Today we continue our series of posts on the illustrations made by Hugh Thompson for the Macmillan edition of Sense and Sensibility in the late nineteenth century. Do remember that they can all be enlarged , in order to examine the detail, merely by clicking on them.
In the first we see Marianne and Willoughby at the pianoforte, in Chapter 10:
Willoughby, on his side, gave every proof of his pleasure in their acquaintance, which an evident wish of improving it could offer. He came to them every day. To inquire after Marianne was at first his excuse; but the encouragement of his reception, to which every day gave greater kindness, made such an excuse unnecessary before it had ceased to be possible by Marianne’s perfect recovery. She was confined for some days to the house: but never had any confinement been less irksome. Willoughby was a young man of good abilities, quick imagination, lively spirits, and open, affectionate manners. He was exactly formed to engage Marianne’s heart; for, with all this, he joined not only a captivating person, but a natural ardour of mind, which was now roused and increased by the example of her own, and which recommended him to her affection beyond everything else.
His society became gradually her most exquisite enjoyment. They read, they talked, they sang together; his musical talents were considerable; and he read with all the sensibility and spirit which Edward had unfortunately wanted.
These illustrations, early in the book, are quite clever, for they do not give any indication of any real impropriety by Willoughby. He is depicted as a handsome, fashionably dressed fellow, clearly devoted to Marianne and their joint pursuits.
The next illustration, from Chapter 12, might send alarm bells ringing faintly in the reader attuned to Jane Austen’s moral code. Willoughby takes a lock of Marianne’s hair, an intimate action, suggesting that their relationship at the very least was on the verge of becoming formalised by an engagement, or indeed, that such an agreement had already been settled between them:
Margaret related something to her the next day, which placed this matter in a still clearer light. Willoughby had spent the preceding evening with them, and Margaret, being left some time in the parlour with only him and Marianne, had had opportunity for observations, which, with a most important face, she communicated to her eldest sister, when they were next by themselves.
“Oh! Elinor,” she cried, “I have such a secret to tell you about Marianne. I am sure she will be married to Mr. Willoughby very soon.”
“You have said so,” replied Elinor, “almost every day since they first met on High-church Down; and they had not known each other a week, I believe, before you were certain that Marianne wore his picture round her neck; but it turned out to be only the miniature of our great uncle.”
“But indeed this is quite another thing. I am sure they will be married very soon, for he has got a lock of her hair.”
“Take care, Margaret. It may be only the hair of some great uncle of his .”
“But indeed, Elinor, it is Marianne’s. I am almost sure it is, for I saw him cut it off. Last night after tea, when you and mama went out of the room, they were whispering and talking together as fast as could be, and he seemed to be begging something of her, and presently he took up her scissars and cut off a long lock of her hair, for it was all tumbled down her back; and he kissed it, and folded it up in a piece of white paper, and put it into his pocket-book.”
From such particulars, stated on such authority, Elinor could not withhold her credit: nor was she disposed to it, for the circumstance was in perfect unison with what she had heard and seen herself.
And now the alarm bells are beginning to ring even louder with the third of our illustrations today from Chapter 13. Here we have Mrs Jennings happily relating to all and sundry the rather surprising news that Marianne toured Allenham with Willoughby (without having first been introduced to Mrs Smith, the owner), contradicting their story that their day had been spent riding about the lanes in the countryside, after the visit to Whitwell had been cancelled:
It was settled that there should be a dance in the evening, and that everybody should be extremely merry all day long. Some more of the Careys came to dinner, and they had the pleasure of sitting down nearly twenty to table, which Sir John observed with great contentment. Willoughby took his usual place between the two elder Miss Dashwoods. Mrs. Jennings sat on Elinor’s right hand; and they had not been long seated, before she leant behind her and Willoughby, and said to Marianne, loud enough for them both to hear, “I have found you out in spite of all your tricks. I know where you spent the morning.”
Marianne coloured, and replied very hastily, “Where, pray?” —
“Did not you know,” said Willoughby, “that we had been out in my curricle?”
“Yes, yes, Mr. Impudence, I know that very well, and I was determined to find out where you had been to. I hope you like your house, Miss Marianne. It is a very large one I know, and when I come to see you, I hope you will have new-furnished it, for it wanted it very much, when I was there six years ago.”
Marianne turned away in great confusion. Mrs. Jennings laughed heartily; and Elinor found that in her resolution to know where they had been, she had actually made her own woman enquire of Mr. Willoughby’s groom, and that she had by that method been informed that they had gone to Allenham, and spent a considerable time there in walking about the garden and going all over the house.
Again this is another rather clever illustration: Thomson shows us only the backs of the figures of Marianne and Willoughby, but shows the wicked glee with which Mrs Jennings relates her gossip, and the startled nature of Elinor’s reaction( she is shown sitting next to Mrs Jennings, if I interpret this scene correctly).
Everyone in their circle is now assuming what Mrs Jennings is actually articulating, that Marianne and Willoughby must be engaged or on the very point of being so attached, for their behaviour suggests it. The alarm bells are now ringing loud and clear to the attuned reader. And, as a result of their disrespectful and deceitful behaviour, it is evident that Elinor is hearing them loudly and clearly too…