I forgot, for example, that Anne Elliot moves around quite a bit: at the beginning of the story, she’s at Kellynch (Kellynch Hall) with her family, then she stays at Uppercross with her sister Mary and Mary’s husband Charles Musgrove, then she goes to Lyme with the entire group, then she visits Kellynch before moving to Bath with her family.
2/ Look at these lines about Mary:
“Though better endowed than the elder sister, Mary had not Anne's understanding nor temper. While well, and happy, and properly attended to, she had great good humour and excellent spirits; but any indisposition sunk her completely. She had no resources for solitude; and inheriting a considerable share of the Elliot self-importance, was very prone to add to every other distress that of fancying herself neglected and ill-used.” (Ch.5)“Resources for solitude” are important to Jane Austen, who highly values introspection and self-reflection. The line reminds me of the shallow Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park, who likes fun, cannot sit still, and gets bored easily because she has no resources for solitude.
It’s also true for Emma Woodhouse—she has self-reflection and is capable of recognising her own fault (better than Mary Crawford), but Emma is essentially about a young woman who lacks resources for solitude and turns into a busybody.
See what Anne thinks about the Musgrove sisters:
“Anne always contemplated them as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance; but still, saved as we all are, by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments; and envied them nothing but that seemingly perfect good understanding and agreement together, that good-humoured mutual affection, of which she had known so little herself with either of her sisters.” (ibid.)That’s a good quote.
3/ Sir Walter Elliot is such a snob—see his reasons for being against the Navy:
“"…First, as being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of; and secondly, as it cuts up a man's youth and vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old sooner than any other man. I have observed it all my life. A man is in greater danger in the navy of being insulted by the rise of one whose father, his father might have disdained to speak to, and of becoming prematurely an object of disgust himself, than in any other line…"” (Ch.3)Mrs Clay takes a dig at him:
“"…it is only the lot of those who are not obliged to follow any, who can live in a regular way, in the country, choosing their own hours, following their own pursuits, and living on their own property, without the torment of trying for more; it is only their lot, I say, to hold the blessings of health and a good appearance to the utmost: I know no other set of men but what lose something of their personableness when they cease to be quite young."” (ibid.)That’s delicious.
The conversation is ended abruptly however, and the narrative moves onto Mr Shepherd and the tenancy applications—this is one of the few places where we can tell Jane Austen meant to fill in later, as she was racing against her illness.
4/ See what Mrs Croft says to her brother, Captain Wentworth:
“"But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days."” (Ch.8)Later, when she’s asked by Mrs Musgrove about her travels:
“"Pretty well, ma'am in the fifteen years of my marriage; though many women have done more. I have crossed the Atlantic four times, and have been once to the East Indies, and back again, and only once; besides being in different places about home: Cork, and Lisbon, and Gibraltar. But I never went beyond the Streights, and never was in the West Indies. We do not call Bermuda or Bahama, you know, the West Indies."I always dislike it when some people denigrate Jane Austen for being narrow and talk as though she’s unaware of the world outside “the little world” she depicts. She might work on a small canvas, but that passage above shows a glimpse of a larger world, and also suggests her thoughts about women and men.
Mrs Musgrove had not a word to say in dissent; she could not accuse herself of having ever called them anything in the whole course of her life.” (ibid.)
5/ Look at this passage, when Anne goes for a walk with Mary, the Musgroves (the brother and 2 sisters), and Captain Wentworth:
“Her pleasure 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 had drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. She occupied her mind as much as possible in such like musings and quotations; but it was not possible, that when within reach of Captain Wentworth's conversation with either of the Miss Musgroves, she should not try to hear it; yet she caught little very remarkable.” (Ch.10)Is it just me, or does Anne seem to force herself to think about lines of poetry, instead of enjoying nature for what it is? Maybe I’m being unfair to her, thinking of Fanny Price’s rapture in Mansfield Park, but it feels like Anne occupies her mind in such musings and quotations so as to distract herself from Captain Wentworth and the Musgrove sisters, which doesn’t quite work.
6/ This is when Anne recommends some prose to Captain Benwick, who’s grieving his lost love:
“When the evening was over, Anne could not but be amused at the idea of her coming to Lyme to preach patience and resignation to a young man whom she had never seen before; nor could she help fearing, on more serious reflection, that, like many other great moralists and preachers, she had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination.” (Ch.11)I’m not suggesting that Jane Austen is Anne Elliot (she is none of her heroines, and people must throw in the bin the asinine idea that she’s Elizabeth Bennet), but I can’t help wondering if she ever feels that way about herself: “eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination”.
This is an interesting line about Captain Benwick:
“…For, though shy, he did not seem reserved; it had rather the appearance of feelings glad to burst their usual restraints…” (ibid.)I like that.
7/ This is the most important line in Persuasion, which sums up the idea of the entire book:
“Anne wondered whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as to the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character; and whether it might not strike him that, like all other qualities of the mind, it should have its proportions and limits. She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness as a very resolute character.” (Ch.12)It is Anne’s view, but the entire story of Persuasion supports the view—Captain Wentworth, apart from realising that he and Anne still have feelings for each other after many years, also has to learn that “a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness as a very resolute character”.
The idea of moderation and balance, as I’ve written several time before, seems also to be Jane Austen’s philosophy, as demonstrated by her 6 novels: balance between sense and sensibility, between emotional display and emotional restraint, between a romantic and pragmatic view of marriage, etc.
In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen creates Elizabeth Bennet, a witty, independent, and resolute heroine, who, for example, stands up for herself by saying to Lady Catherine “I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me” (Ch.56). In Mansfield Park, she creates Fanny Price, a resolute heroine in a different way, who on the surface appears passive but holds fast to her principles, resists persuasions and threats from all sides, and stands by her decision all the way to the end.
Then in Persuasion, Jane Austen creates a heroine who appears soft and persuadable, and shows that a resolute character can sometimes be bad, by depicting Louisa Musgrove, resolute in the extreme—headstrong, stubborn, and heedless of consequences.
8/ I should be writing about the style of Persuasion, but can’t help picking up the various interesting remarks. For example, after “the domestic hurricane” of the Musgrove kids and the Harville kids, comes this observation:
“Everybody has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity. When Lady Russell not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and driving through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newspapermen, muffin-men and milkmen, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint. No, these were noises which belonged to the winter pleasures; her spirits rose under their influence; and like Mrs Musgrove, she was feeling, though not saying, that after being long in the country, nothing could be so good for her as a little quiet cheerfulness.” (Ch.14)Relatable.
9/ Speaking of relatability, look at this line:
“"Now I have done," cried Captain Wentworth. "When once married people begin to attack me with,--'Oh! you will think very differently, when you are married.' I can only say, 'No, I shall not;' and then they say again, 'Yes, you will,' and there is an end of it."” (Ch.8)People never change—this is why Jane Austen endures.
I suppose this line is more amusing to me than to other readers, but I get this kind of attack “oh you will think differently (when you’re older)” whenever I happen to mention I don’t want children.
10/ Anne Elliot is different from Jane Austen’s other heroines in many ways. She is older, approaching “the years of dangers”; she is also more mature and more understanding, without delusions. There is a resignation about her that the other characters, being younger, don’t have.
Unlike the other heroines, Anne doesn’t have a close relationship with either of her sisters. Even Fanny Price, who is often neglected, is close to her cousin Edmund, and when she returns to Portsmouth, finds a close friend in Susan. Anne isn’t close to either Elizabeth or Mary—she is neglected and taken for granted by everybody.
This is something I remembered from my last reading, but I forgot that Anne didn’t particularly like her family—she tolerates them, rather than like them.
When Admiral Croft talks about Sir Walter and the mirrors all over Kellynch Hall, for example (the excellent line “I should think he must be rather a dressy man for his time of life. Such a number of looking-glasses! oh Lord! there was no getting away from one's self.”—Ch.13), Anne is amused, in spite of herself.
When she has to go to Bath to reunite with Sir Walter and Elizabeth:
“Anne did not share these feelings. She persisted in a very determined, though very silent disinclination for Bath; caught the first dim view of the extensive buildings, smoking in rain, without any wish of seeing them better; felt their progress through the streets to be, however disagreeable, yet too rapid; for who would be glad to see her when she arrived? And looked back, with fond regret, to the bustles of Uppercross and the seclusion of Kellynch.It’s noted earlier that during the time at Uppercross and Lyme, she barely thinks of her family in Bath, though of course a large part of it is because of Captain Wentworth.
[…] Anne was not animated to an equal pitch by the circumstance, but she felt that she would rather see Mr Elliot again than not, which was more than she could say for many other persons in Bath.” (Ch.14)
Once she’s in the house:
“Anne entered it with a sinking heart, anticipating an imprisonment of many months, and anxiously saying to herself, "Oh! when shall I leave you again?".” (Ch.15)The unhappiness with silly family members is more obvious in Persuasion than in other novels (I’m not counting Fanny, who finds much to be unhappy about in her real parents, but who doesn’t grow up with them—to her, family is the Bertrams).
And what does Anne think, when she asks herself why William Elliot suddenly wants to talk to her family again after several years of estrangement, and thinks it must be because he wants to marry Elizabeth?
“Elizabeth was certainly very handsome, with well-bred, elegant manners, and her character might never have been penetrated by Mr Elliot, knowing her but in public, and when very young himself. How her temper and understanding might bear the investigation of his present keener time of life was another concern and rather a fearful one. Most earnestly did she wish that he might not be too nice, or too observant if Elizabeth were his object…” (Ch.15)Yep. Anne has no illusion about her sister.