Sense and Sensibility was the first published of Jane Austen's novels. Composition was begun perhaps as early as 1795 (some authorities suggest a year or two later). What is certain is that the novel was published in November 1811, on commission (that is, the author paying for the production costs, in return for a larger
share of profit) by the London publisher Thomas Egerton. Austen began negotiations with Egerton (with her brother Henry as her intermediary) in 1810. While the manuscript was still in her hands, she made some updating references (to Scott's being a popular poet, for example). The first edition of Sense and Sensibility was obviously successful, a second edition appearing in November 1813.
Much may have happened between the novel's conception, composition, and belated publication. No manuscript and little other primary evidence remains. It was begun as an epistolary work (that is, a novel narrated in letters), originally entitled 'Elinor and Marianne', and read to the Austen family in 1795. It
was reorganized as a third-person narrative (with Elinor as principal centre of consciousness and Austen's narrative voice) probably in 1797. The work was then in hand for more than a decade - at which point Austen already had Pride and Prejudice ready for publication.
It is significant that Jane Austen was 19 (Elinor's age, and the age at which Marianne marries) when she began to write the story. The author, that is to say, was herself passing through the years which are at the centre of the narrative.
It is not easy to locate the exact historical time period of Sense and Sensibility. Is it a 1790s novel, or a Regency novel? There is, even by Austen's standards, an absence of helpful historical markers. None the less, the balance of evidence seems to point to the 1790s rather than the Regency. The references, for example, to Marianne's curls being 'all tumbled down her back', and 'the pin in her ladyship's head dress' scratching little Annamaria when Lady Middleton cuddles her—recall hairstyles of the earlier period. Ten or fifteen years later, Lady Middleton would have been wearing a cap, not a head-dress; and it is likely that
Marianne's curls would have been lifted up into a ponytail style, rather than falling down loose. A reference in passing to a needlebook 'made by emigrants' also implies the 1790s
Sense and Sensibility: Questions
Level One: Brass Tacks
I/ I Under what circumstances did the Henry Dash wood family move in with Henry's uncle, old Mr Dashwood?
I/2 How much money do the Dashwood women have between them, and how much do each of the three daughters individually possess?
1/3 How much does the Norland estate yield annually to its new owner, Mr John Dashwood?
1/4 Mr John Dash wood's first intention was to honour his father's deathbed wish by giving his half-sisters £3,000. How much, after being persuaded by his mercenary wife on the matter, does he finally resolve to give them? And how much does he actually come across with?
1/5 What is the largest and most cumbersome object the Dashwood ladies have to transport to Barton Cottage?
1/6 In which month of the year do the Dashwood ladies arrive at Barton Park?1/7 What is Sir John's favourite term for handsome young girls (for whom he clearly has an eye)?
1/8 Mrs Jennings is a widow with 'an ample jointure'. What is that?
1/9 What is Willoughby, a Somersetshire man, doing in Devon?
1/10 What word sums up Lady Middleton?
I/I I Where do the Miss Careys live?
1/12 What time of day (according to Sir John Middleton) does Willoughby usually rise in the morning?
1/13 Who, apart from Marianne, is Willoughby's 'inseparable companion' at Barton Cottage?
1/14 Where does Edward Ferrars stay when he comes to Devon and where does his horse stay?
1/15 Mrs Ferrars has been trying to push Edward into taking up a profession. What has she suggested, what are his objections, and what does he eventually do, at the end of the novel?
1/16 What is the epithet most accurately applied to Charlotte Palmer?
1/17 Who (before Elinor is spitefully told) is the only other person who knows about the secret engagement of Lucy and Edward?
1/18 How much does the public postal service, for a letter, cost in the world of Sense and Sensibility?
1/19 What is Mrs Jennings's 'favourite meal'?
1/20 What is given Marianne to relieve her 'hysteria', in the extremity of her disappointed love?
1/21 Whom does Mrs Ferrars intend her son, Edward, to marry, and how much is the young lady worth?
1/22 Who is the taller child, William Middleton or Harry Dash wood?
1/23 How, when she visits him at Cleveland, does Elinor find Mr Thomas Palmer changed?
1/24 What are Willoughby's last words to Elinor?
1/25 What is the only fly in the ointment for Edward and Elinor in the vicarage at Delaford?
Check answers on this blog in the following days . If you score over 15 you can proceed to Level Two ('Factual but Tricky' questions). If you scored over 10 but under 15, skim the novel again. Over 5 but under 10, reread the novel. Under 5, ...............watch TV!
The information and the questions in this book are taken from John Sutherland and Deirdre LeFaye, So You Think You Know Jane Austen, A Literary Quizbook , 2005