Category Archives: persuasion

by jane austen

persuasion chapter 18

“there are several odd-looking men walking about here, who, i am told, are sailors”

finally, a letter from mary:

My dear Anne,

I make no apologies for my silence, because I know how little people think of letters in such a place as Bath.

but mary must break this self-imposed silence for some important news: fredrick and louisa’s engagement is off; she’s now set to wed captian benwick.  for anne this means, as mary doesn’t fail to point out, that “this is the end, you see, of Captian Benwick’s being supposed to be an admire of” hers.  anne spends a page or so wondering how this could have happened?  how did benwick and lousia end up together?  i mean, “their minds [are] most dissimilar!”

according to mary’s letter, books brought them together—books read together during the weeks she was confined to bed after her fall.  another explanation may be the fall itself (lousia’s fall; not the other one) . . . dispositions often change after serious head-traumas.


Anne’s heart beat in spite of herself, and brought the colour into her cheeks when she thought of Captian Wentworth unshackled and free.

the letter read, anne heads out on a walk.  at the printshop window, she notices admiral croft staring at a picture . . . “I can never get by this shop without stopping.”  an image of a boat on the water always captures his attention.  but it’s not the aesthetic quality or the technical realism that draws croft in; he responds to the gap between his experiences of the sea and the reproduced image:

What queer fellows your fine painters must be, to think that any body would venture their lives in such a shapeless cockleshell as that.  And yet, here are two gentleman . . .


persuasion chapter 17

“. . . i fear its lessons are not in the elevated style you descibe”

the last time anne lived in bath was as a depressed and sullen teenager, alone at school, immediately after the death of her mother.  these (dead) memories which still haunt partially account for anne’s cold reception of her second stay at bath.  there was, however, one bright-spot from that (dead) past: a miss hamilton, now mrs smith, “had been useful and good to [anne] in a way which had considerably lessened her misery, and could never be remembered with indifference”.

situations appear to be reversed: now, anne is more-or-less content; mrs smith is widowed, with numerous health problems, struggling to obtain basic necessities.  but even give these circumstances, anne believes mrs smith “had moments only of languor and depression, to hours of occupation and enjoyment” due not only to fortitude and resignation, but further to an “elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power to turning readily from [beyond?] evil to good” .

sir walter nearly loses it when he finds that anne has been visiting mrs smith, grounding his opposition to the connection by opposing her physical location within the city (which, of course, also locates her class position):

“Westgate-buildings!” said he; “and who is Miss Anne Elliot to be visiting Westgate buildings? — A Mrs Smith?  A Widow Mrs Smith, — and who is her husband?  One of the five thousand Mr Smiths whose names are to be met with every where.”

to sir walter’s outburst, anne offers no reply.

she left it to himself to recollect, that Mrs Smith was not the only widow in Bath between thirty and forty, with little to live on, and no sirname of dignity.

i wonder if during sir walter’s recollection he realized that the ration between those resident of bath he considers worth visiting and those like mrs smith seems inversely proportional to the relation between mrs smith’s moments of depression and her hours of enjoyment.

persuasion chapter 16

it was a reference to the future, which anne, after a little observation, felt she must submit to.

sir walter seems surprised by anne’s look,

‘less thin in her person, her cheeks; her skin, her complexion, greatly improved—clearer, fresher. had she been using anything in particular! ‘no, nothing at all.’  ‘ha! he was surprised by that . . . you cannot be better than well.’

interesting how what seems as a question ends in exclamation.  and the quotations here, which are not separated by paragraph breaks according to the speaker, inhabit a kind of middle zone between what was said and who is speaking.  further, the position of the narrator becomes unclear.

but, can you be better than well?  remember that the early discussions of the looks of mrs clay focused on her plainness . . .  a plainness compounded by freckles.  in sir walter’s view, her looks have greatly improved due to a manufactured influence:

I should recommend Gowland, the constant use of Gowland, during the spring months.   Mrs Clay has been using it at my recommendation, and see what it has done for her.  You see how it has carried away her freckles?

according to the ninth footnote in persuasion,

Gowland’s lotion was evidently an established treatment by then, since Chapman quotes an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle of the period for ‘Mrs Vincent’s Gowland lotion’.

of course, “it did not appear to Anne that the freckles were all that lessened”.

persuasion chapter 15

it had originated in misapprehension entirely

bath—kellynch hall, uppercross, capt wentworth and the musgroves have all disappeared . . . but that nothing still exerts a ghostly presence.  those memories shared by anne and those who have read the previous chapters are not mentioned explicitly; sir walter and elizabeth “had no inclination to listen” to anne’s reflections being much to busy talking about the new furniture and how “every body was wanting to visit them”.  sir walter, elizabeth and lady russel love it in bath while anne “anticipat[es] an imprisonment of many months”.

there is, however, one feature of bath not to sir walter’s liking: “the worst of Bath was, the number of its plain women”.  sir walter estimates that you see only one pretty face “followed by thirst, or five and thirty frights”.

persuasion chapters 13 and 14

“a new sort of way this, for a young fellow to be making love, by breaking his mistress’s head!”

two days after returning from lyme, two days after the accident, anne must leave uppercross.  lady russell arrival reminds anne of her move to bath; buried under the concerns of uppercross, “she had lately lost thought even of her father and her sister and Bath.”  i too, as a reader, am guilty of forgetting about of the (im)pending move to bath . . . but, in my defense, “scenes [in the book] had passed in Uppercross, which made it precious.”

anne, accompanied by lady russell, spends one last (informal) dinner at the musgroves.  mary and charles have just returned with news from lyme: louisa is slowly recovering and captain benwick has, in the opinion of charles, a serious crush on anne.  mary strongly disagrees.  possibly because mary has a crush on captain benwick?  when describing her time at lyme, mary absentmindedly mentions getting “books from the library and chang[ing] them so often.”  and, don’t forget, captain benwick’s “head is full of books.”  could mary’s sudden interest in a variety of books stem from an even stronger interest in captain benwick?

the dinner party is not quite up to lady russell’s standards:

“i hope i shall remember, in the future,” said Lady Russell as soon as they were seated in the carriage, “not to call at Uppercross in the Christmas holidays.”

. . .  i hope i shall remember, in the future, as well.

persuasion chapter 12.1

[in the original edition the first volume ended here.]

their final stroll along the sea-shore, that zone of indistinction where the same geographical space is both land and sea (and the in(de)finite phases in-between depending on the time of day or the moon or whatever causes the tides).  with heavy wind preventing the party from walking along the upper cobb,

all were content to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captian Wentworth . . . she was safely down, and instantly, to show her enjoyment, ran down the steps to be jumped again.  he advised against her, thought the jar to great . . . she smiled and said, “i am determined i will:” he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless!

wait, what just happened?  a paragraph ago anne and captain benwick are discussing poerty (“Lord Byron’s ‘dark blue seas’ could not fail of being brought forward by their present view”) and now Lousia lies lifeless on the pavement?

there was no wound, no blood, no visible bruise; but her eyes were closed, she breathed not, her face was like death.

is she dead?  mary (who is quickly becoming my favorite character): “she is dead! she is dead!”  frederick: “is there no one to help me?”  everyone, not in shock (mary and herniretta) or possibly dead (lousia), looked to anne for direction (anne as crisis-manager?): “a surgeon!” and captain benwick is speeding off to town; “carry her gently to the inn” and fredrick obeys.  “it was all done in rapid moments.”

it turns out lousia isn’t dead and she isn’t about to die, but this kind of difference in expressed time—a way encoding time into persuasion that differs from the rest of persuasion; a difference that you feel as you read: your breath increases; the words appear more aggressive, attacking your visual field as you struggle to make sense—this time continues through the discussion of who should stay with lousia and who should return to uppercross to inform mr and mrs musgrove:

we must be decided, and without the loss of another minute.  every minute is valuable.  some must resolve on being off for Uppercross instantly.

persuasion chapter 12

and even i, at this moment, see something like anne elliot again

anne and henrietta are pulled again towards the sea . . .

they went to the sands, to watch the flowing of the tide . . . they praised the morning; gloried in the sea; sympathized in the delight of the fresh-feeling breeze—and were silent . . .

novels, since they spend so much of their time on descriptions of (imagined?) situations, often find themselves in the position of needing to describe absences.  here, for instance, we see anne and herniretta’s silence—their (temporary) lack of communication—indicated not with another absence, but inscribed with this “and were silent”.  in other words, the gap in speech needs to be textually described precisely because this silence weighs on both anne and henrietta . . . an oppressive nothing that needs to be broken.  but what to talk about?  healthy bodies, of course.

henrietta breaks the silence with an observation of the positive health benefits of the sea air, wondering weather a a change in climate would help a certain aging curator which would then lead to an opening for a new curator at uppercross, a position that could be filled by charles hayter.  if only there was someone who could convince dr shirley to leave his position at uppercross for something near the sea . . .

“I wish Lady Russell lived at Uppercross, and were intimate with Dr Shirley.  I have always heard of Lady Russell, as a women of the greatest influence on every body!  I always look upon her as able to persuade a person to any thing!”

this is maybe the third time someone has remarked on lady russell’s power of persuasion in anne’s presence, and each time anne appears oblivious even though lady russell (specifically, lady russell’s appropriation of the ghost of the late lady elliot) was arguably the biggest persuader in anne’s decision to break of her engagement to frederick.

on the way back to the inn, anne catches the eye of an interesting gentleman.  after breakfast, anne runs into the gentleman again,

. . . this second meeting, short as it was, also proved again by the gentleman’s looks, that he thought hers very lovely . . .

there are two types of looks (or gazes) in that sentence: the first is the gentleman’s looks at anne; the second, her looks—her person and embodied gestures—which the gentleman is looking on approvingly.  this second encounter finds the gentleman on his way out of town.  after he leaves, they find out he’s anne’s cousin and the heir to sir walter’s baronage. with all these looks and looks at looks, what was mary looking at?  “i hardly looked at him.  i was looking at the horses [of his carriage]”.

after breakfast, with it’s excited conversation about the chance meeting with mr elliot, the party heads down for a final walk near the sea . . .