Bejeweling the Clandestine Body/Bawdy: The Miniature Spaces of Sense and Sensibility

  • Jillian Heydt-Stevenson


At the end of Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby apologizes for betraying and abandoning Marianne. Elinor, recounting his confession to her sister, miniaturizes his disclosure: she offers “the chief points [of] his apology … and was carefully minute in every particular of speech and look, where minuteness could be safely indulged” (347–348). In a hyper-vaulted juncture of the symbolic and the literal, Marianne, seizing each microbic sign of Willoughby that Elinor offers, “caught every syllable with panting eagerness” (348). Such a moment typifies this novel’s attention to the minute—that is, both the detailed and the small. Austen’s incorporation of the miniature occurs in a particular context: eighteenth-century Britain had seen the revival of art forms such as painting in miniature (figure 1.1), the exchange of hair as gifts, the preservation of hair in jewelry (figure 1.2), and the craft of filigree, also known as “quilling” (figure 1.3). Women, both amateurs and paid professionals, often worked these arts and materials, and such items were linked to ideologically coded feminine sensibilities because of their small size, intimacy, and intricacy.2


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© Jillian Heydt-Stevenson 2005

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  • Jillian Heydt-Stevenson

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