Sense and Sensibility (Modern Library Series)

Sense and Sensibility (Modern Library Series)

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by Jane Austen
     
 

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Sense and Sensibility is one of the best loved of Jane Austen's novels, populated by great comic creations like Mrs. Jennings, the unscrupulous cad Willoughby, and guileless and artful women. As ever, Austen suffuses her work with great ironic observation and tremendous wit, producing a masterpiece of romantic entanglement that time and a very different set of

Overview

Sense and Sensibility is one of the best loved of Jane Austen's novels, populated by great comic creations like Mrs. Jennings, the unscrupulous cad Willoughby, and guileless and artful women. As ever, Austen suffuses her work with great ironic observation and tremendous wit, producing a masterpiece of romantic entanglement that time and a very different set of mores cannot diminish.

Sense and Sensibility was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be published, coming out in 1811. It had a long gestation, beginning as Elinor and Marianne, an epistolary novel that Austen wrote in the 1790s. The novel centers on the sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, who are forced to leave their home with their mother and younger sister, Margaret, and move in reduced circumstances to the West of England. Elinor, the sensible sister, and Marianne, the overimaginative romantic, must rely on a good marriage as a means of support. As their excellent schemes are intruded upon, Austen subtly explores the marriage game of her times, as both sense and sensibility affect the sisters' chances of happiness and comfort.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679641131
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/01/2000
Series:
Modern Library Series
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
970,777
File size:
649 KB

Read an Excerpt

Sense and Sensibility


By Jane Austen

Vintage

Copyright © 2007 Jane Austen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307386878

Sense and Sensibility, the first of those metaphorical bits of "ivory" on which Jane Austen said she worked with "so fine a brush," jackhammers away at the idea that to conjecture is a vain and hopeless reflex of the mind. But I'll venture this much: If she'd done nothing else, we'd still be in awe of her. Wuthering Heights alone put Emily Brontë in the pantheon, and her sister Charlotte and their older contemporary Mary Shelley might as well have saved themselves the trouble of writing anything but Jane Eyre and Frankenstein. Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811, is at least as mighty a work as any of these, and smarter than all three put together. And it would surely impress us even more without Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815) towering just up ahead. Austen wrote its ur-version, Elinor and Marianne, when she was nineteen, a year before First Impressions, which became Pride and Prejudice; she reconceived it as Sense and Sensibility when she was twenty-two, and she was thirty-six when it finally appeared. Like most first novels, it lays out what will be its author's lasting preoccupations: the "three or four families in a country village" (which Austen told her niece, in an often-quoted letter, was "the very thing to work on"). The interlocking anxieties overmarriages, estates, and ecclesiastical "livings." The secrets, deceptions, and self-deceptions that take several hundred pages to straighten out-to the extent that they get straightened out. The radical skepticism about human knowledge, human communication, and human possibility that informs almost every scene right up to the sort-of-happy ending. And the distinctive characters-the negligent or overindulgent parents, the bifurcating siblings (smart sister, beautiful sister; serious brother, coxcomb brother), the charming, corrupted young libertines. Unlike most first novels, though, Sense and Sensibility doesn't need our indulgence. It's good to go.

In the novels to come, Elinor Dashwood will morph into Anne Elliott and Elizabeth Bennet (who will morph into Emma Woodhouse); Edward Ferrars into Edmund Bertram, Mr. Knightley, Henry Tilney, and Captain Wentworth; Willoughby into George Wickham and Henry Crawford. But the characters in Sense and Sensibility stand convincingly on their own, every bit as memorable as their later avatars. If Austen doesn't have quite the Caliban-to-Ariel range of a Shakespeare, she can still conjure up and sympathize with both Mrs. Jennings-the "rather vulgar" busybody with a borderline-unwholesome interest in young people's love lives, fits of refreshing horse sense, and a ruggedly good heart-and Marianne Dashwood, a wittily observed case study in Romanticism, a compassionately observed case study in sublimated adolescent sexuality, and a humorously observed case study in humorlessness. "I should hardly call her a lively girl," Elinor observes to Edward, "-she is very earnest, very eager in all she does-sometimes talks a great deal and always with animation-but she is not often really merry." Humorlessness, in fact, may be the one thing Marianne and her eventual lifemate, Colonel Brandon, have in common. (Sorry to give that plot point away; it won't be the last one, either. So, fair warning.) The minor characters have the sort of eidetic specificity you associate with Dickens: from the gruesomely mismatched Mr. and Mrs. Palmer to Robert Ferrars, splendidly impenetrable in his microcephalic self-complacency. The major characters, on the other hand, refuse to stay narrowly "in character"; they're always recognizably themselves, yet they seem as many-sided and changeable as people out in the nonfictional world.

Elinor makes as ambivalent a heroine as Mansfield Park's notoriously hard-to-warm-up-to Fanny Price. She's affectionately protective of her sister Marianne yet overfond of zinging her: "It is not every one who has your passion for dead leaves." She's bemused at Marianne's self-dramatizing, yet she's as smug about suffering in silence as Marianne (who "would have thought herself very inexcusable" if she were able to sleep after Willoughby leaves Devonshire) is proud of suffering in Surround Sound. She can be treacherously clever, as when Lucy Steele speculates (correctly) that she may have offended Elinor by staking her claim to Edward: " 'Offended me! How could you suppose so? Believe me,' and Elinor spoke it with the truest sincerity, 'nothing could be farther from my intention, than to give you such an idea.' " Yet she can also be ponderously preachy: "One observation may, I think, be fairly drawn from the whole of the story-that all Willoughby's difficulties, have arisen from the first offense against virtue, in his behaviour to Eliza Williams. That crime has been the origin of every lesser one, and of all his present discontents." (In the rest of Austen, only the intentionally preposterous Mary in Pride and Prejudice strikes just this note: "Unhappy as the event may be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson; that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable . . ."). Is Elinor simply an intelligent young woman overtaxed by having to be the grown-up of the family? Or is she an unconsciously rivalrous sibling, sick of hearing that her younger, more beautiful sister will marry more advantageously? Or both? Or what? It's not that Austen doesn't have a clear conception of her-it's that she doesn't have a simple conception. Elinor is the character you know the most about, since Austen tells most of the story from her point of view, and consequently she's the one you're least able to nail with a couple of adjectives or a single defining moment.

Edward bothers us, too. He's a dreamboat only for a woman of Elinor's limited expectations: independent-minded yet passive and depressive, forthright and honorable yet engaged in a book-long cover-up. (It's a tour de force on Austen's part to present a character so burdened with a secret that we see his natural behavior only long after we've gotten used to him.) At his strongest and most appealing-to Elinor, at least-he's a clear-your-mind-of-cant kind of guy: "I am not fond of nettles, or thistles, or heath blossoms. . . . A troop of tidy, happy villagers please me better than the finest banditti in the world." But he can also be a Hamlet-like whiner, complaining about his own idleness and vowing that his sons will be brought up "to be as unlike myself as possible. In feeling, in action, in condition, in every thing." For my money, Edward is the least likable of Austen's heroes, while his opposite number, Willoughby, is the most sympathetic of her libertines: smarter than Pride and Prejudice's Wickham (a loser who gets stuck with the "noisy" and virtually portionless Lydia Bennet) and more warmhearted than Mansfield Park's textbook narcissist Henry Crawford. Willoughby may strike trendy Wordsworthian poses with his effusions on cottages ("I consider it as the only form of building in which happiness is attainable"), but at least he has enough sense to abhor his own callowness, and enough sexy boldness to discompose even the rational Elinor. "She felt that his influence over her mind was heightened by circumstances which ought not in reason to have weight; by that person of uncommon attraction, that open, affectionate, and lively manner which it was no merit to possess . . ." His opening line when he at last explains to her what he's been up to ("Tell me honestly, do you think me most a knave or a fool?") is one of those Byronic flourishes that make him the person in Sense and Sensibility you'd most want to dine with and least want to trust.

Continues...

Excerpted from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen Copyright © 2007 by Jane Austen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Eudora Welty
"How could these novels ever seem remote?...The gayety is unextinguished to today, the irony has kept its bite, the reasoning is still sweet, the sparkle undiminished....As comedies they are irristable and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be."

Meet the Author

Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, on December 16, 1775. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, was rector of Steventon, where she spent her first twenty-five years, along with her six brothers (two of them later naval officers in the Napoleonic wars) and her adored sister, Cassandra. She read voraciously from an early age, counting among her favorites the novels of Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Fanny Burney, and the poetry of William Cowper and George Crabbe. Her family was lively and affectionate and they encouraged her precocious literary efforts, the earliest dating from age twelve, which already displayed the beginnings of her comic style. Her first novels, Elinor and Marianne (1796) and First Impressions (1797), were not published. The gothic parody Northanger Abbey was accepted for publication in 1803 but was ultimately withheld by the publisher.

In 1801 the family moved to Bath, where for four years Austen was able to observe the fashionable watering place that would later figure prominently in her fiction. Austen was sociable in her youth, and was briefly engaged in 1802. Two years later she began work on The Watsons, a novel that remained unfinished. After the death of her father in 1805, she lived with her mother and sister in Southampton for a few years before moving with them to a cottage at Chawton in Hampshire. This would be her home for the rest of her life, and she wrote many of her novels in its parlor. She continued to revise her earlier unpublished work, and in 1811 a version of Elinor and Marianne was published as Sense and Sensibility, followed two years later by Pride and Prejudice, a reworking of First Impressions. In the next few years she published Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816).

Austen became ill in 1815, perhaps with Addison's disease, and she died on July 18, 1817. Persuasion, her last novel, and the earlier Northanger Abbey appeared the following year. Of her last days her brother wrote: 'She wrote whilst she could hold a pen, and with a pencil when a pen was become too laborious. The day preceding her death she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour.' Although Austen received some praise from her contemporaries—notably Sir Walter Scott, who discerned in her work 'the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment'—her detractors included Charlotte Bronte ('very incomplete and rather insensible') and Ralph Waldo Emerson ('vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention'), and her books did not immediately find a wide readership. The turn in her reputation came late in the nineteenth century, and has been succeeded by an enduring popularity and widespread critical praise in the twentieth.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 16, 1775
Date of Death:
July 18, 1817
Place of Birth:
Village of Steventon in Hampshire, England
Place of Death:
Winchester, Hampshire, England
Education:
Taught at home by her father

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Sense and Sensibility (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 331 reviews.
Cindy Meacham More than 1 year ago
This is a bad copy of a good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thank you to Jim Hart at Bethany House for providing my copy of this classic. I couldn't help but wonder how the classic might have been improved.Historical and cultural details and definitions from England's early 1800s, facts about Austen's life that enhance the storyline, as well as many other notations, conveniently interspersed along the side margins make this an easy-to-use tutorial.I suggest that Homeschoolers, students of all ages and stages would benefit by the read or rereading. As a retired high school English teacher, I would chose this edition to teach.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After my first reading of this beautifully written romance, I found myself intrigued by Austen's ability to create characters and situations that draw me in and hold me close. I now find myself looking for more novels by her that I have to read. I want find out if these other novels are as captivating and emotional as Sense and Sensibility. I highly recommend this and all other Jane Austen books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a fan of Jane's books, this is my second favorite. Only reason I gave it four stars is because there seems to be something lacking that I can't quite put my finger on it though.
GottaRead53 More than 1 year ago
I would give it a rating of negative 5 if I could. I' m sure there must be a well transferred version out there, but this is not it. Horrific typos are so prevalent that it was difficult to even determine what some words were supposed to be. Even multiple pages that had half of the manuscript replaced by symbols rather than words. It may be a good classic novel if it were readable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
...but not the free Google version...the problem with just scanning and relying on software to "error" check, is that it makes new and different mistakes. It's gotten to the point that I'm going to delete my free version and spend some money on a different copy.
Anonymous 22 days ago
I need a friend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much, but would have loved it if the editorial coments did not so often intrude on the body of the writing. There were several places where the 'margin notes' ended up in the middle of the body of work thereby interupting the flow until I could figure out what belonged and what didn't. I would hope that the publishers would care about this classic tale (and the ongoing popularity of Jane Austin) to correct these errors in future editions!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was a good book to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can't even read this. It has special characters splashed throughout the regular text, and is absolutely impossible to read. :(
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littlegiry More than 1 year ago
An absolutely beautiful edition of Austen's classic, the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility is a delightful novel, but this edition has mangled her classic, rendering it almost illegible. Stray symbols and letters make it nearly impossible to read. Please seek out another edition for your reading pleasure, as this particular eBook offers no benefits. Though the story is not to be missed, you would do well to find a different copy of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story. It keeps you guessing as to who will marry whom and if a characters flaws or assets will be found. I recommend it as a classic book that you can go to for a look back at the past.
Gypsydiana More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy sitting down and reading a Jane Austin book. I have read and re-read Sense and Sensibility many times through the years. I am excited to now have this book on my Nook and available to me with the push of a button. Jane Austin fans will understand this. If you haven't read this book ,you are missing a trip into a young woman's look of love in years gone by.
tafoot1 More than 1 year ago
Jane Austen only gifted us with a few books, but they are all stellar. Each should be required reading for anyone who who aspires to be or says he is a well-educated person. Sense and Sensibility shows the reader what life was like during Austen's time. The manners of the time, the role of inheritance (or lack thereof), inter- and intra-family relationships...all are so intricate and important for the time. Dive in, enjoy the characters, enjoy the slower pace...you'll be glad you did.
FanAR More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book, read many times. Great book!
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