John Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility is a masterfully crafted character. He is manipulated by his wife to be ungenerous towards his sisters. Despite a deathbed promise to his father to look after his sisters, he easily acquiesced to his wife’s wish to do little more than be neighbourly. Rather than be generous he chooses to be mean. To add insult to injury, John Dashwood is now keen for everyone else to be generous to his sisters. He, who does not even invite his sisters to stay in his house in London, now seems desirous that others should take on the responsibility for them:
“He had just compunction enough for having done nothing for his sisters himself to be exceedingly anxious that everybody else should do a great deal”.
And he is astonished when he finds out that other people are generous to his poor sisters. He is also shocked when he hears that Colonel Brandon has given Edward a living, the position of local cleric on his estate, despite there being no connection between them. Colonel Brandon is just naturally trying to help those in difficulty – something John cannot comprehend.
One can only feel sorry for the Manipulated-and-Mean-John Dashwoods of this world who, when faced with Elinor and Edward’s joy at their marriage, can only comment on Colonel Brandon’s timber and its worth – the neighbour’s assets. The bean counters see the money but miss the rest. Happiness can come from family as Jane states:
“among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves or producing coolness between their husbands.”
Sometimes the bean counters like John Dashwood, just can’t see that generosity brings its own benefits. And such characters as John Dashwood are not confined to the past. It will be delicious to see what Joanna Trollope makes of him. Has anyone read her new take on Sense and Sensibility?
- Modernising Jane Austen: 10 traps to avoid (theguardian.com)
- 54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (itzally92.wordpress.com)
- Joanna Trollope on rewriting Sense & Sensibility (scotsman.com)
- Review: Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope (diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com)
- Sense and Sensibility: The Austen Project, by Joanna Trollope – A Review (austenprose.com)
- Sense and Sensibility: UnTrolloped (shardsofsilence.wordpress.com)