In celebration of the publication of Willoughby's Return, Vic (from Jane Austen Today) and I have decided to write a series of posts as Jane Austen characters from Sense and Sensibility. Recently, Lucy Ferrars wrote a letter to Elinor Ferrars - Vic is writing as Lucy and my response shows Elinor's thoughts and point of view! We thought it might be fun to see how these sister-in-laws might behave now they are married to Robert and Edward Ferrars.
My Dear Mrs. Ferrars, (or may I call you Elinor now that we have been SISTERS for more years than I care to admit!)
I write seemingly out of the blue, for I have been the poorest of correspondents. Unfortunately, my duties as Mrs. Robert Ferrars keep me too busy to attend to this important duty as MATRIARCH of the family (now that Mrs. Ferrars, that dearest of mama-in-laws, has been laid to rest). Be assured that I have managed to apprise myself of both your and Rev. Ferrars’ well-being through Mrs. Jennings’s cheery correspondence and through my association with Mrs. John Dashwood, whose conversations have been nothing short of ENLIGHTENING.
First, let me extend my felicities on the INCREASE of your family. How you are able to accommodate the addition of even one child, much less two, given Rev. Ferrars’ modest income, astonishes me. Your methods of economy are laudable, for I assuredly could not have contrived to be comfortable with twice the amount of his living, and yet somehow you have managed.
The purpose of my inquiry is this: It has come to my attention that Colonel Brandon is frequently away from home and that during his current absence, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby have ARRIVED IN TOWN to settle Mrs. Smith’s estate. Pray tell, how is Mrs. Brandon bearing up under this new development? Is there aught I can do to help the situation, for she must be torn twixt her unresolved feelings towards her former lover and a husband whose attentions are ELSEWHERE? Pray, tell me how I can be of service to you or Mrs. Brandon.
My sincere well wishes to you, Rev. Ferrars, and your dear children. If you would be so kind as to extend my courtesies to Colonel Brandon, Mrs. Middleton and Mrs. Jennings, I would be most obliged. T’would save the cost of franking additional letters, and as you have discovered firsthand, a penny saved is a penny earned.
Ever your servant,
Lucy, Mrs. Robert Ferrars
Elinor read the letter twice through. Lucy’s relationship by marriage to Edward’s brother Robert did make her a relation, but the address of sister; she felt more than a little wanting. Lucy had made it perfectly clear from the start that Elinor held no interest for her apart from being the means by which she might be invited to the Mansion house. For her own part Elinor must admit to being ashamed that the feelings she harboured of intolerance and prejudice towards Lucy were not those that a clergyman’s wife should possess, struggling with her feelings towards the woman who had once captured her husband’s heart. But, she kept her thoughts to herself and did her utmost to keep them under regulation whilst determining to behave with due civility.
Unlike Lucy, Elinor had written regularly to her sister-in-law and her husband informing them in a general and friendly way of the news from Delaford Rectory and the Mansion house. It had never surprised Elinor that Lucy had ignored her letters, and that in the last five years Robert and Lucy had only come to Delaford once shortly after they were all married. Lucy had made no secret of the fact that she found the rectory too cramped and too plain for her taste. There had been some amusement in listening to Lucy’s plans for its improvement. Her suggestions of verandahs on two sides, and a large extension complete with bow windows festooned in lace and brocade had brought a smile to Elinor’s lips, not to mention biting them as she received her advice on colour schemes, empire fripperies and new-fangled lamps. Lucy’s taste reflected the mode of the day whereas Elinor felt far more comfortable with dear, familiar objects from the past arranged with more thought to comfort than to fashion. A chair from her father’s study held pride of place in the parlour along with his writing slope arranged on Edward’s desk. The set of her mother’s breakfast china given on the occasion of their marriage sparkled in the glass-fronted cabinet that had been in the drawing room at Norland and the walls glowed with paintings executed by the mistress of Delaford Rectory during her courtship. Colonel Brandon had been very generous but as a gentleman sensitive to the feelings of others, his interventions had been made only where he felt he could be of use without offence. The rectory was very comfortable though luxuries were few, but all who entered the house felt charmed. It was true, Reverend and Mrs. Ferrars enjoyed a modest income, but what they lacked in material wealth, they more than made up for in the accumulation of other, less worldly goods. Their fortune was founded on the simple pleasures that days spent in worthwhile service to their community bring, and in the love, respect and admiration each held for the other.
Elinor sat down in her father’s chair to stroke the scrolled arms as she had often seen him do as he sat lost in thought musing over a problem. How was she to answer this letter? Could it possibly be true that the Willoughbys had returned to the neighbourhood or was Lucy bent on making mischief as usual? And if it were true – Elinor did not want to think about the possibility. Surely Mr.Willoughby would not wish to live so closely to her mother and Margaret where the likelihood of running into them might be a daily occurrence. No, impossible, that surely could not be! Besides, she had heard nothing of the matter and she was certain if Marianne had known of it, she would have confided in her. Elinor folded the letter and consigned it to the flames roaring in the grate deciding it would be best if she simply refuted the whole affair assuring Lucy that she must be quite mistaken.
The photograph is of Teigh Old Rectory which was used for Mr Collins' rectory in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. You can actually stay there - just imagine!
You can read our letters inspired by Lydia Bennet's Story by clicking here