Saturday, 20 August 2011

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY BICENTENARY CELEBRATION : SETTLING FOR THE COMPROMISE MARRIAGE. GUESTPOST BY REGINA JEFFERS + GIVEAWAY

This month's guestblog to celebrate the bicentenary of Sense and Sensibility (1811 - 2011)  is by Regina Jeffers and is about the idea of a "compromise marriage" in Jane Austen's world and novels, with special reference to the Daswood sisters. 
This month's giveaway is  of a signed copy of Regina Jeffer's latest publication, "The Scandal of Lady Eleanor". The details of the giveaway can be found at the end of this post. 
You can read all the guestposts in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration following the links you'll find HERE.
Enjoy Regina's post and join the discussion!


Settling for the Comprise Marriage

What hope was there for the dowerless daughters of the middle class during Jane Austen’s lifetime? Such is a topic Austen explored repeatedly in her novels. Elizabeth and Jane Bennet sought men of a like mind. The Dashwood sisters found their choices limited by their financial situation. Fanny Harville and Captain Benwick could not marry until he earned his future. General Tilney drove Catherine Morland from his home because of the lady’s lack of funds. Charlotte Lucas accepted Mr. Collins as her last opportunity for a respectable match. The intricacies and tedium of high society, particularly of partner selection, and the conflicts of marriage for love and marriage for property are repeated themes.
Watercolour painting by Jane Odiwe
 Marriage provided women with financial security. Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey explains, “… in both [marriage and a country dance], man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal: that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each.” Women of Austen’s gentry class had no legal identity. No matter how clever the woman might be, finding a husband was the only option. A woman could not buy property or write a will without her husband’s approval. If a woman was fortunate, she would bring to her marriage a settlement – money secured for her when she came of age – usually an inheritance from her mother. The oldest son or male heir received the family estate, and the unmarried or widowed females lived on his kindness. The ladies of Sense and Sensibility have this reality thrust upon them when Uncle Dashwood changes his will and leaves Norland to his grandnephew. In Uncle Dashwood’s thinking, this change will keep Norland in the Dashwood family. However, the four Dashwood ladies suddenly find themselves living in a modest cottage with an income of £500 annually. As such, they have no occasion for visits to London unless someone else assumes the expenses. Their social circle shrinks, and the opportunities to meet eligible suitors becomes nearly non-existent. With dowries of £1000 each, the Dashwood sisters are not likely to attract a man, who will improve their lots. Jane Austen, herself, lived quite modestly. The Austens lived frugally among the country gentry. The Austen sisters were well educated by the standards of the day, but without chances for dowries, Jane and Cassandra possessed limited prospects. Jane met a Mr. Blackall the year Cassandra lost her Mr. Fowle. In a letter, Blackall expressed to Mrs. Lefroy a desire to know Jane better; yet, he confided, “But at present I cannot indulge any expectation of it.” To which, Jane Austen responded, “This is rational enough. There is less love and more sense in it than sometimes appeared before, and I am very well satisfied.” Imperfect opportunities were Jane Austen’s reality. In 1802, Jane Austen accepted an offer of marriage from Harris Bigg. With this marriage, Jane would have become the mistress of Manydown.
Yet, despite her affection for the family, Austen could not deceive Bigg. The following morning, she refused the man’s proposal. Whether she thought to some day find another or whether Austen accepted the fact that her refusal doomed her to a life as a spinster, we shall never know. In the “limited” world in which Jane Austen lived, she could not have known her eventual influence on the literary canon. Austen held personal knowledge of young women seeking husbands in one of the British colonies. Reverend Austen’s sister, Philadelphia, traveled to India in 1752, where she married an English surgeon Tysoe Hancock, a man twenty years her senior. When the Hancocks returned to England a decade later, Reverend Austen traveled to London to greet his sister. However, Philadelphia and Tysoe were not to live “happily ever after.” Unable to support his family in proper English style, Tysoe returned to India to make his living. He never saw his wife and child again. Despite its tragic ending, this “marriage” secured Philadelphia’s future and the lady’s place in society. Only marriage could offer a woman respectability. 
 In Jane Austen for Dummies (page 134), Joan Klingel Ray breaks down the financial prospects of the Dashwood sisters. Converting the £500 to a modern equivalent, Ray comes out with a figure of $46,875. For the gentry, supporting four women, two maids, a man servant, paying rent, buying clothes, food, coal, etc., that sum would have meant a poor existence. I find in reading Sense and Sensibility that I am often disappointed with the eventual choices of the Dashwood sisters. Edward Ferras and Colonel Brandon have less of the “glitz and the glamour” that my innate Cinderella syndrome requires in a love match. However, if any affection did exist between the couples, then Marianne and Elinor, under the circumstances and the times, made brilliant matches. They settled for the “compromise” marriage common in the Regency era.

About the author: 
Regina Jeffers is the author of several Jane Austen adaptations, as well as Regency romance, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, The Phantom of Pemberley, and The Scandal of Lady Eleanor. She considers herself a Janeite and spends much of her free time with the Jane Austen Society of North America and AustenAuthors.net. A teacher for 39 years, Regina Jeffers is a Time Warner Star Teacher Award winner, a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, a Columbus Educator Award winner, and a guest panelist for the Smithsonian. She has served on various national educational committees and is often sought as a media literacy consultant.

Giveaway time!!!

Leave your comment + your e-mail address
 to win a signed copy of 
 "The Scandal of Lady Eleanor" ,  Regina Jeffers latest publication. 
The giveaway is open internationally and ends August 31st. 

About the book

The Scandal of Lady Eleanor is a sweep-the-reader-away story of romance, adventure, and intrigue set in the Jane Austen era.
A master at capturing the elegance, grandeur, and literary style of the Regency era, Regina Jeffers has developed a loyal following with her many popular Jane Austen spin-off novels. In The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, Jeffers offers a completely original Regency romance featuring highly engaging characters and exciting—even shocking—plot twists. James Kerrington, a future Earl and a key member of the British government’s secret unit, the Realm, never expected to find love again after the loss of his beloved wife. Kerrington’s world shifts on its axis when Eleanor Fowler stumbles into his arms. Eleanor, however, is hiding a deep secret: she had hoped the death of her father, the Duke William Fowler, would give her family a chance at redemption from the dark past, but when Sir Louis Levering proves her father’s debauchery, Eleanor is thrown into a web of immorality and blackmail. Kerrington and his friends must free Eleanor from Levering’s diabolic hold.

29 comments:

Farida Mestek said...

Hi! Thank you very much for your post! I really liked it. However, I have to disagree with your opinion about Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon. I find them both quite interesting characters and, most importantly, someone you can count on and be comfortable with. They are shy but strong, intelligent and steadfast and Colonel's life at least was quite interesting and tragic - something that must have charmed Marianne in the end.

Your books sounds very interesting! I'd like to have a chance to win it!

faridamestek@yahoo.com

Regina Jeffers said...

Farida, although Edward appears to have a kind heart, I have never felt that Elinor should be with Edward. She is superior to him in intelligence and understanding. However, that does not mean I dislike the characters, I simply wonder whether they are an ideal match. With Darcy and Elizabeth, Wentworth and Anne, and Tilney and Catherine, I felt a ying-yang connections. Not so, with the couples in S&S. Perhaps, Austen learned to sustain the tension better as she wrote and reworked her novels. We all do. With Col. Brandon, I preferred the character Emma Thompson created in the film to the one on paper. Thompson gave Alan Rickman's character some of Willoughby's characteristics. This made him more complex and a better foil for Willoughby's deceit. However, this only my opinion. It is okay to disagree.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

I must agree with Regina,but maybe this depend on how Jane Austen has depicted them. I've always noticed the lack of a strong characterization (let's say psichological depth) in Austen's portrayal of both Edward and Brandon. They remain vague, as if their portraits were just a sketches. Though he is the villain in S&S, Willoughby's character is much better characterized. Just my humble opinion. Thanks to Regina for being my guest and for contributing such an interesting piece.

Debbie Brown said...

Thanks for the interesting article. I enjoyed it greatly. I have too much on my stack of books right now, so to be fair, don't enter me. I just wanted to say that I enjoyed it.

amy52705 said...

Hi! I really enjoyed reading your post. I must say that I agree with regina that I was disappointed with the Dashwood's choices. Edward had promise in the beginning but then i found by the end I didn't like him as much.
Thanks!
amy52705@yahoo.com

marilyn said...

The post was most interesting to me as I am a fairly new Jane Austen reader. I want to learn as much as I can about her, her characters, and the daily life when she wrote. I am sure your book would add to my knowledge and appreciate the opportunity to obtain a copy.
daniel423@centurytel.net

Farah Khan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Farah Khan said...

I like both the leading men of Sense and Sensibility though Mr. Ferrars is my favorite but I have to agree that Mr. Ferrars was not right for Elinor because he was very much dependant on the will and commands of his mother and sister. A gentleman is ought to have power in his own hands to make decisions for himself. Though Colonel Brandon was fine for Marrianne but she was quiet different from him so Colonel Brandon should have married Elinor.

And I really loved the illustration of the Dashwood Sisters by Jane Odiwe.(;

mbreakfield said...

I agree about Edward and Colonel Brandon, especially Edward, who seemed a little wishy-washy to me. thanks for the interesting article
marlenebreakfield(at)yahoo(dot)com

Trez said...

I agree about Ferras and Brandon as well. When you compare them to other Jane Austen novels it certainly doesn't seem like there is as much compassion. I always felt that Marianne settled for Brandon because she new that was all there was :( Love your writing Regina and I must add that it's always a treat to see Jane Odiwe's artwork :)

Trez said...

I am sorry I meant to say passion, not compassion. Oops!

Farida Mestek said...

I don't know. I still don't agree. I think you look at Edward and Colonel Brandon with too modern an eye. Edward lead an idle life of an average gentleman, however, he stood up to his mother and refused to break off an engagement even though he didn't love the woman any more. He knew that he would be cut by his family, his fortune would be greatly diminished and, most importantly, he knew that his mother's order was an ideal pretext to put an end to such an engagement, yet his sense of honour did not allow him to do it. He is quite independent - as far as one could be in Regency England and by the time he met Elinor, he knew exactly what he wanted. The outcome of the novel is very typical of the time, quite realistic, and, after all, that's what Jane Austen is all about.

maribea said...

Hi think that with Edward and Brandon Jane wanted to convey a message more than a complete picture of a character. And the message is: look at the heart, look at the actions not at the face of people. Both Edward and Brandon are human, they are not flawless but they are the paradigm of a true gentleman: they are loyal, they are constant, they are faithful...
maribea@tiscali.it

Regina Jeffers said...

Elinor subjugates her personal desires for her family's well being throughout the book. She is the "glue" that holds everyone together. I guess I always wanted to see her experience life to its fullest just once. As a clergyman's wife, that is not likely to occur. Call it my Cinderella syndrome...

Claudia said...

Thank you, Regina, for this complete essay about such an essential topic in the Regency Era. It's always useful to point up how hard was for a woman to find her place and identity in a world that didn't concede any indipendence. I'm astonished every time I think that even a rich woman could not manage her own money! And for the discussion above... I think Col. Brandon would have been Marianne's choice, anyway.

Claudia said...

Sorry, I forgot my email address...

claudiagaggioli@virgilio.it

Thanks for the giveaway :)

maribea said...

Elinor and Edward shared the same love for simple life...this is what brought them together since the beginning of their acquaintances. It is not right that Edward should lose his fortune in favour of his ugly brother..but I don't think that Elinor considered herself unhappy because she was a clergyman's wife. After all, Jane was a clergyman's daughter!!!and she cherished her life.

shannonwinslow said...

Interesting post followed by a very lively debate! I was tracking with you all through your article, Regina. Right up until the end. Your final statement took me by surprise. It's been my belief that Jane Austen never allowed any of her heroines to settle for a "compromise" in marriage. The men they marry may not all be as rich as Darcy, but they are the men they love. And that's the main point. They refuse the safe "compromise" of the practical solution to their problem (taken by Charlotte Lucas), and hold out for a love match. The life of a clergyman's wife may not be what you would have wished for Elinor, but it is what she wished for herself.

Regina Jeffers said...

The point, Shannon, is that they did accept what seemed to them to be the best choice at the time. Marriage of any sort is a "compromise." We give a bit, and we take a bit. If a woman of the Regency period was fortunate, she would not have to "compromise" her whole being for the sake of marriage.

maribea said...

What a nice and interesting debate! Of course, I do agree with you, Regina. Women had but one choice: to marry and marry well. But as shannos pointed out, it is amazing how modern and strong-willed Jane was and made her heroines to be. They never chose the easy way...they do the best that they can with what they have. Of course, they choose marriage but they choose to follow their hearts and inclinations. We do the same nowadays...we all are daughters and sons of our time and accept compromises...everyday. This does not mean that we are not unique and special. We are free human being and we do the best with what we have. This is the reason why I love Jane Austen: we start speaking about her novels and end up learning something about ourselves.

stiletto storytime said...

Wonderful post and such a great discussion going on as well. I myself have always been a Col. Brandon fan but I do agree on the Edward stance that in many ways he did come off as inferior to Eleanor and not quite what one might have wished. However as we are told again and again Elinor was older and had "lost her bloom"...perhaps she was considered lucky to be marrying at all and therefore it was not considered necessary that she and Edward have their love justified or explained as much as Marianne's love affairs since she was younger and therefore more sought after. It's interesting after reading your post..the way it sheds light on some things and makes me think differently about others. Thanks again for it.

Courtney
stilettostorytime at gmail dot com

Margaret said...

This sounds like a very interesting book! I would love to read it! Thank you for the giveaway!

Margaret
singitm@hotmail.com

Regina Jeffers said...

Some women did defy the "rules" of marriage. Take Lady Caroline Lamb, for example. She flaunted her affair with Lord Byron. True, she knew some ostracism, but even her husband offered his support, and people still bought her books.

Regina Jeffers said...

A person could also look at Lady Hester Stanhope. She was the daughter of Lord Mahon and the elder Pitt's daughter Hester. Her mother died after delivering three daughters, and Mahon married Louisa Grenville. Lady Louisa had 3 sons, and then left her husband behind in the country to take part in Society. Lady Hester had few female friends, but she counted Beau Brummel and the Royal Princes as "friends." She didn't care for the Prince of Wales, but the Duke of York remained a loyal friend over the years. For many years, she lived with William Pitt after Lady Chatham's (her grandmother) passing. Pitt was her 44-year-old uncle. He had never been married and was known for his hard drinking. Hester served as his "Political Hostess." After Pitt's death, she had a long affair with Michael Bruce, who was 12 years her junior. She wrote "A man in no age has ever suffered in the public opinion of his intimacy with a woman who had his real interests at heart." She traveled through worn-torn Europe during the Napoleonic era. Because she was a fallen woman in England, she decided to settle in the Middle East, making a home at the foot of Mt. Lebanon.

Emily C. A. Snyder said...

Hello - what an excellent and well presented article. Thank you! (And congratulations on your original Regency novel - it sounds most promising!)

I will agree that I've always felt Marianne "compromised" herself in marrying Col. Brandon - although he had significant wealth and even more significant affection for her. However, I feel that between Elinor and Mr. Ferrars there was always a level of understanding and mutual affection that was happy to live poorly - rather like Fanny and her reverend.

I agree that the majority of Austen's *heroines* do not settle for compromise marriages, but put themselves into possible financial (or temporal) ruin - such as Anne, Fanny, and Lizzy. Only Marianne runs mad with her attempts and unguarded independence, and suffers the emotional consequence. But Austen said (sorry, been indulging in MP quite a bit!) that "marriage was a maneuvering business," and I think that opinion is reflected in the majority of the WOMEN (not necessarily heroines) in her story. Charlotte Lucas, Maria Bertram, even Harriet in "Emma."

Regina, as for your desire for glitzy men for her Cinderellas (a sentiment I share!), it's interesting to see that Frank Churchill is all glitz, and yet puts his Cinderella through some ridiculous and unthoughtful distress! He's more like Marianne to me, and Austen's cure seems to be the same: sense to equal out sensibility.

Regina Jeffers said...

Emily, it is separating the wheat when choosing a man. One must throw caution to the wind. LOL!!! Wickham is very much like Frank Chuchill - all glitz and no matter.

Amanda said...

Oh I love a good adventure/romance - especially a Regency one! Thanks!

Amanda
libraryofmyown at gmail dot com

Amanda said...

PS, wonderful post! I have to admit - and please don't tell my wonderful husband - that I'd probably would have "settled" back then. I'd probably have held out for a bit but wow - what choices or lack of women had back then. Choosing to be a burden on my family, an old maid, a poor spinster, or a number of awful outcomes - I would have settled for someone who could provide and whom I could hopefully respect. Such a difference the ability to make a living (own property, etc) enables us to do!

Regina Jeffers said...

Amanda, for the modern woman, she is likely to not even consider marriage until her mid-20s. In Regency time, a woman of that age would be well on the shelf and becoming a spinster. There were few opportunities for those of the genteel set to meet. Most women of Austen's economic background did not experience a Season. Even in London, the rules of "conduct" were so strict. It was a good thing that divorce took an act of Parliament. Otherwise, people would have lined up for divorces in Gretna Green rather than marriages.