Let us resume our series looking in depth at Hugh Thompson’s illustrations for the Macmillan edition of Sense and Sensibility. We are nearing the end of this series and then will continue looking at other illustrated editions of Sense and Sensibility, in order to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its first publication. Do remember that all the illustrations can be enlarged simply by clicking on them, in order to examine the detail.
Our first illustration this week is from Chapter 36, and shows the point when poor Elinor is introduced to Robert Ferrars by her half brother, John Dashwood, and Elinor recognises him to be the dandy who was ordering a fancy toothpick holder at Greys, the jewellers in Sackville Street. This gave her her first opportunity to compare Edward with his younger brother. The comparisons she drew were not very flattering to Mr Robert:
Mr. Dashwood introduced him to her as Mr. Robert Ferrars.
He addressed her with easy civility, and twisted his head into a bow which assured her as plainly as words could have done, that he was exactly the coxcomb she had heard him described to be by Lucy. Happy had it been for her if her regard for Edward had depended less on his own merit, than on the merit of his nearest relations! For then his brothers bow must have given the finishing stroke to what the ill-humour of his mother and sister would have begun. But while she wondered at the difference of the two young men, she did not find that the emptiness and conceit of the one, put her at all out of charity with the modesty and worth of the other. Why they were different, Robert explained to her himself in the course of a quarter of an hour’s conversation; for, talking of his brother, and lamenting the extreme gaucherie which he really believed kept him from mixing in proper society, he candidly and generously attributed it much less to any natural deficiency, than to the misfortune of a private education; while he himself, though probably without any particular, any material superiority by nature, merely from the advantage of a public school, was as well fitted to mix in the world as any other man.
The body language is quite fascinating in this picture: John Dashwood is portrayed as extremely proud and sensible of the great compliment he is paying to Elinor by introducing the “fabulous family favourite”, Robert to her. Robert is hardly making a “scrape” , the insolent fool that he is, and Elinor is very glad to be hiding behind her fan….
Note that this illustration was used as the page facing the frontispiece of my edition, and is therefore edged in red ink, unlike the other illustrations, in order to fit in with the design of those two pages.
Our next illustration is from Chapter 37, and shows the moment Mrs Jennings is made aware, by Mr Donovan, Mrs Palmer’s surgeon that Mrs Fanny Dashwood was ill due to shock brought on by her discovery Lucy and Edward’s secret engagement:
So then it all came out; and the long and the short of the matter, by all I can learn, seems to be [this]: — Mr. Edward Ferrars, the very young man I used to joke with you about (but, however, as it turns out, I am monstrous glad there never was any thing in it), Mr. Edward Ferrars, it seems, has been engaged above this twelvemonth to my cousin Lucy! — There’s for you, my dear! — And not a creature knowing a syllable of the matter except Nancy! — Could you have believed such a thing possible? — There is no great wonder in their liking one another; but that matters should be brought so forward between them, and nobody suspect it!
What price patient confidentiality?!! How times have changed. I love Mrs Jennings stance in this illustration. She seems to have stopped in mid movement, hardly able to belive what Mr Donovan is telling her.
The next illustration, again from Chapter 37 continues this part of the story: it shows John Dashwood calling on Elinor and Marianne to tell them of Lucy’s perfidy:
“Your sister,” he continued, “has suffered dreadfully. Mrs. Ferrars too — in short, it has been a scene of such complicated distress; but I will hope that the storm may be weathered without our being, any of us, quite overcome. Poor Fanny! she was in hysterics all yesterday. But I would not alarm you too much. Donavan says there is nothing materially to be apprehended; her constitution is a good one, and her resolution equal to anything. She has borne it all, with the fortitude of an angel! She says she never shall think well of anybody again; and one cannot wonder at it, after being so deceived! — meeting with such ingratitude, where so much kindness had been shewn, so much confidence had been placed! It was quite out of the benevolence of her heart, that she had asked these young women to her house; merely because she thought they deserved some attention, were harmless, well-behaved girls, and would be pleasant companions; for otherwise we both wished very much to have invited you and Marianne to be with us, while your kind friend there was attending her daughter. And now to be so rewarded! ‘I wish with all my heart,’ says poor Fanny in her affectionate way, ‘that we had asked your sisters instead of them.'”
Here we have John Dashwood being so self important, and so very serious. Can you just see that in his stance? So indignant ! Taking Mrs Ferrars side in her stupid and crude attempts to force Edward’s hand with the prospect of an estate in Norfolk if he would renounce Lucy and marry Miss Moreton, then in the end preparing to disinherit Edward to the benefit of Robert, who was after all her favourite son:
“Well!” said Mrs. Jennings, “that is her revenge. Everybody has a way of their own. But I don’t think mine would be to make one son independent because another had plagued me.”
Our fourth and final illustration this week, again from Chapter 37, is of news related to us by John Dashwood:
“If he would only have done as well by himself,” said John Dashwood, “as all his friends were disposed to do by him, he might now have been in his proper situation, and would have wanted for nothing. But as it is, it must be out of anybody’s power to assist him. And there is one thing more preparing against him, which must be worse than all — his mother has determined, with a very natural kind of spirit, to settle thatestate upon Robert immediately, which might have been Edward’s on proper conditions. I left her this morning with her lawyer, talking over the business.”
It shows the dreadful Mrs Ferrars in conversation with her attorney, cutting Edward out of the Ferrars family fortune, which she was well able to do, having been left her husbands estates and interests without any legal fetters:
As a lawyer myself I recognise the expression on the attorney’s face…how to do all Mrs Ferrars bidding and wonderful if he had really explained all to her, and that once it was given away legally she could not change her mind etc……
We have three more posts left in the series. I promise that I will post one each week over the next three weeks,and apologise that other matters have taken precedence recently.