Sense and Sensibility

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Chapter1

1 The family of Dashw ood had long been settled in Sussex. Their estate was large, and t heir residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance. The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to a very advanced age, and who for many years of his life, had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister. But her death, which happened ten years before his own, produced a great alteration in his home; for to supply her loss, he invited and received into his house th e fami ly of hi s nep hew Mr. Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intended to bequeath it. In the society of his ne phew and niece, and their children, the old Gent leman?s days were co mfortably spent. Hi s a ttach ment to them all in creased. The constan t attention of Mr. and Mrs. He nry Dashwood to hi s wishes, which proceeded not merely fro m interest, but from goodness of heart, gave him every degree of soli d comf ort which hi s age could receive; and the cheerfulness of the children added a relish to his existence. 2 of 568 Sense and Sensibility By a former marriage, Mr. Henry Dashwood had one son: by his present lady, three daughters. The son, a steady respectable young man, was amply provided for by the fortune of his mother, which had been large, and half of which devolved on him on his comi ng of age. By his own marriage, likewise, which happene d soon afterwards, he added to hi s wealth. To him therefore the succession to the Norland estate was not so really important as to hi s sisters; for their fortune, inde pendent of w hat might arise to them from their father?s i nheriting that property, coul d be but small . Their mother had nothing, and their father only seven thousand pounds in his own disposal; for the remaining moiety of his fir st wi fe?s fortune was also secured to her child, and he had only a life-interest in it. The old gentleman die d: his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure. He was neither so unjust, nor so ungrateful, as to leave his estate from his neph ew;?but he left it to him on such terms a s destroyed half the valu e of the bequest. Mr. Dashwood had wished for it more for the sake of his wife and daughters than for himself or his son;?but to his son, and his son?s son, a child of four years old, it was secured, in such a way, as to leave to himself no power of providing for those who were most dear to him, and who 3 of 568 Sense and Sensibility most needed a provision by any charg e on the esta te, or by any sale of its valuable woods. The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child, who, in occasional visits with his father and mother at Norland, had so far gained on the affections of his uncle, by such attractions as ar e by no means unusual in children of two or three yea rs old; an imperfect articulatio n, an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise, as to outweigh all the value of all th e attention which, for years, he had received from his niece and her daughters. He meant not to be unkind, however, and, as a mark of his affection for the three girls, he left them a thousand pounds a-pi ece. Mr. Dashwood?s disappointment was, at first, severe; but his temper was cheerful and sanguine; and he might reasonably hope to li ve many years, and by living economicall y, lay by a considerable sum from the produce of an estate already large, and capabl e of almost i mmediate improvement. But the fortune, which had been so tardy in coming, was his only one twelvemonth. He sur vived his uncle no l onger; and ten thou sand pounds, incl uding the late legacies, was all that remained for his wi dow and daughters. 4 of 568 Sense and Sensibility His son was sent for as soon as his d anger was known, and to hi m Mr. Dashwood recommended, with all the strength and urgency which illness could command, the interest of his mother-in- law and siste rs. Mr. John D ashwood had not the str ong feelings of the rest of the family; but he was affected by a recommendation of such a nature at such a time, and he promised to do every thing in his power to make the m comfortable. His father was rendered easy by such an assuran ce, and Mr. Joh n Dashwoo d had then leisure to consider how much the re might prudently be in his power to do for them. He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted and rather se lfish is to be ill-disposed: but he was, in general, we ll respec ted; for he conducted himself with propriety in th e discharge of his ordinary duties. Had he married a more amiable woman, he might have been made still more res pec table than he was:?he might even have been made amiable himself; for he was very young when he married, and very fond of his wife. But Mrs. John Dashw ood was a strong caricature of himself;? more narro w-minded and selfish. When he gave his promise to hi s father, he meditated within himself to increase the fortunes of his sisters by the 5 of 568 Sense and Sensibility present of a thousand pounds a-piece. He then really thought himself equal to it . The prospect of four thousand a-year, in addition to his present income, besides the remaining half of his own mother?s fortune, warmed his heart, and made him feel capable of generosity.? ?Yes, he would give them three thous and pounds: it would be liberal and handsome! It would be enough to make them completely easy. Three thousand pounds! he could spare so considerable a sum with little inconvenience.?? He thought of i t all day l ong, and for many days successively, and he did n ot repent. No sooner was his father?s funeral over, than Mrs. John Dashwood, without sending any notice of her intention to her mother-in-law, arr ived with her child and their attendan ts. No one could dispute h er right to come; the house was her husband?s from the moment of hi s father? s decease; but the indelicacy of her conduct was so much the greater, and to a woman in Mrs. Dashwood?s situati on, with only common fe elings, must have been highly unpleasing;? but in HER mi nd there was a sense of honor so keen, a generosity so romantic, that any offence of the kind, by whomsoever given or recei ved, w as to her a source of immoveable disgu st. Mrs. John Dashwood had never been a favourite with any of her husband?s family; 6 of 568 Sense and Sensibility but she had had no opportunity, till the present, of shewing the m with how little attenti on to the comfort o f other people she could act when occasion required it. So acutely did Mrs. Dashw ood feel this ungracious behaviour, and so earnestly did she despise her daughter- in-law for it, that, on the arrival of the latter, she would have quitted the house for ever, had not the entreaty of her eld est girl induced her first to reflect on the propriety of going, and her own tender love for all her three children determined her afterwards to stay, and for their sakes avoid a breach with their brother. Elinor, this eldest daughter, whose advice was so effectual, p ossessed a strengt h of understand ing, and coolness of judgment, which quali fied her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Da shwood whi ch mu st generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart;?her dispositi on was affect ionate, and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn; and which one of her si sters had resol ved never to be taught. Marianne?s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor?s. She was sensible and clever; but eager in 7 of 568 Sense and Sensibility everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was g enerous, amiable, interesting: she was everyth ing but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great. Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister?s sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was v alued and cherished. They encouraged eac h other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again. They gave themselves up wholly to their sorro w, seeking i ncrease of wretchedness in every reflecti on that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitti ng consolation i n future. Elinor, too, was deeply afflicted; but still she could struggle, she could exert hers elf. She could consult with her brother, could receive her sister-in-law on her arrival, and treat her with proper attention; and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion, and encourage her to similar forbearance. Margaret, the other sister, was a good-humored, well- disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a g ood deal of Marianne?s romance, without having much of her sense, she did not, at thir teen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life. 8 of 568 Sense and Sensibility
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