Hazel Jones says she is “a confirmed Austen addict, having fallen in love with Henry Tilney at the age of 11,” although she tells me she has “since been unfaithful to him with Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth and Mr. Knightley.” Hazel tutors adult residential courses and she has lectured at various venues across the UK as well as speaking at Austen events in Australia, the USA and the Netherlands. Her first book, Jane Austen & Marriage, was published in 2009 and it was reissued in paperback in 2017. Jane Austen’s Journeys was published in 2014 and her new book, The Other Knight Boys: Jane Austen’s Dispossessed Nephews, is due out later this year. I’m very happy to introduce her contribution to “Youth and Experience.”
“One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it,” Anne Elliot claims near the end of Persuasion, and by then where has she not suffered? Yet Jane Austen delineates subtle alterations in the intensity of her heroine’s suffering in each location and the gradual widening of physical and mental horizons on her journey from passive acceptance to active engagement. For Anne to progress beyond regret for what might have been, she must re-learn cheerfulness and confidence, to trust in her own powers of self-determination and self-expression. It proves a slow and painful process, but on the journey from the deadening insularity of Kellynch to the busy streets of Bath, the inextricably linked miseries of Anne’s past and present assume an increasingly hopeful, thrillingly romantic potential.
Compared to Jane Austen’s other heroines, with the exception of Emma Woodhouse, Anne can justifiably describe herself as “at home, quiet, confined” (Volume 2, Chapter 11), a confinement as much psychological as physical. The association of place and character is always significant in Austen’s fiction and change of location a test of integrity, calling for adaptation while keeping faith with self-esteem and principles. Wherever Austen’s heroines happen to be, they are essentially what they always were; they none of them “perform to strangers.” Through their journeys they learn something of the world and discover where, and with whom, they do and do not belong. This is true for Anne Elliot too, but with a distinct difference. She is at least six years sadder and wiser than previous heroines and in her case it is a matter of giving up where she thinks she belongs and regaining the man with whom she already knows she belongs. For Anne, geographical change, though largely within one county, breaks the cycle of isolation and stasis in which she is trapped. Her journeys between Kellynch Hall, Uppercross, Winthrop, Lyme, Kellynch Lodge and Bath ease her away from a present damaged by past events towards hope.
Wherever Anne Elliot travels within the physical boundaries of Somerset, her “little history of sorrowful interest” accompanies her, colouring inner and outer landscapes in shades of autumn and winter. The vocabulary of suffering and loss dominates the first four and a half chapters based at Kellynch, where Anne”s existence is expressed in negative terms: of “inferior value” to her father, she is “haggard … faded and thin” a “nobody” whose word carries “no weight.” Disappointments and oppositions, miseries and regrets, proliferate. The positives – love, happiness, “exquisite felicity”—are limited to two short paragraphs in Chapter Four, emphasising their transience and obliteration eight years previously. Small wonder Anne Elliot never smiles. Kellynch Hall, valuable to Sir Walter and his eldest daughter as a possession conferring privilege and status, is precious as a “beloved home” to Anne alone, the only place she has ever experienced happiness, albeit in the past. In fact, Kellynch is closely identified with looking back: Sir Walter’s copy of the Baronetage records the Elliots’ rise to honour and property in the seventeenth century, when a baronet might live like a baronet without incurring huge bills. While Sir Walter finds a temporary refuge from his financial predicament in his book of books, Anne finds some consolation in hers, the Navy List.
The novel’s insistence on time passing serves to mark the characters’ moral preoccupations—Sir Walter’s pride in his perennial handsomeness “amidst the wreck of the good looks of every body else,” his ruinous self-indulgence and gradual descent into debt; Elizabeth’s thirteen years of “laying down the domestic law at home,” taking precedence at balls, unsuccessfully advertising her eligibility during the London season and inwardly seething over her rejection by the heir to the Kellynch estate (Volume 1, Chapter 1). Seasons at Kellynch come and go with monotonous regularity, effecting little change. Anne’s suffering dates from the same period, but apart from thirteen years of missing a mother, almost eight of mourning a lost lover have exacted a greater toll, in “an early loss of bloom and spirits.”
It was no creed of Jane Austen’s that “such sort of Disappointments kill anybody” (Letter 109, 18-20 November 1814), a no-nonsense attitude evident throughout her novels, but in Persuasion, Anne’s relinquishing of Wentworth is a kind of death, a “sacrifice” of future happiness, occasioned by being “forced into prudence” at the age of nineteen. Anne is the victim of that “youth-killing dependence” predicted by Lady Russell as the certain consequence of an engagement to Wentworth; with one form of dependence, on a naval officer who had yet to make his fortune, exchanged for another, on a father thoughtlessly squandering his. Eight years in one location, with “no aid … given in change of place” (Volume 1, Chapter 4), have failed to accomplish a “sufficient cure” for Anne’s heartache. The significance of that one word “sufficient” becomes apparent in a single, precious shred of hope—“in favour of his constancy, she had no reason to believe him married.”
Anne’s painful existence has become habitual, but at the same time sustaining. Suffering reminds her that she is alive, that love was once possible, a state of mind preferable to Elizabeth’s cold insouciance and sense of ill-usage. Kellynch, redolent with a lover’s passion and the misery of parting, and freighted with past pleasure and present sorrow, is the only place Anne can connect with Wentworth. She visualises him there when the Crofts take over the lease, “and many a stroll and many a sigh were necessary to dispel the agitation” (Volume 1, Chapter 4). The idea of a Captain Wentworth in the flesh rather than as a “softened down” memory, revives all of Anne’s former pain in full force.
The first journey Anne makes away from familiar physical and psychological territory, is undertaken reluctantly, but her spirits are “improved by change of place and subject, by being removed three miles from Kellynch” (Volume 1, Chapter 6). At Uppercross a mental readjustment is necessary within the “cheerful character” of the little commonwealth of both houses at Uppercross, where Kellynch preoccupations are no concern of the Musgroves. They live very much in their own all-encompassing present; the past that paralyses Kellynch exercises no authority here, except, at first, over Anne. She feels her own “nothingness” within this self-absorbed family circle, yet this is not what her experiences at Uppercross should be teaching her. Her worth to the Musgroves is clear to them, if not to Anne. She is adaptable and sympathetic, a ready, if reluctant ear for everyone’s complaints and counter-complaints.
Thankfully, this state of anaesthetised tranquillity cannot last. She is “electrified” out of her comfort zone by Wentworth’s arrival at Uppercross. From this point on, she is shocked into recognising an insistent, trembling life force tingling through every nerve. The passive suffering of her Kellynch existence is jolted into “agitation,” “shudderings,” “confusion” and blushing as her body reacts in ways contrary to the mind’s directives. To begin with, she persuades herself that she will learn to be “insensible” to Wentworth’s close proximity, but her acute agitation, echoed in Austen’s agitated vocabulary and syntax, is betrayed by her mental and bodily responses on their first meeting:
a thousand feelings rushed on Anne, of which this was the most consoling, that it would soon be over … she heard his voice—he talked to Mary; said all that was right; said something to the Miss Musgroves, enough to mark an easy footing: the room seemed full—full of persons and voices—but a few minutes ended it …
“It is over! it is over!” she repeated to herself again, and again, in nervous gratitude. “The worst is over!” (Volume 1, Chapter 7)
Far from being over, painful encounters with Wentworth are only just beginning. They repeat the same cycle, moving from despair to hope, to repression, but physical responses prove barely controllable and hope sneaks in under the radar. Anne’s vain attempt to impose rational thought on her emotional and bodily reactions, extends to a kind of painful satisfaction in his dismissive words on her appearance:
“So altered that he should not have known her again!” These were words … of sobering tendency; they allayed agitation; they composed, and consequently must make her happier. (Volume 1, Chapter 7)
When Wentworth makes electric physical contact in removing little Walter’s sturdy arms from around her neck, “a confusion of varying, but very painful agitation” succeeds, which only “a long application of solitude and reflection” quietens (Volume 1, Chapter 9). This is hardly a sober allaying of emotional or physical turbulence. She might be silent, but her body language speaks volumes.
The “pleasures” on the walk to Winthrop reflect Anne’s frame of mind— “the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges” and the recalling of various poetic lines redolent of autumnal change and decay. As a distraction technique, it fails. She cannot escape the conversation going on between Wentworth and Louisa, in particular on the subject of love:
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. (Volume 1, Chapter 10)
Not the kind of blessing most heroines would welcome, and the narrative voice hints that indulging in such comforts might be counter-productive. Brighter prospects, possible after a little active intervention, are evidenced in the image of the farmer preparing the fallow ground, “counteracting the sweets of poetical despondence, and meaning to have spring again.” If the pains of the present are rooted in Anne’s past mistake, so are the hopes for the future and autumn proves more promising at Uppercross than Anne could possibly have imagined. In the case of the Winthrop walk, she hears enough to detect a “degree of feeling and curiosity about her” in Wentworth’s questioning of Louisa and on the way back to Uppercross, he assists her into the Crofts’ gig. There are signs that Anne, too, will be granted spring again, but her interpretation is cautious—she cannot allow herself the luxury of hope: “He could not forgive her,—but he could not be unfeeling” (Volume 1, Chapter 10). The events of the year ’06, known only to themselves, generate both intimacy and estrangement. On the journey towards reconciliation, they move forwards and backwards in time simultaneously. Daily encounters with her former lover revive Anne’s suffering in full force—her feelings “so compounded of pleasure and pain, that she knew not which prevailed”—but in altered proportions to the unremitting hopelessness experienced at Kellynch. The physical removal to Uppercross effects a mental shift, but still not sufficient to overcome Anne’s accustomed pessimism and allow her to acknowledge Wentworth’s returning interest.
Something must happen to dispel Anne’s debilitating lack of energy to reclaim the man she loves and the transformation begins at Lyme. A seventeen-mile journey transports her into a promising, unfamiliar environment, of high cliffs, “green chasms,” “romantic rocks” and “luxuriant growth.” In only two chapters, smiles come more easily as she experiences “amusement” on three separate occasions, together with “pleasant feelings” and “great pleasure.” Jane Austen’s love of Lyme, formed over two holidays there in 1803 and 1804, suffuses the description of the place and its immediate environs, but it is in the scenes she goes on to describe that the worth of Lyme comes to be understood in terms of Anne Elliot’s returning confidence. This is the desired cure, rather than the fading out of her lingering constancy to Wentworth, although at Lyme, opportunities for a second attachment present themselves. Anne’s body as well as her mind responds to the curative properties of the sea, thus increasing her physical appeal. She is earnestly appraised by Mr. Elliot on the seashore, receives a “bright look” from Wentworth and is the conscious object of “some dawning tenderness” in Captain Benwick. Male admiration serves, in collaboration with the sea breeze, to improve Anne’s complexion and animate her spirits.
Greater pleasure is experienced in Lyme than in any location so far, but along with the peaks come the troughs. Anne’s dual loss, of Kellynch and of Wentworth, brings into sharp focus what home and companionship constitute for others. For the sociable Musgroves at Uppercross it is open house and everyone welcome. For the Crofts, wherever they are together is home. In the Harvilles’ cramped but ingeniously fitted up lodgings at Lyme, Anne’s head and heart respond to “the picture of repose and domestic happiness” it presents and she experiences “a great tendency to lowness” as she believes that the chance has gone for closer ties with Wentworth’s brother-officers (Volume 1, Chapter 11).
She is drawn to James Benwick in particular by the strength of a common grief, his worn on his sleeve, hers hidden. Here is a man whose very recent loss appears as irrevocable as her own; Fanny Harville dead, Frederick Wentworth dancing attendance on Louisa Musgrove, as good as. She foresees future hope in Benwick’s life, while denying it in her own: “‘he has not, perhaps, a more sorrowing heart than I have. I cannot believe his prospects so blighted for ever … He will rally again, and be happy with another’” (Volume 1, Chapter 11).
Acting on this perceptive premise, she attempts to reason him out of his addiction to the kind of poetry “which imaged a broken heart, or a mind destroyed by wretchedness.” The fortifying selection of prose she recommends is of course familiar to her, from her eight year struggle against similar afflictions at Kellynch, but it is less than a week since the walk to Winthrop, when she herself conjured up poetic lines on declining happiness and withered hope. The subject raises, for the first time, a touch of humour, as Anne reflects on the irony of “coming to Lyme to preach patience and resignation … nor could she help fearing … she had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination” (Volume 1, Chapter 11).
At last we see signs that Anne Elliot is capable of eloquence, but not yet in her own interests. She is listened to with gratitude and interest by Captain Benwick and if Harville is aware of her sympathetic exertions, so is Wentworth, but he and Anne never communicate beyond “the common civilities.”
Louisa’s fall from the Cobb causes widespread suffering. Anne alone stays rational; although her “wretchedness” is mentioned, it is not elaborated. She has enough to do in directing operations. Her decisive actions win Wentworth’s admiration, “‘if Anne will stay, no one so proper, so capable as Anne!’” spoken “with a glow, and yet a gentleness, which seemed almost restoring the past” (Volume 1, Chapter 12). Anne blushes with emotion at the intimacy implied in the use of her first name, and on the journey back to Uppercross, Wentworth’s appeal to her judgement is interpreted as “a proof of friendship, and of deference for her judgement, a great pleasure.” Even though she persuades herself that “she was valued only as she could be useful to Louisa,” she does at least recognise that she is valued.
A return to the familiar, unchanging landscape of Somerset threatens to undo the rejuvenating aspects of the sea, with Anne’s final days at Uppercross following the same pattern of self-effacing usefulness as the first. Alone on a wet November day, convinced that Louisa will recover and marry Wentworth, she indulges in the most desolate view of the future to date:
A few months hence, and the room now so deserted, occupied but by her silent, pensive self, might be filled again with all that was happy and gay, all that was glowing and bright in prosperous love, all that was most unlike Anne Elliot!
The hopes raised at Lyme seem buried, but they are robust enough to surface again. As she leaves, her thoughts are the usual compound of pain and pleasure:
Scenes had passed at Uppercross, which made it precious. It stood the record of many sensations of pain, once severe, but now softened; and of some instances of relenting feeling, some breathings of friendship and reconciliation, which could never be looked for again, and which could never cease to be dear. (Volume 2, Chapter 1)
A brief period at Kellynch Lodge acts as a watershed between the dramatic events at Lyme and the removal to Bath; between the lowest point of Anne’s despondency and a lightening of spirits. Anne is on familiar territory once more, but with altered perceptions. Lady Russell notices and compliments her improved looks and Anne has “the amusement of connecting them with the silent admiration of Mr. Elliot, and of hoping she was to be blessed with a second spring of youth and beauty” (Volume 2, Chapter 1). She becomes aware of a mental change in attitude to her former home. Superseded by Uppercross and Lyme concerns, Kellynch affairs are now of secondary interest. The Crofts prove more responsible caretakers than her father and, in Anne’s opinion, painful though the thought may be, deserve to occupy her former home. No longer is suffering attached to the thought of Wentworth at the Hall; there is a greater degree of apprehension in imagining an encounter taking place under Lady Russell’s eagle eye. From this point, having learnt to leave Kellynch regrets behind her, Anne begins to focus on redressing her own situation.
Of all the locations Anne loves or comes to love, Bath is where she suffers least and achieves most. Her ingrained dislike stems from the circumstance of having been three years at school in the city after her mother’s death and from passing a winter season there with Lady Russell following the break with Wentworth. It is a sign of Anne’s altered mentality that in Bath, the deadening weight of the past loses much of its influence, although it appears at first that she will be subject to the same kind of stultifying confinement experienced at Kellynch, since exclusivity is still Sir Walter’s chief preoccupation. He and Elizabeth congratulate themselves on the lofty situation of their house in Camden Place, from where they look down on the city spread beneath them and attend none but the most prestigious private parties. Lady Russell has a house in slightly lower Rivers Street; the Crofts are lower still, in Gay Street, leading off the Circus. The Musgroves are in the centre of things, at the White Hart Hotel and Mrs. Smith in Westgate Buildings on the edge of gentility, close to the hot bath. Viscountess Lady Dalrymple leases a house in Laura Place, on the fashionable eastern side of the river. Sir Walter’s rank-obsessed vision appears to dominate character placement in the city, but a more democratic Bath belongs to the sociable Musgroves and Crofts, who are happy where they are, able to take full advantage of the pleasures on offer: the theatre, the shops, the lively public spaces.
Bath’s winter season provides Anne with company and several escape routes—to Mrs. Smith’s lodgings, to the White Hart, to the thronged streets, where she frequently sees the Crofts—allowing an autonomy impossible at Kellynch. Rather than closing life down, as Anne had anticipated, Bath facilitates an opening up and her previous anxieties are succeeded by more pleasant concerns. To begin with, Wentworth is relegated to the background, as Mr. Elliot occupies centre stage in Anne’s thoughts and conjectures. She smiles frequently at and with him and feels “agreeable sensations” when told of his admiration. Because he listens to her, she speaks with growing confidence and at greater length. At Camden Place, Anne is able to smile at her father and elder sister’s foibles, the first time she is described as taking their attitude lightly.
In Austen’s cancelled chapter 10, Anne sighs over the fate of her father’s house in the hands of her disreputable cousin, but only once in the final version of the text does she consider Kellynch in connection with the future. Presented with a picture of herself occupying her mother’s place as the next Lady Elliot, Anne’s imagination and heart, we are told, are “bewitched,” but the charm fades when she thinks of the impossibility of marrying Mr. Elliot. This is the final stage in her growing away from Kellynch. She relinquishes it with hardly a backward glance.
A whole month passes before news of Uppercross, Lyme and Wentworth reaches Camden Place. When it does, and Benwick’s engagement to Louisa bursts upon Anne, near-ecstasy succeeds astonishment. In Bath, Anne’s suffering dissipates and now, filled with excited anticipation, she allows herself to hope:
Anne’s heart beat in spite of herself, and brought the colour into her cheeks when she thought of Captain Wentworth unshackled and free. She had some feelings which she was ashamed to investigate. They were too much like joy, senseless joy! (Volume 2, Chapter 6)
Bath’s opportunities for social interaction in a multiplicity of public places encourage a certain liberation and boldness in Anne. From Molland’s pastry shop, she sees the newly-arrived Wentworth before he sees her and determines to make contact. In a crucial passage, Anne’s consciousness takes up the dual struggle between her confident and her cautious self:
She now felt a great inclination to go to the outer door; she wanted to see if it rained. Why was she to suspect herself of another motive? Captain Wentworth must be out of sight. She left her seat, she would go, one half of her should not be always so much wiser than the other half, or always suspecting the other of being worse than it was. She would see if it rained. (Volume 2, Chapter 7)
Her initial response to the sight of him is “overpowering, blinding, bewildering,” and even given preparation time, “she had enough to feel! It was agitation, pain, pleasure, a something between delight and misery.” The following day, Wentworth is spotted in Great Pulteney Street from Lady Russell’s carriage, tantalisingly close, but unapproachable. The Bath that brings together can also, for purposes of novelistic suspense, keep apart.
On the evening of the concert, Anne is filled with a kind of desperate courage to act on the next opportunity that offers. Taking the bold initiative of stepping resolutely away from her family into Wentworth’s path as he enters the Assembly Rooms brings him to a standstill by her side. This buzzing public space accommodates a very private exchange. Wentworth’s clear conviction on the subject of constancy encompasses their past shared experiences at Kellynch, Uppercross and Lyme, but he speaks also of the present and future—“‘A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman!—He ought not—he does not.’” Anne is “struck, gratified, confused, and beginning to breathe very quick, and feel an hundred things in a moment,” but she keeps control of herself and of the conversation, encourages him to talk of Lyme and creates an opening to say something of her own feelings:
“The last few hours were certainly very painful, … but when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering — which was by no means the case at Lyme … I have travelled so little, that every fresh place would be interesting to me — but there is real beauty at Lyme: and in short” (with a faint blush at some recollections) “altogether my impressions of the place are very agreeable.” (Volume 2, Chapter 8)
She moves into the concert with “exquisite, though agitated sensations” and a growing confidence that Wentworth “must love her.” But neither they nor the reader are “hastening together towards perfect felicity” just yet. Mr. Elliot’s too close attentions cause Wentworth’s hasty exit, leaving an exquisitely gratified but anxious Anne to wonder, “How was such jealousy to be quieted? How was the truth to reach him?”
The answer to those questions lies in her own agency. In a place that encourages autonomy, she must be more proactive.
Austen’s first attempt to finish Persuasion allows Admiral Croft to take control over Anne’s movements as she hurries home from Westgate Buildings. He ushers her into his lodgings in Gay Street, where she is left alone with Captain Wentworth to refute the report of an engagement to her cousin. The power of speech is assumed by the Admiral, then Wentworth. Anne voices only brief denials, adopting a largely passive role in the ensuing reconciliation entirely at odds with her growing determination to clear Wentworth’s suspicions. Fortunately, Austen realised that this unsatisfactory conclusion negated the distance her heroine had travelled, in terms of body and mind.
The rewritten scenes unequivocally confirm Bath’s role in Anne’s future. Two opportunities are created for her to act and although she must try as usual to stay calm in Wentworth’s presence, this time physical and mental control has the opposite purpose to concealment—she must speak and speak to be heard. On the first occasion, she voices indifference to Mr Elliot’s comings and goings, Wentworth “listening with his whole soul.” Next morning, back in the Musgroves’ bustling rooms at the inn, Mrs. Croft and Captains Harville and Wentworth are already in attendance when Anne arrives, to find herself
plunged at once in all the agitations which she had merely laid her account of tasting a little before the morning closed. There was no delay, no waste of time. She was deep in the happiness of such misery, or the misery of such happiness, instantly. (Volume 2 Chapter 11)
Mrs. Musgrove and Mrs. Croft audibly canvass the undesirability of long engagements, a subject guaranteed to ignite a “nervous thrill” in Anne and for Wentworth to pause in writing his letter. This is their own sad history with an unexpected twist and in that instant the past exerts a more positive force, as Wentworth returns Anne’s instinctive glance with “one quick, conscious look.” She joins Captain Harville at the window, to speak emotionally but eloquently on the collective burden of female constancy. Yet she can only judge by and speak of her own past suffering—loving longest when all hope is gone. That it is past she already knows; Wentworth’s protestations of constancy in the Upper Rooms have convinced her of that. He alone hears and understands the personal reference to Anne’s pain and reciprocates with heartfelt eloquence on paper.
The almost unbearable tension trapped within one small room is released as Anne, her “spirits dancing in private rapture” is accompanied alone by Captain Wentworth, into Union Street. Away from the busy scenes at the inn and in the crowded streets, in the “comparative quiet and retired gravel-walk” on the long way home to Camden Place, the lovers’ reconciliation becomes “a blessing indeed” and promises “all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow.” Present and future merge as they create in the here and now happy memories for the years ahead. The painful past also has its place, in the recognition that their earlier relationship, that had developed primarily because Anne had no one to love and Wentworth nothing to do, has been strengthened—“more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character”—by eight years and a half of “division and estrangement” (Volume 2, Chapter 11). Encounters at Uppercross and Lyme, distressing and pleasurable alike, have contributed to that deeper knowledge, making those places precious, but Bath, of all the locations in Persuasion, holds and will continue to hold a special position in Anne and Wentworth’s hearts and minds.
In the late spring of 1816, the second volume of Persuasion almost complete, Jane Austen made the longest journey of her final year, travelling seventy-seven miles from Chawton to Cheltenham. Various unpleasant health disorders had begun to manifest themselves and a spa water cure proposed. After a fortnight, she returned to Hampshire by way of Kintbury, where family friends noted Austen’s physical deterioration. She never travelled any great distance again. It is sadly ironic that she was working on Persuasion at this time, creating characters who had sailed the world’s oceans and opening up travel opportunities for Anne Elliot as her own were closing down. As the wife of a naval officer, Anne can expect to experience the kind of unsettled life, on land and perhaps at sea, in favour of which well-travelled Mrs. Croft argues with vigorous energy: “‘We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.’” Jane Austen herself had claimed to look forward to a less fixed existence in one place as a benefit of the move from Steventon in 1801: “there is something interesting in the bustle of going away, & the prospect of spending future summers by the Sea … is very delightful.—For a time we shall now possess many of the advantages which I have often thought of with Envy in the wives of Sailors” (Letter 29, 3-5 January 1801).
At the resolution of Jane Austen’s five earlier novels, we imagine the heroines breathing a sigh of relief as they settle into secure, largely uneventful married lives. On Anne’s marriage, she is welcomed into a community of brothers and sisters, Wentworth’s blood relatives and naval friends. She gains the family she both desires and deserves, but no safe-haven equivalent of Donwell, Mansfield Parsonage, Pemberley, Woodston or Delaford. Jane Austen’s most moving novel ends fittingly with the heroine learning that home is not a geographical entity, but an emotional certainty, located wherever the heart belongs.
Quotations are from the Cambridge University Press edition of Persuasion, edited by Janet Todd and Antje Blank (2006) and the Oxford University Press edition of Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye (4th edition, 2011).
Twenty-fourth in a series of blog posts celebrating 200 years of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. To read more about all the posts in the series, visit “Youth and Experience.” Coming soon: guest posts by Maggie Lane, Judith Sears, and Sheila Johnson Kindred.
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leslie nyman said:
thank you for this wonderfully insightful essay.
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