Thank you, Maria Grazia, for launching the tour of our book, Rational Creatures, at My Jane Austen Book Club. It’s a pleasure to be here with your readers and for me to have the opportunity to share my post about Miss Elinor Dashwood, one of Austen’s earliest heroines.
Born into a society that viewed women as incapable of governing their passions, Elinor Dashwood exercises a most radical form of power: self-control. She faces the death of her father, the loss of her family home, and the uncertainties of a new social circle with wit and stoicism, qualities that most other people—of any gender—would have been hard pressed to display under even the best of circumstances. And when her hopes for love are dashed by the machinations of others, Elinor bears her disappointment in silence.
If penned by another author, the character of Elinor Dashwood would likely have come across as meek and submissive. Not so with Jane Austen. In her worthy hands, Elinor’s silence is utterly subversive. By keeping her own council, Elinor not only spares the feelings of those she loves best—the other women in her life—but also comes to learn the art of self-reliance. In this regard, Elinor is stronger than perhaps almost every other character in the novel, even (perhaps especially) the men. Trapped by mothers and unwanted finances, ruled by greed and lust, haunted by the ghosts of their past, the men of Sense and Sensibility are emotional wrecks. Even Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne—worthy as those dear women are—regularly submit to emotional excess.
Elinor alone practices true self-control—but hers is not the dispassionate restraint of a saint or martyr. She is a flesh-and-blood woman who loves with all her heart and wants what so many women of her time wanted: a family of her own. It is precisely because Elinor possesses such great capacity for love that her self-control is so remarkable. Critics of Sense and Sensibility have noted that this early Austen novel takes on a moralistic tone by creating such a stark contrast between Elinor and Marianne’s approaches to life and love. Yet it is just as notable that the central struggle of the novel is not between virtue and vice, but between sense and sensibility. The trial that Elinor and Marianne both must undergo is to find a balance between head and heart.
It is in this balance that Elinor finds her greatest strength. She uses her self-control, not to cut all feeling out of her life, or to strike it alone in the world, but instead to live and love within a flawed community, acknowledging the limits placed on her while never once abandoning her extradorindary sense of self.
 David M. Shapard, “Introduction,” The Annotated Sense and Sensibility (New York: Anchor Books, 2011), xxx. I am indebted to Shapard’s brilliant introduction for many of the ideas in this piece.
Christina Morland spent the first two decades of her life with no knowledge whatsoever of Pride and Prejudice—or any Jane Austen novel, for that matter. She somehow overcame this childhood adversity to become a devoted fan of Austen's works. When not writing, Morland tries to keep up with her incredibly active seven-year-old and maddeningly brilliant husband. She lives in a place not unlike Hogwarts (minus Harry, Dumbledore, magic, and Scotland), and likes to think of herself as an excellent walker. Morland is the author of two Jane Austen fanfiction novels: A Remedy Against Sin and This Disconcerting Happiness.
“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion
Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.
In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.
Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.
“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft
Stories by Elizabeth Adams * Nicole Clarkston * Karen M Cox * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Jenetta James * Jessie Lewis * KaraLynne Mackrory * Lona Manning * Christina Morland * Beau North * Sophia Rose * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams * Edited by Christina Boyd * Foreword by Devoney Looser
Rational Creature SUPER Giveaway
The Random Name Picker winner review all blog comments and select one winner from these blog stop comments during the tour for all 21 prizes: Winner’s choice of one title from each authors’ backlist (that’s 16 books, ebooks, or audiobooks), our bespoke t-shirt/soap/candle; #20, a brick in winner’s name to benefit #BuyABrick for Chawton House; and #21, the Quill Collective anthologies in ebook or audiobook.