Clutching My Pearls is my ongoing blog series about my take on Jane Austen’s beliefs and ideas, as based on her novels. Folks today who love Jane Austen are eager to find ways to acquit her of being a woman of the long 18th century. Further, for some people, reinventing Jane Austen appears to be part of a larger effort to jettison and disavow the past. Click here for the first in the series.
It is puzzling to try and backwards-engineer the Sense & Sensibility we have today as an epistolary novel – who is writing letters to whom? The critic Brian Southam surmised that Elinor and Marianne each had a girl friend, a confidante, that they wrote to, which means that in the re-write these best friends were excised. I doubt it; I don't think Austen would eliminate two major characters from a book. I think it's more likely that Marianne and Elinor are separated for most of the time and are writing to each other. Perhaps only Marianne went to London with Mrs. Jennings, in pursuit of Willoughby, and poured out her hopes, her fears, and her final betrayal in letters to Elinor.
With such a version, you wouldn't need Margaret, the third sister, as a character because as I noted in my Mother's Day post, Margaret's only useful function in the novel is to keep her mother company when both of the older girls go to London. So perhaps Austen didn't edit out two female friends, maybe she edited in Margaret.