Miss Dashwood Gets Down and Dirty

It’s my turn again to post at Austen Authors! So here we go:


In Sense and Sensibility, Lucy Steele becomes the bane of Elinor Dashwood’s existence, the burr under her saddle, the mosquito whining in her ear. It is not simply that she has a prior claim to Edward Ferrars, which is bad enough, but the irritating way she rubs it in. Elinor endures it like a saint, of course, and we admire her for it. But sometimes I wish she hadn’t taken such a high road, that there had been another, more proactive, course of action open to her for dealing with her rival.

That’s the basis for this little tale I contributed to Bad Austen, a collection of short stories done in parody of Jane Austen’s writings. I thought you might enjoy it. We pick up the action at the point where Marianne has just learned that Edward has been secretly engaged to Lucy for years:

 Miss Dashwood Gets Down and Dirty

“How long has this engagement of Edward’s been known to you?” Marianne demanded.

“About four months,” Elinor rejoined. 

“What!  And never a hint to your closest companions?”

“No doubt you would reproach me again for my reserve, and quarrel with me over my forbearance.  Would you question the existence of my heart as well because I choose to suffer my disappointment in private?”

“Indeed, I do not ask the location of your heart, for I vouchsafe that you have an organ of that description beating within your breast, and it may well be as susceptible to tender sentiments as any other person’s.  My question to you, Elinor, is this.  Where is your fighting spirit?  You have been grossly ill-used, and the time to take decisive action is come!”

“I admire your conviction, dearest, but what recourse is there within my reach?  The courts can give no satisfaction; no law has been broken.  What would you have me do?  Challenge Lucy Steele to a duel?”

“A tempting notion, is it not?”  Marianne sprang into a fencer’s stance and addressed a phantom rival with the cut and thrust of her imaginary saber. 

“Marianne!  Have you completely taken leave of your senses?  Surely there can be no occasion for bloodshed.”

“Perhaps not, but I have heard of another equally satisfactory avenue for settling disputes.”  Marianne clasped her sister’s hand.  “Come, make haste…” 

(find out what happens by continuing the story here at Austen Authors)

“For four months, Marianne, I have had all this hanging on my mind, without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature… It was told me, it was in a manner forced on me by the very person herself, whose prior engagement ruined all my prospects…” (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 37)


About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
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6 Responses to Miss Dashwood Gets Down and Dirty

  1. Nancy Qualls, Tampa FL says:

    I have to agree with Susan A., Marianne is a wildcard and will not be able to constrain herself from the action. I can envision her bouncing and squealing with excitement on the sidelines (Kate Winslet). But our Elinor will kick Miss Lucy’s petutti any day…still waters and all that.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Nancy. I think you’re exactly right!

  3. Vicki Tolliver says:

    Hmm….I think Lucy is going to show her true colors and Elonor won’t know what hit her. The newspapers are going to be rife with the headlines about the attack on miss Elinor Dashwood, and there is going to be such a scandal, that miss Lucy Steele will have to be sent away…..how will Edward handle the scandal???

    • He’ll have to leave the country, no doubt. He and Elinor might as well get married and run off to the continent or even America. I’m sure we have Dashwoods here. Maybe that’s how they got here!

  4. Price Grisham says:

    Two points, if I a may: Eleanor, as she mentions to Marianne, gave her word; and especially when we are talking about either of the Dashwood sisters, we must know that is a very serious matter of honor (even Marianne, once she has promised something, follows through with it, though it is not easy). Moreover, in that period, women could break off an engagement with men, but men could not break off an engagement with women, for the very obvious reason that the woman’s financial security in the future would be dashed; so Edmund had to remain engaged, not only for the sake of his own personal standards, which we know are high, but for the cultural standards of the time, as well….

    • Thank you for your comments, Price. Your points are well taken and, had this been a serious piece, I certainly wouldn’t have had the Dashwood sisters behaving in such an improper, frivolous manner. But this bit of fluff was intended from the beginning as pure parody. I hope people can enjoy it in that light. BTW, I would beg to differ with you on the idea that women could break and engagement with impunity but men could not. My research for “For Myself Alone” indicated that, early in its history, the breach of promise suit was just as likely to be brought by a man as by a woman. Only later on did it become primarily a one-way street. See my post “Breach of Promise: setting the story straight.”

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