The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, Volume I

Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park

About the Book

The first volume in the Complete Novels of Jane Austen, this volume contains the classics Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park.


Sense and Sensibility was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be published, coming out in 1811. It had a long gestation, beginning as Elinor and Marianne, an epistolary novel that Austen wrote in the 1790s. The novel centers on the sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, who are forced to leave their home with their mother and younger sister, Margaret, and move in reduced circumstances to the West of England. Elinor, the sensible sister, and Marianne, the overimaginative romantic, must rely on a good marriage as a means of support. As their excellent schemes are intruded upon, Austen subtly explores the marriage game of her times, as both sense and sensibility affect the sisters' chances of happiness and comfort.


“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”


Mansfield Park shows Austen as a mature novelist with an almost unparalleled ability to render character and an acute awareness of her world and how it was changing. Through the stories of Fanny Price, the Bertrams, and the Crawfords, she tackles the themes of faith and constancy and the threat that metropolitan manners could pose to a rural way of life. Mansfield Park is as amusing as any of Austen's novels, but, according to the critic Tony Tanner, it is also arguable that it is “her most profound novel (indeed . . . it is one of the most profound novels of the nineteenth century).”
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The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, Volume I

Chapter I

The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park,in the centre of their property, where, for many generations,they had lived in so respectable a manner, as to engagethe general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance.The last owner but one of this estate, was a single man, who livedto a very advanced age, and who, for many years of his life,had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister.But her death, which happened ten years before his own,produced a great alteration in his home; for, to supplyher loss, he invited and received into his house the familyof his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritorof the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intendedto bequeath it. In the society of his nephew and niece,and their children, the old Gentleman's days werecomfortably spent. His attachment to them all increased.The constant attention of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwoodto his wishes, which proceeded not merely from interest,but from goodness of heart, gave him every degree of solidcomfort which his age could receive; and the cheerfulnessof the children added a relish to his existence.

By a former marriage, Mr. Henry Dashwood had oneson: by his present lady, three daughters. The son,a steady respectable young man, was amply providedfor by the fortune of his mother, which had been large,and half of which devolved on him on his coming of age.By his own marriage, likewise, which happened soon afterwards,he added to his wealth. To him, therefore, the successionto the Norland estate was not so really important as tohis sisters; for their fortune, independent of what mightarise to them from their father's inheriting that property,could be but small. Their mother had nothing, and theirfather only seven thousand pounds in his own disposal;for the remaining moiety of his first wife's fortune wasalso secured to her child, and he had only a life interestin it.

The old Gentleman died: his will was read, andlike almost every other will, gave as much disappointmentas pleasure. He was neither so unjust, nor so ungrateful,as to leave his estate from his nephew;—but he left it to himon such terms as destroyed half the value of the bequest.Mr. Dashwood had wished for it more for the sake of hiswife and daughters than for himself or his son;—but tohis son, and his son's son, a child of four years old,it was secured, in such a way, as to leave to himselfno power of providing for those who were most dearto him, and who most needed a provision by any chargeon the estate, or by any sale of its valuable woods.The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child, who,in occasional visits with his father and mother at Norland,had so far gained on the affections of his uncle,by such attractions as are by no means unusual in childrenof two or three years old; an imperfect articulation,an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks,and a great deal of noise, as to outweigh all the valueof all the attention which, for years, he had receivedfrom his niece and her daughters. He meant not tobe unkind, however, and, as a mark of his affectionfor the three girls, he left them a thousand pounds a-piece.

Mr. Dashwood's disappointment was, at first, severe;but his temper was cheerful and sanguine; and he mightreasonably hope to live many years, and by living economically,lay by a considerable sum from the produce of an estatealready large, and capable of almost immediate improvement.But the fortune, which had been so tardy in coming, was hisonly one twelvemonth. He survived his uncle no longer;and ten thousand pounds, including the late legacies,was all that remained for his widow and daughters.

His son was sent for as soon as his danger was known,and to him Mr. Dashwood recommended, with all the strengthand urgency which illness could command, the interestof his mother-in-law and sisters.

Mr. John Dashwood had not the strong feelings of therest of the family; but he was affected by a recommendationof such a nature at such a time, and he promised to doevery thing in his power to make them comfortable.His father was rendered easy by such an assurance,and Mr. John Dashwood had then leisure to consider howmuch there might prudently be in his power to do for them.

He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless tobe rather cold hearted and rather selfish is to beill-disposed: but he was, in general, well respected;for he conducted himself with propriety in the dischargeof his ordinary duties. Had he married a more amiable woman,he might have been made still more respectable than hewas:—he might even have been made amiable himself; for hewas very young when he married, and very fond of his wife.But Mrs. John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself;—more narrow-minded and selfish.

When he gave his promise to his father, he meditatedwithin himself to increase the fortunes of his sistersby the present of a thousand pounds a-piece. He thenreally thought himself equal to it. The prospect of fourthousand a-year, in addition to his present income,besides the remaining half of his own mother's fortune,warmed his heart, and made him feel capable of generosity.—"Yes, he would give them three thousand pounds: it wouldbe liberal and handsome! It would be enough to makethem completely easy. Three thousand pounds! he couldspare so considerable a sum with little inconvenience."—He thought of it all day long, and for many days successively,and he did not repent.

No sooner was his father's funeral over, than Mrs. JohnDashwood, without sending any notice of her intention to hermother-in-law, arrived with her child and their attendants.No one could dispute her right to come; the house washer husband's from the moment of his father's decease;but the indelicacy of her conduct was so much the greater,and to a woman in Mrs. Dashwood's situation, with onlycommon feelings, must have been highly unpleasing;—but in her mind there was a sense of honor so keen,a generosity so romantic, that any offence of the kind,by whomsoever given or received, was to her a sourceof immoveable disgust. Mrs. John Dashwood had neverbeen a favourite with any of her husband's family;but she had had no opportunity, till the present,of shewing them with how little attention to the comfortof other people she could act when occasion required it.

So acutely did Mrs. Dashwood feel this ungraciousbehaviour, and so earnestly did she despise herdaughter-in-law for it, that, on the arrival of the latter,she would have quitted the house for ever, had not theentreaty of her eldest girl induced her first to reflecton the propriety of going, and her own tender love for allher three children determined her afterwards to stay,and for their sakes avoid a breach with their brother.

Elinor, this eldest daughter whose advice wasso effectual, possessed a strength of understanding,and coolness of judgment, which qualified her,though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother,and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantageof them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwoodwhich must generally have led to imprudence. She hadan excellent heart;—her disposition was affectionate,and her feelings were strong; but she knew how to governthem: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn;and which one of her sisters had resolved never to be taught.

Marianne's abilities were, in many respects,quite equal to Elinor's. She was sensible and clever;but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could haveno moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: shewas everything but prudent. The resemblance betweenher and her mother was strikingly great.

Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of hersister's sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valuedand cherished. They encouraged each other now in theviolence of their affliction. The agony of griefwhich overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed,was sought for, was created again and again. They gavethemselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increaseof wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it,and resolved against ever admitting consolationin future. Elinor, too, was deeply afflicted; but stillshe could struggle, she could exert herself. She couldconsult with her brother, could receive her sister-in-lawon her arrival, and treat her with every proper attention;and could strive to rouse her mother to similar exertion,and encourage her to similar forbearance.

Margaret, the other sister, was a good-humoredwell-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibeda good deal of Marianne's romance, without havingmuch of her sense, she did not, at thirteen, bid fairto equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.

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About the Author

Jane Austen
Though the domain of Jane Austen’s novels was as circumscribed as her life, her caustic wit and keen observation made her the equal of the greatest novelists in any language. Born the seventh child of the rector of Steventon, Hampshire, on December 16, 1775, she was educated mainly at home. At an early age she began writing sketches and satires of popular novels for her family’s entertainment. As a clergyman’s daughter from a well-connected family, she had ample opportunity to study the habits of the middle class, the gentry, and the aristocracy. At 21, she began a novel called “The First Impressions,” an early version of Pride and Prejudice. In 1801, on her father’s retirement, the family moved to the fashionable resort of Bath. Two years later she sold the first version of Northanger Abby to a London publisher, but the first of her novels to appear in print was Sense and Sensibility, published at her own expense in 1811. It was followed by Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). After her father died in 1805, the family first moved to Southampton then to Chawton Cottage in Hampshire. Despite this relative retirement, Jane Austen was still in touch with a wider world, mainly through her brothers; one had become a very rich country gentleman, another a London banker, and two were naval officers. Though her many novels were published anonymously, she had many early and devoted readers, among them the Prince Regent and Sir Walter Scott. In 1816, in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised Northanger Abby. Her last work, Sandition, was left unfinished at her death on July 18, 1817. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral. Austen’s identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her brother Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abby and Persuasion in 1818. More by Jane Austen
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