You know, for a romantic hero, and suitor to one of the two main characters of this novel, Edward Ferrars doesn't get much page time in this first part, does he? I don't think we get even one direct line of dialog from him! People talk about him a lot, but that's all. Makes him shadowy and mysterious, I suppose?
I absolutely love this about the Dashwood ladies: "each for the sake of the others resolved to appear happy" (p. 52). Isn't that the kindest thing they could do for each other, and for themselves too? All of them are sad about having to leave their home, but they are not going to add to the sadness of those around them by showing how sad they are. Not even Marianne, who waxes so eloquent about "Dear, dear Norland!" (p. 50) when they depart.
And I laughed aloud over the beginning of that second paragraph in chapter six, where Austen says that Barton Cottage is a total disappointment when it comes to the Romantic ideals of a cottage because it's too comfortable and modern and well-built! Oh, I love Austen's snark.
Interestingly, Barton Cottage has about the same number of rooms as the house I live in. We have four bedrooms, a dining room, a library, a living room, and a kitchen. And yet, our house feels huge to me! But that's because until we bought Tir Asleen about ten years ago, we lived in small apartments. We also have a full basement, though, which the Dashwoods wouldn't. But still. Maybe I should have named this something with "cottage" in the name instead.
My annotated copy tells us that "Jane Austen would have an excellent sense of how much Mrs. Dashwood could afford, for in the last part of her life, the time when this and other novels were published, she was in a very similar situation. She and her mother and sister inhabited a house of comparable size, also called a cottage, and enjoyed around the same level of wealth, having a little less than five hundred a year in income" (p. 55). Write what you know, right? Austen lived in Chawton Cottage, which belonged to the estate her brother inherited from a wealthy relative. She and her mother and sister did not have to pay rent, however, which gave them a little more freedom and comfort than the Dashwoods.
If you would like to see what Chawton Cottage was like, where Austen lived while publishing her novels, you can take a virtual tour right here! I'd love to visit there for real some day, but for right now, this is a pretty nifty option.
Isn't Sir John Middleton sweet? A little overbearing, yes, but sweet. Note: I'll be referring to him as Sir John, so as not to confuse him with John Dashwood, the ickmeister. Notice how Sir John actually DOES all the things John Dashwood just thought about doing, like sending fresh game and a large basket of vegetables to the Dashwoods to welcome them, and even offering to be their own private postman. There wasn't any home delivery outside of large cities like London at that time, so you had to go to the nearest post office to get and send your mail. The Dashwoods had to give up their carriage, so they would have had to walk all the way to the village, so this is a very helpful thing to do for them!
Notice that Sir John is about forty, but his wife is about twenty-seven. Marriages with a fairly large disparity in ages were common at that time, and we'll talk more about that later. Sir John is so nice and friendly, but his wife is only coldly civil, so she's not going to be an option for a new friend for any of the Dashwoods, it looks like.
I cracked up again over Austen's aside that "[o]n every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse" (p. 58). I liked having babies and toddlers who wanted to be held a lot when we were visiting with people because they gave me something to do with my hands and something obvious to talk about.
Okay, that's all my musings for these two chapters! By the way, do NOT feel like you need to stick to the discussion questions in your comments -- feel free to mention anything you noticed or wanted to discuss. And ask your own questions for me or other people to answer!!!
1. I mentioned that Edward Ferrars really only gets talked about in these first chapters. Do you think there's a reason Austen leaves him off the page so much in this early part?
2. Do you prefer a smaller or a larger house, yourself?
3. Are you more inclined toward music, like Marianne, or toward visual art, like Elinor?