Jane Austen is not a writer ordinarily associated with venereal disease. Indeed, some admirers of Austen still cherish the fantasy, initially bequeathed by J.E. Austen-Leigh, of a "dear Aunt Jane" whose works need not ever be associated with that embarrassing topic, sex. Sense and Sensibility, however, contains an undeniable reference to venereal disease. Like the indirect references to the pox that scholars have already spotted in Emma and Persuasion, the syphilis in Sense and Sensibility at first appears minor, a glancing euphemistic allusion in a small embedded scene. Once decoded, however, the allusion and its implications reveal a good deal about Austen and about several points in Sense and Sensibility that critics have long found contentious.
McAllister, Marie E.
"'Only to Sink Deeper': Venereal Disease in Sense and Sensibility,"
1, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/ecf/vol17/iss1/3