Jane Austin's Persuasion (Penguin 1965 Edition) is a novel with quite the title of sarcasm. Like the Bronte Sisters, Austin withholds an inner flame for those objective souls, whose essence of such sensibility stems from oppression. Though Austin's main characters are not so browbeaten as The Bronte Sisters' are, it is probably because Austin was one class step above The Sisters and her writing reflects as much.
Anne Elliot, is the overlooked sibling and daughter to a Baron of frivolous spending habits. Her deceased mother loved her daughters and offset her husband's less than meritorious formulations of character with her more practical and exacting dimensions of personality. But upon her demise Anne was left adrift under the care of her father and Lady Russell, a good friend within the neighborhood of the family and a former confidant of the mother. Lady Russell and Sir Walter Elliot remain steadfast friends, her a widow and him a widower, yet never to marry to each other.
Lady Russell oversees much of the care of Sir Elliot's daughters, Anne and her sisters; Mary and Elizabeth. Anne being fourteen years of age upon her mother's demise and Elizabeth, sixteen years of age, and Mary at ten. Elizabeth, being of the age of a debuttante was considered quite handsome and akin to personality with her father, traits which heralded her influence to be of far more imbedded a fashion within family ranks than either of her sisters'.
Mary eventually attained a reasonably desired positioning for herself by becoming Mrs. Charles Musgrove, "but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister: her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way; -she was only Anne." But to Lady Russell, only Anne held the spirit of her mother within her countenance and nature, or at least to a revivable quality.
Sir Walter's hopes of a gaining marriage, he left upon the shoulders of Elizabeth, as Anne, though of delicate features and dark, calm eyes; was different in proportion than himself, so he therefore allayed her as of lesser quality and of no consideration. And Mary, who had married a man of equitable match, Sir Walter deemed to be a wash out.
Elizabeth was quite in bloom at the age of nine and twenty. But a weariness regarding a lack of conjugal matters in her life began to take a toll as for, "thirteen years had seen her mistress of Kellynch Hall, presiding and directing with a self-possession and derision which could never have given her the idea of her being younger than she was. For thirteen years, she had been doing the honors..."
Upon Elizabeth's disappointments on the marriage front was added the burden of her father's financial conditioning, as the estate was still of solid founding but while, "Lady Elliot lived, there had been method, moderation, and economy, which had kept him within his income; but with her had died all such right-mindedness, and from that period he had been constantly exceeding it." Neither Elizabeth nor her father wanted to regain sound financial stature without losing a singular propensity for comfort and vanity that lay within the tides of their estate.
"Mr. Shepherd, a civil cautious lawyer," was also an agent of Sir Walter's and did not want to become involved, either personally or professionally with markdowns of the estate. So, he as graciously as possible, in order to lessen the ruffles of the tide, begged recommendation of Lady Russell to the cause, one she took on with alacrity and due diligence such as her sound yet not particularly speedy mind would find footing with.
Lady Russell also did what no one else thought to do. She consulted Anne, who quickly made whole hearted changes and extensions to Lady Russell's list of markdowns and reductions upon the estate with the interest in mind that a loss of a pair of horses was just as well as the loss of one horse to the vain sensibilities of Elizabeth and her father.
Next, came the question of what to do with the estate itself. The Elliot family regardless of any Baronetage could no longer afford to live there but must rent the place out while residing in less ornate quarters. Outings to London were out of the question.
Mr. Shepherd did not trust Sir Elliot to live in London, and Sir Elliot would not hear of living in a marked down state within the same neighborhood. Anne did not want to leave Kellynch entirely, but her opinion was overturned by Lady Russell who sided with Anne's father on the claim that it just simply would not do to live under such lessened circumstances within the same realm of property as untoward riches were once so conveyed.
It was decided Bath would be the place of residence for Anne's newly proportioned family. Sir Elliot, horrified at the very idea of publicly advertising Kellynch Hall as a rental space, agreed to word of mouth business accommodations with Navy officers who were to be grounded as the country was not at war. The Elliots rented to Admiral Croft and his weatherbeaten wife, much to the intrigue of Anne, who had once held an engagement to a very handsome young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth without fortune nor rank but a high minded sense of promise, that only furthered Lady Russell's dislike for him.
Lady Russell, who found idealistic optimism to be on par with insolence convinced Anne, the engagement was unpardonably without merit and Anne, unable to counterfault Lady Russell on any design, had to, at the age of nineteen, terminate the said union on the grounds she was of no sustainable element to Wentworth, and thereby to do him the favor. He in turn, no fool, felt not only the personal pain of a betrayal upon her terminating their agreement but the sense of being used by those already established, and due to the fraction Wentworth left the country.
Now several years later he is to return, a rich man along with his brother in law, to the estate of Kellynch. Wentworth seems self absorbed and snide, when speaking to his sister, who is Mrs. Croft, "Yes, here I am Sophia, quite ready to make a foolish match. Anybody between fifteen and thirty may have me for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy and I am a lost man. Should not this be enough for a sailor, who has had no society among women to make him nice?"
Interestingly enough, a black sheep son of the Musgroves had been a midshipman to Captain Wentworth, yet thankfully to all who knew him, died while abroad, and in one of the two letters he wrote to his family, described the captain of presence as, 'a fine dashing fellow, only two perticular about the school master.' Captain Wentworth is good enough to take a seat by the grieving Mrs. Musgrove at a party and disclose to her all the potential comforts a man of somewhat familiarity with her son possibly could, though no one of any particular claim ever felt for the fellow anything other than nonchalant remonstrance while he was still alive.
Captain Wentworth, despite being prior neglected in an estimation of character by Lady Russell and a want of determination in Anne, becomes a seal of protection among more than one financially floundering character in the novel. Anne's cousin wishes to marry her, and makes his intentions known by stating to Anne, at a theater event, how fond he is of her and how he wishes her last name never to change. Whether Austin is purposely making fun of cousins marrying is unknown but it was probably worded with the fullest calculated intent. Anne has no natural born feelings for her cousin and upon a report from her widowed friend, Mrs. Smith, that he had received his fortune by marrying for money, Anne had a means of not only disdain but of censure toward Mr. Elliot. Though, none of them married to be poor.
Captain Wentworth marries Anne, which takes little persuasion on his part, now that he has accumulated a fair amount of wealth to his name. And despite his, "Should not this be enough for a sailor" comments, he has a naturally protective heart and also aids in the keeping of the widowed Mrs. Smith.
By Sarah Bahl