Persuasion: Does Anne Elliot have poor judgment?

Portrait of Maria Bicknell, by John Constable (1816)“Any acquaintance of Anne’s will always be welcome to me,” was Lady Russell’s kind answer. 

“Oh! as to being Anne’s acquaintance,” said Mary, “I think he is rather my acquaintance, for I have been seeing him every day this last fortnight.” 

“Well, as your joint acquaintance, then, I shall be very happy to see Captain Benwick.” 

“You will not find any thing very agreeable in him, I assure you, ma’am. He is one of the dullest young men that ever lived. He has walked with me, sometimes, from one end of the sands to the other, without saying a word. He is not at all a well-bred young man. I am sure you will not like him.” 

“There we differ, Mary,” said Anne. “I think Lady Russell would like him. I think she would be so much pleased with his mind, that she would very soon see no deficiency in his manner.” 

“So do I, Anne,” said Charles. “I am sure Lady Russell would like him. He is just Lady Russell’s sort. Give him a book, and he will read all day long.” 

“Yes, that he will!” exclaimed Mary tauntingly. “He will sit poring over his book, and not know when a person speaks to him, or when one drops one’s scissors, or any thing that happens. Do you think Lady Russell would like that?” 

Lady Russell could not help laughing. “Upon my word,” said she, “I should not have supposed that my opinion of any one could have admitted of such difference of conjecture, steady and matter-of-fact as I may call myself. I have really a curiosity to see the person who can give occasion to such directly opposite notions. I wish he may be induced to call here. And when he does, Mary, you may depend upon hearing my opinion; but I am determined not to judge him beforehand.” 

“You will not like him, I will answer for it.” 

Mary Musgrove, Charles Musgrove, Anne Elliot & Lady Russell, Persuasion, Chapter 14 

Jane Austen knows a bit about family dynamics. This conversation regarding Captain Benwick appears to be about Mary Musgrove’s objections to him, but it is more about her opinion of her sister Anne and her judgment. It is a theme running throughout the novel. Her family generally shuns her opinions “but Anne…was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way — she was only Anne.” Lady Russell her closest female advisor didn’t trust her judgment either. We learn about her choice of Captain Wentworth as a spouse eight years before the novel begins and how Lady Russell persuaded her to reject his offer of marriage because he did not match her social or financial station. However, some characters do trust Anne, but are not in the family. After Louisa Musgrove is injured in a fall on the Cobb at Lyme, only Captain Wentworth sees the truth. “But if Anne will stay, no one so proper, so capable as Anne.” This line is the turning point of the novel for our heroine. As readers we have never doubted Anne’s judgment; we were just not sure until this moment if Captain Wentworth did.

*Portrait of Maria Bicknell, by John Constable (1816)

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Top Ten Reasons to Read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, – Again!

WIN A FREE COPY OF

CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT

 

Image of the cover of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, (2007)

Today is the official release date for the paperback edition of one of my favorite Austen-esque novels,  Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler. Hurrah! You can read a synopsis of the book here

This novel received a most  ‘favourable’ response from reviewers and Janeites when it was released in hardcover last summer. Here are a few highlights… 

This is Laurie Viera Rigler’s first novel and she’s done a wonderful job. Charming characters, matchless plot-lines and a great Austen flavor make this debut a must-read. Fans of Austen will love Rigler’s style and Austen newbies will have no trouble following the story even if they aren’t familiar with all of Austen’s work. Blog Critics Magazine 

…the fans that adored Jude Devereaux’s Knight in Shining Armor or the time travel movies Somewhere in Time, Kate and Leopold, and Big will definitely have a rollicking good time. Jane Austen Today 

Ms. Rigler knows her Jane Austen and sprinkles the book with loving references….This book is a fun, light, fluffy bit of “chick lit” for any Janeite – a good read for a plane trip or a rainy weekend. The Austen Intelligencer 

I absolutely loved the creativity of this novel and admire Ms. Rigler’s bold and inventive plot and characters, which is made all the sweeter since it is just so darn funny. 

So Janeites, inspired by modern comedic brilliance, and Miss Austen’s character Emma Woodhouse who demands from each of you “one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated — or two things moderately clever — or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at them all“, I put to you my top ten reasons to read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, again, – and challenge you to add your share! 

Top Ten Reasons to Read 

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Again…

 

10.) Your cat became a critic and coughed up a hairball on your copy of Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife.

9.) Your boss caught you watching the new adaptation of Northanger Abbey on your computer at work, and has restricted your Austen addiction to lunch room reading. 

8.) Your VCR just ate episode 4 of Pride and Prejudice (1995), and your new DVD will not arrive from Barnes and Noble for three days! 

7.) Your wannabe Captain Wentworth just asked that stick insect cheerleader to the spring prom, and now your last minute blind date is your mother’s second cousins, manicurist’s minister’s, step son who is Mr. Collins’ doppelganger! 

6.) Your 13 year old little sister was just offered a modeling contract with the Wilhelmina agency in New York.   

5.) Your husband has just learned that you are being audited by the IRS because you talked him into claiming your purchases of Jane Austen books, DVD’s and conferences as a charitable contribution on your taxes.      

4.) Your debate team teacher will not let you argue the merits of Colin Firth vs. Matthew McFadyen to prove ‘who is the hottest Mr. Darcy ever’ at the state debate finals next month. 

3.) Your parents think you are crazy for refusing to go on vacation with them to Hawaii because Regency ladies never wore bikinis. 

2.) You have just learned that the movie Lost in Austen has been put on the back-burner, and now there are no pending movies of Jane Austen inspired biographies, spin-offs or adaptations in the immediate future.  

And the number one reason to read

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict again is… 

 

Your new boyfriend thinks that your ‘Darcy on a pedestal’ addiction is out of control after you ask him to bow when he meets your parents for the first time!

Be sure to visit Laurie’s web site devoted to everything addictive about Jane Austen, janeaustenaddict.com and explore the question, what would it be like to live in Jane Austen’s time, read about her latest insights for Jane Austen addicts on A Great Deal of Conversation Blog, or have your share of the conversation on the forum. 

Image of the cover of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, (2007)CONTEST: Win a free paperback copy of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by stating your unique reason for needing to read the novel in the comments by 11:59 pm on Wednesday May 7th, and the winner will be drawn and announced the next day! Good luck Austen addicts.       

Austen countdown: 5 days to Persuasion

Image of the banner for the PBS presentation of Persuasion staring Rupert Penry-Jones 

5 DAYS TO PERSUASION ON PBS

Sunday, the 13th of January, at 9:00pm

Mark your calendars and set your watches for the premiere of the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel of love and redemption, Persuasion, staring Rupert Penry-Jones as the dashing Captain Wentworth. Presented by those great folks at Masterpiece Classics. Further details can be found at An Austen New Year Awaits. Don’t miss out on all the Regency drama and fun!

Persuasion: You may perhaps like the heroine

Image of the title page of Persuasion, by Jane Austen, Frank S. Holby, (1906)

Do not be surprised at finding Uncle Henry acquainted with my having another ready for publication. I could not say No when he asked me, but he knows nothing more of it. You will not like it, so you need not be impatient. You may perhaps like the heroine, as she is almost too good for me. Letter to niece Fanny Knight, 23 March 1817, The Letters of Jane Austen

In this letter to Fanny Knight, the daughter of her brother Edward (Austen) Knight, Jane Austen refers to “having another ready for publication”, which is her last completed novel, Persuasion. It was written between 8 August 1815 and 16 July 1816, with final chapter revisions in August 1816. The novel would be published posthumously after her death, bound together with the novel Northanger Abbey in 1818.

Jane Austen’s coyness in diverting her niece’s interest in reading her new work by foretelling her reaction is typical of the banter she exercised with her family and friends regarding her view of the quality and importance of her work. Modest? I think not. Her next remark regarding her further prediction of Fanny’s reaction to liking the heroine Anne Elliot, “for she is almost to good for me”, surely qualifies as a sideways complement to herself. For what writer who has ever created a character does not find a bit of themselves fashioned into their nature? And – – Anne Elliot exemplifies some of the finest and amiable qualities of any of Jane Austen’s creation.

It is interesting to note that the working title for the novel was The Elliot’s, and was later changed after her death by her brother Henry Austen to Persuasion. In this instance, I must agree with his choice. The novel is not so much about the Elliot family, as it is about the life choices we make, and in particular how others can influence us. Anne Elliot’s choice to be persuaded by her family friend Lady Russell to decline an offer of marriage by Captain Wentworth will take her on a journey of loss, patience and faith; – – not unlike Jane Austen herself. You can read more about Persuasion’s plot and characters at these fine links.

Image of Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, PBS presentation of Persuasion (2008)Be sure to mark your calendars and set your watches for the premiere of the Masterpiece Theatre presentation of The Complete Jane Austen, on Sunday the 13th of January at 9:00pm. The first adaptation will be Persuasion, staring Sally Hawkins as our heroine Anne Elliot. You can read further details on the series in my post, An Austen New Year awaits.

*Image of the title page of Persuasion, published by Frank S. Holby, New York (1906)

©  2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Dignified situation

Watercolour by Jane Hartshorne, “Camden Place, Bath” 1829DIGNIFIED 

Sir Walter had taken a very good house in Camden Place, a lofty dignified situation, such as becomes a man of consequence; and both he and Elizabeth were settled there, much to their satisfaction. Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion, Chapter 15

I find it amusing that Sir Walter chose a location for his ‘retrenchment’ home high up on the hill in Bath with a lofty view. I imagine that it was pleasing for him to look out his windows and down on the rest of the city! Like a high and mighty King in his castle.

Jane Austen resided in Bath with her family from 1801 until her father’s death there in 1805. Her experiences there greatly influenced her novel Persuasion. Take the pilgrimage and walk in the gentle footsteps of Jane Austen as she arrives in Bath in this descriptive and informative account from the book Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends, by Constance Hill.  

Let us follow in the wake of this “very neat chaise” gentle reader, alighting, as Jane did, in Paragon.

Those who know Bath may remember that this name is given to the eastern side of a curved street on the slope of a steep hill, whose opposite side, called Vineyards, is raised above the level of the road on a high terrace walk. In Miss Austen’s day Paragon consisted of twenty-one houses only, as those at the northern end of the row were then called Axford Buildings. The Leigh Perrots’ house, it seems, was No. 1 Paragon, which is nearly opposite a steep passage leading up to Belmont.

 At the further end of the street can be seen the green slopes that rise abruptly to Camden Place; which “Place” is described by a contemporary writer, the grandiloquent Mr. Egan, as a “superb crescent composed of majestic buildings.” No wonder that the author of “Persuasion” made Sir Walter Elliot choose this locality for his residence in Bath as being “a lofty and dignified situation, such as became a man of consequence.” There, “in the best house in Camden Place,” we can fancy the vain-glorious baronet and his daughter Elizabeth rejoicing in their superiority to their neighbours in the size of their drawing-rooms, the taste of their furniture, and the, elegance of their card-parties.

Book cover, Jane Austen in BathStroll along the shady, tree lined walk where Captain Wentworth met Anne Elliot in this beautifully illustrated guide, Jane Austen in Bath: Walking Tours of the Writer’s City , available on-line at Barnes & Noble Booksellers

*Watercolour painting of Camden Place, Bath by Jane Hartshorne, 1829 

Extant pleasure

Illustration by Warren Chappell, Persuasion, 1950EXTANT   

Her pleasure (Anne Elliot) in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. The Narrator on Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Chapter 10

Jane Austen’s poetic description of the waining season parallels Anne Elliot’s own reflections of her extant hope of a renewed romance with Captain Wentworth. After eight years he has returned into her life, but his interests are for a younger lady. This realization leaves her numb and introspective, acutely aware of her surroundings as she walks out into the country.

In many of Jane Austen’s novels we find that a walk by characters reveals through intimate conversation, or silent reflection a transition in the characters lives. A new detail is disclosed that takes the plot in a new direction. And so it is with Anne Elliot. She has begun an inner journey of reflection and discovery. We travel with her, patiently following.

Take the first step of self discovery with fellow Janeite and author Lori Smith with her fresh and enlightening new book A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love & Faith, available at barnesandnoble.com

Hither, or follow

Illustration by Hugh Thomson, Persuasion Ch 23HITHER

“I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.” Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, Chapter 23

These compelling lines are from the famous “you pierce my soul letter” that Captain Wentworth writes to Anne Elliot toward the end of the novel. He has followed her to Bath (England) with the hope of one last and final chance to win her heart. When he presents the letter to Anne, it is his last and silent appeal for her love. 

Throughout the letter, Jane Austen’s choice of words is so precise; — so lean and tight. Barely a flourish or multiple-syllable to be found. It’s brevity mercifully allows for rapid reading. The plot has been building to this moment, and as Anne reads the missive, his words are a happy release. His reassurance that he shall return hither, or follow is her salvation; — and ours too.