Episode 4: Mrs. Dashwood Strikes Back

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 4

Hello friends, welcome to Episode 4 of Ents and Sensibility, the podcast for Jane Austen lovers and nerds who love bold witty women, awkward handsome men, and dragons. I’m your host, Casey Meserve. 

Together, we’ll read Austen’s published works and discuss the major themes running through each of them. We’ll also take time to talk about Austen criticism, her earliest fans, her place as an author in the 21st century. and as much nerdom as we can get away with. 

Today, we’ll read Chapter 4 of Sense and Sensibility. But before we get started, there are a few pieces of Austen-related news I’d like to cover. 


In Austen News Today

The #SaveSanditon campaign may have worked.


Charlotte and Sidney may get a chance to live happily ever after, after all. There are rumors that Sanditon season 2 is beginning the production process. According to FilmDaily, Sanditon’s production company has leased office space and there is a call for actors in the UK for a “Sanditon II.” 

Fans of the sexy Regency series have been clamoring for a season 2 since the final episode aired and in February 2020 started online petitions and the hashtag Save Sanditon social media campaign. Let’s hope the Sanditon Sisterhood can claim victory in 2021. Personally, I hope Charlotte falls for the handsome, kind and ambitious Young Stringer. 

In other film industry news:

Jane in Love at the Movies

Amazon Studios and Di Novi Pictures have acquired the rights to Rachel Givney’ novel, Jane in Love, that will make Jane Austen an on screen heroine, according to Deadline. 

In the novel Jane Austen strikes a Faustian bargain to find love, and ends up time traveling from 1803 to the 21st century, where she meets and falls in love with a modern man. But her newfound love causes all of Jane’s famous novels to disappear, forcing her to decide between staying in the 21st century – where she’s found love, but has lost the ability to write, or returning to her own time – where she’ll write her books and become “Jane Austen.”

Finally tonight, the Jane Austen Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game, Ever, Jane, has been shut down, according to PC Gamer. The game was created in a Kickstarter campaign by creator 3 Turn Productions in 2013. The game of social climbing, gossip and balls had gone through several betas and there were plans for a full release in late 2020. Alas, 2020 claimed another victim. 

The developers attempted to keep the game’s servers running by asking players to sign up for a subscription, but weren’t able to drum up the $500 per month needed to pay for the game’s servers. The developers announced at the beginning of December that the game would shut down before the end of the month.

However, hope may not be lost. The developer says that “As of now, the game is for sale. Please contact customer support if you would like to make a query,” the developers say. The game needs an heiress to rescue it or something. 

This concludes “Austen News Today.” 


Jane’s Homes


Last weekend I was able to attend Lucy Worsley’s illustrated talk on her book Jane Austen at Home, it will air again January 30, and folks, if you can afford the 12 pound ticket or VIP ticket for 30 pounds, which comes with a signed copy of Jane Austen at home. A VIP ticket ended up costing me $42.80 American. 

While I do not want to spoil the talk for you, because it’s only an hour long and really touching, I want to touch on a few points she brings up. 

Worsley focused on how small Jane’s life really was, how confined she was, how hard she had to work on her family’s farm, and the small spaces she was allowed for herself in her first home at Steventon, cramped lodgings in Bath, Lyme and Southampton, and finally, the cramped public cottage her wealthy brother Edward gave to his mother and sisters in Chawton. Through it all, Jane’s caustic personality and sometimes tasteless sense of humor helped her get past five love interests and make jokes about them. 

In all, it’s a lovely talk and if you’re not interested in getting the autographed book, it’s not that expensive. I’ll leave links to it on my social media pages. It will stream again on January 30 at 6 p.m. Greenwich time. Now on to today’s reading. 

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 4


In our last chapter, we learned that Mrs. Dashwood is basically a golden retriever and Edward Ferrars is a Hobbit. 

Just kidding. 


Mrs. Dashwood has come out of full mourning and has taken more of an interest in her daughters’ and her future. She notices that Elinor has taken a shine to Edward, and decides that they’ll be married soon, so she also decides that she likes him and makes the effort to get to know him.

Marianne can’t understand why Elinor would fall in love with Edward when he can’t recite Cowper and doesn’t have any art expertise. Marianne She explains to her mother how she could never love anyone who doesn’t love exactly the same things she does.

Edward is so quiet and reserved. He has no interest in the plans of his mother and sister for barouches or Parliament. All he really wants is a seat by the fire and the kettle beginning to sing.  

Now we’re onto Chapter 4 and Marianne is voicing her concerns about Edward’s uhh lack of passionate feelings. 

“What a pity it is, Elinor,” said Marianne, “that Edward should have no taste for drawing.”

“No taste for drawing!” replied Elinor, “why should you think so? He does not draw himself, indeed, but he has great pleasure in seeing the performances of other people, and I assure you he is by no means deficient in natural taste, though he has not had opportunities of improving it. Had he ever been in the way of learning, I think he would have drawn very well. He distrusts his own judgment in such matters so much, that he is always unwilling to give his opinion on any picture; but he has an innate propriety and simplicity of taste, which in general direct him perfectly right.”

Marianne was afraid of offending, and said no more on the subject; but the kind of approbation which Elinor described as excited in him by the drawings of other people, was very far from that rapturous delight, which, in her opinion, could alone be called taste. Yet, though smiling within herself at the mistake, she honoured her sister for that blind partiality to Edward which produced it.

Elinor is amused by this. I can’t help but think she was smiling when Marianne brings up Edward’s apparent lack of taste. Elinor knows how Marianne thinks, so she muses that Marianne would be uncivil to anyone who is “deficient in general taste”, and points out that she acts cordially towards Edward, so she must think Edward is pretty great. Marianne doesn’t pick up Elinor’s subtle tease, and instead thinks about how she can’t voice her real opinions about Edward to her sister, and perhaps also, that she can’t voice them while Edward is a visitor in her home because that would cause trouble. 

Instead she doesn’t quite know what to say. Later in the novel Marianne will claim that she’s always open about her opinions, but that’s not the case here. So she says that she hasn’t had the chance to get to know Edward, and maybe he does have some attributes. 

“I hope, Marianne,” continued Elinor, “you do not consider him as deficient in general taste. Indeed, I think I may say that you cannot, for your behaviour to him is perfectly cordial, and if that were your opinion, I am sure you could never be civil to him.”

Marianne hardly knew what to say. She would not wound the feelings of her sister on any account, and yet to say what she did not believe was impossible. At length she replied:

“Do not be offended, Elinor, if my praise of him is not in every thing equal to your sense of his merits. I have not had so many opportunities of estimating the minuter propensities of his mind, his inclinations and tastes, as you have; but I have the highest opinion in the world of his goodness and sense. I think him every thing that is worthy and amiable.”

“I am sure,” replied Elinor, with a smile, “that his dearest friends could not be dissatisfied with such commendation as that. I do not perceive how you could express yourself more warmly.”

Marianne was rejoiced to find her sister so easily pleased.

Then Elinor, who like every girl with a crush, jumps on the opportunity to talk about the boy, goes on a soliloquy about Edward.

“Of his sense and his goodness,” continued Elinor, “no one can, I think, be in doubt, who has seen him often enough to engage him in unreserved conversation. The excellence of his understanding and his principles can be concealed only by that shyness which too often keeps him silent. You know enough of him to do justice to his solid worth. But of his minuter propensities, as you call them you have from peculiar circumstances been kept more ignorant than myself. He and I have been at times thrown a good deal together, while you have been wholly engrossed on the most affectionate principle by my mother. I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure. His abilities in every respect improve as much upon acquaintance as his manners and person. At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or at least, almost so. What say you, Marianne?”

That’s it, Edward isn’t handsome, but he becomes more so upon knowing him. He’s not a social butterfly, his address isn’t immediately attractive and you have to work to get to know him before he’s social and friendly, but once you get to know him, his faults disappear and you find he’s an intelligent, principled and cultured young man whom you can almost call handsome. 

Marianne says she will call him handsome when Elinor announces their engagement, but not before. 

Now this surprises Elinor right out of her crush reverie. She can’t believe that her sister, and therefore her mother, think that she and Edward are so close to being married. 

“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him—that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”

Marianne here burst forth with indignation—

“Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again, and I will leave the room this moment.”

Marianne can’t believe that they’re not engaged and that her imagination and her mother’s they’ll have to announce it soon. But Elinor is honest with Marianne. She doesn’t think that her relationship with Edward is secure enough to consider engagement. 

Elinor had given her real opinion to her sister. She could not consider her partiality for Edward in so prosperous a state as Marianne had believed it. There was, at times, a want of spirits about him which, if it did not denote indifference, spoke of something almost as unpromising. A doubt of her regard, supposing him to feel it, need not give him more than inquietude. It would not be likely to produce that dejection of mind which frequently attended him. A more reasonable cause might be found in the dependent situation which forbade the indulgence of his affection. She knew that his mother neither behaved to him so as to make his home comfortable at present, nor to give him any assurance that he might form a home for himself, without strictly attending to her views for his aggrandizement. With such a knowledge as this, it was impossible for Elinor to feel easy on the subject. She was far from depending on that result of his preference of her, which her mother and sister still considered as certain. Nay, the longer they were together the more doubtful seemed the nature of his regard; and sometimes, for a few painful minutes, she believed it to be no more than friendship.

She’s really not sure about anything. Edward has a lot of issues that Elinor believes prevents him from asking for her hand. For one, there’s that mother of his. The one that wants him to be in Parliament, or drive a barouche. He has no money currently and can’t ask for it from his mother without following her dictates. But there’s something else, too, that she can’t put her finger on. That “want of spirits” that seems to mean something although she’s unsure what it is. To the point that sometimes she thinks they’ll only ever be friends. 

Finally, Edward’s sister, Fanny notices their growing friendship or whatever it is. She’s not only rude to Elinor and she goes right to Mrs. Dashwood to specifically express her brother’s “great expectations.” 

She took the first opportunity of affronting her mother-in-law on the occasion, talking to her so expressively of her brother’s great expectations, of Mrs. Ferrars’s resolution that both her sons should marry well, and of the danger attending any young woman who attempted to draw him in; that Mrs. Dashwood could neither pretend to be unconscious, nor endeavor to be calm. She gave her an answer which marked her contempt, and instantly left the room, resolving that, whatever might be the inconvenience or expense of so sudden a removal, her beloved Elinor should not be exposed another week to such insinuations.

Good old Mrs. D. defending her daughter, she is furious. She finally has the chance to say exactly what she thinks of Fanny. I wish Jane had told us what Mrs. D said to Fanny because with her temper I bet it was glorious. “It marked her contempt” for Fanny. But now she’s got to leave, she won’t stay at Norland, no matter how much the place means to her. Fanny has ruined it. Her daughters come first, even before Norland. “To quit the neighborhood of Norland was no longer an evil; it was an object of desire; it was a blessing in comparison to the misery of continuing her daughter-in-law’s guest.” People say a lot of things about Mrs. D, she may not have a lot of common sense, but she’s a good mum to her girls. 

And at that moment, Mrs. D gets a letter. 

In this state of her spirits, a letter was delivered to her from the post, which contained a proposal particularly well timed. It was the offer of a small house, on very easy terms, belonging to a relation of her own, a gentleman of consequence and property in Devonshire. The letter was from this gentleman himself, and written in the true spirit of friendly accommodation. He understood that she was in need of a dwelling; and though the house he now offered her was merely a cottage, he assured her that everything should be done to it which she might think necessary, if the situation pleased her. 

Perfect timing, Sir John. Mrs. D doesn’t even get through the entire letter before she’s decided to take him up on the offer.  A few hours ago, Mrs. D wouldn’t have even considered it, but things have changed. 

She writes back to Sir John instantly, which isn’t surprising considering her feelings, but she does normally rely on Elinor’s opinion before making major decisions. 

Luckily, Elinor is all for leaving Norland behind. The house is simple and the rent “uncommonly moderate,” so it’s a really good deal, and she can’t say no, even if it means leaving Edward behind, too. 

“Though it was a removal from the vicinity of Norland beyond her wishes, she made no attempt to dissuade her mother from sending her letter of acquiescence.” 

Well folks, it’s taken four chapters, but we are finally ready to begin the real story. Are you ready? 

Before we leave today. I wanted to announce a new segment.

The Writing Desk

Today I received a letter from Anne Marie in Colorado.

Dear Ms. Meserve,

Could you comment on the lack of a period when Austen writes the word  “Miss,” “Mrs,” or “Mr?”  Is the period we see today after each title a modern convention?

Great question Anne Marie. I’ve noticed this lack of a period as well, and not just in Austen, I’ve noticed it in several British publications, such as the Harry Potter books I bought in England. I looked this up in a few places and found that this is common in British English. 

I found this note on the University of Sussex’s website, on a page about punctuation.  British usage favours omitting the full stop in abbreviations which include the first and last letters of a single word, such as Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr and St; American usage prefers (A) Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr. and St., with full stops.

Thank you Anne Marie for your letter and I hope this answers your question!

I love getting letters from fans of the podcast. If you have a question or comment, you can write to me at Ents and Sensibility at gmail dot com.  I’ll do my best to answer your questions during the show. 

That’s all for today. Thank you for listening to Ents and Sensibility. This episode was written and produced by me, Casey Meserve. You can follow Ents and Sensibility on Facebook, and on Instagram. You can also leave a review of the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening.  

Checkout the website EntsandSensibility.com for episode notes, a list of books and references mentioned on the podcast, and more. 

Thank you for joining me, I hope you’ll visit again soon. 



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