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Guest Post: The 200th Anniversary of Sense & Sensibility

Depending on how much you love Jane Austen and her books, you may already know this, but Sense & Sensibility turns 200 on October 30 and was her first published novel.

According to GoodReads:

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

While not my favorite of Austen’s work, it’s an accomplishment to have a novel still be well-known and popular among readers almost 200 years after publication. I’m sure many authors would be pleased to have such an accomplishment.

Today, Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of Mr. Darcy’s Bite, will share her thoughts on the 200th anniversary.  Please welcome Mary:

Hi, Serena. Thank you for having me back at Savvy Verse & Wit. It’s always a pleasure.

You asked me to write about the significance of the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and my reaction to it and Austen’s novel.

I recently took one of those online quizzes to see which Austen character I most resemble. As it turns out, I am Elinor Dashwood, the main protagonist in Sense and Sensibility. Even though I like Elinor, I have a lot of problems with this novel. I don’t think Edward Ferrars deserves Elinor, and I think Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon are poorly matched. I would like to strangle Lucy Steele and perform surgery on John Willoughby. Although Austen wraps up the story with a happily-ever-after ending for Marianne and Elinor, I don’t think that’s the way it would have played out in real life.

Having said all that, you can still appreciate Austen’s genius with her brilliant prose and delightful wit in this story of a family of four females trying to survive without a strong male presence in their lives. But it is mostly because of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s novel that it is now front and center (that and Emma Thompson’s 1995 brilliant film adaptation).

But in my opinion, Austen’s masterpiece is Pride and Prejudice. Like Edward Ferrars, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a flawed character, but because of his love for Elizabeth, Darcy evolves, recognizes his shortcomings, and becomes a man worthy of her love. It is because of these two strong characters that most of my stories are re-imaginings of Pride and Prejudice, including Mr. Darcy’s Bite. Although Darcy is a werewolf, it is primarily a love story. Obviously, there are difficulties when a loved one grows fur every four weeks, but our favorite couple is determined to climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every full moon until they find their dream.

I did write a short-story parody of Sense and Sensibility titled Elinor and Edward’s Plans for Lucy Steele in which Elinor doesn’t wait on Edward to make an offer of marriage. Instead, Elinor hops in the driver’s seat and drives the bus (or phaeton) herself. I wanted to shine some comedic light on a story that has a lot of darkness in it.

Every author hopes that with each succeeding work of fiction, they become a better writer. I certainly think that is true of Jane Austen. Although flawed, Sense and Sensibility is still a novel well worth reading. In fact, the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America is using this novel and Austen’s anniversary as the focus of their meeting in Fort Worth this month. It will be the main topic of conversation among hundreds of Jane Austen admirers now and for decades to come.

Thanks again, Serena, for having me.

Mary, it is always a pleasure to host you.

  • Celawerd

    I still have not read S&S; only P&P. haha

  • Great post from Mary. S&S is one I haven’t even tried reading. Maybe one day but you and Anna don’t seem all that enthused about it so maybe not. Lol.

    • I think I may have been too young when I read it. I’ll give it another shot someday.

  • Hi Serena. Thank you for having me back at Savvy, Verse & Wit. It seems that others find reading S&S hard going. One of the main problems is how the female characters have to sit and wait for events to come to them. That is not something most modern women could or would do. It happens to Jane Bennet in P&P, but we would never expect it to happen to Lizzy. I think Elinor Dashwood is too reticent for most modern tastes, and like you said, Marianne makes you crazy. But if she were alive today, she would still be in high school. Most of us were drama queens in our teens. Mary

    • Mary, fine point. Marianne would have still been in high school…but I wasn’t that dramatic…I hope. LOL

      • Mary Simonsen

        Serena, As a rule, I wasn’t that dramatic, but I did have my moments. I also had a sister who could have won an Oscar for some of her performances. Don’t get me started on some of my classmates. 🙂

        • Trust me, there were some real drama queens in my high school. No siblings here to report on.

  • Sense & Sensibility is the only book of Austen’s that I didn’t enjoy. It was kind of tough to get through, actually, so I think maybe I should reread it now that it has been a few years to see whether my opinion has changed.

    • I had a hard time getting through S&S the first time I read it to, which is part of my reluctance to reread it now…but some day. P&P is my favorite, but Anna thinks my opinion will change once I’ve read Persuasion.

  • I started re-reading S&S a couple of months ago but I’ve put it down to read other things. It’s not my favorite Austen either, but I’m glad I can appreciate it.

    • I’ll have to read it again at some point, but I’m not feeling it now.

  • I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I’ve only read a few of Austen’s books. It’s good to know it improved as time went on.

    • This is one of my least favorites; I think Marianne just drove me crazy. On another note, I have noticed that some books do improve over time…like a classic read in your teenage years gains your appreciation if you read it again later in life. Maybe I should take my own advice and read S&S again.