Preserver of plight

Illustration by Joan Hassall, Persuasion, Chapter 3PRESERVER

Mr. Shepherd was eloquent on the subject, pointing out all the circumstances of the admiral’s family, which made him peculiarly desirable as a tenant. He was a married man, and without children; the very state to be wished for. A house was never taken good care of, Mr. Shepherd observed, without a lady: he did not know whether furniture might not be in danger of suffering as much where there was no lady, as where there were many children. A lady, without a family, was the very best preserver of furniture in the world. The Narrator on Admiral Croft, Persuasion, Chapter 3

Pish! This scene never fails to make me laugh! So much careful maneuvering, by so many to convince Sir Walter Elliot, Baronet of Kellynch Hall to lease his estate to no less than an Admiral, who he exclaims; – – “The profession has its utility, but I should be sorry to see any friend of mine belonging to it.”

Jane Austen has created a pompous character in Sir Walter Elliot that is all appearance and puffery! What a useless dandy he is; – – so far removed from practicality that he is a burden to his family and friends. Precariously near bankruptcy, he is pressed to let his manor to a man that he feels is beneath recognition. Yet, his chief concerns are still for his property and position in society; – – but what of his two unwed daughters?

Fools are the best preserver of a great plot device that a writer could wish for! They add amusement and make our heroine’s plight all the more plausible. 

Learn how throughout Persuasion, pieces of furniture and other domestic items become associated in the reader’s mind with characters, in the JASNA Persuasions on-line journal article by scholar Laurie Kaplan