Sense & Sensibility is Jane Austen’s first published novel. While it was published in 1811, just six years before her death at the age of 42, Jane’s family recollects hearing early drafts as early as 1796 (Jane would have been 21). At that time, the novel was titled Elinor and Marianne and was told entirely through letters. Sense & Sensibility was published anonymously; By A Lady appears on the title page where the author's name might have been.
Jane didn’t want to be in the public eye. She knew how that kind of attention could alter her reputation as well as the reputation of her family. Much like Kate Hamill’s Gossips in this adaptation, Regency society was always watching and judging the actions of young women. Reputation was everything and even the slightest misconduct could tarnish your marriage eligibility and therefore your prospects thus burdening your family and making your future unknown.
"A woman of seven-and-twenty," said Marianne, after pausing a moment, "can never hope to feel or inspire affection again; and if her home be uncomfortable, or her fortune small, I can suppose that she might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse, for the sake of the provision and security of a wife. In his marrying such a woman, therefore, there would be nothing unsuitable. It would be a compact of convenience, and the world would be satisfied. In my eyes it would be no marriage at all, but that would be nothing. To me it would seem only a commercial exchange, in which each wished to be benefited at the expense of the other."
--Marianne, Sense & Sensibility
So not too much has changed. Instead of Society and Gossips, we have the Internet and Social Media. Women are commoditized; if you are too plain, too flamboyant, too emotional, too stoic, too career driven, too boy-crazy (or girl-crazy or people-crazy), too wild, too boring, too outspoken, too anything don’t worry because there is a pill/program/app/diet/accessory/filter/shaping garment/eye cream/self-help book for that.
As much as Jane was poking fun at the society that oppressed her gender, she used her writing to express the hardships of female life and her own frustrations. This play, in the spirit of Jane, pokes fun at the rumor mill, admonishes an oppressive society, and is a celebration of the rich inner lives of young women. Thank you for joining me for this stage adaptation written By A Lady based on a book By A Lady directed By A Lady.
Who run the world? Girls.