Anne Elliot, daughter of the snobbish, spend-thrift Sir Walter Elliot, is a woman of quiet charm and deep feelings. When she was nineteen, she fell in love with – and was engaged to – a naval officer, the fearless and headstrong Captain Wentworth. But the young man had no fortune, and Anne allowed herself to be persuaded, against her profoundest instinct, to give him up. Now, at twenty-seven, and believing that she has lost her bloom, Anne is startled to learn that Captain Wentworth has returned to the neighborhood, a rich man and still unwed. Her never-diminished love is muffled by her pride. He seems cold and unforgiving. Even worse, he appears to be infatuated by the flighty and pretty Louise Musgrove.
I’ve always felt that you have to be in the right mood to read Persuasion. Unlike Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion‘s first sentence doesn’t immediately grab you. It’s long and verbose, just like the actual novel, and takes an incredible amount of patience to get into the story. It’s language is complex and if you’re not paying attention, the multitude of Captains and Elliots can start to run together.
I’ve heard Persuasion be referred to as the “intellect’s Pride and Prejudice” and while I disagree, Persuasion has this bittersweetness to it that you just can’t find in Austen’s other works. Yet the heartbreak and romance are still there. For example, Captain Wentworth’s letter makes me cry every single time I read Persuasion.
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You piece my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone fr ever. I offer myself to you again with a hear even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. – Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? – I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink you voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others. – Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among me. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in.” (pg. 234)
Still, I’ve always felt like Persuasion was never fleshed out as much as Austen’s other novels. To me, it feels more like the outline of a novel. An outline with more depth than any other outline I’ve ever read, but an outline none the less. Of course, I realize it was published posthumously and therefore was not selfedited to the degree the others were, but a girl can wish.
- Austen, Jane. Persuasion. New York: Knopf, 1992. First published 1817. Print. 260 pgs. ISBN: 9780679409861. Source: Library.