Study Guide

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 26

By Jane Austen

Chapter 26

  • Elinor is rather astonished by the situation she finds herself in – going to London with Mrs. Jennings, who she doesn't exactly count among her close acquaintances. Despite the oddness of this setup, Marianne and their mother are both thrilled about the trip, which will no doubt blissfully reunite Marianne with Willoughby.
  • Marianne is as gentle as a lamb all the way to London, and totally without her usual obvious disdain for Mrs. Jennings. She's basically silent the whole way, except for occasional outbursts about the beauty of the landscape.
  • Elinor, to make up for her sister's reticence, chats with Mrs. Jennings the whole way. They reach London after three days of travel, and find themselves in quite a satisfactory setting – Mrs. Jennings' house is pretty and stylish, and the girls are put up in Charlotte's (Mrs. Palmer's) old room.
  • Upon their arrival, the group has some free time before dinner. Elinor decides to fill this time with writing a letter home; Marianne sits down to write as well, but when asks, denies that she's writing home. Elinor assumes that she's writing to Willoughby to announce their arrival.
  • Marianne writes her letter in a rushed tizzy, and then sends it in the local post, which cements Elinor's thought that it's addressed to Willoughby.
  • Marianne then spends the rest of the afternoon nervously awaiting a return letter. Elinor's glad Mrs. Jennings doesn't observe her sister's odd behavior.
  • Finally a visitor arrives – Marianne's sure it's Willoughby! However, it turns out to be Colonel Brandon.
  • Marianne rushes off, distressed. Elinor worried that the Colonel has been offended by her sister's rude behavior, particularly considering the fact that he's in love with Marianne.
  • He asks if Marianne is ill, and Elinor lies to cover for her sister, saying that she's been unwell recently.
  • Colonel Brandon politely makes small talk about London and Barton, saying that he's been home a couple of times, but never had enough time to visit. Elinor wants desperately to ask if Willoughby's in London, but feels that it would be too rude to ask the Colonel about his rival for Marianne's affections.
  • Mrs. Jennings arrives and greets the Colonel enthusiastically. Apparently, he's been hanging out with Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, so the conversation tends that way for a while.
  • Colonel Brandon stays to tea, withstanding Mrs. Jennings' nosy questions about his personal life. Marianne eventually reappears, and the Colonel seems particularly pensive. He leaves, and everyone heads off to bed.
  • The next morning, Marianne seems to have recovered from her bad mood. Charlotte Palmer stops by to visit, and after a couple of hours of gossip, the ladies all go off shopping together.
  • Marianne seems on the lookout for something, and is distracted the whole time they're out. The party returns home late in the morning, only to find that Willoughby has neither visited nor written back.
  • Marianne is disappointed again, and Elinor is confused. If her sister and Willoughby are actually engaged, how come Marianne doesn't know where he is or what he's up to? And how come he won't write back to her?
  • Elinor decides to ask her mother for advice if this odd behavior continues.
  • Charlotte Palmer and two of Mrs. Jennings's friends join them for dinner. Marianne is distracted and socially useless the whole time.