (p. 130). Once again, we're getting at the heart of this novel -- should you be ruled by your emotions, or should you use your own good sense to sift through and understand them? Can we even trust emotions? Should we allow our feelings to guide us, or should we guide them instead? And if we only ever do one or the other, will that present problems? So much to chew on here!
Okay, so Willoughby and Marianne visiting his aunt's estate basically equals him declaring he intends to marry her. First, they were alone in a house (except for possibly some servants belonging to the house, but not any accompanying them) for a long time -- long enough to go through all the rooms. Several hours. That could (and does) expose Marianne in particular to gossip. She's considered a virtuous young woman, but if she does things like that, her reputation will inevitably suffer. However, discussing furniture with her and talking about refurnishing the rooms to Marianne's taste is basically Willoughby saying, "When we get married, this will be your home and you can change things to suit yourself." Nobody is going to understand anything different from that. Which is why Elinor is starting to wonder very strongly about why Marianne and Willoughby have not announced their engagement to their family and friends. They have no reason to keep it a secret, and the longer they delay in announcing it, the more people are going to notice and wonder if there is something untoward going on.
Still, chapter 14 ends happily, with Willoughby's actions in particular "declar[ing] at once his affection and happiness." Good place to stop for the day, eh?
1. Jane Austen is obviously of the opinion that feelings should not be trusted more than good sense. Can you think of any characters in her other books who also illustrate the dangers of following your feelings rather than your sense or your conscience?
2. Do you find it rude that Willoughby says he would rather that Mrs. Dashwood remain poor forever rather than be allowed to improve her home? What does this tell us about him?