The Passionate, Evocative Passages
in Jane Austen's Novels
The Fourth Page - Persuasion
December 16, 2000
Last Updated: May 1, 2001
By Linda - with contributions from
Julie Grassi, Heather Swallow,
Cheryl, and Ashton Dennis
Many people will explain to you that Jane Austen wrote nothing about romance or passion; the worst examples of this view are the petty remarks of Charlotte Bronte. We disagree, we believe that there was a deeply passionate side to Jane Austen. Perhaps Jane Austen's oldest brother, James Austen, said it best when he wrote this about his sister:
On such subjects no wonder that she shou'd write well,
In whom so united those Qualities dwell;
Where 'dear Sensibility', Sterne's darling Maid,
With Sense so attemper'd is finely portray'd
Fair Elinor's self in that Mind is exprest,
And the Feelings of Marianne live in that Breast,
Everyone points to the humor in our Lady's novels - the humor and the intricate logic. These seem to fuel the enduring interest in Jane Austen's novels, but the passionate feelings and the range of emotions are important too. This sensibility is not noticed as often as the other qualities, but its pull is as strong because it is closer to our hearts, and it controls our tides and provides the mixing so that the more obvious qualities are better blended. This web page is devoted to those passages in the novels that evoke our strongest feelings. We purposely allow the sensibilities to eclipse those other qualities, to shade our view from the extreme brightness of the humor and the good sense in order better to view the passion and the sensibility.
Two of the novels in particular, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, capture that part of courtship dealing with the anticipation of the sexual relationship. In Pride and Prejudice, it's less deliberate and less mature -- more of a function of the age and vitality of Elizabeth and Darcy. Re-read those passages that describe the dancing in particular, and think about what it must have been like for, say, Jane Bennet, clasping hands with Bingley, then Mr. Hurst, or Sir William, then a sister and back to Bingley. Or the brief moment after Bingley's proposal when Elizabeth surprises them as they're standing close together -- perhaps more closely than they have in the previous year.
You can move from here to the evocative passages of Persuasion, or advance to the "passionate passages" of
| Emma | Mansfield
Park | Northanger
| Pride and Prejudice | Sense and Sensibility |
Anne Elliot and Captain and Wentworth had just renewed their engagement when we read this passage near the end of the novel.
"... they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. And there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling housekeepers, flirting girls, nor nursery-maids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgements, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of the last week were gone through, and of yesterday and today there could scarcely be an end."
Please note this sentence: "... There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. ..." But let us return to the sequence of events that led to this happy conclusion.
Return, first, to this passage from Chapter 4. This brief passage is not only our introduction to Frederick Wentworth, but also it relates the initial events of Anne and Frederick's romance and engagement of eight years previous.
"He was, at that time, a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy, and Anne an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste, and feeling. Half the sum of attraction, on either side, might have been enough, for he had nothing to do, and she had hardly anybody to love, but the encounter of such lavish recommendations could not fail. They were gradually acquainted, and when acquainted, rapidly and deeply in love. It would be difficult to say which had seen highest perfection in the other, or which had been the happiest: she, in receiving his declarations and proposals, or he in having them accepted.
A short period of exquisite felicity followed, and but a short one."
But the engagement was not to last. Anne's family and, more importantly, her chief advisor, Lady Russell, would encourage her to break it off; the young man had only himself, his self-confidence and abilities, to recommend him. It seemed that Anne deserved better - could do better. We never learn exactly what Anne had said to him at that time, but we can guess the reaction of such a proud and capable young man.
To Lady Russell, the case had been simple,
"... a throwing away, which she was grieved to think of! Anne Elliot, so young; known to so few, to be snatched off by a stranger without alliance or fortune; or rather sunk by him into a state of most wearing, youth-killing dependence! It must not be..."
Anne saw things differently, she saw the truth and she saw the future; but, she was respectful of the opinion of her late mother's best friend and, so, she was persuaded. And Anne began to pay almost immediately:
"A few months had seen the beginning and the end of their acquaintance; but, not with a few months ended Anne's share of suffering from it. Her attachment and regrets had, for a long time, clouded every enjoyment of youth; and an early loss of bloom and spirits had been their lasting effect. ... No second attachment, the only thoroughly natural, happy, and sufficient cure, at her time of life, had been possible to the nice tone of her mind, the fastidiousness of her taste, in the limits of the society around them, ... She did not blame Lady Russell, she did not blame herself for being guided by her; but she felt that were any young person, in similar circumstances, to apply to her for counsel, they would never receive any of such certain immediate wretchedness, such uncertain future good. ... She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she had learned romance as she grew older. ..."
The first meeting of Anne and Frederick, after the rupture, occurred eight years later. Their fortunes had completely reversed; Anne's dingbat father had placed his family in dire financial circumstances, and navel warfare had brought fortune and position to Wentworth and to his brother-in-law Admiral Croft. In fact, the Crofts had, by coincidence, succeeded to the residence at the Elliot family estate. Anne then met the Crofts, with reluctance, but found she liked them and the feeling was mutual - they knew nothing of her abortive engagement with Captain Wentworth.
It was inevitable that Anne would meet Wentworth again and that meeting is described in Chapter 7. Anne was visiting with her sister Mary when Mary's in-laws, the Musgroves, had good reason to strike up an acquaintance with Wentworth who just happened to be visiting the Crofts. Anne managed to avoid the first opportunity to meet him, "... what was it to her, if Frederick Wentworth were only half a mile distant, making himself agreeable to others! ... he had enquired after her, she found, slightly, as might suit a former slight acquaintance, seeming to acknowledge such as she had acknowledged, actuated, perhaps by the same view of escaping introduction when they were to meet."
Anne was sitting with her sister Mary when Mary's husband, Charles Musgrove, came to announce that he and Wentworth were about to go hunting together, but not before the Captain made a short visit to pay his respects to the women. The impact on Anne was highly affecting to the reader and certainly belongs in our collection.
"Mary, very much gratified by this attention, was delighted to receive him, while a thousand feelings rushed on Anne, of which this was the most consoling, that it would soon be over. And it was soon over. In two minutes after Charles's preparation, the others appeared and they were in the drawing-room. Her eye half met Captain Wentworth's, a bow, a curtsey passed; 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. Charles shewed himself at the window, all was ready, their visitor had bowed and was gone, the Miss Musgroves were gone too, suddenly resolving to walk to the end of the village with the sportsmen: the room was cleared, and Anne might finish her breakfast as she could.'It is over! it is over!' she repeated to herself again and again, in nervous gratitude. 'The worst is over!'
Mary talked, but she could not attend. She had seen him. They had met. They had been once more in the same room.
Soon, however, she began to reason with herself, and try to be feeling less. Eight years, almost eight years had passed, since all had been given up. How absurd to be resuming the agitation which such an interval had banished into distance and indistinctness! What might not eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations, removals--all, all must be comprised in it, and oblivion of the past--how natural, how certain too! It included nearly a third part of her own life.
Alas! with all her reasoning, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing."
The ever insensitive Mary delivered the post-mortem to Anne:
"Captain Wentworth is not very gallant by you, Anne, though he was very attentive to me. Henrietta asked him what he thought of you, when they went away; and he said, 'You were so altered he should not have known you again.' "
The next passage is from Chapter 9. In the first volume, Wentworth was cold to Anne after his return, a marked demeanor that showed that he was all resentment. They had a "bowing relationship" and that was all. At the end of Chapter 8, Anne reflects on this, "Anne did not wish for more of such looks and speeches. His cold politeness, his ceremonious grace, were worse than nothing." Then - it happened - in the very next chapter. Anne was in the same room with her two nephews, Charles and Walter, upon whom she was attending. Wentworth and the boys' adult cousin, Charles Hayter, were also in the room. The younger boy, Walter, had jumped on Anne's back and wouldn't let go; he was loving but very rough with her. Anne scolded and pleaded with the boy to let go, and Cousin Charles had said something to his nephew but the boy ignored him. Finally, we read this.
"In another moment, however, [Anne] found herself in the state of being released from him; someone was taking him from her, though he had bent down her head so much, that his little sturdy hands were unfastened from around her neck, and he was resolutely born away, before she knew that Captain Wentworth had done it.
Her sensations on the discovery made her perfectly speechless. She could not even thank him. She could only hang over little Charles, with most disordered feelings. His kindness in stepping forward to her relief - the silence in which it had passed - the little particulars of the circumstance - with the conviction soon forced on her by the noise that he was studiously making with the child, that he meant to avoid her thanks, and rather sought to testify that her conversation was the last of his wants, produced such a confusion of varying, but very painful agitation, as she could recover from, ... [she left the room], She could not stay..."
Anne had been grieving for eight years - eight years out of a very young life - because she regeted having broken her engagement to Wentworth. He came back into her life at exactly that time when her family's situation was crumbling. And he seemed not to want to have anything to do with her, he treated her in one of the worst possible ways - he was polite to her. At the moment related in this passage, Anne was being exploited by her sister who did not want the bother of tending to her own injured child. In that instant, with that act, Wentworth demonstrated that he noticed her, was concerned for her, and would put himself out for her. That physical contact, albeit through the intervening child, would have been electric. The shock was so great that both Anne and Wentworth went discombobulated. Wentworth lost his self-control, his cool; he could not treat Anne with the polite indifference he had invented; he sensed what had happened, he was exposed, but he could not bring himself to engage with her further.
During Wentworth's conversation with Louisa Musgrove, on the walk to Winthrop, Louisa tells him that Anne had once refused a proposal of Charles Musgrove (Chapter 10). This information seems to pique Wentworth's interest in Anne again. A few minutes later, perceiving that Anne had tired, he prevailed upon the Crofts to make room for her in their carriage. He then handed Anne into the carriage next to his sister.
"Anne was still in the lane and though instinctively beginning to decline, she was not allowed to proceed. The Admiral's kind urgency came in support of his wife's, they would not be refused; they compressed themselves into the smallest possible space to leave her a corner, and 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."
Jane Austen exploits these seemingly mild events - events that might not hold much meaning or even anything of note for onlookers - to communicate encounters of great meaning and passion to the principals involved. After this event, it takes Anne a bit to collect herself. The same might be said of the reader.
The trip to Lyme is described in Chapter 11. Anne, her sister and her husband, and the Musgrove sisters are accompanying Wentworth on a visit to his sailor friends. Anne is struck by the congeniality.
"There was so much attachment to Captain Wentworth in all this, and such a bewitching charm in a degree of hospitality so uncommon, so unlike the usual style of give-and-take invitations, and dinners of formality and display, that Anne felt her spirits not likely to be benefited by an increasing acquaintance among his brother-officers. 'These would have been all my friends,' was her thought; and she had to struggle against a great tendency to lowness."
Apparently Louisa Musgrove was equally affected.
"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."
I have always thought that that passage must have been a fine thing for Jane Austen's sailor brothers to read! But then, they always said Jane Austen was an even better sister than writer.
Anne became especially acquainted with the young widower, Captain Benwick. He would find in her a fellow reader, and she would find that she had just the experience that enabled her to help him bear-up under his loss and to encourage him to face the future.
"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."
In spite of Anne's initial "tendency to lowness", the experience seemed to improve her spirits and appearance. We read this in Chapter 12.
"When they came to the steps, leading upwards from the beach, a gentleman, at the same moment preparing to come down, politely drew back, and stopped to give them way. They ascended and passed him; and as they passed, Anne's face caught his eye, and he looked at her with a degree of earnest admiration, which she could not be insensible of. She was looking remarkably well; her very regular, very pretty features, having the bloom and freshness of youth restored by the fine wind which had been blowing on her complexion, and by the animation of eye which it had also produced. It was evident that the gentleman, (completely a gentleman in manner) admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance, a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, 'That man is struck with you, and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again.'
After attending Louisa through her business, and loitering about a little longer, they returned to the inn; and Anne, in passing afterwards quickly from her own chamber to their dining-room, had nearly run against the very same gentleman, as he came out of an adjoining apartment. She had before conjectured him to be a stranger like themselves, and determined that a well-looking groom, who was strolling about near the two inns as they came back, should be his servant. Both master and man being in mourning assisted the idea. It was now proved that he belonged to the same inn as themselves; and this second meeting, short as it was, also proved again by the gentleman's looks, that he thought hers very lovely, and by the readiness and propriety of his apologies, that he was a man of exceedingly good manners. He seemed about thirty, and though not handsome, had an agreeable person. Anne felt that she should like to know who he was."
Anne, in fact, would have the opportunity to know him better, but in Bath rather than at Lyme. He was her cousin, Mr. Elliot. He was her father's heir, a charming companion, and a logical choice for her to marry. "... They went through the particulars of their first meeting a great many times. He gave her to understand that he had looked at her with earnestness. She knew it well; and she remembered another person's look also." (Chapter 16)
Later, in that same Chapter 12, we learn of Louisa's fall and lapse into coma. The family and Captain Wentworth were in deep consultation; they were trying to determine who should stay to nurse Louisa and who would return to the Musgrove family estate. Anne was about to enter that room when she heard Captain Wentworth insist,
"...'but if Anne will stay, no one so proper, so capable as Anne.'
She paused a moment to recover from the emotion of hearing herself so spoken of. The other two warmly agreed with what he said, and she then appeared.
'You will stay, I am sure you will stay and nurse her' cried he, turning to her and speaking with a glow, and yet a gentleness, which seemed almost restoring the past. She coloured deeply, and he recollected himself and moved away. ..."
Such was this, another step towards reunion.
The situation with Louisa seemed resolved, she was out of danger and, by Chapter 17, Anne has moved to her father's residence at Bath. There she became better acquainted with Mr. Elliot much to the pleasure of Lady Russell (and to the chagrin of Anne's older sister, Elizabeth.) Later, Anne would learn things of Mr. Elliot that would disgust her, but even while he was wooing and charming her, she had had some reservations:
"Mr. Elliot was rational, discreet, polished--but he was not open. There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. ... She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others."
So! this mildest of all Jane Austen heroines needed the spirited, passionate man, did she? Well, Wentworth fit this prescription rather nicely, but so did Darcy, Knightley, or Edmund Bertram.
We turn to Chapter 18: Anne was in her room, and contemplating a letter from sister Mary. Among other things, Mary announced that Louisa Musgrove had become engaged to Benwick; Anne was astounded but decided,
"The conclusion of the whole was, that if the woman who had been sensible of Captain Wentworth's merits could be allowed to prefer another man, there was nothing in the engagement to excite lasting wonder; and if Captain Wentworth lost no friend by it, certainly nothing to be regretted. No, it was not regret which made 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!"
Chapter 19: The next selection describes Anne and Wentworth's first meeting in Bath after all thought of an engagement between Frederick and Louise had been set aside. The Croft's had made their way to Bath for the sake of the Admirals health: "They brought with them their country habit of being almost always together." (We must trust the authority of that country girl, Jane Austen, on the matter of country manners.) Wentworth had come, ostensibly, to visit the Crofts. Anne was in public in the company of sister Elizabeth, Mr. Elliot, and Mrs. Clay.
" ... when Anne, as she sat near the window, descried, most decidedly and distinctly, Captain Wentworth walking down the street.
Her start was perceptible only to herself; but she instantly felt that she was the greatest simpleton in the world, the most unaccountable and absurd! For a few minutes she saw nothing before her; it was all confusion. She was lost, and when she had scolded back her senses, she found the others still waiting for the carriage, and Mr. Elliot (always obliging) just setting off for Union Street on a commission of Mrs. Clay's.
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. She was sent back, however, in a moment by the entrance of Captain Wentworth himself, among a party of gentlemen and ladies, evidently his acquaintance, and whom he must have joined a little below Milsom Street. He was more obviously struck and confused by the sight of her than she had ever observed before; he looked quite red. For the first time, since their renewed acquaintance, she felt that she was betraying the least sensibility of the two. She had the advantage of him in the preparation of the last few moments. All the overpowering, blinding, bewildering, first effects of strong surprise were over with her. Still, however, she had enough to feel! It was agitation, pain, pleasure, a something between delight and misery.
He spoke to her, and then turned away. The character of his manner was embarrassment. She could not have called it either cold or friendly, or anything so certainly as embarrassed.
After a short interval, however, he came towards her, and spoke again. Mutual enquiries on common subjects passed: neither of them, probably, much the wiser for what they heard, and Anne continuing fully sensible of his being less at ease than formerly. They had by dint of being so very much together, got to speak to each other with a considerable portion of apparent indifference and calmness; but he could not do it now. Time had changed him, or Louisa had changed him. There was consciousness of some sort or other. He looked very well, not as if he had been suffering in health or spirits, and he talked of Uppercross, of the Musgroves, nay, even of Louisa, and had even a momentary look of his own arch significance as he named her; but yet it was Captain Wentworth not comfortable, not easy, not able to feign that he was."
Ah yes, "agitation, pain, pleasure, a something between delight and misery"; we all remember it well, do we not? So, now Wentworth was fully exposed. It was raining, Wentworth insisted Anne take his umbrella, but then had to watch as she walked away on Mr. Elliot's arm.
In Chapter 20: They soon met again, at the opera, a meeting which brought forth several emotional moments for Frederick and Anne. Wentworth indicated no little surprise at Benwick's actions, his changeableness with regard to his deceased, first fiancée, Fanny Harville, " '... 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!' ". (This almost seems a prequel to his letter to Anne.) Anne was deeply affected.
"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. It was impossible for her to enter on such a subject; and yet, after a pause, feeling the necessity of speaking, and having not the smallest wish for a total change, [she changed the subject a bit.] ... "
A few minutes later, Lady Dalrymple and company enters and we read:
"Their interesting, almost too interesting conversation must be broken up for a time, but slight was the penance compared with the happiness which brought it on! She had learnt, in the last ten minutes, more of his feelings towards Louisa, more of all his feelings than she dared to think of; and she gave herself up to the demands of the party, to the needful civilities of the moment, with exquisite, though agitated sensations. She was in good humour with all. She had received ideas which disposed her to be courteous and kind to all, and to pity every one, as being less happy than herself."
"The delightful emotions were a little subdued, when on stepping back from the group, to be joined again by Captain Wentworth, she saw that he was gone."
They are separated, but we continue to read:
"Very, very happy were both Elizabeth and Anne Elliot as they walked in. ..."
"Anne saw nothing, thought nothing of the brilliancy of the room. Her happiness was from within. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed - but she knew nothing about it. She was thinking only of the last half hour, and as they passed to their seats, her mind took a hasty range over it. His choice of subjects, his expressions, and still more his manner and look, had been such as she could see in only one light. His opinion of Louisa Musgrove's inferiority, an opinion which he had seemed solicitous to give, his wonder at Captain Benwick, his feelings as to a first, strong attachment; sentences begun which he could not finish, his half averted eyes and more than half expressive glance, all, all declared that he had a heart returning to her at least; that anger, resentment, avoidance, were no more; and that they were succeeded, not merely by friendship and regard, but by the tenderness of the past. Yes, some share of the tenderness of the past. She could not contemplate the change as implying less. He must love her."
Then we read of Anne's mindset during the first act:
"Anne's mind was in a most favourable state for the entertainment of the evening; it was just occupation enough: she had feelings for the tender, spirits for the gay, attention for the scientific, and patience for the wearisome; and had never liked a concert better, at least during the first act."
Anne was euphoric and perhaps this was one of the reasons that Mr. Elliot was inspired to pay her special attention. Anne wished to speak to the Captain again; however, Wentworth left before the opera was over and his farewell remarks to Anne indicated that he was displeased. " 'He must wish her good night. He was going--he should get home as fast as he could.' " Anne tried to intercept him, remembered his love of music, remembered the program, " 'Is not this song worth staying for?' said Anne ... 'No!' he replied impressively, 'there is nothing worth my staying for;' and he was gone directly." Well, there was that "burst of feeling - warmth of indignation" that Anne had been asking for.
"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."
So it was, Anne's feelings for Wentworth, her understanding of what has passed between them just prior to the opera, has made her adore the whole world - Mr. Elliot included. It was this adoration of all things that brightened and stimulated her conversation, made Wentworth guess wrong and wonder if it hadn't been Mr. Elliot's presence that made her so lively and happy. How masterly of Jane Austen to upset and unsettle a character by the vibrations he himself had set in motion!
Jane Austen's passionate passages are very much like the Italian songs that Anne translated for Mr. Elliot - one shouldn't speak of the sense of these selections, one should just feel them. But, like an evening at the opera, these passionate passages are brimming with marvelous examples of emotion for us to experience, and must rival any of Anne's translations of lyrics.
In Chapter 21: The morning after the opera, Anne muses upon what Mr. Elliot's position might have been if there were no Frederick in the case:
"How she might have felt had there been no Captain Wentworth in the case, was not worth enquiry; for there was a Captain Wentworth; and be the conclusion of the present suspense good or bad, her affection would be his for ever. Their union, she believed, could not divide her more from other men, than their final separation.
Prettier musings of high-wrought love and eternal constancy, could never have passed along the streets of Bath, than Anne was sporting with from Camden Place to Westgate Buildings. It was almost enough to spread purification and perfume all the way."
The second paragraph is pure poetry.
In Chapter 22: Upon Charles' and Mary's arrival in Bath, they stopped by the Elliot's, and taking Anne with them, went on to the White Hart for a visit with the elder Musgroves. Thereafter, Charles went out, returned with Captains Wentworth and Harville; he had also obtained tickets to the theatre. That purchase brought on a discussion of the merits of attending the evening party at the Elliots versus attending the theatre. Charles was not the least interested in going to the party merely for the sake of meeting Mr. Elliot, the heir, and says,
"What is Mr. Elliot to me?"
The careless expression was life to Anne, who saw that Captain Wentworth was all attention, looking and listening with his whole soul and that the last words brought his enquiring eyes from Charles to herself."
The words "looking and listening with his whole soul" are heart wrenching as we imagine Wentworth's feelings.
Jane Austen was dying when she completed the first draft of Persuasion. All hope was gone, our Lady seemed in the midst of her last suffering. Jane Austen was given just enough time and strength to do one last thing and we are all grateful; our Lady rose, from an uncharacteristically fitful night to rewrite the ending. As you will read, Jane Austen did not rise to announce that "men are pigs!", quite the contrary.
The new denouement was placed in Chapter 23. The scene was a crowded gathering in the Musgrove apartments where several independent conversations were going on at once while everyone seemed relaxed and happily animated. Anne and Captain Harville had drifted into a a slightly teasing debate over the relative constancy of men as opposed to that of women; Captain Wentworth was seemingly unaware of them and was busy writing a letter to Captain Benwick on behalf of Captain Harville. The discussion then took a more serious turn:
" 'Oh!' cried Anne eagerly, 'I hope I do justice to all that is felt by you, and by those who resemble you. God forbid that I should undervalue the warm and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures! I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman. No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as--if I may be allowed the expression--so long as you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. 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.' "
"She could not immediately have uttered another sentence; her heart was too full, her breath too much oppressed."
Then we read:
"Mrs. Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter with great rapidity, was indeed ready, and had even a hurried, agitated air, which shewed impatience to be gone. Anne knew not how to understand it. She had the kindest 'Good morning, God bless you!' from Captain Harville, but from him not a word, nor a look! He had passed out of the room without a look!"
Captain Wentworth returned.
" ... He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room, almost before Mrs. Musgrove was aware of his being in it--the work of an instant!"
"The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to 'Miss A. E.--,' was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible, anything might be defied rather than suspense. Mrs. Musgrove had little arrangements of her own at her own table; to their protection she must trust, and sinking into the chair which he had occupied, succeeding to the very spot where he had leaned and written, her eyes devoured the following words:"
'I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within 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 for ever. 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.'
"Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from. Half an hour's solitude and reflection might have tranquillized her; but the ten minutes only which now passed before she was interrupted, with all the restraints of her situation, could do nothing towards tranquillity. Every moment rather brought fresh agitation. It was overpowering happiness. And before she was beyond the first stage of full sensation, Charles, Mary, and Henrietta all came in."
"The absolute necessity of seeming like herself produced then an immediate struggle; but after a while she could do no more. She began not to understand a word they said, and was obliged to plead indisposition and excuse herself. They could then see that she looked very ill, were shocked and concerned, and would not stir without her for the world. This was dreadful. Would they only have gone away, and left her in the quiet possession of that room it would have been her cure; but to have them all standing or waiting around her was distracting, and in desperation, she said she would go home."
Charles Musgrove was then instructed to escort an overwrought Anne home. They soon came upon Wentworth. Charles remembered another errand and asked the Captain if he could escort Anne home instead of himself.
"There could not be an objection. There could be only the most proper alacrity, a most obliging compliance for public view; and smiles reined in and spirits dancing in private rapture. In half a minute Charles was at the bottom of Union Street again, and the other two proceeding together: and soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and prepare it for all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow. There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. And there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling housekeepers, flirting girls, nor nursery-maids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgements, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of the last week were gone through, and of yesterday and today there could scarcely be an end."
The journey to the engagement - the re-engagement in Bath was nearly complete and along the way Anne had traveled to Lyme to recover her sense of self-worth in the respect and friendship of the Harvilles and Captain Benwick, then on to Bath where she had found herself pursued by a man whose initial attraction was purely physical.
This was Anne Elliot's journey from the private and completely controlled internal world of her own making to the real world full of uncontrolled feelings, both emotional and physical. Anne began to feel more completely almost as soon as she traveled the three miles to sister Mary's house, but knowing that her time there was limited, she had worked hard to keep her emotions bottled up. The shock of seeing Wentworth again tears through Anne's layers of protection, beginning with Anne's internal world where it is important that she " ... try to be feeling less." But within minutes of their meeting her shell of physical detachment is in tatters as well for Anne finds that eight years has bestowed upon Wentworth "...more glowing, manly, open a look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages."
Anne had now come full circle back to the man whose heart she "... almost broke ... eight years and a half ago." I truly believe that Jane Austen's choice of words to describe Anne's feelings deliberately stresses the connection and confusion between Anne's physical and emotional response to Wentworth's renewed declarations. It isn't deliberately "sexy" in the sense of attempting to titillate, or depict titillation, yet I believe it is sexual, in the sense that those particular words would very naturally occur to Anne in her present state of mind, and would just as naturally would convey a two-fold meaning. A choice of words for which Anne has no reason - and yet every reason - to blush.
These were the last published words of Jane Austen,
"... Anne was tenderness itself, and she had the full worth of it in Captain Wentworth's affection. His profession was all that could ever make her friends wish that tenderness less; the dread of a future war all that could dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance."
A final love poem to her brothers.
Some suspect that Persuasion is slightly autobiographical and the name of the Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen's own life is Tom Lefroy, and the name of the Lady Russell in Jane Austen's own life is Tom Lefroy's aunt, Madam Lefroy.
However, without insisting that Anne Elliot represented Jane Austen in print, I think it's safe to say Anne reflects JA's personal world at forty-something, just as Elizabeth Bennet reflects Jane's world at 19. Persuasion is certainly more sensuous ... we have an explosion of colors and textures both in the physical world and the heroine's perception of that world. At nineteen, one enjoys the autumn colors, at 40 one still enjoys them, but the memories they evoke even more.
And maybe it's safe to say that instead of pursuing life, Anne's been enjoying her memories of love for eight years to keep herself from getting hurt again. But Captain Benwick and Mr. Elliot change all that. Benwick's intellectual admiration followed within hours by Mr. Elliot's 19th century equivalent of a wolf whistle remind Anne that she's not just a daughter, or a sister, or an aunt. Feeling herself again to be an object of physical interest, Anne's own physical side is reawakened. And we see not only a change in her at this point, but a subtle change in the novel's language as well. Now nearly every appearance of Captain Wentworth contains some physical description of him. He looks positively red, he looks very well, he's in a crowd of other men but there's no mistaking him, "a well looking man", a "very fine young man indeed ...".
And now consider, dear reader, compare these "exquisite feelings" of caring, considerate people to those depicted in other literature. Do other authors rise to the heights of Jane Austen's passionate vision?
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