Episode 5: So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 5

Hello friends, welcome to Episode 5 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 are reading Austen’s published works one chapter at a time. We’ll 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. 

Meet the Austens

James Austen
James Austen

Now that we’re a few episodes in, I thought it’s a good time to begin the discussion on Jane’s family. In Episodes 1 and 2 we learned a bit about the Austen family. I talked about her mother and father Cassandra and George, her sister Cassandra, and a few of her six brothers. James, Charles, Edward, Francis, George and Henry. Let’s delve deeper into their lives and learn about how they influenced Jane’s life and writing. Jane’s brothers were We’ll begin today with the oldest brother, James.   Jane Austen’s oldest brother, James, was 10 years older than her. The Austens considered him the literary family member.

Mrs. Austen considered James to be the creative and literary one in the family. He spent his free time writing and producing home theatrics in the parlor and barn with his siblings and family friends. When he was 14, he was sent to Oxford, where he had a place at St. John’s College thanks to his mother’s family connections. His parents intended for him to follow in his father’s footsteps to become an Anglican minister. 

James was a charming young man. In a letter to Cassandra, which we read in Episode 1, Jane wrote that “a ball is nothing without him.” 

In 1786 James embarked on the Grand Tour of the Continent visiting Spain, Holland and his cousin Eliza de Feuillide’s estate in Guienne, France.

He was ordained in December 1787 as a deacon at St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire and began serving as curate for Stoke Charity in Hampshire. While there he and his brother Henry began publishing a weekly literary periodical called The Loiterer. The Loiterer showcased James’ writing talents and was targeted at Oxford students and distributed in London by Jane’s future publisher Thomas Egerton. The periodical ran a little over a year from January 1789 to March 1790.

The Loiterer is best remembered for one letter published in issue No 9 which is suspected to have been penned by a teenage Jane under the nom de plume Sophia Sentiment.

In Jane Austen at Home, Lucy Worsely writes that Jane’s relationship with James was “slightly vexed”. “Everyone thought that he was the most literary member of the family, a composer of essays and poetry, and this persisted even after his sister became published. In this role of the family’s author, he’s often given credit for having encouraged and inspired his sister as a writer.”

Worsely conjectures that James may have been jealous of his sister’s success as a published author, but that Jane continued “to work hard to ensure she couldn’t be criticized for shirking her more important lady-duties.”

Interestingly, James claimed not to like novels and wrote diatribes against them, even after his sister was published. But this opinion wasn’t unusual in Georgian England, as novels were considered feminine and potentially degrading. 

In 1792, as a curate in Overton, the next parish over from his father’s parish in Steventon, James met and married Anne Mathew, an heiress whose father General Edward Mathew may have been a source for the snobby General Tilney in Northanger Abbey.  

Anne and James had one daughter, named Jane, but Anne died unexpectedly in 1795. 

James married again, in 1797 to Mary Lloyd, the sister of Jane’s BFF Martha. But not before he considered marrying his widowed cousin Eliza de Feuillide. 

James and Mary had two children, a boy named James Edward in 1798, and a girl named Caroline in 1805. James Edward Austen grew up to become his aunt’s first biographer. 

In 1801, when their father retired and moved his wife and daughters to Bath, James became the rector of Steventon and moved his family into the Rectory. 

The life of a country rector was very from his youth in Oxford, but he enjoyed his library and the woods around the Rectory. After Mr. Austen died, James was the first brother to offer his mother and sisters 50 pounds a year to support them. 

When Jane, Cassandra and their mother later moved to Southampton, James and his family often visited. After one of their holiday get-togethers Jane noticed a change in her brother

The company of so good & clever a man ought to be gratifying in itself;… but his Chat seems all forced, his Opinions on many points too much copied from his wife.” 

As James grew older he would have fits of melancholy and sadness, what we’d probably call depression, that became more pronounced as he aged. 

In 1808, James earned about 1100 pounds a year and was able to own and care for three riding horses. 

James suffered from digestive problems and possibly gout for many years and was too ill to attend Jane’s funeral at Winchester Cathedral, but he did write a poetic obituary for her. 

“But to her family alone
Her real & genuine worth was known:
Yes! They whose lot it was to prove
Her sisterly, her Filial love,
They saw her ready still to share
The labours of domestic care.”

It doesn’t mention Jane’s books, her writing, her personality, nothing. Maybe James was a little jealous of Jane’s success, when his own writing career never went anywhere? But it really shows that the family believed Jane’s worth was centered in the domestic sphere. 

James didn’t outlive his sister by long, and died Dec. 13, 1819 at age 54. 

Now let’s get to the book.

Chapter 5: The Dashwoods Depart Norland

Last episode Elinor and Marianne discussed Edward’s attractiveness and traits. Elinor popped the marriage balloon to Marianne’s disappointment, and voiced her doubts about Edward’s attraction to her. Fanny discovered the mutual attraction between her brother and Elinor and takes the first opportunity to tell Mrs. Dashwood about her mother’s great expectations for Edward and how a poor girl who attempts to “draw him in,” would be very unwelcome. 

Mrs. Dashwood tells Fanny exactly where she can go, and decides it’s time to leave Norland. At this point, Mrs. D gets a letter from a distant cousin offering her and her daughters a cottage near his home in Devonshire. Mrs. D impulsively takes up the offer, writing an acceptance letter and then letting Elinor read it. Elinor agrees with her mother, sacrificing her budding romance with Edward for the family. 

Now on to Chapter 5. 

“No sooner was her answer dispatched, than Mrs. Dashwood indulged herself in the pleasure of announcing to her son-in-law and his wife that she was provided with a house, and should incommode them no longer than till every thing were ready for her inhabiting it. They heard her with surprise. Mrs. John Dashwood said nothing; but her husband civilly hoped that she would not be settled far from Norland. She had great satisfaction in replying that she was going into Devonshire.—Edward turned hastily towards her, on hearing this, and, in a voice of surprise and concern, which required no explanation to her, repeated, “Devonshire! Are you, indeed, going there? So far from hence! And to what part of it?” She explained the situation. It was within four miles northward of Exeter.

“It is but a cottage,” she continued, “but I hope to see many of my friends in it. A room or two can easily be added; and if my friends find no difficulty in travelling so far to see me, I am sure I will find none in accommodating them.

“She concluded with a very kind invitation to Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood to visit her at Barton, and to Edward she gave one with still greater affection.” 

Mrs. D’s entire announcement is problematic. What happens if this cottage falls through? She and her daughters would be in a real bind. 

And while giving Edward an invitation in the presence of his sister gives Mrs. D a lot of pleasure, it puts him in an awkward position, since he likely knows that his sister disapproves of his interest in Elinor. But she wants Fanny to know how much she disregards her disapproval of their potential relationship. 

Edward is totally shocked. He’s been described as calm and soft spoken, so there is a big contrast between how he’s been described by each of the Dashwood women and the first time he speaks. 

Then Edward asks, “what part” why does that matter? It doesn’t really make a difference in his separation from Elinor, so maybe he’s asking for another reason? It’s very subtle, but Edward is starting to have a background, and some interior motives. 

So how far is Barton Cottage from Norland? Well, I did some research. The Jane Austen Society of North American has maps for all Jane’s novels on the website, but I couldn’t find one with both Barton and Norland. But this map puts Norland in central Sussex, south of London and north of Brighton. 

Southern England map
Norland and Barton are about 200 miles apart, according to this map of Southern England from JANSA and The Jane Austen Society of Australia.

Mrs. D says Barton is about four miles north of Exeter. So I guessed it at about 190-200 miles. That’s a three and a half, four hour drive now by car, but imagine doing it by horse drawn carriage. Mrs. D sells the family horses and carriage, so she and the girls very likely took a coach to Barton. It would take days! They would have to stop several times a day to change horses and probably slept in a different inn each night. 

Mrs. D rents the house for a year, and starts to pack and purge. Elinor convinces her to get rid of the horses and carriage. She could have kept the carriage and rented horses when she needed. This would have significantly expanded her social circle in Devonshire. But, carriages, like cars, were costly to maintain. Have you ever driven on really bad roads after a hard winter? Where I live in New England, you can lose an entire wheel, or sometimes the entire car, in a pothole during the spring thaw, so I can sympathize with maintaining a carriage that has to drive on dirt roads. They would break down all the time. In the beginning of Sanditon, Mr. and Mrs. Parker are waylaid by a terrible carriage accident where they meet Charlotte. Horses, although an important mode of transportation, are and were expensive to keep and feed. So, no horses and no carriage for Mrs. D in her new life. 

Elinor convinces her mother that they only need three servants, two maids and a man. An adult male servant had a significantly higher salary than a female servant. I went down some rabbit holes looking for Georgian servant salary information. But I did find a book written by two servants in 1815, which is about 25 years later than Sense and Sensibility is set, but it was the closest I could find. 

This book, called The Complete Servant; Being a Practical Guide to the Peculiar Duties and Business of all descriptions of servants, by Samuel and Sarah Adams. Samuel and Sarah Adams were servants for 50 years, they both began as a footboy and rose to be a steward, while Sarah began as a maid of all work, which is the lowest of the low, and rose to be a housekeeper in a very large estate. 

The book includes a table showing how many servants a family should have based on income and number of family members. According to this book, a widow with three children earning 500 pounds a year, should have three maids and a boy, which is pretty close to what Elinor and Mrs. D agree to. The book also includes salaries for each type of servant. In 1815, a housemaid would have earned between 14-15 guineas a year. A guinea was 21 shillings, and about one pound. A footman would have earned between 20 and 24 guineas a year. If he was hired as a butler he could have earned up to 50 guineas a year. 

The Complete Servant 1815

Anyways, these three are shipped off to Devonshire. They must have really liked Mrs. D to be willing to leave Norland where their friends were and probably had family nearby. They went to unpack the possessions and prep the house for the Dashwoods’ arrival. 

OK, back to the text. Mrs. D keeps the linens, plate, china, as Fanny said she would in Chapter 2, and books and Marianne’s pianoforte. Pianoforte is actually the full name of the instrument. It means loud-soft because it can be played loudly and softly. 

Fanny is upset that a poor family like the Dashwoods has anything that she might covet, such as Marianne’s piano. 

And what about John’s promise to help the family when they move? He likely has wagons and carts and offering their use to Mrs. D would  be really helpful for such a long journey. 

“Mr. John Dashwood told his mother again and again how exceedingly sorry he was that she had taken a house at such a distance from Norland as to prevent his being of any service to her in removing her furniture. He really felt conscientiously vexed on the occasion; for the very exertion to which he had limited the performance of his promise to his father was by this arrangement rendered impracticable.—The furniture was all sent around by water. It chiefly consisted of household linen, plate, china, and books, with a handsome pianoforte of Marianne’s. Mrs. John Dashwood saw the packages depart with a sigh: she could not help feeling it hard that as Mrs. Dashwood’s income would be so trifling in comparison with their own, she should have any handsome article of furniture.”

John at least feels guilty for not helping, but he’s not making any attempt to offer any other form of assistance. So he’s still not looking good. 

Shipping the goods by water was a lot cheaper than overland transportation, according to the Annotated Sense and Sensibility. Sussex and Devonshire are on the southern coast of England, so it’s not a long journey by boat. 

Now everything is shipped and the Dashwood women are ready to go. Let’s get to the awkward goodbyes. 

“Her eagerness to be gone from Norland was preserved from diminution by the evident satisfaction of her daughter in law in the prospect of her removal, a satisfaction which was but feebly attempted to be concealed under a cold invitation to her to defer her departure. Now was the time when her son in law’s promise to his father might with particular propriety be fulfilled. Since he had neglected to do it on first coming to the estate, their quitting his house might be looked on as the most suitable period for its accomplishment. But Mrs. Dashwood began shortly to give over every hope of the kind, and to be convinced from the general drift of his discourse that his assistance extended no farther than their maintenance for six months at Norland. He so frequently talked of the increasing expenses of housekeeping, and of the perpetual demands upon his purse, which a man of any consequence in the world was beyond calculation exposed to, that he seemed rather to stand in need of more money himself than to have any design of giving money away.” 

OK, so either John and Fanny have been spending like crazy since they inherited Norland, or John is being even more greedy and selfish than we thought. Ill-disposed, coldhearted, and all those other things that the narrator told us he was in Chapter 1. He really is terrible. 

Now that Mrs. D has nothing to wait around for, it doesn’t take long for Barton Cottage to be ready for the Dashwoods. But not before Marianne says goodbye…

To the house. 

“Many were the tears shed by them in their last adieus to a place so much beloved. ‘Dear, dear Norland!’ said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there; ‘when shall I cease to regret you!—when learn to feel a home elsewhere!—Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more!—And you, ye well-known trees!—but you will continue the same.—No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer!—No; you will continue the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade!—But who will remain to enjoy you?'”

Sweet romantic Marianne. Norland is her romantic ideal of nature. The Annotated Sense and Sensibility says that Marianne’s speech replicates some of the speeches given by other romantic heroines of the time, such the gothic heroines of Ann Radcliffe. In The Mysteries of Udolpho, the heroine Emily would make these long speeches about the beauty of a natural scene.
Here’s an example of Emily’s speech from Chapter 1. 

“But hark! here comes the sweeping sound over the wood-tops;—now it dies away;—how solemn the stillness that succeeds! Now the breeze swells again. It is like the voice of some supernatural being—the voice of the spirit of the woods, that watches over them by night. Ah! what light is yonder? But it is gone. And now it gleams again, near the root of that large chestnut: look, sir!”

Is Marianne’s speech a parody of those by heroines Emily? I don’t think it’s that simple. I think Marianne’s speech is reminding the reader of her romantic character and her sensibilities to nature. 

Well, the Dashwoods are finally on their way to their new home, leaving Norland and Edward behind. We’ll find out what’s in store for them next time. 

Thank you for listening to Ents and Sensibility. This episode was written and produced by me, Casey Meserve. You can write to me at entsandsensibility@gmail.com. 

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

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