A few days later, Mrs. Palmer gave birth to a son. Because of this, Mrs. Jennings spent much time with the Palmers, and Elinor and Marianne often accompanied her, which meant they often had to spend much time with the Middletons and Steeles, as well, who did not particularly want to see the Dashwood sisters. Lady Middleton disliked them because they didn’t flatter her or her children.
Lady Middleton dislikes the Dashwood sisters because they do not participate in the sort of fawning, subservient behavior that she would expect from those she considers to be her social inferiors.
Anne Steele was also not fond of Elinor and Marianne, but Mrs. Jennings was oblivious to all this and thought it was a good thing for the girls to socialize together. Around this time, a friend of Fanny sent her, John, Elinor, and Marianne an invitation to a party, thinking that Elinor and Marianne were staying with their brother. Fanny was annoyed to have to take her sisters-in-law out and pay them any attention.
Elinor and Marianne don’t particularly like all the London society events that Mrs. Jennings encourages them to go to, but they keep on being included in various parties. Fanny does not want to have to spend time with her sisters-in-law, because they cannot help her advance socially.
Marianne at this point had become indifferent to her dress and appearance, in contrast to Anne Steele, who questioned “every part of Marianne’s dress.” After once again being critiqued by Anne, Marianne went with her sister to go to the party with Fanny. The party was unremarkable, but Elinor saw there the gentleman she had seen ordering the toothpick case at the jeweler. John introduced him to her as Robert Ferrars, Edward’s brother.
Anne is more concerned with making a good impression in aristocratic company than Marianne is. Elinor now identifies the irritating gentleman from before as Edward’s brother Robert. Thus, even before she meets him she essentially knows what she thinks of him.
Robert was very different from Edward, and appeared to dislike Elinor, much like his mother. He said that Edward lacked social skills, because he had been privately educated instead of sent to a school. Robert asked about the Dashwoods’ cottage at Barton, and talked at length about cottages. Elinor agreed with everything he said, “for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”
Robert’s character is more like that of his mother than Edward’s. He is more interested in advancing in high society than Edward is.
When John and Fanny returned home after the party, John suggested that they invite Marianne and Elinor to stay with them. Fanny objected because she had just decided to invite the Steeles to stay with them. She said that they could invite his sisters another time, and John was persuaded.
Fanny would rather advance her relationship with the Steele sisters than extend kindness to her own sisters-in-law. She easily persuades her husband to do what she wishes.
Fanny was pleased of being able to persuade her husband so easily, and wrote immediately to the Steeles. Lucy showed the invitation to Elinor excitedly, seeing it as further proof of how Edward’s family was fond of her. The Steele sisters went to stay with Fanny and John, and by all accounts Fanny “had never been so much pleased with any young women in her life.”
Fanny exercises a considerable amount of power in her marriage. Lucy sees living with Fanny as an opportunity to further ingratiate herself with Edward’s family.