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's.net.

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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Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Twenty-Four

"Who can be in doubt of what followed?"

Indeed. The marriage of Anne and Wentworth is green-lighted with something akin to pleasure by Sir Walter, Lady Russell comes around (since Anne's happiness is more important to her than anything else), and Mr. Elliot skives off with, as it turns out, Mrs. Clay, whom he's been seducing as a means of keeping her away from Sir Walter. And finally, Captain Wentworth helps Mrs. Smith get her money from the West Indies and she proves an excellent friend to the married couple as well.

Truly, I've got little to say about this chapter, which is more of a tucking-in of loose ends than anything else. Tomorrow, we'll talk about the rejected ending of Persuasion, which involved a different set-up for getting Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot together - one which the producers of movies seem unable to keep away from, even though they ought not tread near it, since it was jettisoned by its author.




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Friday, January 29, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Twenty-Three

Today, we're talking about the letter Chapter 23. Because when I think of Chapter 23, that strikes me as the most important part. For the second time in Austen's finished novels, we have an instance of an unengaged man writing to his love interest uninvited (the first time was when Darcy wrote to Elizabeth in P&P to justify his statements/conduct, and it leads to the turning point in that novel). For the record, unengaged men and women did not generally correspond unless they were relatives or were conducting business, so the use of a letter is a rather big deal - which is why Darcy delivered his in person and Wentworth does the "here's a letter for you" nod: neither of the men wishes for his particular love interest to be the subject of gossip, yet both of them have something they urgently wish to convey and no other way to do so without making a spectacle of themselves and their ladies. The idea of secret correspondence was, at the time, a rather sexy notion - or at least such is my belief - so this letter would have made readers' hearts race by its mere existence, let alone once they got to the contents.

This whole chapter is a set-up for the letter, but I do want to talk about Anne's chat with Captain Harville (conveniently in Bath for, I might add, no good reason at all except to have this conversation with Anne on which Wentworth eavesdrops). Harville has just finished describing the origin of the miniature to Anne, and is discussing Benwick's shift of affection to Louisa Musgrove:

And with a quivering lip he wound up the whole by adding, "Poor Fanny! she would not have forgotten him so soon!"

"No," replied Anne, in a low, feeling voice. "That I can easily believe."

"It was not in her nature. She doted on him."

"It would not be the nature of any woman who truly loved."

Captain Harville smiled, as much as to say, "Do you claim that for your sex?" and she answered the question, smiling also, "Yes. We certainly do not forget you as soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions."

"Granting your assertion that the world does all this so soon for men (which, however, I do not think I shall grant), it does not apply to Benwick. He has not been forced upon any exertion. The peace turned him on shore at the very moment, and he has been living with us, in our little family circle, ever since."

"True," said Anne, "very true; I did not recollect; but what shall we say now, Captain Harville? If the change be not from outward circumstances, it must be from within; it must be nature, man's nature, which has done the business for Captain Benwick."

"No, no, it is not man's nature. I will not allow it to be more man's nature than woman's to be inconstant and forget those they do love, or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe in a true analogy between our bodily frames and our mental; and that as our bodies are the strongest, so are our feelings; capable of bearing most rough usage, and riding out the heaviest weather."

"Your feelings may be the strongest," replied Anne, "but the same spirit of analogy will authorise me to assert that ours are the most tender. Man is more robust than woman, but he is not longer lived; which exactly explains my view of the nature of their attachments. Nay, it would be too hard upon you, if it were otherwise. You have difficulties, and privations, and dangers enough to struggle with. You are always labouring and toiling, exposed to every risk and hardship. Your home, country, friends, all quitted. Neither time, nor health, nor life, to be called your own. It would be hard, indeed" (with a faltering voice), "if woman's feelings were to be added to all this."

On the one hand, Anne accepts the traditional notion of what female life at the time involves, but she also indicates how confining such a life actually feels. The comparison and contrast between the rather constricted lives of women and the rather expansive lives of men is decidedly purposeful, and provides a rather concise summary of the lifestyles of ladies and gentlemen of that time period.

Where Austen truly displays protofeminist tendencies in this chapter is in the following part of Captain Harville's conversation with Anne, which discusses accounts of men and women in literature:

" . . . Well, Miss Elliot," (lowering his voice,) "as I was saying we shall never agree, I suppose, upon this point. No man and woman, would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you--all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men."

"Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."

This conversation is not so far off from Catherine Morland's outburst in Chapter 14 of Northanger Abbey, in which Catherine declares (about histories) that "the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is very tiresome", as was discussed in this entry from August in the Abbey. Even though Northanger was written long before Persuasion, both include long passages set in Bath and discussions of the roles of the sexes in books. But I digress.

And oh! the poignancy of Anne's statement about how long love lasts: "All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone." Poor Anne. And yet, as I mentioned before, Captain Wentworth has been listening in.





Or, if you prefer the dishy Rupert Penry-Jones, you may like this edited version, which swaps images from the movie for Anne's ridiculous run through the rainy streets of Bath from the 2007:





Or, if you prefer a beautiful man to read aloud to you from a book, you might like to spend a few moments with Greg Wise, who reads The Letter in context from the text.

Overcome, Anne is in a complete tizzy, and is sent home on her brother-in-law's arm, when what to her wondering eyes should appear but Captain Wentworth, himself in a bit of a tizzy. Erstwhile hunter Charles is eager to pawn Anne off, as he's off to look at a new gun. And so it is that the lovers are reunited and additional declarations are made by Captain Wentworth and assurances given by Anne, and explanations as to the whys and wherefores of conduct are provided, and we are sure that all will end happily. Tomorrow's chapter is just there to sew things up for us and provide a bit more information as to how things shake out for the rest of the characters in the book.


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Day Moon - an original poem

Today, a short, original poem written in rhymed couplets for a collection of poems about the moon that I once wrote. The collection remains unpublished, and I have to say that it's little wonder, since I cannot assert with a straight face that it breaks new poetic ground. As Karla Kuskin once said in a poem, "Write about a radish./Too many people write about the moon." (Of course, she proceeds to call the moon a radish, as you'll see if you follow the link.)

As I was driving home with S yesterday after picking her up at the gym, I was admiring the play of the setting sunlight on the tips of treetops and the way storm clouds were off to the north of us, when a bright edge seemed to cut its way out from behind the clouds, and lo, the nearly-full moon was there. And it reminded me of this little poem I'd written, and which I published here once before back in 2007:

Day Moon
by Kelly R. Fineman

On a walk the other day,
I didn’t know quite what to say.
Although it was still afternoon,
In the sky, I saw the moon.




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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A bit of Othello on a Thursday

Somehow when it was yesterday (Wednesday), I thought it was Tuesday, and therefore posted a Persuasion post. I ought to have posted a Shakespeare-related post, and yesterday's Persuasion post would then have run today. So I'm declaring a belated do-over (or a "d'oh!"-over), and posting a few lines of Othello today.

I'm posting them because when I woke up this morning, the line "Put out the light, and then put out the light" was in my head, so today's selection comes to us from Act V, scene 2 of Othello, which I discussed with the talented Tessa Gratton during Brush Up Your Shakespeare Month:

It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,--
Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!--
It is the cause. Yet I'll not shed her blood;
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,
And smooth as monumental alabaster.
Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men.
Put out the light, and then put out the light:
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me: but once put out thy light,
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have pluck'd the rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again.


Tomorrow: A Poetry Friday post, plus the penultimate chapter of Persuasion. (If I say it now, I'll remember what day it is tomorrow.)

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Twenty-Two

When last we saw Anne, it was early morning (in this case, that probably means "sometime before noon", since the term "morning" was extremely broad and extended until roughly dinnertime - in a fashionable place like Bath, morning was probably a bit longer than in the countryside, where they dined earlier - but I digress). It was early morning, and Anne got quite an earful of information from her school friend, Mrs. Smith. Anne begins this chapter by commenting on how very helpful Mrs. Smith was (I'll say!), as she hustles home to find that she has successfully avoided Mr. Elliot's morning call (hooray!) but that Elizabeth has invited him around again for the evening (boo!). One of Elizabeth's reasons for inviting him? He was going to be out of town all day tomorrow. Dear Jane: I sense that's an important detail - nicely played, madam.

Anne is amazed that Mrs. Clay seems so pleased that Mr. Elliot will be coming back, now that she's gotten a bit of confirmation that Mrs. Clay was hoping to be Mrs. (Sir Walter) Elliot. Still think you're stage-setting, Miss Austen. That evening, Anne behaves rather coolly toward Mr. Elliot, but is pleased to hear that he is going out of town - for two whole days. Or is he?

The next day is Friday, and Anne really wants to visit Lady Russell, but she doesn't want to get stuck walking out with Mrs. Clay - and in her delay, she's home in time to greet Charles and Mary Musgrove - remember them? Guess what? EVERYBODY IN THE BOOK has now come to Bath. Okay - not everybody. Benwick, Louisa and Mr. Musgrove are still in Uppercross, and Mrs. Harville and her children aren't here either, but everybody else is now in Bath. That can only mean that our conclusion is rapidly approaching. Indeed - there are only three more chapters after this.

Charles Musgrove says he has a good opinion of Captain Benwick - in part because Benwick was so good at rat-hunting in the barn. Look - I don't even know what to make of that. Just take it at face value and enjoy today's illustration. Elizabeth settles her internal debate: dinner for everyone as she ought to do, but then everyone will see how under-staffed they are, or a simple "party" without actually feeding them? Propriety or vanity? And the winner is . . . well, this being Elizabeth, it's no contest: VANITY FTW! Party at the Elliots' house tomorrow (Saturday) night! S-A- TUR- DAY NIGHT!

Anne sweeps along with Charles and Mary to say howdy to Mrs. Musgrove when who to her wondering eyes should appear by Captains Harville and Wentworth. Wentworth appears to still be suffering the pangs of jealousy, which are not abated at all when there's a conversation about the seeing of Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay having a tete-à-tete in the street below, in which Anne reveals her knowledge of Mr. Elliot's plans, thereby causing Captain Wentworth to think they are a two-some.

Charles's comment about heirs and representatives, and this part in particular: "I am not one of those who neglect the reigning power to bow to the rising sun" - may be a bit of a swipe at the Prince Regent, whom Jane Austen did not care for at all. In 1814, she had been pretty much compelled to dedicate Emma to him, but her disdain for the Regent and the way he lived his life was evident from surviving letters.

Clever Anne tries to telegraph her feelings about the state of affairs to Wentworth with a comment directed to Mrs. Musgrove:

"If it depended only on my inclination, ma'am, the party at home (excepting on Mary's account) would not be the smallest impediment. I have no pleasure in the sort of meeting, and should be too happy to change it for a play, and with you. But, it had better not be attempted, perhaps." She had spoken it; but she trembled when it was done, conscious that her words were listened to, and daring not even to try to observe their effect.

Obviously it worked, since Captain Wentworth finds his way to a chair next to Anne, in which he engages in a personal sort of conversation with her, referencing their past knowledge of one another and the amount of time that has elapsed.

Sir Walter and Elizabeth's entrance into the room, bringing a decided chill and invitations to their very stiff party for all and sundry, cracks me up. The question with which we are left, as the chapter coms to a close, is whether Captain Wentworth will or will not choose to attend the following day. I suppose we shall have to wait and see - on Thursday, perhaps, when we move on to the penultimate chapter, Chapter Twenty-Three. A word to the romantics out there: do not miss Chapter 23, which contains one of the most romantic moments in all of Austen.

Edited to add: I completely got my days of the week bolluxed up, owing in part to my ongoing headcold. This post ought to have run on Thursday, with a Shakespeare post on Wednesday. D'oh!


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Monday, January 25, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Twenty-One

An editor today might rap Austen firmly on the knuckles for this chapter, in which Anne and Mrs. Smith engage in a long conversation and precious little movement occurs. Also? Mrs. Smith's prior acquaintance with Mr. Elliot, which she has kept secret up until now, thinking that Anne might be going to marry him, so she wouldn't say an ill word about him feels a bit "off" to many modern reasons for some or all of the following reasons:

1. If she were a true friend, she ought to have warned Anne not to trust him.
2. At the very least, she ought to have told Anne that she was acquainted with the gentleman, which would have permitted Anne to solicit additional information so as to not think herself crazy - after all, her family and Lady Russell all think he's the bee's knees (or whatever the Regency equivalent was), and Anne is alone in not quite trusting him.
3. It all feels a bit too neat, and a little like a helping of deus ex machina. At the very least it's a massive info dump.

1. Mrs. Smith indicates that she had been certain that Anne was going to marry Mr. Elliot, and there was no way she would speak ill to Anne of her likely fiancé. Since she just did it - and at length - I'm not 100% certain I buy it, but she did wait until Anne hinted broadly that there would be no engagement between them. I'm willing to accept that in Regency times, trash-talking was seldom tolerated, particularly if one is trash-talking another's intimate relations, so I'll let her slide on this one.

2. If there really is all this backstory involving Mr. Elliot's ruination of the Smiths' financial well-being and refusal to take action as the Executor of Mr. Smith's estate, then I truly don't understand why Mrs. Smith didn't at least mention that she'd met the guy before somewhere earlier in the book.

3. Remember how convenient it was that Mrs. Smith had the same nurse as Mrs. Wallis? I'm willing to buy that. But to then have this former close relationship between Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Smith, about which there'd never been the slightest intimation? I don't buy it. And I think it's a mistake, and that Jane Austen might have rectified it had she lived to shepherd this manuscript through production, particularly in light of this bit from Chapter 17, in which Anne refused to bail on Mrs. Smith in order to attend a last-minute shindig with Lady Dalrymple:

Her kind, compassionate visits to this old schoolfellow, sick and reduced, seemed to have quite delighted Mr. Elliot. He thought her a most extraordinary young woman; in her temper, manners, mind, a model of female excellence.

One assumes that Mrs. Smith's name was likely to have been mentioned in front of Mr. Elliot; even though the surname was then - as now - fairly common, his awareness that the Mrs. Smith he knew for all those years knew Anne Elliot ought to have been enough for him to put two and two together. I mean, he's crafty and wily, but not stupid.


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Twenty

Ooh - now things are getting good. Captain Wentworth turns up at the concert and Anne steps forward to speak to him, regardless of how her family might see it. She's acting out of her own sense of what is proper, and not deferring to others. Way to grow a spine, Anne!

As it turns out, her father actually acknowledges Captain Wentworth, which essentially forces Elizabeth into doing it as well. But that's not the big news. The big news is the extremely personal conversation between Wentworth and Anne, wherein he talks about things like feelings and makes reference (intentionally or not) to their shared past. And check out this rather oblique reference to how the good captain is feeling:

"I confess that I do think there is a disparity, too great a disparity, and in a point no less essential than mind. I regard Louisa Musgrove as a very amiable, sweet-tempered girl, and not deficient in understanding, but Benwick is something more. He is a clever man, a reading man; and I confess, that I do consider his attaching himself to her with some surprise. Had it been the effect of gratitude, had he learnt to love her, because he believed her to be preferring him, it would have been another thing. But I have no reason to suppose it so. It seems, on the contrary, to have been a perfectly spontaneous, untaught feeling on his side, and this surprises me. A man like him, in his situation! with a heart pierced, wounded, almost broken! Fanny Harville was a very superior creature, and his attachment to her was indeed attachment. A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not." [Kelly swoons.]

Either from the consciousness, however, that his friend had recovered, or from other consciousness, he went no farther; and Anne who, in spite of the agitated voice in which the latter part had been uttered, and in spite of all the various noises of the room, the almost ceaseless slam of the door, and ceaseless buzz of persons walking through, had distinguished every word, was struck, gratified, confused, and beginning to breathe very quick, and feel an hundred things in a moment.

Where were we again? Sorry - I was still swooning. If you've seen Rupert Penry-Jones deliver those lines (which have been moved to the Molland's set in the 2007 ITV version) you'd be swooning too. And Ciaran Hinds delivery in the 1995 movie version is pretty swell also.

The two of them are separated by the hubbub surrounding the arrival of Lady Dalrymple, but Anne figures "they should meet again. He would look for her, he would find her out before the evening were over, and at present, perhaps, it was as well to be asunder. She was in need of a little interval for recollection."

Ah, Anne. So naive. Not reckoning on the power of gossip in a place like Bath. But what is Wentworth to think when people are whispering about how Mr. Elliot has the hots for her and will likely propose, and there's Anne, whispering into Mr. Elliot's ear during the concert? How is he to know that she's merely translating the Italian for him and trying to get him to stop complimenting her? She is quite certain that Mr. Elliot is up to something, and she doesn't care for it one bit. She cares for Wentworth and he is . . . leaving? WTF?

Okay, Anne does not say WTF. She goes with the polite equivalent - "Is not this song worth staying for?" - to which Wentworth replies in what might be consdiered a rude manner, but what he's really saying is "GAH! I cannot see anything now that my eyesight has gone completely green!" Off goes Wentworth, and Anne is smart enough to figure out why:

Jealousy of Mr. Elliot! It was the only intelligible motive. Captain Wentworth jealous of her affection! Could she have believed it a week ago; three hours ago! For a moment the gratification was exquisite. But, alas! there were very different thoughts to succeed. How was such jealousy to be quieted? How was the truth to reach him? How, in all the peculiar disadvantages of their respective situations, would he ever learn of her real sentiments? It was misery to think of Mr. Elliot's attentions. Their evil was incalculable.

Poor Anne. Mr. Elliot's attentions are about to become more evil still. But that's for tomorrow's entry.


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Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Nineteen

Austen doesn't mess around, holding us in antici . . . (say it!) . . . pation of Wentworth's arrival. Nope. She opens right up with it, and uses a "thither" to boot. I love that word, "thither," which means "to that place" and not simply "there", just as "whither" means "from that place". The word thither also reminds me of one of my favorite RomComs, You've Got Mail, in which Meg Ryan's character says in a voice-over, "Confession: I have read Pride and Prejudice about 200 times. I get lost in the language - words like thither, mischance, felicity. I'm always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together. Read it - I know you'll love it." But I digress. Let's have a look at the two-sentence opening sentence, which tells us so very much about Captain Wentworth and his feelings, without ever mentioning his feelings at all:

While Admiral Croft was taking this walk with Anne, and expressing his wish of getting Captain Wentworth to Bath, Captain Wentworth was already on his way thither. Before Mrs. Croft had written, he was arrived, and the very next time Anne walked out, she saw him.

Anne's out on the town with her sister, Mrs. Clay and Mr. Elliot - all of whom have ducked into Molland's emporium to get out of a bit of mizzling rain. Mr. Elliot has undertaken to see whether the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple (whose carriage is down the road a ways) has room to take the ladies home. Having room for only four, and with two in the carriage, she offers to take two of the ladies with her. Elizabeth - er, "Miss Elliot" - is a given. And according to the usual pecking order, Anne ought to be next - she's socially far higher than Mrs. Clay - but of course Elizabeth has other ideas.

Who should Anne spot walking past the shop than Captain Wentworth? Anne is startled, and almost immediately contemplates running to the door - not to escape, but to follow our hero's progress down the street. She doesn't, of course; nevertheless, in a few minutes' time, the good Captain enters the shop with a party of his acquaintance, and on seeing Anne, he blushes. That's right: he actually turns pink in the face, and the only word Anne can find to adequately describe his countenance is "embarrassed." He is entirely discomposed, but he manages to pull his act together and come over to speak more sensibly with her after his brief initial greeting, although he never manages to be entirely comfortable .

Anne is pained (mortified is probably pretty close to the right term for it) when Elizabeth "would not know him." Austen is not saying that Elizabeth didn't know who he was. She recognized him, alright, and knew full well what the background and relationship was, but she did not curtsey or even nod her head at him - instead, she gave him the cold shoulder. And that is bad ton, ladies and gents. Badly done, indeed, Elizabeth!

When the carriage arrives, Captain Wentworth essentially offers his services to keep Anne dry with his umbrella and to hand her into the carriage, but Anne declines, as she is prepared to walk home. The good captain immediately offers her his umbrella, stating that he'd prefer to get her a chair - a conveyance carried by two porters on foot, but which kept ladies (and/or invalids) out of the weather. (I discussed them in more length - and with a picture - in this post from August at the Abbey.) She declines, as Mr. Elliot is coming back to walk her home, and Captain Wentworth is forced to listen to the ladies of the party as they all comment on what a fox Mr. Elliot is, and how lovely and superior (in a good way) they believe Anne to be.

Anne spends the next few days looking for Captain Wentworth, but cannot see him anywhere. "The theatre or the rooms, where he was most likely to be, were not fashionable enough for the Elliots, whose evening amusements were solely in the elegant stupidity of private parties, in which they were getting more and more engaged[.]" Ah, the elegant stupidity of private parties. What a perfect turn of phrase!

"The rooms", by the by, is a reference to the Upper and Lower Assembly rooms, which I described more fully in this August at the Abbey post. Anne has high hopes for the concert night (a concert held on a weeknight that was not taken up by the schedule assemblies), knowing that Captain Wentworth is fond of music. She is so keen to see Captain Wentworth, in light of both Elizabeth and Lady Russell having "cut" him, that she is willing to miss out on a planned visit to her friend, Mrs. Smith. Take note - she won't miss out on a visit with Mrs. Smith in order to make a certain visit to the Dowager Viscountess, but she'll do it for the possibility of seeing Captain Wentworth.

Mrs. Smith, you will note, says something rather arch about looking forward to tomorrow's visit, and it's clear from her comment about not expecting too many more visits that she thinks Anne's going to be taken away. But by whom? (Another fine example of a compelling page-turn on a chapter ending by Miss Austen.)

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Friday, January 22, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Eighteen

Finally, some news!

First, we learn that the Crofts are in Bath - Mary has sent a letter along with them, and they've had it sent 'round to Anne Elliot. A word about this practice, and about the mail in Regency England:

Often you'll hear that letters were expensive during that time period, which is both right and wrong. If one were a member of Parliament, one would "frank" their letters and they'd be delivered for free. Often, MPs franked mail for everyone in their household and other people in their neighborhood. If that were the case, then one could send as many pages as one wished.

One did not pay to send a letter through the postal service. One paid to receive a letter. How much one owed to receive a letter depended on two things: how thick it was, and how far it had come. Letters were sent without envelopes, but were folded up and sealed with wax, thereby limiting the amount of a piece of paper on which one could write. Mary's letters to Anne were probably of moderate length - one page, two at most - because to do otherwise might pose an imposition on the recipient, who is responsible for payment. Imagine paying for a letter to find only one or two sentences - what a ripoff! - or paying the exorbitant rate for a multi-page packet only to find that the outside sheet was completely blank. What sort of person would be so inconsiderate? Not Mary Musgrove, in any case.

Mary has sent her letter along with the Crofts, who have agreed to carry the letter with them to Bath. This allows Mary to engage in a longer, chattier letter than she might otherwise have sent if Anne had to pay for it.

I love Mary's letter - how she's snitty with everyone in the first installment (when she feels overlooked) and very happy with them once she feels she's been paid her due. I especially love her initial post-script:

"I am sorry to say that I am very far from well; and Jemima has just told me that the butcher says there is a bad sore-throat very much about. I dare say I shall catch it; and my sore-throats, you know, are always worse than anybody's."

Ahahaha!

The second part of Mary's letter is far more interesting, and leaves Anne completely gobsmacked. It turns out that Louisa is engaged to marry Captain Benwick. Anne never saw it coming, although some readers aren't entirely shocked, recalling that Benwick stayed in Lyme while Wentworth effed off to Somerset. Kinda makes one wonder whether we'll be seeing Wentworth again soon, doesn't it? (We will. We definitely will!)

Here's Anne's take on Benwick and Louisa, and once again, she appears to see things quite clearly:

She was persuaded that any tolerably pleasing young woman who had listened and seemed to feel for him would have received the same compliment. He had an affectionate heart. He must love somebody.

She saw no reason against their being happy. Louisa had fine naval fervour to begin with, and they would soon grow more alike. He would gain cheerfulness, and she would learn to be an enthusiast for Scott and Lord Byron; nay, that was probably learnt already; of course they had fallen in love over poetry. The idea of Louisa Musgrove turned into a person of literary taste, and sentimental reflection was amusing, but she had no doubt of its being so.

Anne is keen to see the Crofts, of whom she has become fond, and is pleased to see them walking about town together:

Knowing their feelings as she did, it was a most attractive picture of happiness to her. She always watched them as long as she could, delighted to fancy she understood what they might be talking of, as they walked along in happy independence, or equally delighted to see the Admiral's hearty shake of the hand when he encountered an old friend, and observe their eagerness of conversation when occasionally forming into a little knot of the navy, Mrs. Croft looking as intelligent and keen as any of the officers around her.

Oh Anne - thinking of what might have been. And no doubt hoping it might be again, given the news of Louisa Musgrove's engagement to Captain Benwick. Then one day, Anne runs into the Admiral and walks up the hill with him, and we are treated to a quite amusing conversation (I love the Admiral, as does Anne, I think), in which he speaks of the situation between Louisa and Benwick and also tells Anne that Wentworth seems perfectly blasé about the entire thing. The chapter ends with the Admiral telling Anne that he and his wife really ought to ask Captain Wentworth to come to Bath, oughtn't they?


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Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Seventeen

Not all that much occurs in the main plot line in this particular chapter, but we get to meet an old friend of Anne's - a Mrs. Smith - and we also get a clearer look at Mr. Elliot from both Lady Russell's and Anne's perspectives.

We meet Anne's friend, Mrs. Smith

While Sir Walter and Elizabeth enjoy their lodgings in Camden Place and crow about their connection to the tedious Dalrymples, Anne has started visiting people she actually likes: her former governess, and her friend from her school days, Mrs. Smith, with whom she had lost touch for a while. Last Anne knew, her friend had married Mr. Smith, a man with a good fortune, but it turns out that these days, Mrs. Smith is a widow whose husband left his estate in disarray, so now she's poor. And due to an unfortunate bout of rheumatic fever, she is also lame - at least for the time being - and living in Westgate Buildings.

Now, allow me to put this into perspective for you: Camden Place (now Camden Crescent) was located up the hill and near the highest point in Bath at that time, so that Sir Walter and Elizabeth were quite literally looking down on pretty much everyone else in Bath; at the same time, planned construction on Camden Place had to be given up because the terrain was unstable - so our financially shaky baronet is also quite literally on shaky ground. The Westgate Buildings, by contrast, are located quite low down in the City - not far from the baths, which is why Mrs. Smith selected them. They are quite unfashionable, and Anne has Lady Russell drop her a short distance away, probably so as not to embarrass Mrs. Smith by pulling up in a fancy carriage, essentially rubbing her friend's nose in the difference in their present economic condition.

If Sir Walter and Elizabeth is all that is foolish, small-minded and silly, Mrs. Smith is the opposite:

Anne found in Mrs. Smith the good sense and agreeable manners which she had almost ventured to depend on, and a disposition to converse and be cheerful beyond her expectation. Neither the dissipations of the past--and she had lived very much in the world--nor the restrictions of the present, neither sickness nor sorrow seemed to have closed her heart or ruined her spirits.

We hear that Anne has paid Mrs. Smith several additional visits, learning still more about Mrs. Smith's situation. One of the people we hear of Nurse Rooke, who is helping to tend to Mrs. Smith, and has taught her to knit - Mrs. Smith now fashions small needlecases and whatnot, which Nurse Rook sells to her recovering patients who can afford them, and Mrs. Smith thereby obtains money to help people who are poorer than she. Nurse Rooke is quite well-connected, and provides Mrs. Smith with news (gossip) that she picks up around town. This is a clever introduction to a character who we don't meet in person, and we are told as well that she is tending a Mrs. Wallis just now. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, it is because Mrs. Wallis is the knocked-up wife of Colonel Wallis, whom Sir Walter is so keen to meet. Is this quite a coincidence? Yes, but it's not at the deus ex machina level on Austen's part - and it proves to be quite a helpful and informative sort of connection later in the book.

When Sir Walter eventually learns of Anne's visits to her friend - because Anne refuses to visit the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple one evening owing to a pre-existing appointment to visit Mrs. Smith - he ridicules Anne and her friend. I adore this particular section, which shows Sir Walter's and Anne's true characters quite well, while amusing the hell out of me:

" . . . A widow Mrs. Smith lodging in Westgate Buildings! A poor widow barely able to live, between thirty and forty; a mere Mrs. Smith, an every-day Mrs. Smith, of all people and all names in the world, to be the chosen friend of Miss Anne Elliot, and to be preferred by her to her own family connections among the nobility of England and Ireland! Mrs. Smith! Such a name!"

Mrs. Clay, who had been present while all this passed, now thought it advisable to leave the room, and Anne could have said much, and did long to say a little in defense of her friend's not very dissimilar claims to theirs, but her sense of personal respect to her father prevented her. She made 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.

The snarkiness of Anne's thoughts here, correct as they are, cracks me up. And Mrs. Clay's sensitivity to the topic (and Sir Walter's complete disregard for how she might interpret his rantings) is brilliant as well.

Lady Russell's and Anne's opinions on Mr. Elliot

While Anne was off visiting Mrs. Smith, Sir Walter and Elizabeth rounded up Lady Russell and Mr. Elliot and carted them off to visit the Dowager Viscountess. Lady Russell spent quite a bit of time chatting with Mr. Elliot, who seems to have a large amount of respect and (perhaps) affection for Anne. Lady Russell's yenta tendencies rush to the fore, and she starts calculating how many more days Mr. Elliot has to stay in mourning for his dead wife, hoping that Anne will marry him.

Anne, however, is certain they would not make a good match. For one, she's still carrying a torch for Captain Wentworth. Secondly, she can't make out Mr. Elliot's character, a word which encompasses both his true nature and his reputation. She suspects him of having a rather wild past, and is uncertain that he would not return to his wild ways; she also finds him to be very guarded, and his closed nature makes her believe he's holding something back. On the one hand, he doesn't do anything impulsive and he never mis-speaks, but she finds that cause for concern - she'd rather deal with an open person who occasionally has an outburst that might be questionable than a careful person who never misspeaks at all.


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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Sixteen

Yesterday's choice of sonnet by Shakespeare was inspired by the vain Sir Walter Elliot, with whom we spend plenty of time in today's chapter of Persuasion. Sir Walter is not merely vain, but is fond of beauty wherever he sees it - and he appears to be noticing it in the unworthy Mrs. Clay, as well as noticing Anne's improved looks.

Lady Russell sees nothing suspicious about Mr. Elliot's reconciliation with Sir Walter's branch of the family, despite Anne's misgivings. She does seem inclined to believe that Mr. Elliot is not particularly interested in Elizabeth, a point which Anne is not yet willing to concede.

Mr. Elliot, we learn, has far greater interest in the titles that are so important to Anne's frivolous father, and he - like Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mrs. Clay - are quite taken with the news that the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple and her daughter are in town. A few points here:

1. The title is pronounced VI-countess, with a long I and a silent S.

2. The title of "dowager viscountess" informs us that the title was hers by marriage to the Count, who must now be dead in order for her to be a dowager. The title of Viscount Dalrymple would have passed to her son or to her nearest male heir, and that man's wife would now have the title "Viscountess Dalrymple". A dowager could in many cases be quite formidable, but in other cases could end up in near penury.

3. A word about the use of the names Elliot and Dalrymple in such close proximity, and why it would have been especially hilarious to people who first read the book in the early 19th century: One of the most celebrated courtesans of the Regency era was Grace Dalrymple Elliot. (For an account of her life, I recommend My Lady Scandalous: The Amazing Life and Outrageous Times of Grace Dalrymple Elliot, Royal Courtesan by Jo Manning.) She was a divorcee who had a lengthy affair with Lord Cholmendeley, and gave birth to a daughter (Georgianna) who was widely believed to be the child of the Prince Regent. Austen and her contemporary readers would have been familiar with the scandal of Dalrymple's marriage and divorce. Grace Dalrymple's husband, Dr. Eliot, was a short, unattractive man with a poor complexion, in part based on a life at sea; I contend that Austen chose to give Sir Walter a severe aversion for all of those traits, thereby providing additional comic fodder to her readership. In addition, Jane Austen chose to make the female Dalrymple in her novel a Dowager Viscountess, with a daughter, the Honourable Miss Carteret. Imagine, therefore, how much funnier this line must have been to Austen's first readers: "for the Dalrymples (in Anne's opinion, most unfortunately) were cousins of the Elliots; and the agony was, how to introduce themselves properly."

Anne finds herself in the singular position of learning that her father and sister are complete sycophants toward actual nobility, and are constantly discussing the Dalrymples, who turn out to be unexceptional women that Anne cannot admire.

Lady Russell confessed she had expected something better; but yet "it was an acquaintance worth having;" and when Anne ventured to speak her opinion of them to Mr. Elliot, he agreed to their being nothing in themselves, but still maintained that, as a family connexion, as good company, as those who would collect good company around them, they had their value. Anne smiled and said,

"My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company."

"You are mistaken," said he gently, "that is not good company; that is the best. Good company requires only birth, education, and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice*."

Mr. Elliot's use of the word nice is meant to indicate particularity, meaning that "good company" is fairly indifferent about education. The remainder of Mr. Elliot's comments (following the above quote) show that he is happy to benefit from being perceived to have "superior" connections, even if the ladies themselves are not particularly diverting, with a digression at the end of the chapter indicating that one of the reasons he likes seeing Sir Walter spending so much time and attention on the Dalrymples is that it diverts his attention from "those who are beneath him", clearly indicating to Anne that he is concerned about Sir Walter's relationship with Mrs. Clay.

A reminder: Mr. Elliot is to inherit Kellynch when Sir Walter dies because Sir Walter has no sons of his own. Mrs. Clay, being young enough to still bear children, could produce an heir who would displace Mr. Elliot in the line of inheritance, were Sir Walter to marry her. Mr. Elliot really, truly doesn't want Sir Walter to remarry and beget a male heir. He is couching it in terms that seem to indicate concern for Sir Walter's social standing, but as you read on, ask yourself whether that is truly Mr. Elliot's motivation here.


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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sonnet 68 by William Shakespeare

Today, a sonnet that reminds me a bit of Sir Walter Elliot. Although Shakespeare intended to write it as a compliment to his beloved, the focus on external beauty and the comparison to those who now must wear wigs and cosmetics to approximate beauty conjured up images of Sir Walter preening in front of his looking glasses for me. (Remember Admiral Croft mentioning how very many of them had been in Sir Walter's dressing room back in Chapter Thirteen of Persuasion?

Sonnet 68
by William Shakespeare

Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
When beauty lived and died as flowers do now,
Before the bastard signs of fair were born,
Or durst inhabit on a living brow;
Before the golden tresses of the dead,
The right of sepulchres, were shorn away
To live a second life on second head,
Ere beauty's dead fleece made another gay.
In him those holy antique hours are seen,
Without all ornament, itself and true,
Making no summer of another's green,
Robbing no old to dress his beauty new;
  And him as for a map doth Nature store,
  To show false Art what beauty was of yore.


The poem is a Shakespearean sonnet, written in iambic pentameter and rhymed ABABCDCDEFEFGG.

Today's sonnet is not actually intended as a stand-alone, but is the continuation of the thought first broached in Sonnet 67 ("Ah, wherefore with infection should he live"). In Sonnet 67, he asks why the Fair Youth must live in a corrupt society, and why such beauty as his must be surrounded by "roses of shadow", concluding that the youth is alive to remind society what true beauty looks like. He picks up that thread at the start of today's selection, Sonnet 68, saying that the youth's face is a reminder of what true beauty looked like, a remnant of bygone days. Shakespeare speaks of how the hair of the dead is shorn and made into wigs for the living, but that the Fair Youth shows what truly beautiful hair looks like.

And yes, they used to shear the heads of the dead to make wigs. And yes, I think it's kinda creepy. (And I'll bet you thought that the housekeeper taking Scrooge's best shirt and bed curtains was bad - at least she didn't steal his hair!)

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy birthday, Edgar Allen Poe!

For more than 60 years now, a person known as the "Poe toaster" has turned up in a cemetery in Baltimore during the early morning hours of January 19th (Poe's birthday) to leave half a bottle of cognac and three red roses at Poe's grave. The story goes that the Poe toaster drinks to Poe's memory, then leaves the remainder of the bottle and the flowers. A month or so ago, I wrote a poem about it using the Fibonacci form:

Edgar Allen Poe's Birthday Toast
by Kelly R. Fineman

Poe's
grave:
Strange place
to party,
yet January
brings roses and cognac each year.


Only this year, for the first time in modern memory, the toaster did not arrive in the pre-dawn hours. I continue to hope that he'll turn up today - or that, barring that, he will arrive next year. Meanwhile, Mr. Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, will return for the next few years to keep vigil, as he's done every year since 1977. Has the tradition died out? Did it end with the bicentennial of Poe's birth (last year)? Will the Poe toaster turn up after all? Or will he come, like the dear, departed Lenore, nevermore?

I'll be back later today with Chapter Fifteen of Persuasion. If you're truly looking for something to read between now and then, may I suggest The Raven? Edited to add: Or if you'd prefer, has posted Annabel Lee.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Fifteen

We left off yesterday's post with Anne left on the street outside her father's rented quarters in Camden Place. Today, we learn of Anne's reception inside the building, which is unexpectedly pleasant - and about which Austen is rather expectedly snarky. Behold:

Mrs. Clay was very pleasant, and very smiling, but her courtesies and smiles were more a matter of course. Anne had always felt that she would pretend what was proper on her arrival, but the complaisance of the others was unlooked for. They were evidently in excellent spirits, and she was soon to listen to the causes. They had no inclination to listen to her. After laying out for some compliments of being deeply regretted in their old neighbourhood, which Anne could not pay, they had only a few faint enquiries to make, before the talk must be all their own. Uppercross excited no interest, Kellynch very little: it was all Bath.

Sir Walter and Elizabeth delight in their new situation, leaving Anne to wonder how a man like her father "should find so much to be vain of in the littlenesses of a town". Anne also hears a great deal of information about Mr. Elliot, who has now been completely pardoned and welcomed by her father and sister. Although they have bought into Mr. Elliot's explanations and excuses, Anne wonders about it. Since Mr. Elliot so clearly repudiated them years ago, and since it is assumed that he is now quite wealthy following his wife's death, he has nothing to gain from it; yet neither of the elder Elliots seem to have even thought of such a thing, let alone give it serious consideration. The only possible explanation Anne can come up with is that Mr. Elliot must have, in the past, actually liked Elizabeth enough to be seeking her out as a potential second wife.

This will not be answered any time soon, but lets remember, if we can, that Anne's powers of observation thus far have proven keen and accurate.

You'll note that apart from fishing for compliments about themselves, they really give Anne no opportunity to speak. When she attempts to tell Sir Walter and Elizabeth of having seen Mr. Elliot in Lyme, they pretty much blow her off, preferring to hear themselves speak. Sir Walter especially likes being seen in public with Mr. Elliot, whom he essentially describes as a fine piece of manflesh. In much more stately terms, of course. They speak also of a man named Colonel Wallis, whom Sir Walter asked to meet after Mr. Elliot basically manipulated him to do so. Colonel Wallis's wife is reputed to be a beauty, but since she's knocked up, she hasn't been getting out and about much. Still,

Sir Walter thought much of Mrs. Wallis; she was said to be an excessively pretty woman, beautiful. "He longed to see her. He hoped she might make some amends for the many very plain faces he was continually passing in the streets. The worst of Bath was the number of its plain women. He did not mean to say that there were no pretty women, but the number of the plain was out of all proportion. He had frequently observed, as he walked, that one handsome face would be followed by thirty, or five-and-thirty frights; and once, as he had stood in a shop on Bond Street, he had counted eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without there being a tolerable face among them. It had been a frosty morning, to be sure, a sharp frost, which hardly one woman in a thousand could stand the test of. But still, there certainly were a dreadful multitude of ugly women in Bath; and as for the men! they were infinitely worse. Such scarecrows as the streets were full of! It was evident how little the women were used to the sight of anything tolerable, by the effect which a man of decent appearance produced. He had never walked anywhere arm-in-arm with Colonel Wallis (who was a fine military figure, though sandy-haired) without observing that every woman's eye was upon him; every woman's eye was sure to be upon Colonel Wallis." Modest Sir Walter! He was not allowed to escape, however. His daughter and Mrs. Clay united in hinting that Colonel Wallis's companion might have as good a figure as Colonel Wallis, and certainly was not sandy-haired.

Sycophants, unite. No wonder Elizabeth, Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay are so happy together, all living inside their vain delusions and sucking up to one another the livelong day. They talk Anne's ear off through dinner and into the evening, when what to their wondering ears should appear but a distinctive knock on the door, which Mrs. Clay identifies as Mr. Elliot's. Mr. Elliot turns out to be "quite as good-looking as he had appeared at Lyme, his countenance improved by speaking, and his manners were so exactly what they ought to be, so polished, so easy, so particularly agreeable, that she could compare them in excellence to only one person's manners. They were not the same, but they were, perhaps, equally good."

He knows when to speak, and when to change the subject. He actually talks with Anne and listens to her answers. Here, we see, is a gentlemanlike man indeed, and Anne ends up actually not minding her first night in Bath - not just because Mr. Eyecandy Elliot joined them, but because her father and sister were happy, and not whiny.

We pick up on Thursday with Chapter Sixteen, tomorrow being saved for the Bard.


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A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Fourteen

Chapter 14, in which precious little happens. Charles and Mary Musgrove return home, followed shortly by Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove, come home for Christmas to greet their younger children, home on holiday, and bringing along the Harville children as well. Louisa and Henrietta are still in Lyme, along with the Harvilles and Captain Benwick. Captain Wentworth, out of excessive concern for Louisa, refuses to visit her, and plans on going away for a while, or such is the report received. This bit reminds me a bit of Lucy Steele's comments in Sense and Sensibility about why she so seldom sees her secret fiancé, Edward Ferrars, and is undoubtedly just as truthful (or not, as the case may be):

Lucy . . . believed herself to be inflicting a severe disappointment when she told [Elinor] that Edward certainly would not be in Harley Street on Tuesday, and even hoped to be carrying the pain still farther by persuading her that he was kept away by the extreme affection for herself, which he could not conceal when they were together. [Italics are mine.]

Mary and Charles report that Captain Benwick has been reading the books Anne recommended, and Charles reports that he speaks highly of Anne. Lady Russell and Anne expect him to ride over for a visit, but he never does.

At chapter's end, Anne and Lady Russell head into Bath, putting Anne into quite a somber mood:

Anne did not share these feelings. She persisted in a very determined, though very silent disinclination for Bath; caught the first dim view of the extensive buildings, smoking in rain, without any wish of seeing them better; felt their progress through the streets to be, however disagreeable, yet too rapid; for who would be glad to see her when she arrived? And looked back, with fond regret, to the bustles of Uppercross and the seclusion of Kellynch.

Nevertheless, Anne is put down in Camden Place (a good address, by the way), where she can look forward to time with her silly father, her equally silly sister, the possibly dangerous Mrs. Clay (whom Anne fears may have designs on Sir Walter), and, quite likely, an official meeting with Mr. William Elliot (who we talked about back in our discussion of Chapter One.


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Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Thirteen

I have popcorn and am watching the Golden Globes pre-show at present, but that is truly not why you're getting a really short post today for A Winter's Persuasion. It's because there's not much happening in Chapter Thirteen.

I think it's a purposeful decision on Austen's part - after such a traumatic event as what happened in yesterday's installment, I'm pretty certain she was giving everyone time to catch their breaths.

The Musgroves are all off to Lyme, where they will take care of the Harville children while Mrs. Harville takes care of Louisa, and Anne has moved from Uppercross to Kellynch Lodge, the home of Lady Russell, who is so out of touch with Anne's actual thoughts that she gets most everything wrong: She assumes that Anne is concerned about her father and sister in Bath and is uncomfortable about the Crofts being at Kellynch Hall. Instead, we learn (but Lady Russell does not) that Anne could give a flying fig about her father and Elizabeth, and is far more concerned with the Musgroves; instead of being concerned about their living quarters in Bath, she is thinking about the lovely people she met in Lyme; instead of resenting the Crofts or being upset by them, she adores them - and thinks that they take better care of Kellynch than her father did.

I did want to mention Admiral Croft's comment about the laundry door. The laundry would not have been a room off the kitchen, as in today's homes, but was quite likely an outbuilding used only by servants. That Admiral Croft saw fit to repair or replace it, commenting, "The wonder was, how any family upon earth could bear with the inconvenience of its opening as it did, so long!", what we learn is two-fold: that the Admiral is a thoughtful and practical man who thinks of others, and (we are reminded) Sir Walter Elliot is not - he is supremely uncaring of whether things are easy for his servants or not - if it's not inconvenient to him personally, it's unimportant.


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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Marmion by Sir Walter Scott

I promise you I will not be sharing overly much of this epic poem (or, if you prefer, exceedingly long narrative poem) by Sir Walter Scott, which is referenced in Persuasion by Jane Austen, the focus of my month-long event, A Winter's Persuasion, in which we are proceeding chapter-by-chapter through the book (with Wednesdays off). Come tomorrow, we will reach Chapter 12, the half-way mark in Persuasion. Today's chapter included specific reference to two of Scott's works: Marmion and The Lady of the Lake.

Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field is, as I said before, long. Really long. It consists of six cantos, each of which is composed of dozens of rhymed stanzas. Scott had the decency to shake up his rhyme scheme - here, rhymed couplets in iambic tetrameter, there, iambic pentameter using alternating rhyme, still elsewhere, hymn meter using a combination of alternating and nested rhyme. The poem is a piece of historical fiction, set during the Battle of Flodden Field back in 1513, a huge battle between the English and the invading Scots, with a tremendous number of casualties (and an English victory). Scott tells the story of Lord Marmion, his fictional hero, who gets his mistress (a nun) to help him plot the downfall of the honorable Sir Ralph de Wilton, whose fiancee Marmion wants to wed. Marmion manages to drive Wilton into exile, but Clara (the fiancee/object) joins a convent rather than hook up with Marmion. Constance (the nun/mistress) is caught having broken her vows and is walled up - alive - into the walls of her island convent, but not before she turns over documents proving that Wilton was innocent. Marmion is killed in battle at Flodden Field, where Wilton distinguishes himself, thereby reclaiming and enhancing his reputation. He also regains his land and marries Clara.

If you think you know nothing of Marmion but what I've just told you, you are likely wrong. It is the source, in Canto Six, stanza 17, of this famous aphorism:

Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!


The final stanza (#38) of Canto Six reads as follows:

I do not rhyme to that dull elf
Who cannot image to himself
That all through Flodden's dismal night
Wilton was foremost in the fight,
That when brave Surrey's steed was slain
'T was Wilton mounted him again;
'T was Wilton's brand that deepest hewed
Amid the spearmen's stubborn wood:
Unnamed by Hollinshed or Hall,
He was the living soul of all;
That, after fight, his faith made plain,
He won his rank and lands again,
And charged his old paternal shield
With bearings won on Flodden Field.
Nor sing I to that simple maid
To whom it must in terms be said
That King and kinsmen did agree
To bless fair Clara's constancy;
Who cannot, unless I relate,
Paint to her mind the bridal's state,—
That Wolsey's voice the blessing spoke,
More, Sands, and Denny, passed the joke;
That bluff King Hal the curtain drew,
And Katherine's hand the stocking threw;
And afterwards, for many a day,
That it was held enough to say,
In blessing to a wedded pair,
'Love they like Wilton and like Clare!'

As an Austen fan, I feel constrained to point out that Austen was so familiar with the whole of Marmion, as was her sister, that in a letter to Cassandra on January 29, 1813 discussing Pride and Prejudice just after its release, she paraphrased Scott's lines: "There are a few Typical errors--& a 'said he' or a 'said she' would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear--but 'I do not write for such dull Elves As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.'" The Brontë sisters are known to have been big fans of Marmion as well, and to have alluded it to it in their writing. Marmion is also the source of the extremely popular and widely anthologized "Lochinvar", a ballad with a galloping beat found in Canto V, stanza twelve (called there "Lochinvar: Lady Heron's Song", and available at the Poetry Foundation website.



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A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Eleven

Today brings us to Chapter Eleven, or, "Let's go to Lyme!", in which, on a November day, Anne finds herself bundled along to Lyme Regis with Charles, Mary, Louisa, Henrietta and Captain Wentworth, in order to meet Wentworth's good friends Captains Harville and Benwick (usually pronounced as if there's no W - Bennick, but not always). The backstory on Harville (whose name has been mentioned before) is that he has a war wound. Benwick had been in love with and engaged to Harville's sister, but he had delayed marrying her until he'd earned a good amount of money - and she took ill and died before that could happen.

As a side note, Austen had herself stayed with her sister at Lyme in November of 1803, when a significant portion of the town caught fire as the result of a Guy Fawkes bonfire gone wrong. Her description of the entry into Lyme comports with descriptions of other travelers in the 19th century, including that of one of her nieces and that of Constance Hill, an early biographer of Austen's who, with her sister, set out to follow Austen's footsteps through England. Since Persuasion was written quite a number of years later, it seems quite likely that Austen had either kept a journal, taken notes, or relied on letters written at that time in recreating the imagery and description of the place; if she did, however, they were either destroyed or have been lost in time.

Anne finds Captain Wentworth's friends - including Mrs. Harville - to be so wonderful that her spirits actually sink, knowing that they would have been her friends too, had she married Wentworth, and now such a thing can never be. She is taken aback to see how meager the Harville's accomodations are, but quickly gets over it in the face of their happiness and warmth. Austen takes yet another opportunity to praise the Navy - undoubtedly because of her fondness for her brothers Francis (Frank) and Charles, both of whom were naval officers:

Anne thought she left great happiness behind her when they quitted the house; and Louisa, by whom she found herself walking, burst forth into raptures of admiration and delight on the character of the navy-- their friendliness, their brotherliness, their openness, their uprightness; protesting that she was convinced of sailors having more worth and warmth than any other set of men in England; that they only knew how to live, and they only deserved to be respected and loved.

After dinner, it's considered too dark for the ladies to be out and about. It being off-season in Lyme, there would not be the usual number of people about, and this was long before gas lights came to Lyme, so that without a rather bright moon, there would be little light to guide one's step when walking about the town. As a result, Captains Harville and Benwick come calling - Harville and Wentworth regaling pretty much everyone with their tales, except for the rather shy and mournful Benwick, who sits apart with Anne, discussing poetry. It turns out, in fact, that Benwick is in some respects quite similar to Marianne Dashwood, one of the heroines of Sense and Sensibility, in preferring modern poets and being rather prone to "sensibility" - a giving over of oneself to emotions, really.

Anne, who is also well-read in the "modern" poets, cannot help but feel that perhaps Benwick is a bit too caught up in sentiment and poetry:

[H]aving talked of poetry, the richness of the present age, and gone through a brief comparison of opinion as to the first-rate poets, trying to ascertain whether Marmion or The Lady of the Lake were to be preferred, and how ranked the Giaour and The Bride of Abydos; and moreover, how the Giaour was to be pronounced, he shewed himself so intimately acquainted with all the tenderest songs of the one poet, and all the impassioned descriptions of hopeless agony of the other; he repeated, with such tremulous feeling, the various lines which imaged a broken heart, or a mind destroyed by wretchedness, and looked so entirely as if he meant to be understood, that she ventured to hope he did not always read only poetry; and to say, that she thought it was the misfortune of poetry, to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly, were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly.

His looks shewing him not pained, but pleased with this allusion to his situation, she was emboldened to go on; and feeling in herself the right of seniority of mind, she ventured to recommend a larger allowance of prose in his daily study; and on being requested to particularize, mentioned such works of our best moralists, such collections of the finest letters, such memoirs of characters of worth and suffering, as occurred to her at the moment as calculated to rouse and fortify the mind by the highest precepts, and the strongest examples of moral and religious endurances.

. . .

When the evening was over, Anne could not but be amused at the idea of her coming to Lyme, to preach patience and resignation to a young man whom she had never seen before; nor could she help fearing, on more serious reflection, that, like many other great moralists and preachers, she had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination.

I feel constrained to note that Austen never mentioned a book in her works that she did not read, and that she usually only references those that she has read more than once, and loved - even if her love for a particular work amuses her, as in the case of Sir Charles Grandison, a book by Richardson, referenced in other books. One can safely assume that she read Marmion and The Lady of the Lake, both by Sir Walter Scott, as well as the Giaour and The Bride of Abydos, both of which are "Turkish" tales by George Gordon, Lord Byron, first published in 1813 that helped to lead to the perception/inception of the Byronic hero. (The Giaour is, incidentally, one of the earliest-known written works to touch on vampirism.)

Another Byron work that Austen read - another of the "Turkish tales", in fact - The Corsair - goes unmentioned here, but in a letter to her sister, Austen once wrote "I have read The Corsair, mended my petticoat, and have nothing else to do." Some folks read it as being dismissive of Byron's poem, but I read it as her justification for why she's writing a letter to her sister ahead of their usual schedule - it was her equivalent of picking up the phone to chat to her sister, from whom she was separated. But I digress.

Tomorrow: Calamity on the Cobb. Meantime, I am off to ponder today's Poetry Friday post, which will doubtless include something from the first-rate poets mentioned in today's selection.


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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Ten

We are back to Persuasion, where we are come to chapter 10, in which the characters take a long walk together, and Captain Wentworth again proves that he is quite solicitous on Anne's behalf, whether he will admit it or no. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We begin the chapter with Anne's observations of Captain Wentworth's relationship with the Musgrove girls. She has shrewdly (and, it will turn out in rapid order, correctly) determined that both of the Musgrove girls have had their heads turned by Wentworth, but neither is actually in love with him (yet); Captain Wentworth appears to favor Louisa over Henrietta, but is not, in fact, in love with her either.

Anne's observations, coming as they do in a single paragraph at the start of the chapter, are easily overlooked, which is why I'm encouraging all of us to slow down and have a closer look at them. The movie versions, of course, have to skip this sort of observation, and as a result, Anne sometimes seems as if she is just a bit of dandelion fluff being blown about by the wind Those of you who are familiar with the novel will be immediately struck by Anne's accuracy; those of you who are reading this for the first time will come to be impressed by her insightfulness.

Not only does Anne carefully observe how things are between the four people she's observing - Captain Wentworth, Charles Hayter, Louisa & Henrietta Musgrove - but she is wishing she could tell them all how it ought to be: Wentworth shouldn't be so quick to accept the attentions/affections of two young women, and, in any case, Henrietta ought to just choose Charles Hayter and be done with it. And, as we see in this chapter, Henrietta essentially does just that - in part at Louisa's urging, and in part based on her own longstanding affection for Charles Hayter.

Our set-up is as follows:

Louisa and Henrietta are setting off on quite a long walk (to see the Hayters, since Charles has been intentionally absent for several days), and Mary invites herself along, despite the sisters not really wanting her to come. Anne correctly deduces that they'd prefer for Mary not to go, but cannot dissuade her; she therefore agrees to join the Musgroves on their walk, in hopes of convincing Mary to turn back.

Four women set off together, and encounter two men - Charles Musgrove and Captain Wentworth - just back from a botched hunting trip. The men decide to join the walk, leaving Anne wishing she'd stayed home; but as turning back might seem peculiar, she walks on.

Anne's experience during the walk toward Winthrop

Anne's object was, not to be in the way of anybody; and where the narrow paths across the fields made many separations necessary, to keep with her brother and sister. Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves, and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which had drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. She occupied her mind as much as possible in such like musings and quotations; but it was not possible, that when within reach of Captain Wentworth's conversation with either of the Miss Musgroves, she should not try to hear it; yet she caught little very remarkable.

Poor Anne, trying to stay distant from Captain Wentworth, yet curious to know what he and the Musgrove girls were talking about. Note, though, Austen's description of how Anne occupies herself, which is worth discussing on two points, and is noteworthy on both points as evidence of Austen's fitting squarely within the "Romantic" tradition at this point: First, Austen describes the scenery, something she did very little in her first published novel (Sense and Sensibility), but which increased as she moved into her more mature works, and she did so using evocative terms: "the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves, and withered hedges". Second, Austen has Anne Elliot repeating poetical descriptions of autumn, using poetical description herself to discuss both the season and the poetry about it.


Anne's overhearing of Captain Wentworth and Louisa's conversation

The exchange between Wentworth and Louisa regarding the Admiral and Mrs. Croft's outing is endearing. It perfectly captures Mrs. Croft's apparent sentiment toward her husband, but also shows Louisa's own romantic nature (using the term here in its more modern sense): "If I loved a man, as she loves the Admiral, I would always be with him, nothing should ever separate us, and I would rather be overturned by him, than driven safely by anybody else."

Anne's overhearing of Louisa's statement, and of Captain Wentworth's rather impressed response, sends Anne into a funk. Austen doesn't spell that out plainly, but it's an easy inference: "Anne could not immediately fall into a quotation again. The sweet scenes of autumn were for a while put by, unless some tender sonnet, fraught with the apt analogy of the declining year, with declining happiness, and the images of youth and hope, and spring, all gone together, blessed her memory."

Upon spying their destination (Winthrop, home of Charles Hayter), Mary declares herself exhausted and takes a seat. Charles heads off to pay a visit to his aunt, and Louisa convinces Henrietta to join him. Anne keeps a snooty Mary company (Mary having declared that the Hayters are beneath her, to remind us yet again what a snobbish family most of the Elliots are) while Louisa and Captain Wentworth head off to glean nuts in the hedgerow, leading to one of the most excruciatingly painful bits of eavesdropping in written history (in my opinion - your mileage may vary), as Anne overhears Wentworth criticizing Henrietta for allowing herself to be swayed by outside opinion and circumstance, rather than holding steady to her own opinion, and praising Louisa for her decisiveness. Wentworth then learns the surprising news that Charles Musgrove proposed to Anne before he married her younger sister, and that Anne refused him. Louisa tells Wentworth that her parents thought Lady Russell was to blame for Anne's decision, although readers know the truth (from Chapter Four): that Lady Russell regretted that Anne had turned Charles down. Wentworth, however, knows Anne's nature - and knows that Charles Musgrove possessed the security and position that Lady Russell would have valued. Does he accept Louisa's profferred explanation at face value, or does he suspect that Anne turned him down because she didn't care for him? We certainly don't find out in this chapter, although we know from Anne's perception that his keen interest in news about her indicates that he's not at all indifferent to the news.

The walk home, in which Captain Wentworth shows solicitude towards Anne

On the way home, Anne is tired. No wonder - she's been taking care of Mary's sick child and after walking so far and overhearing so much - and having to witness Captain Wentworth spending so much time with Louisa Musgrove - it's no wonder that she's fagged. She's so tired that she really needs Charles Musgrove's arm for support on the way home.

About a mile from Uppercross, they come upon the Crofts, out driving in their gig, who offer a ride to any lady who needs one. Everyone politely declines, and they are about to drive on when Captain Wentworth rushes to the carriage to speak to his sister, whereupon she urges Anne to join them in the carriage - and Captain Wentworth essentially lifts her up into the carriage - this is not merely extending a hand for her to steady herself: a gig was a rather high-set sort of carriage, and therefore required one to climb up into it, which would have required him to put his hand to her ribs, basically, to hoist her up, there being no step available. You and I might not know what to make of it, but Anne does:

Captain Wentworth, without saying a word, turned to her, and quietly obliged her to be assisted into the carriage.

Yes; he had done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it, that she owed it to his perception of her fatigue, and his resolution to give her rest. She was very much affected by the view of his disposition towards her, which all these things made apparent. This little circumstance seemed the completion of all that had gone before. She understood him. He could not forgive her, but he could not be unfeeling. Though condemning her for the past, and considering it with high and unjust resentment, though perfectly careless of her, and though becoming attached to another, still he could not see her suffer, without the desire of giving her relief. It was a remainder of former sentiment; it was an impulse of pure, though unacknowledged friendship; it was a proof of his own warm and amiable heart, which she could not contemplate without emotions so compounded of pleasure and pain, that she knew not which prevailed.

Again, returning readers will know whether Anne has gotten this just right. What follows gives us further insight into the Crofts' relationship, including how they view the Musgrove girls and Frederick's inclination toward them, as well as how they get along so well together - which includes a good dose of Mrs. Croft's practical intervention and good sense. Boy, do I love the Crofts, and Mrs. Croft in particular.


Tomorrow we move on to Chapter 11 (and I'll also be putting up a Persuasion-related poetry post), and on Saturday we reach the half-way mark in the novel, which includes a fictional tragedy that to this day promotes actual tourism to Lyme Regis.


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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sonnet 109 by William Shakespeare

As I was mulling over what to post today for our Wednesday bit o' the Bard, it occurred to me to wonder if any Shakespeare is quoted in Persuasion, in light of my ongoing series, A Winter's Persuasion. (The answer appears to be "no" – Austen pretty much restricted herself to the then-modern Romantic poets when writing her last completed novel.) So my second level of inquiry is which of Shakespeare's sonnets might make a good fit for Persuasion despite not being mentioned.

And so it was that I came to select Sonnet 109, which seems to me a good fit for Wentworth (ultimately), although we aren't yet to the end of Persuasion , where its applicability becomes clearer. For those of you who've not read Persuasion, you ought to know that Captain Wentworth was once engaged to Anne Elliot, who broke it off with him at the urging of others. At the point of the story where we are just now, Captain Wentworth is back in the neighborhood where he's busy not-talking to Anne. However, by the time we reach the end, Wentworth will not only be speaking to Anne, but will be declaring his constant, unwavering love.

Sonnet 109
by William Shakespeare

O, never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seemed my flame to qualify;
As easy might I from my self depart
As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie.
That is my home of love. If I have ranged,
Like him that travels I return again,
Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe, though in my nature reigned
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stained
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good.
  For nothing this wide universe I call,
  Save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all.


Form and analysis: A Shakespearean sonnet, of course, written in iambic pentameter and rhymed ABABCDCDEFEFGG. The volta, or "turn", in this sonnet comes in the 9th line at the start of the sentence "Never believe . . . " The first eight lines mention that although he's been away, his love has always been with the beloved. The next four encourage the beloved not to believe that his love could ever have been supplanted despite outside temptation. And there's an additional, further turning in the final couplet to an affirmation that the beloved is the most important thing in the world to the speaker.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

A short list

1. Today being the second Tuesday of the month, it's my day to post over at Guys Lit Wire, where you can read a brief review of THE YOUNG INFERNO by John Agard, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura, which was one of this year's CYBILS Awards nominees in the poetry category.

2. A quick word about A Winter's Persuasion: Tomorrow is a day off from our chapter-by-chapter progression through the book, which ought to allow people a chance to catch up a wee bit if they are inclined to do so. Expect a Shakespeare-related post, it being a Wednesday and all. (I've been trying to do Bard-related posts on Wednesday ever since I wrapped up last year's Brush Up Your Shakespeare Month extravaganza.

3. Speaking of Brush Up Your Shakespeare Month, I've started planning for this year's event, which will again be in June. If anyone has a particular title they'd really truly love to talk about, I hope you'll drop me a comment on it.

4. Speaking of planning events, I'll also be reprising my Building a Poetry Collection posts in April in honor of National Poetry Month.

Back to Chapter Eight

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A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Nine

Yesterday's chapter ended with Anne knowing for certain that Captain Wentworth was entirely indifferent to her. Or is he? Today's chapter certainly seems to indicate otherwise, although Austen never explicitly contradicts Anne's conclusion. As I've said before, I'm operating from the Norton Critical Edition of Persuasion, but any edition will do. And here's a link to Molland's online edition of Chapter Nine, should you find yourself without a hard copy of the text.

The chapter opens with some information about Charles Musgrove's cousin Charles Hayter and his relationship with Henrietta, which may be in question due to Henrietta's head being turned by Captain Wentworth. (Yes, we have Charles and Charles and Charles in this chapter, what with the elder nephew being Charles as well; having names in common among first cousins was quite common back then and would not have confused anyone then, although it's a bit unusual in modern times.) We learn that Mary is in favor of Wentworth choosing Henrietta over Louisa, because she looks down on the Hayters (surprise! - still, good of Austen to remind us of the Elliot snobbery). And in the midst of all that conversation comes the quiet heartbreak of Anne's assessment that "As to Captain Wentworth's views, she deemed it of more consequence that he should know his own mind, early enough not to be endangering the happiness of either sister, or impeaching his own honour, than that he should prefer Henrietta to Louisa, or Louisa to Henrietta. Either of them would, in all probability, make him an affectionate, good-humoured wife."

Poor Anne, forced to watch as Wentworth flirts with the young girls at Uppercross, who are both only too happy to encourage him. And then to be drawn into conversations at Uppercross Cottage between Charles and Mary, trying to figure out which of Charles's sisters he prefers. Again I will say that either Anne puts on a very good show (likely) or nobody really takes the time to observe her closely (also likely), because her distress level is quite high, but nobody sees it. And the Musgroves - both the older couple and their daughters and the younger couple - are actually kind-hearted people who are not inclined to ignore Anne in the same manner as her father and Elizabeth did, although they are happy to take advantage of her nature.

Back in my post about Chapter Six, I pointed out that "there are only a few characters who take note of any discomfort on Anne's part: we've already met one, Lady Russell, and there are two more to come - but only one who takes serious action to ameliorate her discomfort. And there are conclusions to be drawn from that, I believe[.]" In this chapter, we learn that one of the other characters who notes Anne's discomfort is Captain Wentworth - and he takes action to ameliorate it. This will continue to be something to watch for in the coming chapters, and certainly recurs in Chapter 10.

The set-up is that Anne is in the Cottage drawing-room, caring for her nephew (the injured one). Wentworth turns up looking for the Misses Musgrove, who are visiting Mary upstairs. He must now wait in the drawing-room with Anne. Charles Hayter turns up as well, but he's in a snit over Henrietta's interest in Wentworth, so he hides behind a newspaper (a time-honored tradition among men in Austen novels, including Mr. Bennet (P&P) and Mr. Palmer (S&S) hiding from their wives in that way). Anne's younger nephew, who is only two, comes in and flings his arms around Anne's neck, climbing onto her back.

Anne: Get down! You're making me angry!
Hayter: I say! Do as your aunt says! Come see me!
Wentworth: *springs into action, removing the child from her back and then keeping him engaged*

In this small domestic scene, Austen quite effectively establishes that Wentworth is still concerned for Anne's well-being, particularly when one considers the degrees of familiarity and relationship among the parties. Anne is the boy's maternal aunt and has known the child since birth; it is therefore natural for her to discipline the child, only he has her in a chokehold from behind and she really can't get at him. Charles Hayter is the boy's first cousin, once removed, and has known the child since birth; it is therefore natural as well for him to discipline the child, although he doesn't bother to actually do anything - he just sits there and tells the little boy to cease and desist. (Anne later notes that Hayter seems annoyed with himself for not having done what Wentworth did, since it was what he ought to have done.)

Captain Wentworth is (for all intents and purposes) a stranger, with no real knowledge of the child, yet he is the one to come to Anne's assistance. He doesn't exactly discipline the child, but he does physically handle him and then keep him occupied so as to prevent him from bothering Anne again while she is tending to young Charles Musgrove. And in doing so, he has come into extremely close physical proximity to Anne, prying the boy's hands from around Anne's neck and carrying him off. He acts not out of duty as a relation (as Hayter ought to have done), but out of a desire to help Anne. And then he fusses over the little boy so as to avoid conversation with Anne.

Austen sets the scene up in the way that she does in order to let the readers know more than her characters can sort out for themselves. Wentworth's "man of action" moment tells us, the readers, that he is still quite concerned about Anne, but is conflicted, and probably still angry, with her. His actions speak louder than any words, yet he actively discourages any words that might be spoken. He has acted based on feelings that he is actively trying to repress and/or disavow. Meanwhile, we have Anne, who can tell that he's uncomfortable in her presence and really doesn't want to talk to her, only he's just done something that is kind of close to being intimate (for that time period). No wonder poor Anne is in a bit of a tizzy - to have him so close to her (for one), and then to have him so studiously avoiding her afterwards has to be bewildering. So we end the chapter with a shaken Anne bolting from the room to try to pull herself together.

I can hardly wait for tomorrow, when we get to glean some nuts in the hedgerow. (Sounds dirty, no?)


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