Miriam Rheingold Fuller (Central Missouri Region)
Letters between Mrs. John Dashwood and Mrs. Ferrars

Norland Park

My Dear Madam,

I write you in some concern regarding my dear brother Edward, who, as you know, has been with us these three months. Mrs. Dashwood and the Miss Dashwoods are with us still as well, having not yet found a place to suit them, as I suspect Mrs. D has not yet reconciled her current fortune to the situation she should like to have and that she is all too happy to remain at Norland, where she can pretend to fancy herself mistress still and take advantage of dear John’s generosity and play upon his goodness and pity for her circumstances.  They are, therefore, become well acquainted with dear Edward, whose manners, you know, have all too much to recommend them, and are indeed all four become very friendly with him. This unfortunate but unavoidable intimacy has led to, I greatly fear, a still more lamentable attachment between him and the eldest Miss Dashwood, a pretty, sensible girl to be sure, but very sly and reserved—their attachment has been building for some time, I believe, but her cunning has concealed it for some time or to be sure I would have written you sooner.

Had Miss Dashwood a suitable fortune I should have no real objections, though naturally I should prefer our dear Edward married to a daughter of someone greater than a private gentleman, but she will have only £3,000, which would not match Edward’s fortune at all.  Mrs. Dashwood, I greatly suspect, is dilatory in finding a house in order to further this attachment, as a match between them would be most advantageous to her, though most shocking and inconvenient for us.  But then, she only thinks of her own comfort and that of her family; some people, as I am sure my dear mother knows all too well, are like that: they think only of themselves and give never a thought to the well-being of others.

I have acted upon my suspicions already, and let Mrs. Dashwood know, in polite but clear terms—I may not be as open as I should like with them, as dear John is so unaccountably fond of them, though Mrs. D is no real relation at all and the sisters only half-blood—of Edward’s great expectations, of your own wise resolution that both your sons should marry well, and of the danger attending any young woman who attempted to draw him in.  I believe therefore, that the lady will act more expeditiously to find a house to her liking.  My only regret upon her leaving is that she takes some very fine furniture with her—including a breakfast set that is twice as handsome as what belongs to this house.  A great deal too handsome, in my opinion, for any place they can ever afford to live in.  But, however, so it is. John’s father thought only of them.  I had occasion to remind John of this when, in his excessive grief and generosity at his father’s death, he wanted to give each of the Miss Dashwoods a thousand pounds apiece, even though they are already quite comfortable.  They have five hundred pounds a year and what on earth can four women want for more than that?  But I at last managed to convince him not to rob our poor little Harry for the sake of half-sisters, especially when our current state of affairs is by no means easy.  I do not complain, for I daresay with time and prudence we may be more comfortably situated, but we are far from rich: the moiety of the late Mrs. Dashwood’s fortune and the rents from Norland are scarce enough to maintain us in the style we are expected to keep, and to put by enough for dear little Harry.

I must dress for dinner, and so will end my letter, but I wanted to acquaint you, my dear Mother, a little with my unease, and to confer with you on how to extract Edward from this most deplorable attachment, which, owing to his too tender nature, may not subside as quickly as I would wish after the Dashwoods leave Norland.

Your affectionate daughter,
Frances Dashwood


My Dear Fanny,

I hope this letter finds you better than your last left you, and that the Dashwoods have gone from Norland or are preparing for their journey thence.  You did quite right to acquaint me with your suspicions of poor Edward’s passion for this presumptuous Dashwood girl.  Be not alarmed, however; I have been for some time active in the manner of finding a suitable wife for Edward, and I believe her to be found.  It is the Honorable Miss Morton, daughter of the late Lord Morton, with a fortune of thirty thousand pounds.  Say nothing of this at present however, but as soon as the Dashwoods are gone—for Edward, I well know, will not leave until they do—send me word and I shall bring him to London, where the charm and accomplishments of the Hon. Miss Morton shall, I trust, speedily chase all thought of this impertinent Dashwood creature from his head, and bring our plans to a pleasant and profitable conclusion.

I am very sorry you should be robbed of your breakfast set, my dearest Fanny, and I enclose a little something that will soon help you to a better one with something left besides for yourself, for you should not allow your current expenses to rob you of the necessary comforts of life.  You think too much of others and too little of yourself.  Have no fear that I am denying myself by my gift to you, for it is my pleasure to provide for my dear children, and besides, old Atkinson has finally died, which was the only decent thing he could do after living for such an unaccountably long time as he did, and so the last of the annuities is done and I may call my income my own again.  Give dear little Harry my best love.

Your affectionate mother,
Frances Ferrars