The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex. Their estate wa_arge, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of thei_roperty, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable _anner as to engage the general good opinion of their surroundin_cquaintance. The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to _ery advanced age, and who for many years of his life, had a constan_ompanion and housekeeper in his sister. But her death, which happened te_ears before his own, produced a great alteration in his home; for to suppl_er loss, he invited and received into his house the family of his nephew Mr.
Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person t_hom he intended to bequeath it. In the society of his nephew and niece, an_heir children, the old Gentleman's days were comfortably spent. Hi_ttachment to them all increased. The constant attention of Mr. and Mrs. Henr_ashwood to his wishes, which proceeded not merely from interest, but fro_oodness of heart, gave him every degree of solid comfort which his age coul_eceive; and the cheerfulness of the children added a relish to his existence.
By a former marriage, Mr. Henry Dashwood had one son: by his present lady,
three daughters. The son, a steady respectable young man, was amply provide_or by the fortune of his mother, which had been large, and half of whic_evolved on him on his coming of age. By his own marriage, likewise, whic_appened soon afterwards, he added to his wealth. To him therefore th_uccession to the Norland estate was not so really important as to hi_isters; for their fortune, independent of what might arise to them from thei_ather's inheriting that property, could be but small. Their mother ha_othing, and their father only seven thousand pounds in his own disposal; fo_he remaining moiety of his first wife's fortune was also secured to he_hild, and he had only a life-interest in it.
The old gentleman died: his will was read, and like almost every other will,
gave as much disappointment as pleasure. He was neither so unjust, nor s_ngrateful, as to leave his estate from his nephew;—but he left it to him o_uch terms as destroyed half the value of the bequest. Mr. Dashwood had wishe_or it more for the sake of his wife and daughters than for himself or hi_on;—but to his son, and his son's son, a child of four years old, it wa_ecured, in such a way, as to leave to himself no power of providing for thos_ho were most dear to him, and who most needed a provision by any charge o_he estate, or by any sale of its valuable woods. The whole was tied up fo_he benefit of this child, who, in occasional visits with his father an_other at Norland, had so far gained on the affections of his uncle, by suc_ttractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old;
an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, man_unning tricks, and a great deal of noise, as to outweigh all the value of al_he attention which, for years, he had received from his niece and he_aughters. He meant not to be unkind, however, and, as a mark of his affectio_or the three girls, he left them a thousand pounds a-piece.
Mr. Dashwood's disappointment was, at first, severe; but his temper wa_heerful and sanguine; and he might reasonably hope to live many years, and b_iving economically, lay by a considerable sum from the produce of an estat_lready large, and capable of almost immediate improvement. But the fortune,
which had been so tardy in coming, was his only one twelvemonth. He survive_is uncle no longer; and ten thousand pounds, including the late legacies, wa_ll that remained for his widow and daughters.
His son was sent for as soon as his danger was known, and to him Mr. Dashwoo_ecommended, with all the strength and urgency which illness could command,
the interest of his mother-in-law and sisters.
Mr. John Dashwood had not the strong feelings of the rest of the family; bu_e was affected by a recommendation of such a nature at such a time, and h_romised to do every thing in his power to make them comfortable. His fathe_as rendered easy by such an assurance, and Mr. John Dashwood had then leisur_o consider how much there might prudently be in his power to do for them.
He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted an_ather selfish is to be ill-disposed: but he was, in general, well respected;
for he conducted himself with propriety in the discharge of his ordinar_uties. Had he married a more amiable woman, he might have been made stil_ore respectable than he was:—he might even have been made amiable himself;
for he was very young when he married, and very fond of his wife. But Mrs.
John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself;— more narrow-minded an_elfish.
When he gave his promise to his father, he meditated within himself t_ncrease the fortunes of his sisters by the present of a thousand pound_-piece. He then really thought himself equal to it. The prospect of fou_housand a-year, in addition to his present income, besides the remaining hal_f his own mother's fortune, warmed his heart, and made him feel capable o_enerosity.— "Yes, he would give them three thousand pounds: it would b_iberal and handsome! It would be enough to make them completely easy. Thre_housand pounds! he could spare so considerable a sum with littl_nconvenience."— He thought of it all day long, and for many day_uccessively, and he did not repent.
No sooner was his father's funeral over, than Mrs. John Dashwood, withou_ending any notice of her intention to her mother-in-law, arrived with he_hild and their attendants. No one could dispute her right to come; the hous_as her husband's from the moment of his father's decease; but the indelicac_f her conduct was so much the greater, and to a woman in Mrs. Dashwood'_ituation, with only common feelings, must have been highly unpleasing;— bu_n HER mind there was a sense of honor so keen, a generosity so romantic, tha_ny offence of the kind, by whomsoever given or received, was to her a sourc_f immoveable disgust. Mrs. John Dashwood had never been a favourite with an_f her husband's family; but she had had no opportunity, till the present, o_hewing them with how little attention to the comfort of other people sh_ould act when occasion required it.
So acutely did Mrs. Dashwood feel this ungracious behaviour, and so earnestl_id she despise her daughter-in-law for it, that, on the arrival of th_atter, she would have quitted the house for ever, had not the entreaty of he_ldest girl induced her first to reflect on the propriety of going, and he_wn tender love for all her three children determined her afterwards to stay,
and for their sakes avoid a breach with their brother.
Elinor, this eldest daughter, whose advice was so effectual, possessed _trength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her,
though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled he_requently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of min_n Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had a_xcellent heart;—her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings wer_trong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mothe_ad yet to learn; and which one of her sisters had resolved never to b_aught.
Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor's. She wa_ensible and clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, coul_ave no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everythin_ut prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.
Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility; but by Mrs.
Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They encouraged each other now in th_iolence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them a_irst, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again.
They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase o_retchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved agains_ver admitting consolation in future. Elinor, too, was deeply afflicted; bu_till she could struggle, she could exert herself. She could consult with he_rother, could receive her sister-in-law on her arrival, and treat her wit_roper attention; and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion,
and encourage her to similar forbearance.
Margaret, the other sister, was a good-humored, well-disposed girl; but as sh_ad already imbibed a good deal of Marianne's romance, without having much o_er sense, she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a mor_dvanced period of life.