It is not a fact, but I have read that we can be reasonably certain Sense and Sensibility (and/or perhaps Pride and Prejudice) were first written in epistolary form - or in letters - like the rest of Jane Austen's earlier works. I was thinking it might be interesting to imagine what Sense and Sensibility would be like written in epistolary form. So, Miss Dashwood and I together have written 4 letters, and I will also mention a few already in the book so you can see easily in what part of the story we are. The letters are from chapter 29, if you want to read the whole of them.
Elinor and Marianne* by Jane Austen, Melody, and Miss Dashwood (Oh, that was fun to write)
*This was the original title
Marianne to Willoughby
"How surprised you will be, Willoughby, on receiving this; and I think you will feel something more than surprise, when you know that I am in town. ..."
From the same to the same
"I cannot express my disappointment in having missed you the day before yesterday, nor my astonishment at not having received any answer to a note which I sent you above a week ago. ..."
Margaret Dashwood to her sisters
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Marianne to Willoughby
"What am I to imagine, Willoughby, by your behaviour last night? ... I have passed a wretched night in endeavouring to excuse a conduct which can scarcely be called less than insulting;..."
Willoughby to Marianne
"My dear madam,
I have just had the honour of receiving your letter, for which I beg to return my sincere acknowledgments. I am much concerned to find that there was anything in my behaviour last night that did not meet your approbation;..."
Mrs Jennings to Mrs Dashwood
My dear Mrs Dashwood,
Such a monstrous shocking thing has occurred! I barely know how to tell you! But indeed I must, for your dear Elinor is too busy attending to our damsel in distress, and you must not be kept in the dark upon the subject.
This morning a letter came for Miss Marianne. She ran out of the room directly, and we all knew it must be from Mr. Willoughby. (I can barely write the name! But I must continue.) I thought it was a good joke and said I hoped Miss Marianne would find the letter to her liking. I would not have teased her for the world, had I known. I then spoke to Miss Dashwood of their engagement and hoped he would not keep her waiting much longer, for she has been looking so ill and forlorn, poor girl! Miss Dashwood, bless her, begged me to stop thinking about such things and especially talking about them. She said nothing would surprise her more than to hear that they were to be married. I did not believe her.
Well, when I was out today I happened upon Mrs Taylor, who told me the most shocking thing! Mr Willoughby is to be married very soon to a Miss Grey, a young lady with fifty thousand pounds! Good for nothing fellow! I have no patience with him. I would not have believed this story, but that Mrs Taylor had heard it from a friend of Miss Grey herself. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘all I can say is, that if this be true, he has used a young lady of my acquaintance abominably ill, and I wish with all my soul his wife may plague his heart out.’ And so I shall always say, you may depend upon it. I have no notion of men’s going on in this way; and if I ever meet him again, I will give him such a dressing as he has not had this many a day.
There is one comfort for my dear Miss Marianne: he is not the only young man in the world worth having; and with her pretty face she will never want admirers.
Alas! Poor thing! She seems to be comforted by nothing. Well, the Parrys and Sandersons are luckily coming tonight, and that will amuse her.
I must close now; I daresay Miss Dashwood will write you soon enough with the particulars. She does not know that I am writing.
Do not concern yourself too much, my dear Mrs Dashwood, for we are doing the best for Marianne as can be done, I am sure.
Mrs. S. JenningsLETTER SEVEN
Elinor to Mrs Dashwood
Berkeley Street, January
My dear Mamma,
Marianne received your kind letter a little while ago, though I regret to observe that it was quite ill-timed – through no fault of your own – in its assurances of Willoughby’s constancy; however, it prompts and reminds me to write you with the appalling particulars of the last two days.
Two nights ago Marianne and I accompanied Lady Middleton to a party. Marianne was not in good spirits, as has been the case ever since her initial disappointment by not seeing Willoughby as soon as we arrived in London. It was crowded and hot, and there was nothing to do but to sit down while Lady Middleton was at cards. We had not been there long before I observed none but Willoughby standing within a few yards of us. He caught my eye, but turned immediately back to his companion – a very fashionable looking young woman – after bowing. I was of course taken aback, and looked immediately at Marianne to determine whether she had yet noticed him; at that moment she did. Her whole countenance glowed with a sudden delight, and she would have moved toward him instantly, had I not caught her arm.
“Good heavens!” she exclaimed, "he is there—he is there—Oh! why does he not look at me? why cannot I speak to him?"
I begged her to be composed and not betray what she felt to everyone present. I said perhaps he had not observed her yet, though I did not myself believe it.
To be composed at such a moment was not only beyond the reach of Marianne, it was beyond her wish; an agony of impatience affected her every feature.
At last he turned round and regarded us both. Marianne started up, pronounced his name affectionately, and held out her hand to him. He approached, and addressing himself rather to myself than Marianne, as if wishing to avoid her eye, and determined not to observe her attitude, inquired in a hurried manner after you, Mamma, and asked how long we had been in town. I was robbed of all presence of mind by such an address, and was unable to say a word. But the feelings of my sister were instantly expressed. Her face was crimsoned over, and she exclaimed, in a voice of the greatest emotion, "Willoughby, what is the meaning of this? Have you not received my letters? Will you not shake hands with me?"
He could not then avoid it, but her touch seemed painful to him, and he held her hand only for a moment. During all this time he was evidently struggling for composure. His expression became more tranquil. After a moment’s pause, he spoke with calmness.
“I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley Street last Tuesday, and very much regretted that I was not fortunate enough to find yourselves and Mrs. Jennings at home.”
“But have you not received my notes?” cried Marianne in the wildest anxiety. “Here is some mistake. I am sure—some dreadful mistake. What can be the meaning of it? Tell me, Willoughby, for heaven’s sake, tell me what is the matter!”
All his embarrassment returned, but catching the eye of the young lady with whom he had been previously talking, he said “Yes, I had the pleasure of receiving the information of your arrival in town, which you were so good as to send me” and turned hastily away to rejoin his friend.
Marianne, dreadfully white, sunk into her chair and I expected at every moment to see her faint. She entreated me to go to him, and tell him that she must speak to him again—that there must be some dreadful misapprehension. I told her it was not the place for explanations.
Willoughby soon afterwards quitted the room, and we appealed to Lady Middleton to be taken home immediately. She obliged us.
Before the servants were up the next morning I saw Marianne, only half-dressed, kneeling against one of the window-seats for the sake of all the little light she could command from it, and writing as fast as a continual flow of tears would permit her. She entreated me to ask her nothing, not to speak a word. At breakfast I attempted to distract Mrs. Jennings from noticing Marianne’s state of agitation. Just as breakfast was over, the servant brought in a letter which Marianne snatched up and ran out of the room with. Mrs. Jennings, knowing only in part what was going on, teased about their engagement after Marianne had left the room. I do wish she hadn’t made Marianne’s affairs a subject for gossip.
I soon followed my sister into our room and found her stretched on the bed, almost choked by grief, one letter in her hand, and two or three others laying by her. I found myself crying too; at first scarcely less violently than Marianne. She put all the letters into my hands and almost screamed with agony. I waited until her excess of suffering had somewhat spent itself, and then turned eagerly to Willoughby’s letter (the others were her own), which I read with every indignation. Though aware, before I began it, that it must bring a confession of his inconstancy, and confirm their separation for ever, I was not aware that such language could be suffered to announce it; nor could I have supposed Willoughby capable of departing so far from the appearance of ever honourable and delicate feeling—so far from the common decorum of a gentleman, as to send a letter so impudently cruel: a letter which, instead of bringing with his desire of a release any professions of regret, acknowledged no breach of faith, denied all peculiar affection whatever—a letter of which every line was an insult, and which proclaimed its writer to be deep in hardened villainy. He said his affections had been long engaged elsewhere, and that it would not be long until the engagement was fulfilled.
You may imagine every degree of grief and suffering and misery, and apply it to Marianne at that moment. I endeavoured to comfort her, begged her to exert herself; to no avail. Some time passed and then Mrs Jennings came back. She had just been talking to an acquaintance who knew about Willoughby’s fiancé. I discovered from Mrs. Jennings last night that she is a woman of great fortune and that Willoughby’s financial situation is ‘all in pieces’ and that her fortune will not ‘come before it’s wanted’.
To my surprise Marianne came down for dinner last night, even though there was company; she left the room soon afterwards though, and I convinced her to go to bed. She has been so negligent of her health; not eating, not sleeping; I have been concerned for her health. She slept more last night than I expected her to, and ate more at dinner; but I do not know how long it will last.
And now, dearest Mamma, I must ask you what should be done next. Marianne is desperate to be at home, to be with you; but what of leaving Mrs Jennings so soon? And I cannot determine whether it would be best for Marianne to travel home, or to stay in London. She has agreed to wait until your wishes can be known. Pray write soon with your opinion.
Until then, I remain,
Your affectionate daughter,
Elinor DashwoodLETTER NINE
Mrs Dashwood to Elinor
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