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

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

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.

Thither to Lyme

The Cobb stairs, Lyme Regis, EnglandTHITHER

Captain Wentworth’s anxiety to see him (Captain Harville) had determined him to go immediately to Lyme. He had been there for four-and-twenty hours. His acquittal was complete, his friendship warmly honoured, a lively interest excited for his friend, and his description of the fine country about Lyme so feelingly attended to by the party, that an earnest desire to see Lyme themselves, and a project for going thither was the consequence. The Narrator on Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, Chapter 11

Thither! What a distinguised word not often seen in the 21st. century. By happy coincedence, I was recently watching the movie You’ve Got Mail, and the character Kathleen Kelly played by Meg Ryan makes reference to being lost in Jane Austen’s language and uses thither as an example. Smart girl! She too appreciates our Jane.

When Captain Wentworth and his party go thither to Lyme, we anticipate a happy outing with friends to the seaside. Our heroine Anne Elliot has resigned herself to the fact that she has lost the love of Captain Wentworth, as his attentions have been directed tword a younger lady, Louisa Musgrove.  What a heavy heart she must have taken with her to Lyme, to witness the man that she has silently loved for eight years court another lady.

My heart is so low for her at this point that I want her to go thither from the place!

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