Since most of the people I know seem to like Edward as much as I dislike him, I decided to do a post on why I think he is one of the villains of S&S. Not as bad as Willoughby, certainly, but not exactly a model of deportment either.
Now, he can't really be blamed for falling in love with her. But he doesn't stop there.
"No sooner did she [Mrs. Dashwood] perceive any symptom of love in his behaviour to Elinor than she considered their serious attachment as certain, and looked forward to their marriage as rapidly approaching."
Admittedly, Mrs. Dashwood is overly romantic and probably he didn't exhibit plain signs of love. But he obviously paid attention to her; enough for his sister to notice. There are several things wrong here: firstly, he knew that he couldn't marry Elinor, but he acts like he's courting her anyway, which is deceitful and hurt Elinor. As she confesses to Marianne, Elinor really is falling in love with him. Secondly, he surely must have noticed Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne's expectations and changes in Elinor's behavior towards him, as well as Fanny Dashwood's evident dislike of the time he's spending with Elinor. He can't tell about his engagement because that wouldn't be honorable, but he could stop his attentions and be merely polite. The reason he doesn't do this seems to be because he is too weak and selfish to stop giving rise to false hopes.
Then, Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters move to Barton Park, after making Edward promise to come for a visit, which he should not have done. For one thing, his sister evidently didn't want him to go, and surely he could tell that she would cause trouble for Elinor and her immediate family. For another, why visit and raise hopes (and torture yourself), if you know that you aren't free to marry?
After causing Elinor grief by his coldness, Edward goes away and isn't heard of until Lucy Steele comes to visit and tells Elinor that she, Lucy, and Edward have been secretly engaged for a long time. This, obviously, is a terrible blow to Elinor, and she tries to avoid Edward as much as possible.
When the news about Lucy and Edward is made public, Edward sticks to his promise and refuses to break his engagement, even though he'll be disinherited. This is honorable and right, and it's one of the few times I like Edward Ferrars. Then, Lucy breaks her engagement with him, and he rushes off right away to propose to Elinor.
Now, this is fine; if I were in his position, I'd do the same thing. But I don't like how Edward makes excuses for his past behavior:
'He [Edward] could only plead an ignorance of his own heart, and a mistaken confidence in the force of his engagement.
"I was simple enough to think, that because my faith was plighted to another, there could be no danger in my being with you; and that the consciousness of my engagement was to keep my heart as safe and sacred as my honour. I felt that I admired you, but I told myself it was only friendship; and till I began to make comparisons between yourself and Lucy, I did not know how far I was got. After that, I suppose, I was wrong in remaining so much in Sussex; and the arguments with which I reconciled myself to the expediency of it were no better than these:- The danger is my own; I am doing no injury to anybody but myself."'
He apologizes finely, but I don't like the end. He thinks he's doing no damage to anyone but himself? Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne made no secret of their feelings. However, I suppose that it's plausible; Edward redeems himself at the end of the story, changing from a selfish, rich, foolish young man to a more mature, honorable one. However, he is still definitely not my favorite.
And that's my opinion of Edward Ferrars.