Many secrets are kept in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and many are indiscreetly divulged. Firstly, there are several engagements that take place, and some are secret. Most important is that of Edward and Lucy Steele, which has been kept secret for many years. The involved parties do not seem particularly ashamed of the fact, even though Edward regrets his decision rather quickly. This can be contrasted to the secret engagement between Miss Fairfax and Mr. Churchill in Emma, where Miss Fairfax is tormented with the shame of having entered into an engagement that has to be concealed. Lucy Steele’s lack of shame is one of many indications of her bad character, and of the folly of youth which drove Edward into making such a choice.
An additional engagement that actually didn’t take place, but which was presumed to have, is that of Marianne and
. Marianne’s relations were convinced that an engagement had taken place but that there was a need to keep it secret. This need is explained to be in regards to Willoughby ’s cousin Mrs. Smith, to whom he had to look for money. It is thus presumed to be the same reason as for Edward’s and Ms. Steele’s concealment, who try to hide their engagement from Edward’s mother. When Elinor tries to persuade her mother to speak to Marianne about the matter, Mrs. Dashwood firmly refuses: “I would not ask such a question for the world. ... I should never deserve her confidence again, after forcing from her a confession of what is meant at present to be unacknowledged to any one” (Austen, 1994, p. 82). Merely speaking of such a subject is thus considered a breach of good manners. Willoughby