Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - the cancelled chapters

Not all copies of Persuasion contain these, although the Norton edition certainly does. If your copy doesn't contain them, then you can read the cancelled chapters of Persuasion at Molland'

As originally drafted, Persuasion was only 23 chapters long. What was Chapter 23 in the first ending is - with some minor modification - Chapter 24 now. What was Chapter 22 was partially scrapped, and another one and a half chapters were written, which are now Chapters 22 & 23.

Jane Austen first wrote "finis" on 18 July 1816, but it wasn't long before she picked her quill up again. The ending she'd written bothered her, you see. By early August, she was back at work, striking out quite a bit of Chapter 22 and a bit of Chapter 23. On August 6th, she again wrote "Finis" following the ending we've already read, then tweaked a bit more and finally put it down on August 8th.

Let's go back to where the story diverged, shall we? It was after Chapter 21, when Anne and Mrs. Smith had their rather informative chat about Mr. Elliot's perfidy.

The cancelled chapter begins with Anne wandering the streets of Bath in a bit of a haze, thinking over Mrs. Smith's information. As she's wandering in her state of WTF-ness, she's greeted by Admiral Croft, who drags her in to say hello to his wife, who turns out to be busy with her dressmaker (and therefore indecent), so Anne is stuffed into a room with Captain Wentworth without so much as a by your leave (after implying that he's heard rumours she's to marry Mr. Elliot).

Anne is surprised, of course, but not unwilling to spend time with Captain Wentworth. The Admiral, however, pokes his head back in to summon Frederick out of the room for a quick consult, whereupon the much mortified Captain returns to enquire, on the Admiral's behalf, whether it's true that she's going to marry Mr. Elliot, because, if so, the Admiral would be willing to terminate his lease of Kellynch Hall if need be. Imagine the exquisite pain that was the good Captain's here, and the overwhelming (and, I must note, immediate) relief of Anne's denial:

He proceeded, with a forced alacrity.—"The Adml, Madam, was this morning confidently informed that you were—upon my word I am quite at a loss, ashamed —(breathing & speaking quick)—the awkwardness of giving Information of this sort to one of the Parties—You can be at no loss to understand me—It was very confidently said that Mr Elliot—that everything was settled in the family for an Union between Mr Elliot—and yourself. It was added that you were to live at Kellynch—that Kellynch was to be given up. This, the Admiral knew could not be correct—But it occurred to him that it might be the wish of the Parties--And my commission from him Madam, is to say, that if the Family wish is such, his Lease of Kellynch shall be cancel'd, & he & my sister will provide themselves with another home, without imagining themselves to be doing anything which under similar circumstances wd not be done for them.—This is all Madam.—A very few words in reply from you will be sufficient.—That I should be the person commissioned on this subject is extraordinary!—and beleive me Madam, it is no less painful.—A very few words however will put an end to the awkwardness & distress we may both be feeling." Anne spoke a word or two, but they were unintelligible—And before she could command herself, he added,—"If you only tell me that the Adml may address a Line to Sir Walter, it will be enough. Pronounce only the words, he may.—I shall immediately follow him with your message.—" This was spoken, as with a fortitude which seemed to meet the message.—"No Sir—said Anne—There is no message.—You are misin—the Adml is misinformed.—I do justice to the kindness of his Intentions, but he is quite mistaken. There is no Truth in any such report."—He was a moment silent.—She turned her eyes towards him for the first time since his re-entering the room. His colour was varying—and he was looking at her with all the Power & Keenness, which she beleived no other eyes than his, possessed. "No Truth in any such report!—he repeated.—No Truth in any part of it?"—"None."—He had been standing by a chair—enjoying the releif of leaning on it—or of playing with it;—he now sat down—drew it a little nearer to her--and looked, with an expression which had something more than penetration in it, something softer;—Her Countenance did not discourage.—It was a silent, but a very powerful Dialogue;—on his side, Supplication, on her's acceptance.—Still, a little nearer—and a hand taken and pressed—and "Anne, my own dear Anne!"—bursting forth in the fullness of exquisite feeling—and all Suspense and Indecision were over.—They were re-united. They were restored to all that had been lost. They were carried back to the past, with only an increase of attachment and confidence, and only such a flutter of present Delight as made them little fit for the interruption of Mrs Croft, when she joined them not long afterwards.

The two of them explain themselves further in the gaps while the Crofts find excuses to leave them alone (but not for too long, of course), and Anne heads home in a complete tizzy, with a "Headake".

I happen to think that her first conclusion was far more deus ex machina than the one she arrived at, which feels as if it proceeds more naturally. It's certainly more romantic (meaning "full of romance"), and we get Anne's lovely explanation of constancy of affection and that beautiful letter - so much better than the rushed reconnection and unarticulated declarations we get in the cancelled bits.

And yet, the folks who make the movies cannot seem to help themselves. They put a version of the horrifying conversation betwixt Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in their films, be it the 1995 cinematic version, where the Captain is left with no response from Anne at all (apart from "why does everyone think we're getting married?"), and they're interrupted by Lady Russell, or the 2007 ITV version, where she tells him there's no truth in it, but they're interrupted by the arrival of . . . Lady Russell also, following which Anne scurries through the streets of Bath (in the rain!) where she learns of Mr. E's perfidy from an also-running-but-supposed-to-be-lame Mrs. Smith and gets the letter handed to her in the street from Harville. The running is ridonculous, but I still have the hots for Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth and with Rupert Giles Anthony Head as Sir Walter, so I consider it a win anyhow. But I digress.

I get that the drama of that moment appeals to drama fans, but I'd really truly very much like to see a production of Persuasion that adheres to the actual story and doesn't bother with the cancelled bit at all. I'm just sayin'.

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