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Jane Austen

Nora Bartlett

4. Mrs. Jennings

Texte intégral

Books within Books

1Before Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811, Jane Austen was an unpublished author; afterwards she was not. This seems a simple and obvious truth, but we shouldn’t rush to think that we understand everything that is implied in the statement. Once she had published this novel, she was an author, its author, and the subsequent novels were known to be ‘By the Author of “Sense and Sensibility”’ and therefore raised certain expectations in publisher and reader. When she revised Elinor and Marianne, possibly an epistolary novel she had written first in 1795, rewritten in 1797 and finally revised for publication as Sense and Sensibility in the years between 1809 and 1811, no such expectations existed, and I think it is possible to assume a certain freedom in the revising of that novel, while not forgetting that Jane Austen had long aimed for publication, that her Susan (Northanger Abbey) had been accepted for publication in 1803, and that even earlier, in 1797, her father had sent off the epistolary First Impressions to a publisher, only to have it rejected unread. We can assume then that she was not a closet author in any way, not writing for therapy. But it is still significant that Sense and Sensibility shared with the juvenile writings that are collected in the manuscript notebooks, an intimacy with its readers, who were her family. Her family seem always to have been her first and perhaps her most important readers, even after 1811, but before that they might be, for all she knew, her only readers. I want to suggest a continuity between the rudeness and wildness that are such hallmarks of the juvenile writings, the tiny parody novels like Frederic and Elfrida, and the nature of the characterization, and some of the comedy, in Sense and Sensibility—and not only the comedy, but the distinctive blend of comedy and seriousness which Jane Austen is able to give to moments in her writing, and which is particularly exuberant and raw in the still pretty youthful Sense and Sensibility.

  • 1 ‘Unstable and shifting in its sympathies and issues, Sense and Sensibility has long been treated as (...)

2The ‘novels’ of the juvenile writing were often only a few pages long, though Love and Freindship, Lady Susan and the fragment The Watsons are much longer. But there is a charm to her willingness to give the name ‘novel’ to a three-page story such as Henry and Eliza and there is also, I think, a sense of how diverse might be the qualities that make a novel: how a long narrative such as she achieves in Sense and Sensibility is a drawing together of many such ‘novels’, all of which elbow each other appealingly in bids for the author’s attention. Those who so wrongly find Sense and Sensibility unsatisfactory in any way (though they are fewer than they once were, a process to which the Cambridge editor Edward Copeland refers when he says the novel is no longer ‘the red-headed stepchild’ among Jane Austen’s novels)1 were perhaps responding to this bursting at the seams, this too-muchness of the novel.

3One way to tame it, and a powerful way to read it, is to recognize the move forward Jane Austen makes in the construction of Elinor’s as the novel’s central experience, to see it as Elinor’s book—belonging to its central character in a way that the epistolary Lady Susan did not— though that short novel, set aside a year or so before the first version of the Elinor and Marianne plot was begun, did contain more of Susan’s words than those of any other persons, it is a book which displays the main character’s vices and not her viewpoint, despite her liveliness and, in a way, her vulnerability as a woman on the hunt for a husband, like all Jane Austen’s single women. But if Sense and Sensibility is Elinor’s book it is also Marianne’s book, and Lucy Steele’s book—and not only the women: it is Colonel Brandon’s book, and Willoughby’s. Their stories are all given space, given room to breathe, in this ambitious, complex novel.

4But I would like here to discuss the way in which it is Mrs. Jennings’s book, in that no re-reader can fail to recognize the way the novel works to vindicate Mrs. Jennings’s character and also to fulfil her wishes. The novel provides an amiably happy ending for both Dashwood sisters, but also a luxuriously happy one for Mrs. Jennings, who gets, as we shall see, all of her wishes, though sometimes in a comically topsy-turvy way.

Two Vulgar Women

5To clarify the real complexity with which Mrs. Jennings’s character is depicted and developed, it might be of value to compare her with that other vulgar, marriage-obsessed mother, Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, whose character is presented with such acid dismissal at the famous end of Chapter i. The contrast there, the reader will remember, is with her apparently more ambivalently presented husband, that ‘mixture of quick parts’ whose wife will never understand him (I i 5). Her own character, however ‘was less difficult to develope’ (I i 5). Notice the loaded negatives: not ‘much easier’ but ‘less difficult’, giving a sense of the author presenting the character while, as it were, holding her nose; there is such aversion here. ‘She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married’ (I i 5). Fifty words of neat character assassination— ‘mean’, ‘little’, ‘uncertain’, ‘discontented’, ‘nervous’—from which only the most determined reading can rescue Mrs. Bennet. It is typical for long-term readers of Jane Austen to learn to see more from her point of view, since when one does the sums, the near-poverty of the family of five unmarried daughters, had Mr. Bennet died in Chapter ii instead of going to visit Mr. Bingley, shifts the emphasis on this ‘business’ of hers and makes Mr. Bennet’s insouciance in the same chapter (‘How so? how can it affect them?’ (I i 4)) less charmingly offhand and more viciously irresponsible.

6But there is no rescuing the character of Mrs. Bennet from the faults of her temperament or the vulgarity of her mind—her praising of her children in front of strangers, her sneering at the Lucas girls for their domestic skills, her cheerful acceptance of the prospect of a life of financial assistance from her hard-working brother—to say nothing of her moral indifference, and her social indifference also, to Lydia’s having lived with George Wickham outside matrimony once matrimony has rescued the situation. One could go on: her virtues are few and her faults are many, and the novel does not work to minimize them, rarely lets her faults go un-noted, by husband, daughters or by the narrative. Her spirits, at the news of Lydia’s patched-up marriage, are ‘oppressively high’, her reappearance at the head of her dinner table a source only of distress to her daughters (III viii 342). There is also, much earlier, in Volume I, the matter of her pressing Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins with whom she could not possibly be happy. Though since it is also the one way in which the family can avert some of the consequences of the entail of the estate, that is not quite so clear-cut to a reader who has thought about the novel over time as it is to a new reader, reacting, along with Elizabeth, to Mr. Collins’s drawbacks as a love interest. Nevertheless, even the most practically-minded reader will be shocked by the ill temper with which Mrs. Bennet greets the news of Mr. Collins marrying Charlotte Lucas instead, presented in her usual register of comic self-contradiction:

In the first place, she persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter; secondly, she was very sure that Mr. Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she trusted that they would never be happy together; and fourthly, that the marriage might be broken off. Two inferences, however, were plainly deduced from the whole; one, that Elizabeth was the cause of all the mischief; and the other, that she herself had been barbarously used by them all. (I xxiii 143)

7This logical style of presenting her thinking dramatizes her own spectacular illogic, the illogic of a lawyer’s daughter who can never be made to understand ‘the nature of an entail’, a legal commonplace that her own teenage daughters can understand (I xii 69). A careful reader might feel for this mother of five daughters who has ‘no turn for economy’ but teeters on the brink of poverty throughout the novel, but cannot respect her, anymore than—following her contemptuous husband’s lead—her neighbours, or her daughters, can (III viii 340). Even tolerant Jane, that paragon, says once, ‘ “Oh! that my dear mother had more command over herself…”’ (II i 152). This lack of ‘self-command’, such a significant virtue for Jane Austen’s endangered women, is all revealed in the opening chapters, and nothing in subsequent chapters rescues Mrs. Bennet from her failings. She provides much comedy, but she is always the ‘woman of mean understanding […] and uncertain temper’ of Chapter i. The introduction opened, and closed, the book on Mrs. Bennet.

8This is the introduction of Mrs. Jennings, on the other hand: she ‘was a good-humoured, merry, fat elderly woman, who talked a great deal, seemed very happy, and rather vulgar’ (I vii 40). Fat and elderly, unlike Mrs. Bennet who has been a notable beauty and is probably not much over forty-five when Pride and Prejudice begins, Mrs. Jennings could at first be a stock comic figure, and is that in part, but only in part. If her vulgarity is named, as Mrs. Bennet’s is not, so is her happiness—it plays the role in her introduction played in Mrs. Bennet’s by ‘discontent’ and ‘nerves’. Long ago Mrs. Bennet captivated Mr. Bennet, not only by youth and beauty, but by ‘the appearance of good humour’ which youth and beauty can give but which in her is illusory (II xix 262). Not so in Mrs. Jennings. In the next chapter we learn that she:

was a widow, with an ample jointure [she had married well] and had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now therefore nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world […] she was always anxious to get a good husband for every pretty girl. (I viii 43)

9What the reader might want to notice in all this is the openness of the language in which Mrs. Jennings, however ‘vulgar’ she is, is otherwise introduced (‘good-humoured […] happy […] merry’ versus Mrs. Bennet’s crushing ‘small information’, etc. And the openness of her point of view: Mrs. Bennet (and this is understandable, she has five daughters and not much of a jointure to look forward to; Mrs. Jennings has her good marriage settlement and only two) thinks only of marrying her own daughters, and is shown again and again as being mean-spirited and competitive about the marriage opportunities of girls from other families; Mrs. Jennings on the other hand—that large-bodied, large-souled lady—is ‘zealously active’ in promoting ‘weddings among all the young people of her acquaintance’ (I viii 43).

  • 2 ‘Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was (...)

10Let’s consider the meanings of that wish a little more: in a world in which marriage is the one attainable and desirable career option for women ‘of small fortune’ as Charlotte Lucas realistically reflects in Pride and Prejudice, how generous, how thoroughly good-hearted, such a set of aspirations as Mrs. Jennings’s is, however embarrassing to the more refined—the Dashwoods and Lady Middleton and Colonel Brandon, all of whom would rather the case for the necessity of marriage were stated a little less baldly.2 A deft move of the novel is that the more refined character to whom she is most often contrasted is her elder daughter, Lady Middleton, whose ‘good breeding’ (I vii 38) is sometimes more acceptable to the Dashwoods just because it is quieter, but who from the outset is described as insipid, and later as cold and selfish. (It is interesting that the novel’s first volume introduces three pairs of sisters, and appears to foreground the vitality of the younger sister— Marianne, Mrs. Palmer, Lucy Steele—in each case.) Lady Middleton’s cold selfishness is said to be a match for that of Fanny Dashwood— impressive! But the contrast between mother and daughter is not only between warmth and coldness, but between Lady Middleton’s lack of interest in other people aside from her children, a lack of interest which is almost pathological. When the whole Middleton-Palmer-Jennings circle is in an uproar over Willoughby’s mistreatment of Marianne in Volume II,

Lady Middleton expressed her sense of the affair about once every day, or twice, if the subject occurred very often, by saying ‘It is very shocking indeed!’ and by means of this continual though gentle vent, was able not only to see the Miss Dashwoods from the first without the smallest emotion, but very soon to see them without recollecting a word of the matter. (II x 245)

11She literally erases it from her memory, and it seems clear that no one but her children has any continuous existence in her thoughts at all. In contrast to this is Mrs. Jennings’s assault on Colonel Brandon, meeting him weeks after his sudden departure for London in Volume I, with a volley of questions and demands which show that his mysterious trouble has been kept alive in her imagination, and her memory, all of this time: ‘ “But, Colonel, where have you been to since we parted? And how does your business go on? Come, come, let’s have no secrets among friends”’ (II iv 186).

12The reader would be mistaken to think, as Marianne does, that this was a mere demand for gossip; the Colonel, who replies with ‘his accustomary mildness’ (II iv 186), does not think so, for surely it is a sense of her genuine goodness of heart, her care for her friends, that keeps the Colonel—a man, as we learn, as sensitive as Marianne and with much to be sensitive about—from being merely exasperated by Mrs. Jennings and her importunate questions and her misconception of his relationship with the younger Eliza. At some time previous to the opening of the novel, Colonel Brandon has learned to overlook Mrs. Jennings’s vulgarity and to value her decency and humanity; and this is a lesson which the Dashwood sisters, thin-skinned and refined, like the Colonel, can learn also.

13No one widely read in Jane Austen can fail to recognize that the capacity to retain a sympathetic sense of the existence of other people when not immediately confronted with them is of the highest importance to her. It has perhaps its finest and most warmly coloured expression in Anne Elliot’s defence of women’s loyalty to lost lovers near the close of Persuasion (Anne’s longest speech in the novel, and one which not only moves Captain Wentworth to renew their engagement, but rouses the tender-hearted, grieving Captain Harville to cry, ‘ “You are a good soul!”’ (II xi 256)). This retaining of the imprint of others is one mark, in Jane Austen, of the ‘good soul’. One of the ways Pride and Prejudice registers Mr. Darcy as a serious rather than an absurd character (though he is both at times) is at Rosings, where he demonstrates both that he has retained a strong sense of Elizabeth, and that he is willing to show it: ‘ “I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know, that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own,”’ he says with some warmth as she sits at the piano with the—also somewhat smitten—Colonel Fitzwilliam (II viii 195). One might also mention here instances like Sir Thomas’s remembering, in Mansfield Park, to have the fire laid in Fanny’s room after their disagreement over Mr. Crawford, or his thinking to have Susan accompany her when she returns to Mansfield Park. A character with many weaknesses, pomposities, absurdities, who has made tragic errors in bringing up his own children, Sir Thomas is nevertheless marked more than once by this sense of the existence of others beyond the borders of the self, and of their continuous existence.

14Such a sense marks Mrs. Jennings as a different kind of busybody from, say, Miss Steele, who only wants to know how much the Dashwoods’ clothes cost them, or to have the whole story of Willoughby and Marianne so that she can retail it to her friends. Mrs. Jennings is a gossipy woman of course, and this proclivity produces much comedy— ‘ “Get it all out of her, my dear. She will tell you anything if you ask. You see I cannot leave Mrs. Clarke”’, she nudges Elinor when prevented herself from talking to Nancy Steele after the big bust-up with the Dashwoods (III ii 308). But she is much more: again and again, before the reluctant Dashwood sisters (they are, after all, both teenagers) are able to recognize her goodness of heart, the novel does so. In one of the few instances in which Mrs. Dashwood behaves as if her experience of forty years in the world had taught her anything, she describes Mrs. Jennings to Elinor as ‘a motherly good sort of woman’; Elinor, however, squeamishly objects (while acknowledging her good heart) that ‘ “she is not a woman whose society can afford us pleasure, or whose protection will give us consequence”’ (II iii 177, 178). What Elinor refers to here is that Mrs. Jennings is not a person of elegant manners or wide culture, not the sort of reading, thinking, cultivated person that most Jane Austen heroines admire and value and aspire to be. But this whole line of discourse deserves attention. Later, when Elinor discovers to her relief that ‘excepting a few old city friends’, Mrs. Jennings ‘visited no one, to whom an introduction could at all discompose the feelings of her young companions’, we might want to note that Elinor, the undoubted centre of discernment and of emotional intelligence in the novel, is here glancingly allied with the cold Lady Middleton (who regrets that the old friends have not been dropped) (II v 191–92). Elinor also sounds remarkably like Emma Woodhouse as that great snob muses absurdly about how her sister Isabella’s marrying into the Knightley family ‘had given them neither men, nor names, nor places, that could raise a blush’ (III vi 389).

  • 3 ‘Mrs. Jennings on her side treated them both with all possible kindness, was solicitous on every oc (...)

15Awareness of status, class, culture is nuanced in Jane Austen, and every participant in the world of her novels must possess it in order to survive, but Jane Austen thinks snobbishness is absurd even when it is necessary—even when it is accurate. Elinor here is being observed from a little distance, like Emma, as she weighs up the relative value of ‘consequence’ and kindness. Just as the novel chooses to stand at a slight, observant distance from the well-bred sisters when they refuse to gratify Mrs. Jennings’s hospitable impulses on the journey to London, it distances Elinor here as she gives this relieved, but not entirely appealing, shrug at a near escape from the horrors of vulgarity.3 That Lady Middleton is mentioned here is significant. The novel does not admire her, nor does Elinor. One of the effects of focusing in this way on Mrs. Jennings is that we can rescue Elinor from the charge sometimes made of her character, that she is too perfect: here we see that at nineteen—of course!—she still has much to learn.

  • 4 This moment stands in marked contrast to the novel’s other more staged mentions of ‘real love’: at (...)

16And in the end Mrs. Jennings’s real nobility of soul becomes impossible to miss, in a very rich harmonics of comic and serious strains, along with Elinor’s, during Marianne’s illness—it is their shared nursing of the terribly ill, beloved girl, which ‘makes Elinor really love her’ (III vii 348).4 The reader is relieved that Elinor is finally catching up with how much real kindness, generosity, affectionateness and depth of feeling has always been present under the boisterous, unbeautiful exterior of the fat old woman. There is a section which moves from Elinor’s consciousness, almost taking the free indirect style into Mrs. Jennings’s head, as the older woman’s own real anxiety over Marianne’s danger is made explicit:

Her heart was really grieved. The rapid decay, the early death of a girl so young, so lovely as Marianne, must have struck a less interested person with concern. On Mrs. Jennings’s compassion, she had other claims. She had been for three months her companion, was still under her care, and she was known to have been greatly injured, and long unhappy. The distress of her sister too, particularly a favourite, was before her;—and as for their mother, when Mrs. Jennings considered that Marianne might probably be to her what Charlotte was to herself, her sympathy in her sufferings was very sincere. (III vii 354)

17The whole-heartedness of this passage is distinctive: no Austenian irony, even, I think, in the unlikely comparison between Marianne and Charlotte. The novel is crying out here, like Captain Harville to Anne, ‘you are a good soul!’ and the index of this kind of soul-goodness is, as with Anne, the holding onto the feelings and thoughts—the lives—of others. Mrs. Jennings is thinking of Marianne’s whole story, of Elinor’s sisterly love, of Mrs. Dashwood’s feeling for her younger daughter, and measuring it against the strongest heart-feeling of her own emotional life, her love for silly, good-natured Charlotte.

18But the writing of the whole section which includes Marianne’s illness and her recovery is simultaneously direct and emotionally powerful—and observant and, just glancingly, comic, even as it drives toward possible tragedy. A sharply painful segment of a long comic arc in which the girls’ growing closeness to this absurd and improbable figure is observed. It is beautifully staged: Mrs. Jennings thinks that Marianne will die and surely her expectation, withheld from Elinor through an uncharacteristic tact, but communicated in her more usual incontinent fashion to her maid, is part of the brilliant presentation of Marianne’s illness, in which the steep rise of her suffering and delirium, the depiction of Elinor’s terror when Marianne becomes irrational and babbles incoherently about their mother and London all has to be attended to closely by the reader, for whom after however many readings Marianne’s recovery is always an achievement and a relief. And surely a part of the technical production of that suspense, that uncertainty about these events, even for the re-reader who has long known the outcome, is the weight of Mrs. Jennings’s pessimism, Mrs. Jennings who has nursed her husband in his last illness and perhaps has sat by many deathbeds. This pessimism adds substance to the undeniable drama of this episode, as the old lady’s unwise communication to the maidservant is brought home to the waiting and exhausted Elinor through her second sleepless night: ‘the servant […] tortured her more, with hints of what her mistress had always thought’ (III vii 353). On the last morning of suspense Mrs. Jennings herself can no longer resist confiding her belief that ‘the severity and danger of this attack [was due] to the many previous weeks of indisposition’ (III vii 355). Mrs. Jennings becomes explicit on what she takes to be Marianne’s last day of life because she does not want to raise false hopes in Elinor, does not want to break her heart along with Marianne’s.

19And then there is Marianne’s recovery, so hesitantly relayed— ‘About noon, however, [Elinor] began—but with a caution—a dread of disappointment […] to fancy to hope she could perceive a slight amendment’—which enables the beautiful conclusion in which Mrs. Jennings, who like any elderly woman must have a great deal of store set by being right about illness, gives over that pleasure to share in Elinor’s genuine relief at the recovery (III vii 355). There is no morbid or ghoulish tinge, and her presentation here is careful not to suggest any such thing; the maidservant may have been ghoulish, but Mrs. Jennings was not, nor is she stubborn: ‘Mrs. Jennings […] admitted with unfeigned joy, and soon with unequivocal cheerfulness, the probability of an entire recovery’ (III vii 355–56).

The Vulgar Woman and the Lady: Two Matchmakers

20So, having started with a comparison between Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Bennet, I will close with a comparison between Mrs. Jennings and Emma, the vulgar woman and the born lady, both matchmakers. When Emma discusses her matchmaking proclivities with her father and Mr. Knightley, they both express horror at her choice of hobby, though for different reasons: Mr. Woodhouse seems—like Hamlet—to want ‘no more marriages’ (‘ “Pray do not make any more matches”’) and laments her success with Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston, but Mr. Knightley feels that the activity is an improper one for a young unmarried woman—‘ “a worthy employment for a young lady’s mind!”’ (I i 10–11).

  • 5 Nora here creatively combines Mr. Knightley’s words to Emma in Volume I: ‘ “Upon my word, Emma, to (...)

21Discerning attachments between young people who have not announced their engagement is indeed allied, in Jane Austen’s novels, with a certain coarseness of mind: Isabella in Northanger Abbey finding out flirtations, Mrs. Norris in Mansfield Park hinting about Julia and Mr. Crawford, Mrs. Clay in Persuasion and her insincere hints about Mr. Elliot and Elizabeth—and Mrs. Jennings, of course. One can prove her goodness without ever disproving her vulgarity. But her matchmaking is very different from Emma Woodhouse’s, because it is founded in a realism about women’s aspirations, their opportunities and expectations. ‘ “I never was very handsome […] However I got a very good husband”’, she declares cheerfully, and reminds her son-in-law Mr. Palmer, ‘ “you have taken Charlotte off my hands, and cannot give her back again”’ and discerns from Miss Steele that ‘ “the Doctor is a single man”’ (II iv 186; I xx 129; II x 247). The language, ‘merry’ like herself, nevertheless admits the hard necessities of life, its compromises and its constraints. Contrast this with Emma’s hilariously misjudged comment to Harriet that she— Harriet, that simpleton—‘ “[understands] the force of influence pretty well”’ (I iv 30) in marital matters, this being said while Emma herself, ‘perverting the wit God gave her’ as Mr. Knightley says, is industriously undermining every realistic possibility Harriet has for marriage, out of her own vanity and ignorance of the world.5 Mr. Knightley’s horror at her choice of matchmaking for a pastime deserves a second look: he realizes that there is something almost base about it, with its historic connection to pandering, and that in Emma’s quixotic version it is as full of self-deceit and self-regard as Mrs. Elton’s plans for Jane Fairfax’s career; it comes from a mere wish to be doing something, like the Eltons. If, on the other hand, Mrs. Jennings’s matchmaking is vulgar in the sense of ‘common’, it is also a reflection of her common sense.

  • 6 Mrs. Jennings’s memory of Delaford: ‘ “Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you; exactly what I cal (...)

22The novel’s end is in many ways nothing but a huge comic justification, a triumph, of Mrs. Jennings, for every girl (except poor Miss Steele) in whom she takes an interest, does marry. As she makes her Michaelmas visit to Delaford, Elinor has married the much-trailed ‘Mr. F’ and he is, not the curate, but the rector, of the parish, and the first marriage she planned in the novel, that of Marianne and Colonel Brandon, is well on its way to being achieved, since Marianne is married at nineteen, so within a year of that Michaelmas. Even Lucy Steele, for whom Mrs. Jennings wished a ‘good husband’, though she has now been enlightened as to Lucy’s real character and the qualities of her heart, even cold-hearted scheming Lucy Steele is well-married. Almost the last topic taken up by the novel is the promising future of Margaret Dashwood, as a girl for whom a good heart can wish a good husband, and we might linger over that Michaelmas visit for a second longer, for if Mrs. Jennings arrives a little earlier than the actual date of September 29, she will find that the old mulberry tree is still in season, and in a perfect orgy of wish-fulfilment, Mrs. Jennings can once again have the joy, along with the rewards of successful match-making, of ‘stuffing’ on the delicious fruit.6


1 ‘Unstable and shifting in its sympathies and issues, Sense and Sensibility has long been treated as disappointing and odd, the red-headed stepchild of the Austen canon’. Edward Copeland, ed., Sense and Sensibility, The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. xxiv.

2 ‘Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want’ (I xxii 138).

3 ‘Mrs. Jennings on her side treated them both with all possible kindness, was solicitous on every occasion for their ease and enjoyment, and only disturbed that she could not make them choose their own dinners at the inn, nor extort a confession of their preferring salmon to cod, or boiled fowls to veal cutlets’ (II iv 182).

4 This moment stands in marked contrast to the novel’s other more staged mentions of ‘real love’: at the end of Vol. I, Chapter iii, Marianne is convinced she might ‘never see a man whom I can really love’ (I iii 21) and in Vol. III, Chapter viii, Willoughby poses the rhetorical question to himself: ‘ had I really loved, could I have sacrificed my feelings to vanity, to avarice?’ (III viii 363).

5 Nora here creatively combines Mr. Knightley’s words to Emma in Volume I: ‘ “Upon my word, Emma, to hear you abusing the reason you have, is almost enough to make me think so too. Better be without sense, than misapply it as you do.”’ (I viii 67), and his words about Frank Churchill to her in Volume III: ‘ “Mystery; Finesse — how they pervert the understanding! My Emma, does not every thing serve to prove more and more the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?”’ (III xv 486), along with Emma’s estimate of herself in Volume III: ‘She had herself been first with him for many years past. She had not deserved it; she had often been negligent or perverse, slighting his advice, or even wilfully opposing him, insensible of half his merits, and quarrelling with him because he would not acknowledge her false and insolent estimate of her own’ (III xii 452).

6 Mrs. Jennings’s memory of Delaford: ‘ “Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice old fashioned place, full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great garden walls that are covered with the best fruit-trees in the country: and such a mulberry tree in one corner! Lord! how Charlotte and I did stuff the only time we were there!”’ (II viii 223).


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