Persuasion is the last completed Jane Austen novel- and the final Jane Austen novel that I’ve read to complete my goal of reading them all this year. Persuasion was published after Austen’s death in December of 1817, but dated 1818. It has been described as the classic Cinderella story- with Anne Elliot as the heroine who is under appreciated and to some extent exploited and Captain Frederick Wentworth as the handsome suitor who seems to be more interested in the “more obvious” charms of others. There is the moment of realization and the happy ending- but I think the novel is more than that. Never in Cinderella do we get the background from the prince of how he has fretted over his decision, tried to forget about her, but was unable to fall out of love.
Austen fell ill with the disease that would kill her while writing this novel, and as a result it is shorter, and as I noticed, less polished than her other novels. It is also different from the others as it is the first novel in which Austen had a heroine who was ‘past the first bloom of youth’ – which I think is ridiculous, as I’m the same age as Anne in the novel. I’d like to point out a quote from Captain Wentworth here, “He inquired after you very particularly; asked even if you were personally altered, little suspecting that to my eye you could never alter.” Le sigh.
I’ll admit I was annoyed with the characters dancing around getting to the meat of the situation- but then the letter that Captain Wentworth wrote for Anne while they were sitting in the same room- and delivered to her in secret sent me over the edge. I love this:
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are in my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. – Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? – I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others. – Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening, or never.”
Pardon me while I swoon. Yes, swoon.
All is forgiven.
I very much enjoyed reading all of Jane Austen’s novels over the past year. I had only read Pride and Prejudice before and it was great to round out my view of Austen as an author.
My favorite quotes from the novel:
“You pierce my soul”
“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
“One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best”
“A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not; he does not.”
“To my eye you could never alter.”