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Persuasion
by Jane Austen
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes



(c1799)



Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, the daughter of the rector of Steventon, in Hampshire, England, and received her education from her father, a former Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford. Her life was spent in the country or in country towns, chiefly at the village of Chawton, near Winchester. She died, unmarried, at Winchester on July 18, 1817, and was buried in the cathedral. Her realism, irony and social commentary in tales of the minor gentry has made her one of the most widely read writers in English literature.
Abridged: JH/GH

For more works by Jane Austen, see The Index



Persuasion


I. - The Vain Baronet of Kellynch Hall


Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage. There he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations derived from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf was powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed. This was the page at which the favourite volume always opened:

    "ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH HALL."

    "Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq., of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue, Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, November 5, 1789; Mary, born November 20, 1791."


Precisely thus had the paragraph originally stood from the printer's hands. But Sir Walter had improved it by adding, for the information of himself and his family, these words, after the date of Mary's birth: "Married, December 16, 1810, Charles, son and heir of Charles Musgrove, Esq., of Uppercross, in the county of Somerset," and by inserting most accurately the day of the month on which he had lost his wife.

Then followed the history and rise of the ancient and respectable family in the usual terms; how it had been first settled in Cheshire; how mentioned in Dugdale, serving the office of High Sheriff, representing a borough in three successive parliaments, exertions of loyalty, and dignity of baronet, in the first year of Charles II., with all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married; forming altogether two handsome duodecimo pages, and concluding with the arms and motto: "Principal seat, Kellynch Hall, in the county of Somerset," and Sir Walter's handwriting again in the finale: "Heir-presumptive, William Walter Elliot, Esq., great-grandson of the second Sir Walter."

Vanity was the beginning and end of Sir Walter Elliot's character - vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth, and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new-made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.

His good looks and his rank had a fair claim on his attachment, since to them he must have owed a wife of very superior character to anything deserved by his own. Lady Elliot had been an excellent woman, sensible and amiable, whose judgment and conduct, if they might be pardoned the youthful infatuation which made her Lady Elliot, had never required indulgence afterwards. Three girls, however - the two eldest sixteen and fourteen - were an awful legacy for a mother to bequeath, an awful charge rather to confide, to the authority of a conceited, silly father. Fortunately, Lady Elliot had one very intimate friend, Lady Russell, a sensible, deserving woman, who had been brought, by strong attachment to herself, to settle close by her in the village of Kellynch; and on her kindness Lady Elliot mainly relied for the best help and maintenance of the good principles and instruction which she had been anxiously giving her daughters.

Elizabeth had succeeded at sixteen to all that was possible of her mother's rights and consequence; and being very handsome, and very like himself, her influence had always been great, and they had gone on together most happily. His two other children were of very inferior value. Mary had acquired a little artificial importance by becoming Mrs. Charles Musgrove; but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister. To Lady Russell, indeed, she was a most dear and highly valued god-daughter, favourite and friend. Lady Russell loved them all; but it was only in Anne that she could fancy the mother to revive again.

It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before; and, generally speaking, it is a time of life at which scarcely any charm is lost. It was so with Elizabeth, still the same handsome Miss Elliot that she had begun to be thirteen years ago; and Sir Walter might be excused, therefore, in forgetting her age, or, at least, be deemed only half a fool for thinking himself and Elizabeth as blooming as ever, amid the wreck of the good looks of everybody else.

Elizabeth did not quite equal her father in personal contentment. She had the consciousness of being nine-and-twenty to give her some regrets and some apprehensions. Moreover, she had been disappointed by the heir-presumptive, the very William Walter Elliot, Esq., whose rights had been so generously supported by her father. Soon after Lady Elliot's death, Sir Walter had sought Mr. Elliot's society, and had introduced him to Elizabeth, who was quite ready to marry him. But despite the assiduity of the baronet, the younger man let the acquaintance drop, and married a rich woman of inferior birth, for whom, at the present time (the summer of 1814), Elizabeth was wearing black ribbons.

Anne, too, had had her disappointment. Eight years ago, before she had lost her bloom, when, in fact, she had been an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste and feeling added, she had fallen in love with Captain Wentworth, a young naval officer who had distinguished himself in the action off Domingo; but her father and Lady Russell had frowned upon the match, and, persuaded chiefly by the arguments of the latter that it would be prejudicial to the professional interests of her lover, who had still his fortune to make, she had rather weakly submitted to have the engagement broken off. But though he had angrily cast her out of his heart, she still loved him, having in the meantime rejected Charles Musgrove, who subsequently consoled himself by marrying her sister Mary. So that when her father's embarrassed affairs compelled him to let Kellynch Hall to Admiral Croft, an eminent seaman who had fought at Trafalgar, and had happened to marry a sister of Captain Wentworth, she could not help thinking, with a gentle sigh, as she walked along her favourite grove: "A few months more, and he, perhaps, may be walking here."

II. - Anne Elliot and her Old Lover


Sir Walter and Elizabeth went to Bath, and settled themselves in a good house in Camden Place, while it was arranged that Anne should divide her time between Uppercross Cottage - where Mr. and Mrs. Charles Musgrove lived - and Kellynch Lodge, and come on from the latter house to Bath when Lady Russell was prepared to take her. Sir Walter had included in his party a Mrs. Clay, a young widow, with whom, despite the fact that she had freckles and a projecting tooth, and was the daughter of Mr. Shepherd, the family solicitor, Elizabeth had recently struck up a great friendship. Anne had tried to warn her sister against this attractive and seemingly designing young woman, but her advice had not been taken in good part; and she had to content herself with hoping that, though her suspicion had been resented, it might yet be remembered.

At Uppercross she found things very little altered. The

Musgroves saw too much of one another. The two families were so continually meeting, so much in the habit of running in and out of each other's houses at all hours, that their various members inevitably found much to complain of in one another's conduct. These complaints were brought to Anne, who was treated with such confidence by all parties that if she had not been a very discreet young lady she might have considerably increased the difficulties of the situation. Mary she found as selfish, as querulous, as ready to think herself ailing, as lacking in sense and understanding, as unable to manage her children as ever.

Charles Musgrove was civil and agreeable; in sense and temper he was undoubtedly superior to his wife, though neither his powers nor his conversation were remarkable. He did nothing with much zeal but sport; and his time was otherwise trifled away without benefit from books or anything else. He had, however, excellent spirits, which never seemed much affected by his wife's occasional moroseness; and he bore with her unreasonableness sometimes to Anne's admiration. As for the Miss Musgroves, Henrietta and Louisa, young ladies of nineteen and twenty, they were living to be fashionable, happy and merry. Their dress had every advantage, their faces were pretty, their spirits good, their manners unembarrassed and pleasant; they were of consequence at home, and favourites abroad.

The Crofts took possession of Kellynch Hall with true naval alertness, and, naturally enough, intercourse was soon established between them and the Musgroves. Soon it was known that the admiral's brother-in-law, Captain Wentworth, had come to stop with them; and one day he made the inevitable call at the Cottage on his way to shoot with Charles. It was soon over. Anne's eyes half met his; a bow, a courtesy passed. He talked to Mary, said all that was right, said something to the Miss Musgroves, enough to mark an easy footing. Charles showed 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.

She had seen him; they had met. They had been once more in the same room. Now, how were his sentiments to be read? On one question she was soon spared all suspense; for, after the Miss Musgroves had returned and finished their visit at the Cottage, she had this spontaneous information from Mary: "Captain Wentworth is not very gallant by you, Anne, though he was so attentive to me. Henrietta asked him what he thought of you. 'You were so altered he should not have known you again,' he said."

Doubtless it was so; and she could take no revenge, for he was not altered, or not for the worse. No; the years which had destroyed her bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages.

"Altered beyond his knowledge." Frederick Wentworth had used such words, or something like them, but without an idea that they would be carried round to her. He had thought her wretchedly altered, and, in the first moment of appeal, had spoken as he felt. He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill - deserted and disappointed him; and worse, in doing so had shown weakness and timidity. He had been most warmly attached to her, and had never seen a woman since whom he thought her equal. It was now his object to marry. He was rich, and, being turned on shore, intended to settle as soon as he could be tempted. "Yes, here I am, Sophia," he said to his sister, "quite ready to make a foolish match. Anybody between fifteen and thirty may have me for the asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy, and I am a lost man."

It looked, indeed, as if he would soon be lost, either to Louisa or to Henrietta. It was soon Uppercross with him almost every day. The Musgroves could hardly be more ready to invite than he to come; and as for Henrietta and Louisa, they both seemed so entirely occupied by him that nothing but the continued appearance of the most perfect goodwill between themselves could have made it credible that they were not decided rivals. Indeed, Mr. Charles Hayter, a young curate with some expectations, who was a cousin of the Musgroves, began to get uneasy. Previous to Captain Wentworth's introduction, there had been a considerable appearance of attachment between Henrietta and himself; but now he seemed to be very much forgotten.

III. - Love-making at Lyme Regis


At this interesting juncture the scene of action was changed from Uppercross to Lyme Regis, owing to Captain Wentworth's receipt of a letter from his old friend Captain Harville, announcing his being settled at this latter place. Captain Wentworth, after a visit to Lyme Regis, gave so interesting an account of the adjacent country that the young people were all wild to see it. Accordingly, it was agreed to stay the night there, and not to be expected back till the next day's dinner.

They found Captain Harville a tall, dark man, with a sensible, benevolent countenance: a little lame, but unaffected, warm and obliging. Mrs. Harville, a degree less polished than her husband, seemed to have the same good feelings and cordiality; while Captain Benwick, who was the youngest of the three naval officers and a comparatively little man, had a pleasing face and a melancholic air, just as he ought to have. He had been engaged to Captain Harville's sister, and was now mourning her loss. They had been a year or two waiting for fortune and promotion. Fortune came, his prize-money as lieutenant being great; promotion, too, came at last; but Fanny Harville did not live to know it. She had died the preceding summer while he was at sea; and the friendship between him and the Harvilles having been augmented by the event which closed all their views of alliance, he was now living with them entirely. A man of retiring manners and of sedentary pursuits, with a decided taste for reading, he was drawn a good deal to Anne Elliot during this excursion, and talked to her of poetry, of Scott and Byron, of "Marmion" and "The Lady of the Lake," of "The Giaour" and "The Bride of Abydos." He repeated with such feeling the various lines of Byron which imaged a broken heart, or a mind destroyed by wretchedness, and looked so entirely as if he meant to be understood, that Anne ventured to recommend to him a larger allowance of prose in his daily study.

Another interesting person whom the Uppercross party met at Lyme was Mr. Elliot. He did not recognise Anne and her friends, or did they till he had left the town find out who he was; but he was obviously struck with Anne, and gazed 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 admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her, in a way which showed 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."

But the folly of Louisa Musgrove, and the consequences that attended it, soon obliterated from Anne's memory all such recollections as these. Louisa, who was walking with Captain Wentworth, persuaded him to jump her down the steps on the Lower Cob. Contrary to his advice, she ran up the steps to be jumped down again; and, being too precipitate by a second, fell on the pavement and was taken up senseless. Fortunately, no bones were broken, the only injury was to the head; and Captain and Mrs. Harville insisting on her being taken to their house, she recovered health so steadily that before Anne and Lady Russell left Kellynch Lodge for Bath there was talk of the possibility of her being able to be removed to Uppercross.

When the accident occurred, Captain Wentworth's attitude was very much that of the lover. "Oh, God! that I had not given way at the fatal moment!" he cried. "Had I but done as I ought! But so eager and so resolute; dear, sweet Louisa!"

Anne feared there could not be a doubt as to what would follow the recovery; but she was amused to hear Charles Musgrove tell how much Captain Benwick admired herself - "elegance, sweetness, beauty!" Oh, there was no end to Miss Elliot's charms!

Another surprise awaited her at Bath, where she found her father and sister Elizabeth happy in the submission and society of the heir-presumptive. He had explained away all the appearance of neglect on his own side as originating in misapprehension. He had never had an idea of throwing himself off; he had feared that he was thrown off, and delicacy had kept him silent. These explanations having been made, Sir Walter took him by the hand, affirming that "Mr. Elliot was better to look at than most men, and that he had no objection to being seen with him anywhere."

The gentleman called one evening, soon after Anne's arrival in the town; and his little start of surprise on being introduced to her showed that he was not more astonished than delighted at meeting, in the character of Sir Walter's daughter, the young lady who had so strongly struck his fancy at Lyme. He stopped an hour, and his tone, his expressions, his choice of subject, all showed the operation of a sensible, discerning mind.

Still, Anne could not understand what his object was in seeking this reconciliation. Even the engagement of Louisa Musgrove to Captain Benwick, which was announced to her by Mary about a month later, seemed more susceptible of explanation - had not the young couple been thrown together for weeks? - than this determination of Mr. Elliot to become friends with relations from whom he could derive no possible advantage.

IV. - Love Triumphant


Following close on the news of Louisa's engagement came the arrival at Bath of Admiral and Mrs. Croft. He had come for the cure of his gout; and he was soon followed by Captain Wentworth, who, for the first time since their second meeting, deliberately sought Anne out at a concert which she and her people were attending. The most significant part of their conversation was his comment on Louisa's engagement to Captain Benwick. He frankly confessed he could not understand it as far as it concerned Benwick.

"A man like him, in his situation, with a heart pierced, wounded, almost broken! Fanny Harville was a very superior person, 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."

But the captain was prevented from saying much more by the assiduous attention which Mr. Elliot paid to her at this concert.

"Very long," said he, "has the name of Anne Elliot possessed a charm over my fancy; and, if I dared, I would breathe my wishes that the name might never change."

Such language might almost be taken to be a proposal; but Anne was too much interested in watching Captain Wentworth to pay much attention to it.

She had still in mind the words which her sometime lover had spoken at the concert, when a visit she had paid to an invalid friend, an old schoolfellow of hers called Mrs. Smith, gave her complete enlightenment as to the character and present objects of Mr. Elliot. Mrs. Smith, who was a widow, and whose husband had been a bosom friend of Mr. Elliot's, described him as "a man without heart or conscience, a designing, wary, cold-blooded being, who thinks only of himself; who for his own interest or ease would be guilty of any cruelty, or any treachery that could be perpetrated without risk of damaging his general character." She told how he had encouraged her husband, to whom he was under great obligations, to indulge in the most ruinous expense, and then, on his death, caused her endless difficulties and distress by refusing to act as his executor. She also informed Anne that he had married his first wife, whom he treated badly, entirely on account of her fortune, and that, though among the present reasons for continuing the acquaintance with his relations was a genuine attachment to herself, his original intention in seeking a reconciliation with Sir Walter had been to secure for himself the reversion of the baronetcy by preventing the holder of the title from falling into the snares of Mrs. Clay.

The next day a party of the Musgroves appeared at Camden Place. Mrs. Musgrove, senior, had some old friends at Bath whom she wanted to see; Mrs. Charles Musgrove could not bear to be left behind in any excursion which her husband was taking; Henrietta, who had arrived at an understanding with Mr. Charles Hayter, had come to buy wedding clothes for herself and Louisa; and Captain Harville had come on business. It was on a visit to the Musgroves, who were stopping at the White Hart Hotel, that Anne had a momentous conversation with the last-named person. The captain had been reverting to the topic of his friend Benwick's engagement, and Anne had been saying that women did not forget as readily as men.

"No, no," said Harville, "it is not man's nature to forget. I will not allow it to be more man's nature than woman's to be inconstant and to 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 bodily frames are stronger than yours, so are our feelings."

"Your feelings may be the stronger," replied Anne, "but the same spirit of analogy will authorise me to assert that ours are the more tender. Man is more robust than woman, but he is not longer lived; which exactly explains my view of the nature of their attachment."

Captain Wentworth, who was sitting down at a writing-table in another part of the room, engaged in correspondence, seemed very much interested in this conversation; and a few minutes later he placed before Anne, with eyes of glowing entreaty, a letter addressed to "Miss A. E."

"I offer myself to you again," he wrote, "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."

To such a declaration there could be but one answer; and soon Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot were exchanging again those feelings and those promises which once before had seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many years of division and estrangement.

This time there was no opposition to the engagement. Captain Wentworth's wealth, personal appearance, and well-sounding name enabled Sir Walter to prepare his pen, with a very good grace, for the insertion of the marriage in the volume of honour.

As for Mr. Elliot, the news of his cousin Anne's engagement burst on him with unexpected suddenness. He soon quitted Bath; and on Mrs. Clay's leaving it shortly afterwards and being next heard of as established under his protection in London, it was evident how double a game he had been playing, and how determined he was to save himself at all events from being cut out by one artful woman at least.



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