Friday, September 24, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume I, chapter 2

You'll note that this entire chapter is composed of a single conversation between John and Fanny Dashwood. John wants to keep that promise he made to his dying father and Fanny . . . does not.

Mrs. John Dashwood now installed herself mistress of Norland; and her mother and sisters-in-law were degraded to the condition of visitors. As such, however, they were treated by her with quiet civility; and by her husband with as much kindness as he could feel towards anybody beyond himself, his wife, and their child. He really pressed them, with some earnestness, to consider Norland as their home; and, as no plan appeared so eligible to Mrs. Dashwood as remaining there till she could accommodate herself with a house in the neighbourhood, his invitation was accepted.

A reminder: Mrs. John Dashwood is married to Mrs. Dashwood's step-son. And as we are about to see, she is a stingy woman, and we are all destined to despise her from here to eternity. More or less.

Behold the genius manipulation of Mrs. John (aka Fanny) Dashwood:

John Dashwood: I think I'll give £3,000 away, £1,000 a piece to each of my half-sisters.

Fanny: WTF? Just think what a horrible depravation that will be for our fat son who is only about 5 years old right now. Besides, everyone knows your sisters can't have real affection for you, since you and they have different mothers.

John: But I promised my dad!

Fanny: Yeah, but he was dying, so we should assume he had no clue what he was saying. I'm sure he didn't want you to give away half of your fortune.

  [N.B. – There is no way in hell that £3,000 is anywhere close to half of his fortune.]

John: But I promised my dad! Something must be done!

Fanny: Yes, something must be done. Something that involves far less than £3,000. After all, your sisters will get married and take that money off to God knows where and Henry won't have it WOE!

John: True, Henry might turn out to be a breeder, and the money might come in handy. How's about I give them only half as much? £500 each?

Fanny: You are such a generous man! What brother would give that much to his REAL sisters, let alone these half-bloods?

John: Well, I'd rather do too much than too little. Still, they can hardly expect more.

Fanny: Who knows what they expect? The real question is what you can afford to do.

John: I'm inclined to give them the money – it will add to their inheritance when their mother dies, and make them each somewhat comfortable.

Fanny: Now that you mention it, they will already be SO comfortable that I'm sure they don't need your money.

John: Good point. Maybe instead I should give their mother an annuity of £100 per year while she lives.

Fanny: "[P]eople always live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them." And then Fanny tells us a little something about her mother, Mrs. Ferrars, who we will not meet in person for many chapters, but it says a lot about where Fanny comes from:

An annuity is a very serious business; it comes over and over every year, and there is no getting rid of it. You are not aware of what you are doing. I have known a great deal of the trouble of annuities; for my mother was clogged with the payment of three to old superannuated servants by my father's will, and it is amazing how disagreeable she found it. Twice every year these annuities were to be paid; and then there was the trouble of getting it to them; and then one of them was said to have died, and afterwards it turned out to be no such thing. My mother was quite sick of it. Her income was not her own, she said, with such perpetual claims on it; and it was the more unkind in my father, because, otherwise, the money would have been entirely at my mother's disposal, without any restriction whatever. It has given me such an abhorrence of annuities, that I am sure I would not pin myself down to the payment of one for all the world.

John: Good point. I'll just send them a bit of cash every now and then. What say you to that?

Fanny: I'm sure your father never meant for you to give them any money. He probably meant for you to find a place to live and help them move so they can get the hell out of my house. In fact, I will walk you through the math involving interest, etc., and, to sum up, they'll have £500 per year to live on between them. They won't be able to afford a horse or carriage, or to keep many servants at all. They will probably have money left over to give YOU!

John: I'm sure you're right. I'll just help them move and maybe give them a little housewarming gift.

Fanny: But they're taking the dishes with them when they move, and I covet their breakfast set! And it will be far too nice for anyplace they can afford. But your father thought only of them, and if he could have, he'd have left them Norland as well.

This argument was irresistible. It gave to his intentions whatever of decision was wanting before; and he finally resolved, that it would be absolutely unnecessary, if not highly indecorous, to do more for the widow and children of his father, than such kind of neighbourly acts as his own wife pointed out.
Kiva - loans that change lives

No comments: