Monday, February 9, 2009

Devonshire Romance in Sense and Sensibility

This scene from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility shows Devonshire through Marianne Dashwood's eyes. Marianne sees romance in every twirling leaf and believes that every day is fair. The fact that every one else can see that the day is less than fine shows how easily 'blinded' Marianne can be by her sense of reality. Practical Elinor, her elder sister, has no wish to get wet and sensibly stays inside. Margaret is of a similar disposition to Marianne and they delight in the day. Of course this scene is set for her meeting of Willoughby. For Marianne, could there be a more romantic encounter?

The whole country about them abounded in beautiful walks. The high downs, which invited them from almost every window of the cottage to seek the exquisite enjoyment of air on their summits, were an happy alternative when the dirt of the valleys beneath shut up their superior beauties; and towards on of these hills did Marianne and Margaret one memorable morning direct their steps, attracted by the partial sunshine of a showery sky, and unable longer to bear the confinement which the settled rain of the two preceding days had occasioned. The weather was not tempting enough to draw the two others from their pencil and their book, in spite of Marianne's declaration that the day would be lastingly fair, and that every threatening cloud would be drawn off from their hills; and the two girls set off together.

They gaily ascended the downs, rejoicing in their own penetration at every glimpse of blue sky: and when they caught in their faces the animating gales of an high south-westerly wind, they pitied the fears which had prevented their mother and Elinor from sharing such delightful sensations.

"Is there a felicity in the world," said Marianne, "superior to this? Margaret, we will walk here at least two hours."


Margaret agreed, and they pursued their way against the wind, resisting it with laughing delight for about twenty minutes longer, when suddenly the clouds united over their heads, and a driving rain set full in their face. Chagrined and surprised, they were obliged, though unwillingly, to turn back, for no shelter was nearer than their own house. One consolation however remained for them, to which the exigence of the moment gave more than usual propriety; it was that of running with all possible speed down the steep side of the hill which led immediately to their garden gate.

They set off. Marianne had at first the advantage, but a false step brought her suddenly to the ground, and Margaret, unable to stop herself to assist her, was involuntarily hurried along, and reached the bottom in safety.

A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill and within a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened. He put down his gun and ran to her assistance. She had raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been twisted in the fall, and she was scarcely able to stand.
The gentleman offered his services, and perceiving that her modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried her down the hill. Then passing through the garden, the gate of which had been left open by Margaret, he bore her directly into the house, whither Margaret was just arrived, and quitted not his hold till he had seated her in a chair in the parlour.


The first three photos are from my own collection taken when I stayed at Efford House on the Flete Estate. The last shows Willoughby (Dominic Cooper) offering his services to Marianne (Charity Wakefield) from the latest adaptation of Sense and Sensibility

2 comments:

Katie said...

I love that passage from the book! Marianne is such a wonderful character, she's probably my second favorite heroine. :)

Jane Odiwe said...

Me too, Katie, and for all Marianne's excesses of sensibility, you can't help loving her. She's one of my favourites!