Friday, January 30, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 12

Chapter 12! We’re halfway! And what a full and action packed chapter it is…

First we’re introduced to Mr. Elliot by sight (the cousin and heir to Kellynch). We already have one love triangle on hand and it appears another is now hovering in the wings: “…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.”

There’s also the farther wonderful illumination of Wentworth’s character in Harville’s brief talk with Anne about Benwick after Fanny Harville’s death: “Nobody could do it, but that good fellow” (pointing to Captain Wentworth). “The Laconia had come into Plymouth the week before; no danger of her being sent to sea again. He stood his chance for the rest; wrote up for leave of absence, but without waiting the return, travelled night and day till he got to Portsmouth, rowed off to the Grappler that instant, and never left the poor fellow for a week. That's what he did, and nobody else could have saved poor James. You may think, Miss Elliot, whether he is dear to us!” So understated…yet so amazing in its deep portrayal of true friendship!

Finally we come to the tragic accident where Anne shines out brilliantly: keeping her head—directing everything at once—talking—speaking—taking decisive action! (And the attentive Wentworth is starting to notice…)

Favorite lines/quotes:

“She (Anne) said all that was reasonable and proper on the business; felt the claims of Dr Shirley to repose as she ought; saw how very desirable it was that he should have some active, respectable young man, as a resident curate, and was even courteous enough to hint at the advantage of such resident curate's being married.” pg. 103

“…having all kindly watched him (Mr. Elliot) as far up the hill as they could, they returned to the breakfast table.” pg 105

“Anne found Captain Benwick getting near her, as soon as they were all fairly in the street. Their conversation the preceding evening did not disincline him to seek her again; and they walked together some time, talking as before of Mr. Scott and Lord Byron, and still as unable as before, and as unable as any other two readers, to think exactly alike of the merits of either…” pg 107

“Anne, attending with all the strength and zeal, and thought, which instinct supplied, to Henrietta, still tried, at intervals, to suggest comfort to the others, tried to quiet Mary, to animate Charles, to assuage the feelings of Captain Wentworth. Both seemed to look to her for directions.” pg 110

“The tone, the look, with which "Thank God!" was uttered by Captain Wentworth, Anne was sure could never be forgotten by her; nor the sight of him afterwards, as he sat near a table, leaning over it with folded arms and face concealed, as if overpowered by the various feelings of his soul, and trying by prayer and reflection to calm them.” pg. 112

“Anne wondered whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as to the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character; and whether it might not strike him that, like all other qualities of the mind, it should have its proportions and limits. She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness as a very resolute character.” pg. 116

“…the remembrance of the appeal remained a pleasure to her, as a proof of friendship, and of deference for her judgment, a great pleasure; and when it became a sort of parting proof, its value did not lessen.” pg. 117

Possible discussion question/s:

~Where does firmness end and stubbornness begin?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 11

Austen loved Lyme, and in this chapter we get her longest and most fluid narrative description of any setting or location in all of her work. 

We’re also introduced to a third set of people. We’ve met the vain and aristocratic Elliots—and the hearty Musgrove clan—and now we get to meet more of the naval 'family!' And what an absolute wonder and delight they are! With all their warm manners and closely knit ties, functioning off values entirely different, startling, fresh and contrasting!

With Anne’s conversation with Benwick, we also see more fully just how well read she is, and also a fascinating glimpse of what a truly good conversationalist and speaker she can be. Soliloquizing with herself later, she even shows a trace of Lizzy Bennet’s humor and amusement. So altogether a wonderful and deepening glimpse into our lovely heroine!

Favorite quotes/lines:

“…but she was yet more anxious for the possibility of Lady Russell and Captain Wentworth never meeting any where.” pg. 93

“…nothing could be more pleasant than their desire of considering the whole party as friends of their own, because the friends of Captain Wentworth, or more kindly hospitable than their entreaties for their all promising to dine with them.” pg. 97-98

“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.” pg. 98

“On quitting the Cobb, they all went indoors with their new friends, and found rooms so small as none but those who invite from the heart could think capable of accommodating so many.” pg. 98

“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.” pg. 101

Possible discussion question/s:

~ It’s been pointed out that the naval community represents an entirely different form of society—not based on “land” at all (land physically or as a running system of inheritance). So what are some personal qualities inherent in an individual (i.e. bravery, dedication, a value for hard work, etc.) that would shape their social system?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 10

Another chapter I LOVE and have so been looking forward to! Tingly, thrilling, and always a surprise. ;)

In his book on Austen, Miniatures and Morals, Peter Leithart points out—that with its older heroine, a long past romance, and a changing social system—there is an autumnal quality to Persuasion. He says, “It is no accident that the first half of the novel is set in autumn, in dusky November. The question is, Will spring ever come?” 

Nowhere does that autumnal quality come out more than in this chapter—with its nuts in the hedgerow, the fineness of the day, and the listening and passed by Anne under the holly bush. 

It ends with the Crofts, probably Austen’s heartiest and strongest portrayal of mature conjugal felicity, and a true picture of help and respect in marriage: “—My dear admiral, that post!—we shall certainly take that post.” But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself, they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand, they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart; and Anne, with some amusement at their style of driving, which she imagined no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs, found herself safely deposited by them at the cottage.”

Due to circumstances, it will be a while before Anne is in a situation to do the same—but with quiet strength of character and clarity of mind and purpose on her side, there is strong hope of it.

Favorite lines/quotes:

“…while she considered Louisa to be rather the favourite, she could not but think, as far as she might dare to judge from memory and experience, that Captain Wentworth was not in love with either.” pg. 82

“Anne longed for the power of representing to them all what they were about, and of pointing out some of the evils they were exposing themselves to. She did not attribute guile to any. It was the highest satisfaction to her, to believe Captain Wentworth not in the least aware of the pain he was occasioning. There was no triumph, no pitiful triumph in his manner.” pg. 82

“…after another half mile of gradual ascent through large enclosures, where the ploughs at work, and the fresh-made path spoke the farmer, counteracting the sweets of poetical despondence, and meaning to have spring again, they gained the summit of the most considerable hill, which parted Uppercross and Winthrop…” pg. 85

“Here is a nut,” said he, catching one down from an upper bough. “To exemplify,—a beautiful glossy nut, which, blessed with original strength, has outlived all the storms of autumn. Not a puncture, not a weak spot any where.—This nut,” he continued, with playful solemnity,—“while so many of its brethren have fallen and been trodden under foot, is still in possession of all the happiness that a hazel-nut can be supposed capable of.” pg. 88

“The listener’s proverbial fate was not absolutely hers; she had heard no evil of herself,—but she had heard a great deal of very painful import.” pg. 89 

“…Mary was either offended, by not being asked before any of the others, or what Louisa called the Elliot pride could not endure to make a third in a one horse chaise.” pg. 90

(And—I know this is long—but all of it is most absolutely necessary): “The walking-party had crossed the lane, and were surmounting an opposite stile; and the admiral was putting his horse into motion again, when Captain Wentworth cleared the hedge in a moment to say something to his sister.—The something might be guessed by its effects. “Miss Elliot, I am sure you are tired,” cried Mrs. Croft. “Do let us have the pleasure of taking you home. Here is excellent room for three, I assure you. If we were all like you, I believe we might sit four.—You must, indeed, you must.”

“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.” pg. 90-91

Possible discussion question/s:

~ Captain Wentworth says, “My first wish for all, whom I am interested in, is that they should be firm. If Louisa Musgrove would be beautiful and happy in her November of life, she will cherish all her present powers of mind.”

Yet Louisa, in forcing her sister to continue on to Winthrop (while doing her a service in one sense, because Henrietta had been resolved on it beforehand) was also behaving a bit like Lady Russell (except that she didn’t even have a quasi-mother’s position/authority). So is Wentworth distinguishing yet between a mature strength of mind, that knows wise compliance, and a strength that overrides, managing others? 

~ What did you think of the ending scene?

Anne Elliot: A Guest Post by Hamlette

(Warning! This post does contain a few spoilers. If you don't know the ending yet you may want to wait and save this until we're done. I'll provide a link back at the end of the read-along.)

 Anne Elliot
by Hamlette

I'm having a bit of trouble writing this character sketch. Partly, it's because I have so many things to say, and it's hard to figure out what to include and what to keep out. But I think that mostly, it's because Anne Elliot is such a complex, rich character. Every time I start to write something about her, I realize it's only partly true, or only true at the beginning or the end of the novel. 

Miss Anne Elliot is an anomaly. She doesn't fit the pattern of an Austen heroine. She's not young. She's part of the aristocracy. And her great, sweepingly romantic story is, in some ways, over before the book begins. We see all of Austen's other heroines fall in love, but not Anne. Hers is not a story of finding a man to love, but of reclaiming the man that she chose to part from years earlier. 

And unlike most of Austen's heroines, Anne is not happy for much of the book. And she's not even merely unhappy -- Austen would say she is in low spirits; today, we would say she is depressed. Still! Eight years after she'd persuaded herself it would be a good idea to give up the man whose heart and mind she understood and loved so well, she is still low. Which isn't surprising -- she's had nothing to divert her mind, to raise her spirits. She's been living with a pair of peacocks who have zero interest in a dove like herself. Her only friend has been Lady Russell, who is kind and well-meaning, and does value Anne, but who is the very person who punctured Anne's happiness with Wentworth. While Anne doesn't seem to blame Lady Russell for her meddling, surely being around her all the time must be a constant reminder of her painful past. Is it any wonder that Anne, by nature quiet and unassuming, is nearly invisible at the beginning of Persuasion

Words like "quiet" and "shy" get used a lot to describe Anne Elliot. So do "helpful" and "self-sacrificing." I prefer to think of her as strong. It takes a lot of inner strength to do something you don't want to do, and Anne does things she dislikes over and over. She gives up the man she loves. She nurses her "sick" sister back to good spirits. She spends time in the company of Captain Wentworth when she'd rather be anywhere but in his presence. She moves to Bath, a city she hates. And she doesn't whine or complain about these things, but does them the way she does everything: quietly and helpfully. 

Anne doesn't complain about moving to Bath, but she clearly hates the idea. She is devoted to her retiring, uneventful life in the country, but that life of sameness has caused her to be stuck in her sorrow for eight years. She doesn't want to leave her home, but it's that very change that helps her overcome her depression and regain her cheerfulness. She finds friends who are interested in her for who she is as a person, not because they were friends with her mother. She meets a man who wants to be her friend and another who pursues her romantically. She goes on excursions, rekindles an old friendship, helps nurse a gravely injured person, and discovers that she has something to contribute to the world. Instead of thinking of herself as the unimportant second daughter, the person who rejected love, she can reshape her identity in her own eyes. She can see herself as a helpful friend, a marriageable woman, an intelligent person who responds clearly and competently to adversities and crises. Through those realizations, her spirits rise, her happiness returns. And only then does she find love again.

(Heidi's note: Hamlette, thanks so tremendously for sharing!! :))

Friday, January 23, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 9

“Walter,” said she, “get down this moment. You are extremely troublesome. I am very angry with you.”

“Walter,” cried Charles Hayter, “why do you not do as you are bid? Do not you hear your aunt speak? Come to me, Walter come to cousin Charles.” 

“But not a bit did Walter stir. 

“In another moment, however, she 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 sturdy little hands were unfastened from around her neck, and he was resolutely borne away, before she knew that Captain Wentworth had done it.”

Ohhhhh, can I scream or squeal or—something???!!! No, I’m afraid that would hardly be decorous… But oh, I LOVE this chapter! It’s so utterly sweet I’m never able to decide between laughter or aching tears. And any time we have a hero with a child in his arms…

Hem! Yes, you understand me… ;)

But to look at the rest of this chapter: with Charles Hayter returning to Uppercross a further level of tension and confusion has been added to an already fairly well confused situation. We get some dialogue between Charles (Musgrove) and Mary on the subject, as well as Anne’s own generous opinion that either Henrietta or Louisa, “would, in all probability, make him (CW) an affectionate, good-humoured wife.” Absolutely no bitterness, despite all that she’s personally feeling and suffering!

Favorite lines/quotes:

“Captain Wentworth was come to Kellynch as to a home, to stay as long as he liked…” pg. 74

“…he (CW) could not but resolve to remain where he was, and take all the charms and perfections of Edward’s wife upon credit a little longer.” pg. 74

“…Admiral and Mrs. Croft were generally out of doors together, interesting themselves in their new possessions, their grass, and their sheep, and dawdling about in a way not endurable to a third person, or driving out in a gig, lately added to their establishment.” pg. 74

“The two families (Musgroves and Hayters) had always been on excellent terms, there being no pride on one side, and no envy on the other…” pg. 75

“Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove, either from seeing little, or from an entire confidence in the discretion of both their daughters, and of all the young men who came near them, seemed to leave every thing to take its chance.” pg. 75-76

“The surprise of finding himself almost alone with Anne Elliot, deprived his manners of their usual composure: he started…before he walked to the window to recollect himself and feel how he ought to behave.” pg. 79

“His kindness in stepping forward to her relief—the manner—the silence in which it had passed—the little particulars of the circumstance—with the conviction soon forced on her by the noise he was studiously making with the child, that he meant to avoid hearing her thanks, and rather sought to testify that her conversation was the last of his wants, produced…a confusion of varying, but very painful agitation…” pg. 81

“It was evident that Charles Hayter was not well inclined towards Captain Wentworth. She had a strong impression of his having said, in a vext tone of voice, after Captain Wentworth’s interference. “You ought to have minded me, Walter; I told you not to tease your aunt;” and could comprehend his regretting that Captain Wentworth should do what he ought to have done himself.” pg. 81

Possible discussion question/s:

~ Charles says that when his cousin inherits the estate at Winthrop, “he will make a different sort of place of it, and live in a very different sort of way; and with that property, he will never be a contemptible man.” How do you think this might tie together with the whole theme of class and social change in Persuasion?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 8

With Wentworth’s wonderful humor beginning to show itself—and all the banter between him and the Crofts—this chapter is delightful! Except, of course, for all the other things happening around it that are occasionally bringing Anne to tears…

By now it’s quite clear that Henrietta, Louisa and the Miss Hayters are all falling for him. Correspondingly, we get some amazing paragraphs: “They (Wentworth and Anne) had no conversation together, no intercourse but what the commonest civility required. Once so much to each other! Now nothing! There had been a time, when of all the large party now filling the drawing-room at Uppercross, they would have found it most difficult to cease to speak to one another. …there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.”

Romantic, with a deep and mature yearning… Absolutely beautiful! 

Favorite lines/quotes:

“…Anne felt the utter impossibility, from her knowledge of his mind, that he could be unvisited by remembrance any more than herself. There must be the same immediate association of thought… When he talked, she heard the same voice, and discerned the same mind.” pg. 64-65

“The admiralty,” he continued, “entertain themselves now and then, with sending a few hundred men to sea, in a ship not fit to be employed. But they have a great many to provide for; and among the thousands that may just as well go to the bottom as not, it is impossible for them to distinguish the very set who may be least missed.” pg. 66

“There was a momentary expression in Captain Wentworth’s face at this speech, a certain glance of his bright eye, and curl of his handsome mouth, which convinced Anne, that instead of sharing in Mrs. Musgrove’s kind wishes, as to her son, he had probably been at some pains to get rid of him; but it was too transient an indulgence of self-amusement to be detected by any who understood him less than herself; in another moment he was perfectly collected and serious…” pg. 68

“…while the agitations of Anne’s slender form, and pensive face, may be considered as very completely screened, Captain Wentworth should be allowed some credit for the self-command with which he attended (to Mrs. Musgrove)” pg. 69

“This brought his sister upon him.” pg. 70

“I would assist any brother officer’s wife that I could, and I would bring any thing of Harville’s from the world’s end, if he wanted it.” pg. 70

Possible discussion question/s:

~ What do you think of the debate between Captain Wentworth and his sister? Do you agree with one side or the other?

~ Do you think Wentworth was arguing his side in sober earnest, or in high spirits (his thoughts possibly skipping around a little with Anne present)?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 7

Peter Leithart aptly describes Anne as Austen’s most “useful” heroine. So far, we’ve seen her smoothing out all the minor details of her family’s move—in essence, doing much of the actual required footwork and packing organization, etc. At Uppercross, she manages Mary’s children, and now she’s physically caring for injured little Charles.

Austen is subtle with Anne—in a similar way to her handling of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park. We have to study, compare notes, read the minutest details… Detective work comes into play. But here in Chapter 7, we definitely start getting a bit more “into” Anne’s emotions. And what a rollercoaster of emotions! 

“…So altered that he should not have known her again!” These were words which could not but dwell with her. Yet she soon began to rejoice that she had heard them. They were of sobering tendency; they allayed agitation; they composed, and consequently must make her happier.

“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, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity.

“He had been most warmly attached to her, and had never seen a woman since whom he thought her equal; but, except from some natural sensation of curiosity, he had no desire of meeting her again. Her power with him was gone forever.” pg 62

Poor Anne! Misread and misunderstood, undervalued (to Sir Walter and Elizabeth she is ‘only Anne’), yet consistently clear-sighted, seeing round circumstances, and constantly and correctly interpreting every person and situation round her!

Favorite lines/quotes:

“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 reasonings, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing.” pg. 61

“…she could take no revenge, for he was not altered, or not for the worse. She had already acknowledged it to herself, and she could not think differently, let him think of her as he would. No; the years which had destroyed her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages. She had seen the same Frederick Wentworth.” pg. 61

“He said it, she (Mrs. Croft) knew, to be contradicted. His bright proud eye spoke the happy conviction that he was nice; and Anne Elliot was not out of his thoughts, when he more seriously described the woman he should wish to meet with. “A strong mind, with sweetness of manner,” made the first and the last of the description.” pg. 62-63

Possible discussion question/s:

~ Here the tough, underlying question of Persuasion is coming to light: What is the true definition of strength and weakness? It can’t be answered in one sitting—we’ll be studying it played out in story for the rest of the book—but how do you think the contrast shows up in this chapter? Irrespective of confused and contrasting 'feelings' (i.e. confidence or mortification), who is strongest and who is weakest?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 6

I could transcribe this entire chapter, detailing all the fascinating little back and forth’s between the two Uppercross households, and all the little instances calling for general charity between such close neighbors and relatives… The lengthy description of Charles and Mary alone (treating of their housekeeping, management, and childrearing!) is so engaging. 

And I love how Austen quietly and subtlety tells more about Anne and Wentworth’s love in that one short line about Anne’s exquisite musical performance: “…excepting one short period of her life, she had never, since the age of fourteen, never since the loss of her dear mother, known the happiness of being listened to, or encouraged by any just appreciation of real taste.” 

Incidentally, it’s a masterful piece of foreshadowing as well. And speaking of foreshadowing…with the delightful visit of the Crofts to the cottage, all the final preparatory plot details are in place, the tension is building and I can hardly wait for Chapter 7!

Favorite lines/quotes:

“Mary was not so repulsive and unsisterly as Elizabeth, nor so inaccessible to all influence of hers… She was always on friendly terms with her brother-in-law; and in the children, who loved her nearly as well, and respected her a great deal more than their mother, she had an object of interest, amusement, and wholesome exertion.” 
pg. 44

“One of the least agreeable circumstances of her residence there, was her being treated with too much confidence by all parties, and being too much in the secret of the complaints of each house…” pg. 45

“Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not. …She…was happy to feel, when Mrs. Croft’s next words explained it to be Mr. Wentworth of whom she spoke, that she had said nothing which might not do for either brother. She immediately felt how reasonable it was, that Mrs. Croft should be thinking and speaking of Edward, and not of Frederick; and with shame at her own forgetfulness, applied herself to the knowledge of their former neighbor’s present state, with proper interest.” pg. 50

Possible discussion question/s:

Dick Musgrove (aboard Captain Wentworth’s frigate) “…had, under the influence of his captain, written the only two letters which his father and mother had ever received from him during the whole of his absence; that is to say, the only two disinterested letters; all the rest had been mere applications for money.” How do you think this shows Captain Wentworth’s character?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 5

I love the introduction of the Crofts! Including Sir Walter’s following comment on the arranging of the Admiral’s hair and then the Admiral’s to Mrs. Croft about Sir Walter never setting the Thames on fire, but there being no harm in him. “…reciprocal compliments, which would have been esteemed about equal.” 

Regarding Mrs. Clay, Sir Walter marrying again and having a son would keep the estate in the immediate family (providing for his other daughters), which is a material consideration. Though Anne definitely does not like Mrs. Clay, it seems her primary concern here is for Elizabeth’s future peace and comfort.

And with Anne’s removal to Uppercross, we are introduced to the delights of Mary’s flights of thought! I end up smiling every time during the dialogue in their first sister-scene at Uppercross Cottage: with Mary ill on the sofa and then, by Anne’s perseverant patience and cheerfulness, soon up and ready for a walk.

Also, with the description of the Musgroves we see something new. In Persuasion—with the long-landed gentry in monetary straits and the rise of the navy—there is a feel of general, stirring transformation, butas is brought out in the description of the Musgrovesthere seem to be additional influences at work as well. England is changing.

Favorite lines/quotes:

“I cannot possibly do without Anne,” was Mary’s reasoning; and Elizabeth’s reply was, “Then I am sure Anne had better stay, for nobody will want her in Bath.” To be claimed as a good, though in an improper style, is at least better than being rejected as no good at all; and Anne, glad to be thought of some use, glad to have any thing marked out as a duty, and certainly not sorry to have the scene of it in the country, and her own dear country, readily agreed to stay.” pg. 34

“The Musgroves, like their houses, were in a state of alteration; perhaps of improvement.” pg. 41

(On Henrietta and Louisa): “Anne always contemplated them as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance; but still, saved as we all are by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments; and envied them nothing but that seemingly perfect good understanding and agreement together, that good-humoured mutual affection, of which she had known so little herself with either of her sisters.” pg. 42

Possible discussion question/s: 

~ What do you think of Mary so far? And of Anne’s quiet management?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 4

I love this chapter! That is, I love it almost as much as some later ones… It’s so romantic and wistfully sad; but most of all, I love it because a Certain Captain has now Officially Been Introduced. (That is…he hasn’t fully “arrived” yet, but there’s hope he soon will. :))

And here I think we really need a picture:

And (because we want everyone quite happy) here’s another…

Okay, so now that that’s handled, let’s concentrate.

It says Lady Russell received the engagement as a “most unfortunate” connection. “Anne Elliot, with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen; involve herself at nineteen in an engagement with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connexions to secure even his farther rise in that profession; would be, indeed, a throwing away, which she 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, anxious, youth-killing dependence! It must not be, if by any fair interference of friendship, any representations from one who had almost a mother's love, and mother’s rights, it would be prevented.”

And then about Wentworth’s personality: “Lady Russell saw it very differently.—His sanguine temper, and fearlessness of mind, operated very differently on her. She saw in it but an aggravation of the evil. It only added a dangerous character to himself. He was brilliant, he was headstrong.—Lady Russell had little taste for wit; and of any thing approaching to imprudence a horror. She deprecated the connexion in every light.”

Reading it this time, Mansfield Park suddenly occurred to me. In MF (finished just two years before Persuasion), such advice and arguments as Lady Russell’s would (on a personal level) be most wise and applicable for Fanny’s mother near the beginning, as she defiantly chooses to marry the seagoing Mr. Price. Their life together turned out very much as Lady Russell envisions Anne’s potential marriage.

Yet even in Mansfield Park, the Price children are shown as scrambling up well into maturity… So over and over, it seems Austen reminds us that there is no surefire formula in life—but there is grace in hard situations, and there is such a thing as a life well lived. 

And along those lines, does anyone want to do a guest post on Anne?

Favorite lines/quotes:

“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…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.” pg. 27

“…in this case, Anne had left nothing for advice to do…” pg. 30

“How eloquent could Anne Elliot have been,—how eloquent, at least, were her wishes on the side of early warm attachment, and a cheerful confidence in futurity, against that over-anxious caution which seems to insult exertion and distrust Providence! —She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older—the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.” pg. 31

“…the brother only with whom he had been residing, had received any information of their short-lived engagement. —That brother had been long removed from the country—and being a sensible man, and, moreover, a single man at the time, she had a fond dependence on no human creature’s having heard of it from him.” pg. 31

Possible discussion question/s:

~ How do you think Wentworth and Anne might have first become acquainted? Does it seem like the Elliots would have graced a general assembly ball with their presence? Or was the local curate actually on calling terms with Sir Walter?

~ Why do you think Sir Walter (while refusing to do anything for her), didn’t go all the way and withhold his consent to the engagement?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 3

(First a quick housekeeping note… During the read-along, feel free to post as little or as much about it on your own blogs as you feel inspired to or inclined: Persuasion chapter summaries, reviews—whatever you like! Make sure to label them all with either Persuasion or Persuasion Read-Along and at the end we’ll have a link-up so everyone can share and visit.)

And now on to Chapter 3! And here enters the navy!!! Mr. Shepherd’s dealings on behalf of and handling of Sir Walter here are impressive—while Sir Walter’s conceit begins flowering forth in full strength.

I’m always amused by the restrictions and bounds he thinks of possibly placing on a tenant, and also interested in how exactly he would plan on enforcing them. While humorous, his attitude toward the navy, though, is horribly striking—particularly as these active naval officers had just secured his own safety against the French, protecting his status and property. So it’s conceit compounded by ingratitude.

And I love Anne’s short phrases! Telling so much with so little, but showing how deeply she’s holding the same ground....avidly studying navy lists, keeping herself informed to unfolding developments, and most certainly, along with so many other women, studying the lists of the missing.

I also love Mr. Shepherd’s narration of Mr. Wentworth’s “amicable compromise” with the apple-thief. It’s such a delightful and amiable little glimpse of the entire Wentworth clan!

Favorite lines/quotes:

(Mrs. Clay): “The lawyer plods, quite care-worn; the physician is up at all hours, and travelling in all weather; and even the clergyman—” she stopt a moment to consider what might do for the clergyman;—“and even the clergyman, you know, is obliged to go into infected rooms, and expose his health and looks to all the injury of a poisonous atmosphere…” (and so on through the whole paragraph) pg. 22

“As Mr. Shepherd perceived that this connexion of the Crofts did them no service with Sir Walter, he mentioned it no more; returning, with all his zeal, to dwell on the circumstances more indisputably in their favour…making it appear as if they ranked nothing beyond the happiness of being the tenants of Sir Walter Elliot: an extraordinary taste, certainly, could they have been supposed in the secret of Sir Walter’s estimate of the dues of a tenant.” pgs. 25-26

“I have let my house to Admiral Croft,” would sound extremely well; very much better than to any mere Mr—; a Mr (save, perhaps, some half dozen in the nation,) always needs a note of explanation. An admiral speaks his own consequence, and, at the same time, can never make a baronet look small.” pg. 26

Possible discussion question/s:

~ Do you think Mr. Shepherd purposely caused word about Kellynch to reach the Admiral via his London correspondent?

~ What do you think Sir Walter did with his time? In Chapter 2 he is referred to as being an “obliging landlord.” Do you get the impression he was active with his tenants like Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 2

And now we come to the full enumeration of the disaster in the Elliot estate—the papers are out, the numbers are being tallied. And Anne’s strong sense of right and duty begins to manifest itself: “She considered it as an act of indispensable duty to clear away the claims of creditors, with all the expedition which the most comprehensive retrenchments could secure, and saw no dignity in any thing short of it. She wanted it to be prescribed, and felt as a duty.” 

I’m always interested by the description of Lady Russell, how Austen manages to make her prejudiced and slightly blind yet at the same time so truly nice and well-bred. Also by the description of Mrs. Clay’s history! Something pretty drastic had to happen in Austen’s day for a lady to return to her father’s house after an “unprosperous marriage.”

And finally, poor Anne is now destined for Bath. (Incidentally, I can still remember the initial tingle I had when I first put two-and-two together way back when and realized why she hadn’t been in “perfectly good spirits” the only winter she had ever spent there with Lady Russell!)

Favorite lines/quotes:

“She (Lady Russell) drew up plans of economy, she made exact calculations, and she did, what nobody else thought of doing, she consulted Anne, who never seemed considered by the others as having any interest in the question.” pg. 14 

“How Anne’s more rigid requisitions might have been taken is of little consequence. Lady Russell’s had no success at all….” pg. 15

“Sir Walter could not have borne the degradation of being known to design letting his house.—Mr. Shepherd had once mentioned the word, “advertise;”—but never dared approach it again; Sir Walter spurned the idea of its being offered in any manner; forbad the slightest hint being dropped of his having any such an intention; and it was only on the supposition of his being spontaneously solicited by some most unexceptionable applicant, on his own terms, and as a great favour, that he would let it at all.” pg. 17

Possible discussion question/s:

~ Do you like Lady Russell? Why or why not?

~ What sort of “hold” or “views” might Mr. Shepherd have on Sir Walter?

~ Lady Russell says, “There will be nothing singular in his (Sir Walter’s) case; and it is singularity which often makes the worst part of our suffering, as it always does of our conduct.” What do you think of that statement?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Persuasion Read-Along: Chapter 1

Welcome everyone! And here begins our Persuasion reading!

Chapter 1 is all about introductions and Austen handles them deftly and thoroughly. One particularly striking point I noticed this time is how tied to an absolute year Persuasion is…definitely, of course, with reference to the end of the war and the sailors being turned ashore, but also in regards to everyone’s exact date of birth, etc. A very interesting detail.

(Also, a quick note I neglected to mention in my last post. With the following page numbers, I'll be referencing my own Barnes & Noble Classics edition, but obviously the quotes may all fall in different places in your editions!)

Favorite lines/quotes:

“Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and situation… 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.” pg. 6

“…Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character…” pg. 7

“All equality of alliance must rest with Elizabeth; for Mary had merely connected herself with an old country family of respectability and large fortune, and had therefore given all the honour, and received none…” pg. 8

Possible discussion question/s:

Just reading this chapter, do you think it’s obvious that Anne is the heroine?