Pity poor Edward, who is forced to be miserably idle since he couldn't find a profession that suited both him and his family! (Although at least he does have an inclination to do some work, specifically in the church, so it's not as bad as it could be.) And for what it's worth, from what I gather visits were usually multiple-week things, so his one-week visit is pretty short.
It's also interesting to see that for all Elinor's general good sense, she's not without fault - she's much more inclined to be generous to Edward than she is to Willoughby, when both act in what one could consider suspicious ways for a "lover."
The Palmers remind me a little bit of the Bennets (the father and mother that is) from Pride and Prejudice, another case of a sensible man falling for a silly woman. In that case though, the father retreated to what would today be considered snarkiness, rather than general incivility.
"Contenting herself with merely giving her husband a gentle reprimand on the subject five or six times every day." The more things change...
And enter the Miss Steeles. and thus we see some of the, ah, "work" that young ladies that didn't have an independent fortune might fall to. Basically making themselves agreeable and sponging off the richer folk.
And we soon find out just why Elinor SHOULD be suspicious of Lucy. And I may add that while Edward seemed dull before this, he lost just about any other sympathy I might have for him at this point, because dude, he's basically going around in a secret engagement and letting other young women fall in love with him, possibly returning the favor, and leading them on. (Well, one, anyhow.) Grrr.
And of course Lucy doesn't exactly shine here, either. Manipulative, much?
Charlotte's "situation" and confinement: This means she's pregnant, and expecting in February.
"Going to town" for the winter: This would refer to the habit of gentlemen and women to go to London during the winter. Since Parliament was in session during the winter months, the men that belonged to it would be in town anyhow then, and others would travel to London for the society. Then people would go to take care of their country estates in the warmer months, not to mention take part in country pursuits such as shooting. The wealthier families would often have both a country estate and a house "in town" (ie London).
"He will never frank for me." Postage was paid on most letters by the recipient, but members of Parliament could "frank" mail, and have it be exempt from charge.
And remember, next time we kick off Volume 2.