"Persuasion", published in 1817, is Jane Austen's last completed novel. It is a love story for older adults. Anne Elliot is twenty-seven years old, which is considered a spinster in this time period. She has only loved once, but that was about eight years ago. She was then persuaded to end the engagement because his financial circumstances were not high enough for the daughter of a baron. But, now the baron is practically penniless, and the young man is a captain in the navy. Captain Frederick Wentworth has made his fortune during the war, and is now looking for a wife, but Anne is not in the running.
After years of neglect, Anne has become worn looking, while he is more handsome. Her self-centered, vain, spendthrift father has gone through their fortune and the family must rent the large estate, Kellynch Hall, and live in Bath, to cut his expenses. The renter is Captain Wentworth's brother in law and sister. This brings him back into Anne's sphere since she won't be joining her family in Bath, for awhile, but staying to help out her youngest sister, Mary, who has two little, unmanageable boys.
While she is there she comes into contact with Captain Wentworth, and must endure his courting the young ladies in their group. After an excursion to the sea shore, the Captain begins to remember his love for Anne, but, by the time he realizes it, she has moved on to Bath. When he joins his family, who are also in Bath, and sees her again, she is being courted by another man. After some ups and downs, they renew their love and live happily ever after.
"Persuasion" opens with an introduction to the shallow, self-involved, Sir Water Elliot. Sir Elliot's favorite past time is to read "The Baronetage", a book that listed his family history. He especially liked to read his name, "Elliot of Kellynch Hall. Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. Of South Park, in the country of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1,1785: Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5, 1789; Mary, born Nov. 20, 1791" He had added, in his own hand, by Mary's birth "married, Dec. 16, 1810, Charles, son and heir of Charles Musgrove, Esq. Of Uppercross, in the county of Somerset." He also added the date of his wife's death.
Since his wife's death, Sir Walter, had decided to not remarry. When questioned, he says the reason he won't remarry is for the "sake of his daughters." But, in reality, it isn't necessary, since his oldest daughter, Elizabeth handles the duties as hostess, and his middle daughter, Anne handles everything else. Sir Walter's only duty is in leisure. He spends time on physical self-improvement. Sir Walter follows all the latest fashion, uses all the best creams on himself, and tries whatever else is in style to make himself look younger. He enjoys looking at himself in the mirror and has them all over his house.
Having no sons, the title and fortune must pass to Sir Walter's nephew, William Elliot. They had hoped he would marry Elizabeth, but William chose to marry for money, instead. So, after years of Sir Walter living the life of a wealthy baron, without the intelligence of his wife, his mismanagement of his estate has brought about a reduction in funds. This is the predicament Sir Walter and his daughters are in when the story starts.
Lady Russell, an old friend of he family, has been trying to help him for a while. She and his wife were very close, so Lady Russell feels an attachment to their daughters, especially Anne. But, Elizabeth is Sir Walter's favorite daughter. She is as vain and self-centered as he is, while Anne is more level headed. It is Anne who tried to balance their household accounts, but her father and sister would not give up any of their comforts. Finally, Mr. Shepard, a long time family friend, adviser and lawyer, suggests they stay in less expensive accommodations, and rent out Kellynch Hall. Sir Walter agrees, if they can find a tenant who he deems suitable, and if they can live in Bath. Even though Anne hates Bath, she acquiesces. Lady Russell likes this idea, because she is hoping to separate Elizabeth from Mrs Clay, the widowed daughter of Mr. Shepard. Mrs. Clay fawns over Elizabeth, appealing to her vanity, while the same time, flirting with Sir Walter. Lady Russell feels Mrs. Clay plans to become the next Lady Elliot. Although, some people have inquired throughout the years, since Sir Walter's wife died, when Lady Russell and Sir Walter would marry, the two of them have never had any intention. Society, in general, allows that Lady Russell, who is wealthy and intelligent, would not marry. But, Sir Walter was expected to find another wife. Therefore, women are on the hunt for him. The huntress now is Mrs. Clay.
After much debate, a tenant is decided on. Admiral Croft and his wife. They have no children, and Mr. Shepard thinks a woman will keep the estates in order. He also points out that her brother, was a curate at Monkford, a nearby parish, so they would be more stable with nearby family connections. Sir Walter first wants to ensure he is not letting an ugly man rent his home. When he is assured that the Admiral is not too weather-beaten, he agrees. Although, as Mrs. Clay points out, the only truly handsome men are land owners, such as Sir Walter.
Sir Walter also likes the idea of saying that he let his house to Admiral Croft. It sounds very patriotic and distinguished. And, of course, the admiral will be gratified to be given the honor of renting from Sir Walter. Elizabeth is anxious to relocate to Bath, and participate in the many entertainments. But, Anne can only think of one thing right now, Frederick Wentworth, Mrs. Croft's brother.
A little over seven years ago, when Anne still had her youth and beauty, she fell in love with a young seaman, Captain Wentworth. At the time, he had no fortune, and his prospects of it were not set, so Lady Russell advised Anne to say "no" when he proposed. Since Anne was only nineteen, and without a mother, she listened to Lady Russell's words. This broke his heart, and he left for his naval career. Since then, Anne followed his career, and watched his many promotions. Now, he was quite wealthy, and Anne is sure he has forgotten about her. But, she hasn't forgotten him, and dreams of his sister walking the paths at Kellynch Hall. Anne wonders if Captain Wentworth might even visit his sister.
As the move grows closer, Lady Russell suggests that Anne should wait to join her father and sister in Bath. Lady Russell will be going there herself after Christmas, and would be glad to take her then. This is agreed upon, even though, Lady Russell will be gone from Kellynch for a few weeks. During that time, Anne will be staying with their youngest sister, Mary. Anne is glad to be of use to Mary, who is complaining of sickness and is in need of her. "I cannot possibly do without Anne," says Mary, while Elizabeth replies, "Then I'm sure Anne had better stay, for nobody will want her in Bath." But, to their surprise, Elizabeth wants Mrs. Clay to accompany her to Bath.
After Anne and Lady Russell spent time worrying about the machinations of Mrs. Clay, Anne decides to have a talk with Elizabeth. Elizabeth thinks Mrs. Clay is quite aware of her place in society and she would never strive to a match with Sir Walter. And, since Mrs. Clay is not pretty, Sir Walter would not want a match with her. With this, Anne can feel she at least tried, and maybe Elizabeth will be observant of any moves on Mrs. Clay's part.
When Anne arrives at Mary's house, Uppercross Cottage, she is confronted with a grumpy sister. Mary is feeling left out. When compared to her sisters, Mary has always been considered the plain sister. She is also very disagreeable. Neither her husband nor her children respect her. She also perceives discourtesy from her in-laws. Mary often notices that her mother-in-law "was very apt to not give her the precedence that was her due when they dined at the Great House with other families; and she did not see any reason why she was to be considered so much at home as to lose her place". After hearing that Anne has been invited to the Great House to dine with the Musgroves, Mary suddenly makes a recovery and is anxious to go along.
The Musgroves are a large family, of some wealth. Mrs. Musgrove is overweight and has trouble walking, but, they are all easy going. Anne feels comfortable with them, since their conversations are light, but varied. They are much easier to talk to than her father and sister, who are self-centered and spend time making snide comments about other people. Anne is especially enjoying conversations with the two oldest girls, Henrietta and Louisa. The girls are fun and love to dance. The Musgroves are a very popular family, and have lots of evenings with neighbors stopping in. They are always glad when Anne is there, because she plays the pianoforte for them, so they can have dancing. Anne is twenty-seven and unmarried, so they all consider her a spinster, who is glad to play and not dance.
The Musgroves are also glad to have Anne at Uppercross Cottage, because she keeps Mary from being so disagreeable. And, Anne can control the boys, whereas Mary has no control over her sons, and usually make them behave worse. Charles, her husband and the oldest of the Musgrove siblings are always out hunting with his friends, so Mary has that to complain about, too. Charles is an easy going young man, who seems to like his wife. But, does wish she had some of Anne's manners. Unfortunately, he and everyone else, puts Anne in the middle of their arguments. Wanting her to help Mary to be a better mother, or make Mrs. Musgrove not give the boys so much candy, etc.
Finally, the day arrives when the Crofts take up residence in Kellynch Hall. Anne has mixed feelings about it, but, Mary is predetermined to judge them inferior. Of course, once they all meet that idea changes, and Mary is quite pleased with them. Admiral and Mrs. Croft have spent their lives on board ships, so their faces are weather beaten, but they are wealthy and congenial. When the discussion of Mrs. Croft's brother comes up, she points out that he is married, but soon clarifies that her oldest brother is the married one, not the Captain Wentworth that Anne had been in love with. Then she announces that her brother, Frederick, or Captain Wentworth will be visiting soon.
On the night the Charles Musgrove's were to dine at his parent's home and meet Captain Wentworth, one of the little boys falls out of a tree and is injured. At first it looks like Mary will have to stay home with him, but, she is so jealous of her husband going without her to meet the Captain, that she is extremely whiny. Finally, Anne suggests that she will stay with the injured boy and the two of them can go. Mary is thrilled, since she hates to miss a party, and Anne is happy, since she is in no hurry to see Captain Wentworth again.
When the couple return they are full of good words about Captain Wentworth. They both think he has "charming manners". Although, Charles invited him to breakfast the next morning, the Captain didn't want to impose on the household with a sick child, so they decided to meet the next morning at the Great House. Even though, he made it seem that his reason for not coming over the next morning was because of the child, Anne suspected he was, also, putting off seeing her again. He did ask about her, but as one would of a passing acquaintance.
The next morning, Charles and the Captain stop into the cottage so Charles can retrieve his hunting dogs. Since Mary starts breakfast late at the cottage, she and Anne are just sitting down when the two men arrive. Captain Wentworth just gives Anne a small nod when he sees her. Although, Anne is glad to have this first meeting over with, she wonders what he thinks after so long. Mary is quick to tell her "Captain Wentworth is not very gallant by you, Anne, though he was so attentive to me. Henrietta asked him what he thought of you, when they went away; and he said, 'You were so altered he should not have known you again'"
Anne is hurt, of course, and thinks that the same years that robbed her of her youthful glow made him more handsome. Anne knows that when he said that, he did not know she would hear it, but never the less, he has not forgiven her for being persuaded by Lady Russell into breaking off their engagement, and breaking his heart. Now, he is looking for a wife, and will choose "any woman between fifteen and thirty", but, definitely not Anne. Anne and Captain Wentworth are often in the same group, socially. They are both dinner guests at the Great House one night when Mrs. Musgrove asks Captain Wentworth to tell her about her youngest son. Dick was stationed on his ship for a short duration, before he was killed in action on another ship. Mrs. Musgrove says that while her son was on the Captain's ship, he was a good correspondent. Usually, though, the boy was "troublesome" and was sent to sea because he was "stupid and unmanageable on shore". Anne thinks that Captain Wentworth was probably glad to get him off his ship.
At the end of the evening, there is dancing and Anne is on the pianoforte, again. Captain Wentworth danced with Henrietta and Louisa, and all the girls were a bit in love with him. Once, Anne overhears him asking his partner if Miss Elliot ever danced. The answer was to the negative. The girl said that Anne had given up on dancing and just played the music, never tiring.
Charles Hayter is a cousin of the Musgrove's and has been showing interest in Henrietta. When he returns from a trip and finds that Captain Wentworth has become the romantic interest of all the girls, including Henrietta, he bows out and spends more time at home. One day, Henrietta and Louisa stop by to see Anne and Mary on their way out to take a walk. They hope to persuade Anne to go along, but Mary is angry that they didn't ask her. Although, they feel it will be too long for Mary, the girls ask her. When Mary accepts, Anne goes, too. She thinks that if Mary wants to turn around at any time, she will be there to accompany her.
Before the girls get very far, they are met by Charles and Captain Wentworth. The whole party take off on a long walk. Along the way they notice that they are close to the Hayter house. Henrietta has been missing Charles Hayter's attention, so she asks her brother to go in for a small visit. Mary thinks the Hayter's are uncouth, so she refuses to visit them. She and Anne decide to rest on the side of the road while the visit is going on. Captain Wentworth and Louisa decide to wait with them. The two wander away from Mary and Anne, hoping to spend some time together. Anne has had to watch the romance blossom between the two of them for a while, and has watched other girls flirt with him and he flirt back, while being cold to her. Although, there is much speculation about which girl he will propose to, Anne thinks he isn't actually interested in any of them. She remembers what he looks like when he is interested.
Anne is waiting a bit away from her sister, so she is accidentally close to Captain Wentworth and Louisa. She overhears their conversation when Louisa tells Wentworth about Anne's history. She tells him that Charles, her brother, had proposed to Anne first, but she had turned him down, so he married Mary. When Charles and Henrietta return, they bring Mr. Hayter with them. This makes it clear that Mr. Hayter is for Henrietta and Captain Wentworth is for Louisa.
After missing a few days at the Great House, Captain Wentworth comes back to say he has been visiting with his friends in Lyme, a small coastal village. Everyone wants to see it, so they make arrangements to visit. Charles and Mary, Louisa, Henrietta and Anne will all accompany Captain Wentworth. When they arrive, they meet the Captain's friends, Captain and Mrs. Harville and Captain Benwick. Captain Benwick had been engaged to Captain Harville's sister, Fanny, when she died. He has been depressed since and reads morose poetry. Anne tries to pull him out of his sadness, by recommending lighter poetry. They spend time talking to each other, and he slowly improves.
The next morning, while the group is taking a walk on the wall near the beach, they meet a young man who flirts with Anne a bit. This brings her to Captain Wentworth's notice. The sea air has been improving her looks, and she is entering into her "second bloom". When they return to the inn for breakfast, they inquire about the young man and discover he is William Elliot, their cousin and the heir to Kellynch Hall.
The group decides to take one more walk along the beach after breakfast. Louisa has become more bold because she thinks her more decisive nature is what Captain Wentworth is looking for in a wife. He had told her earlier that he thought a person should not be easily persuaded, and that is how she interpreted it. Since he had been catching her every time she jumped from the wall, she decided to push the game a bit faster. But, he was not ready to catch her and Louisa fell.
Although it wasn't a large jump, Louisa managed to hit her head on the ground. The rest of them were in a panic when she lost consciousness. The only cool head was Anne. She told them what to do and directed the party to carry her to the inn and get the doctor. Along the way they met with the Harville's who offered their cottage for the invalid, since it was closer and Mrs. Harville had some nursing experience. When the doctor arrives he diagnoses Louisa with a severe head injury, but she will recover with some rest. The Harville's offer to let her stay as long as she needs.
The rest of the party plans to have Captain Wentworth take Mary and Henrietta back to Uppercross, so they can inform Louisa's parents. Captain Wentworth praises Anne's capability, and thinks she should stay to care for Louisa. But, once again, Mary is jealous and insists that she should be the one to stay. Louisa is her sister-in-law, and she doesn't want to go home without her husband, she might miss any excitement. It is determined, therefore, that Captain Wentworth will take Henrietta and Anne home. For the first time, Captain Wentworth is talking to Anne, and asking her opinion on how to tell Louisa's parents. Then he drops her off at Uppercross and heads back to Lyme.
In a few days, the Musgraves go to Lyme also, per Anne's advice. This leaves Anne alone for a day, before Lady Russell picks her up to stay with her. While staying with Lady Russell, Anne has to explain about Captain Wentworth being at Uppercross. But, when Anne tells her that it appears he will be matched with Louisa, Lady Russell relaxes. She still doesn't think he is right for Anne. Lady Russell notices that Anne's looks have improved. She has put on some weight and has a bit of a bloom.
Anne is not looking forward to going to Bath. She enjoys the warm family atmosphere of the Musgrove's and knows she will soon have to deal with her father. Just before they are due to leave, Anne receives a letter from Elizabeth saying that Mr. Elliot has arrived and been forgiven by their father. When they arrive in Bath, Anne is taken to her father's lodgings. It is a nice little place, but not as grand as Kellynch Hall. Sir Walter and Elizabeth are thrilled with it and love the action of city life. Soon, Mr. Elliot drops by. At first Anne thinks he is interested in marrying Elizabeth, since everyone else does. He has been forgiven for marrying his first wife, who was a tradesman's daughter, but rich. Now he is a widower, and everyone thinks he is looking to marry Elizabeth. With their marriage the title and house would stay in the family. But, Mr. Elliot seems to be more interested in Anne. He pays her a lot of attention and thinks she is pretty. The two develop a friendship. They both think Mrs. Clay has set her sights on Sir Walter.
To add to the feelings of importance for Sir Walter and Elizabeth is the arrival of their estranged cousins, the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple and the Honourable Miss Carteret. Sir Walter feels that the relationship with Lady Dalrymple will get him into the best social circles in Bath. As for Anne, she and Mr. Elliot just hope the acquaintance will occupy Sir Walter enough to keep him out of Mrs. Clay's clutches.
Anne discovers an old school friend of hers is living in Bath. Mrs. Smith had married a wealthy young man after leaving school, but after he died, she was left penniless and ill. She is recovering, but living in a small place. Although her health is still weak and she must sell needlework to make a small living, Mrs. Smith is always cheerful. One evening, Mr. Elliot is at a dinner party talking to Lady Russell about Anne, who is visiting with Mrs. Smith. He speaks so warmly of her that Lady Russell becomes convinced he is planning on marrying Anne. She is thrilled since she feels that Mr. Elliot has enough social status and money to marry Anne.
Anne receives a letter from Mary telling her that Louisa is to marry Captain Benwick. It seems that the two fell in love while she was recovering. Also, the Croft's are in Bath. Anne hopes that means that Captain Wentworth will also be arriving soon. The first time they meet is in a small shop. Anne is with Louisa, Mrs. Clay and Mr. Elliot. When the rain starts, Mr. Elliot asks Lady Dalrymple to give the women a ride home in her carriage. She agrees but only has room for two girls. Louisa decides Mrs. Clay will ride with her, and Anne can walk with Mr. Elliot. While he leaves to find an umbrella, Captain Wentworth comes into the store. He is surprised to see her, and tries to make small talk, until Mr. Elliot arrives and the two take off under the umbrella.
The next time they see each other is at a concert. Anne is there with her family. She and Captain Wentworth have a conversation that gives her hope that his feelings for her have shifted. She even notices a little jealousy when she is asked by Mr. Elliot to explain some of the concert. The next day, Anne is visiting with Mrs. Smith when she discovers that Mr. Elliot is the reason her husband lost all his money. He is also executor of Mr. Smith's estate and has left her with no recourse. She learns that Mr. Elliot had shown disdain for her father and Elizabeth when he married his first wife. He was not a good husband, and is now planning to marry Anne with a stipulation that Sir Walter will not marry Mrs. Clay. Anne assures her friend that she has no intention of marrying Mr. Elliot, and is in fact in love with another man.
The next day, Mary and Charles arrive. The whole Musgrove family is in Bath shopping for wedding clothes. Not only is Louisa going to marry Benwick, but Henrietta is going to marry Charles Hayter. The Elliot's plan a dinner party for them all, including the Croft's and Captain Wentworth, so they can meet Mr. Elliot and the Dalrymples. Charles tries to tell Mary that he had gotten tickets to a play for that same evening, for them all, including Anne. When Anne says she would much rather go to the play than see Mr. Elliot, Captain Wentworth perks up.
The next morning, Anne is visiting the Musgroves. The Captain's Harville, and Wentworth are both there, as well as Mrs. Croft. Anne is discussing the constancy of love with Captain Harville. She argues that since women have no other occupation, they are more constant than men, who have a busier life with more interaction. She says that women will still love even when all hope is gone. She doesn't realize that Captain Wentworth, who is busy writing a letter, is listening, until he is leaving, and nods toward a note he has written for her. When Anne reads the note, she sees that he is still in love with her and wants to marry her. She tells her friends that she must leave, so Charles offers to walk with her. Along the way, they meet Captain Wentworth and Charles asks him to accompany her the rest of the way home, so he can check out a gun a friend is selling.
Finally, Anne and Captain Wentworth are alone and able to express their love for each other. He tells her that he left Lyme when he discovered everyone thought he was practically engaged to Louisa. He hoped his absence would quell those expectations. He was glad when she announced her engagement, and as soon as he heard of it, he left right away to find Anne. Later that evening, when they were back together again, they discussed their prior engagement in their youth. She tells him that even though the advice Lady Russell gave her was flawed, she was right in following it, because as a young girl, she was listening to the advice of her elders. Then he asks her if he had returned after he earned his fortune, would she have accepted him. She tells him that she would have and he curses himself for wasting those years.
The last chapter is a kind of epilog. When Anne and Captain Wentworth announce their engagement, her father and Elizabeth think its fine, since he has a fortune. Mrs. Russell is not happy at first because she had hoped Anne would marry Mr. Elliot, but when he shows his true colors by running off with Mrs. Clay to live in sin, she warms up to Anne's choice as the husband. Captain Wentworth helps Mrs. Smith to recover some of her husband's money and her health continues to improve. Anne and Captain Wentworth live happily ever after.
Anne Elliot - the middle daughter of Sir Walter. She is kind and considerate. The only level headed woman in the book. Since she is twenty-seven years old, she is considered to be a spinster and is often emotionally dismissed by her family, unless they want her to do something. When she was young and pretty, she fell in love with Captain Wentworth but was persuaded to break their engagement because of his financial and social status. That was over seven years before the beginning of the novel, and since then she has never married even though she has had a satisfactory proposal.
Now, Anne is drab, so when Captain Wentworth returns, she must endure his flirting with younger girls. Soon, though, she begins to go into her “second bloom” and becomes more lovely. At the same time, Captain Wentworth is beginning to appreciate her good qualities, and to remember his love for her while forgiving her for breaking their engagement years earlier.
Captain Frederick Wentworth - a captain of the navy who is temporarily ashore, between ships. He is proud and unwilling to forgive Anne for breaking their engagement years earlier, at first, but as the story progresses Captain Wentworth falls in love with Anne, again. He begins by stating to his sister, that he is looking for a wife, then he coldly courts other young girls in front of Anne. When he realizes that Anne has been constant in her affections for him, and has turned down a proposal that was from a man that was more her social equal, he starts to see her differently and relax his cold demeanor towards her. Especially when he notices other young men interested in her. As a man who has earned his own fortune through hard work, he is not afraid to pursue Anne again, when he realizes she possesses all the traits a good navy wife should have; constancy, thrift, and a level head. His actions show that he will be a true partner in their marriage.
Sir Walter Elliot - Anne's father. He is vain and self-centered. He is comically narcissistic. Sir Walter has mirrors throughout his house so he can admire himself, and has every wall in his dressing room covered with mirrors. He notices that his friends are aging so much faster than himself, deigning to allow these lesser mortals to be around his beauty. Although he doesn't see himself as cruel, he often makes hurtful comments to Anne. Elizabeth is his favorite daughter because she is so much like him. The two of them are the foils to Anne and Captain Wentworth.
William Elliot - sir Walter's nephew and heir. Against the wishes of his family, he married a rich woman, who he didn't love, instead of marrying the oldest Elliot girl, Elizabeth. She and her father had assumed he would marry her to keep the title and home with them. He is mercenary and a social climber. Now that his wife has died, he plans to marry and take his new wealth with him when he takes his role as Baron, his wife of choice is Anne. He finds her more to his liking and easier to get along with, than the vain and shrewish Elizabeth. He also schemes to keep Sir Walter from remarrying and producing a male heir that would supplant him.
Jane Austen Biography
Born 16 December 1775 in Hampshire, England. She died 18 July 1817 at the age of 41. In her life, she wrote 6 novels that are the most widely read in English literature. Her books are considered romantic fiction. Her irony and wit bring the stories of Regency England to life. Although popular now, her books were originally published anonymously. During the years between 1811 and 1816, she published four novels and began to gain some notoriety.
As the youngest daughter in a large family, she received some of her education from her father, a minister who ran a boy's school, and her older brothers. But, the vast majority of her education came from books. She was a voracious reader. During her childhood, she, her brothers and sister, Cassandra spent their evenings entertaining their parents and neighbors. They put on plays, played music and read stories.
Jane was not the only writer in her family, but, the only one to take the time to pursue it. It was her brother, Henry and her father who pushed her to publish and even paid for the first publications. Henry became her agent, and her whole family was helpful in her writing career.
After she died, her brother, Henry, and sister, Cassandra had her last two books published, "Persuasion" and "Northanger Abbey". For the first time, her name was put on the book, instead of ' by a lady'. Henry pulled a few strings with some contacts in the clergy and had Jane interred in Winchester Cathedral. Her brother, James wrote a lovely epitaph praising her personal qualities and mentioning the "extraordinary endowments of her mind" but managed to leave out her achievements as a writer.