Study Guide

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 37

By Jane Austen

Chapter 37

  • Charlotte Palmer is rapidly on the mend after the arrival of the baby, so after two weeks of attending her, Mrs. Jennings has a little more free time on her hands. She comes back home to Berkeley Street, and resumes her old habits.
  • One day, Mrs. Jennings busts in on Elinor with a number of news items to tell. First of all, the baby is sick with some non-dangerous ailment called "red-gum" (a kind of rash); the doctor stopped by to check it out, and as he left, Mrs. Jennings asked him if there was any news.
  • The gossip-mongering doctor smirked and said that Mrs. Dashwood (Fanny, that is) isn't seriously ill, and nobody should be alarmed.
  • Elinor, of course, is alarmed – is Fanny sick?
  • Apparently, Fanny's illness is emotional, rather than physical. It turns out that Lucy and Edward's secret engagement has emerged into the light of day. Miss Steele is to blame – she thought innocently that since Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars liked Lucy so much, they wouldn't mind the marriage, so she told Fanny all about it.
  • Wow, was Miss Steele wrong. Fanny totally freaked out, and made a huge scene. The Steeles were kicked out of the Dashwoods' house, and now everything's in a state of chaos.
  • Mrs. Jennings thinks there's nothing wrong with Edward marrying Lucy, and thinks that they can manage, even if Mrs. Ferrars diminishes her financial support.
  • Elinor tries to gather her thoughts – but it's not use. There's too much to process.
  • It's now Elinor's task to spring all of this on Marianne without upsetting her too much. She tries not to dwell on her own feelings, and figure out to make Marianne deal with it in a calm manner.
  • Elinor relates the convoluted tale to her sister, who is incredibly upset by the whole thing. She thinks Edward is a horrible deceiver, as well as Lucy Steele.
  • Marianne then wants to know Elinor's part in this – how long has she known about it? Upon being told that Elinor knew for the last four months, Marianne seriously cannot believe it – after all, how could Elinor possibly have kept all of this bottled up for so long?
  • Elinor tries to explain herself; though she'd wanted to tell others, she couldn't without breaking her promise to Lucy. Yes, she'd loved Edward all along, but she wants him to be happy, even if that means that he must marry Lucy.
  • She then tries to explain to her passionate sister the process of grief and attempted consolation she's gone through – it hasn't been easy!
  • Marianne is shocked and dismayed that she's been so cruel and ungrateful to her sister; the two comfort each other for their heartbreaks. Marianne swears that she'll never forgive anyone involved in this debacle.
  • She also promises to be discreet, and she always has Elinor's back with regards to Mrs. Jennings's gossip. For the first time, Marianne actually holds her tongue, and her behavior makes Elinor feel stronger.
  • The next day, a grim John comes to visit. He tells them that Fanny is doing fairly well, all things considered, but that Mrs. Ferrars is having a really rough time of it. She feels totally betrayed – after all, she was trying to make a good match for Edward, and he has the nerve to be secretly engaged!
  • Mrs. Ferrars sent for Edward, and upon his arrival, informed him that he had a choice – he could either be wealthy and on good terms with his family, or he could marry Lucy and be basically disowned (beyond a small sum that he'd inherited already). Furthermore, if he chose the latter path, his mother would do her best to prevent him from succeeding in his chosen profession as a clergyman. That seems way harsh to us.
  • It also seems way harsh to Marianne, who exclaims her indignation. John proceeds with his story.
  • Apparently, Edward was not to be bought off; he did the right thing and said he would marry Lucy. Mrs. Jennings thinks he's done the right thing – after all, he's kept his promise. John is shocked by this response, since he can't imagine doing such a thing.
  • Anyway, in the end, Edward was sent away from his mother's home, never to return. Nobody knows where he's gone, or what he'll do now. All of the money that was supposed to go to him will now to go his younger brother, the undeserving Robert.
  • John expresses his sympathy for Edward, then leaves.
  • The ladies all approve of Edward's honorable actions, despite their personal stakes in the matter.