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?


  1. I'm enjoying the book so far! I like Lady Russel. She's an imperfect human just like the rest of us, but it's clear that she means well. And in order to be willing to work with the prideful, conceited Mr. Elliot, surely one must have a touch of self-importance?

    1. Abby,
      So glad you're enjoying it! And yes, I (mostly) like Lady Russell, too. Part of what I think so interesting about Persuasion, is that it really explores what the relationship of a younger person is supposed to be toward an authority figure with their own personal flaws (and we'll see what ultimate conclusion Austen reaches at the end), but it's pretty interesting to see how she develops/handles it throughout.

  2. I actually don't really like Lady Russel..she seems like a rich lady who uses her money for selfish reasons. Just my feelings though. ;) I am starting to feel like Anne is the center of the story, but not yet sure what is going on. I'm excited to read on. :)

    1. Julia,
      Yes, to me Lady Russell can go from a bit irritating to very nice. :) I like her quite a bit in the '07 movie, though.... And I'm so excited that you're excited to be reading on! ;)

    2. True! I liked her in that movie too. Oh, and Captain Wentworth! ;)

  3. I quite enjoyed the second chapter. As for the questions,

    1. I haven't quite made my mind about Lady Russel, but she seems ot have the best intentions, be intelligent enough, and kind. I think she is a very very promising character.

    2. Mr. Shepherd, particularly after the description of his rather suspicious daughter, is beginning to seem slightly less noble than desired. Of couse, there is not enough evidence to make an accusation of any kind yet.

    3. It is hard to be different. We easily feel unworthy and behind/lower than our peers. However, if a situation, no matter how difficult, is shared by many others - it may be easier to bear simply because we know others have born it before us and bear it by our side. This may be a completely-off interpretation, but I like the quote and that is what it means to me.

    I am surprised that Ann has not been more thoroughly introduced yet. She seems noble and smart, but does not yet have as full of a personality as any of the other characters. I hope this changes soon.

    Fun fun fun. I can't wait for another chapter!

    1. Dr. Sus,
      I agree and I think Lady Russell's intentions are very good and she's definitely a kind woman---Anne certainly loves her. :) And I think that's the right interpretation for that quote as well. Maybe it's part of the importance of having community around us? Whether that community is physical or just knowing/reading that other people have been in the same place before? A community of shared experience?

      And you're right---it's amazing how far we get before we really get "into" Anne! (All the way to Chapter 4 actually, though Chapter 3 will have some fascinating tidbits.... :) But no spoilers! ;))

  4. Until this reading, I had somehow always missed that Mrs. Clay is Mr. Shepard's daughter! I was always like, "Oh, she's some random chick that Elizabeth befriended recently," but nope, she's their lawyer's daughter. I'd also forgotten that she brought 2 kids with her -- they must not get mentioned much. (Or I was in a hurry to meet up with a certain captain and kind of zipped through the first chapters last time I read this. Very possible.) Anyway, you're right, I think something had to have gone horribly, publicly wrong for Mrs. Clay to have gotten a divorce and NOT be a societal pariah.

    I neither like nor dislike Lady Russell. She means very well, and most of the time she's helpful. I get cross with her at parts of the book, though. But here, I like her because "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" (p. 11).

    Obviously, Mr. Shepard is going to have to deal with bankruptcy proceedings on Mr. Elliot's behalf if it should come to that, and he's probably being plagued by creditors if he's helping to handle his monetary matters. And he also seems to be a personal friend, so I think he would be trying to help his friend save face, but also trying to save himself a lot of headaches.

    Other lines I marked:

    But the usual fate of Anne attended her, in having something very opposite from her inclination fixed on (p. 13). (Poor Anne! Never ever ever getting what she would prefer? Ugh.)

    How quick come the reasons for approving what we like! (p. 15) (Sad but true.)

    1. Hamlette,
      Yes, Mrs. Clay's children don't get mentioned much (actually, not ever again, that I can think of). And oh my.....I know!!! It's so hard to contain the excitement and not race ahead to when You-Know-Who appears....but we shall be decorous and proceed at a well-regulated, modulated pace. :)

      I'd always somehow assumed Mrs. Clay must have done something wrong, but then why would she have "returned to her father's house"? Maria Bertram, for instance, was established elsewhere---away from the neighborhood. Unless she was at fault and Mr. Shepherd wasn't of means to support her elsewhere---in which case she's definitely that much more dangerous. But either way, it's definitely a shady business and Elizabeth has no excuse to be turning away from the companionship of such a lovely, upright sister as Anne.

      Same here on Lady Russell. And I just love the consideration (and the irony towards the rest of the Elliot family!) expressed in that one line about her consulting Anne.

      And good points on Mr. Shepherd! I hadn't thought of some of them, but you're absolutely right. It makes a lot of sense. Whatever his failings as a father (and he must have had some), he does seem to mean well towards the Elliots and I do feel sorry for the trouble he's going through sometimes.

      And yes, that page 15 quote is a good one! I've actually often felt it hopeful. Sometimes when I can't decide on a course of action---and then make a decision---other things will come clear and start falling into place....which is definitely most encouraging. :)

    2. Because I don't care for Mrs. Clay later, I thought the same thing, but if she's available for marrying, she must be actually divorced, or her husband is dead. And she must be divorced for reasons that mean she was not at fault, or she would have been put away quietly somewhere, not returned to good society and her father's house. So we can infer that her husband must have either publicly kept a mistress or perhaps beaten her in non-concealable ways. At least, that's what I would deduce.

      But whatever the reasons for her previous marriage's collapse, she's sly and conniving and mean to Anne, so phooey on her.

  5. "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?"

    Depending on how Lady Russell is using the word singular and assuming the meaning of the word is still pretty similar now to what it meant then, then I think she's commenting on the fact that there's nothing terribly strange or unusual or eccentric in Sir Walter's character. He's a bore and lives beyond his means and makes too much of his own importance, but he's really harmless and not one whose bad or eccentric characteristics drive him into really odd or dangerous situations.

    Just a guess. As for Lady Russell herself, she's certainly a decent woman and means well. She's thoughtful and capable and while still cognizant of the honor due to Sir Walter because of his title, she knows the situation of his finances needs dealing with and sets out to do it.

    That's something that also strikes me about Anne. She is fully aware of the honor and prerogatives due her father and her sisters and to herself but it doesn't make her conceited or pretentious. And she realizes that the honor her family has also should lead them to be responsible in paying their debts.

    1. George,
      Yes, Sir Walter's most definitely not an older spendthrift Willoughby or a Crawford. And I agree about both Lady Russell and Anne. About Anne particularly, that sticks out to me, too....the highest ranking of Austen's heroines she's yet so perfectly balanced!

  6. I'm really enjoying reading your posts and everyone's comments!

    I go back and forth on Lady Russell. I like her because she's very loving and affectionate to Anne - Anne's childhood would have been much more miserable without her around - but she annoys me because of, well, you've said it. Because of how prejudiced and blind she is. She's like an older version of Emma Woodhouse without a Knightley around to guide her.

    1. Hannah,
      I'm so glad you're enjoying it! :) And yes, that's a good point about Anne's teenage years being much more miserable without her---after the loss of her own mother. Incidentally, I wonder what Lady Russell's husband was like? Certainly an interesting, speculative question....

  7. I feel Lady Russel is quite neutrally described, her virtues and flaws are listed, which just make her a regular human being. I think the readers are not supposed to form an opinion of her yet, but rather see her through Anne's eyes and through her actions later on.

    As for the singularity quote, I find it quite true. When in times of trouble it is often a comfort to know you are not the only one to have gone through it. For me it would be because it shows that it is possible to overcome the difficulties. Though in Sir Walter's case the comfort would probably be that his misfortunes will not be talked about by everyone.

    1. Rose!
      Yes, I think that's true about Sir Walter/the family situation. To know others have been in the same (or similar) position is both comforting and encouraging....

      And I really like your point about Lady Russell! And (as a subsequent thought) we do definitely need to leave her room to change like everyone else, don't we? ;)

  8. You read along about how Lady Russell is planning all the intricate details of Mr. Elliot's "economic reform" and suddenly " she consulted Anne." Wow, never saw that coming. J.A. doesn't want us to lose focus on Anne, I assume.

    1. J.A. lists all positive attributes one can think of when describing Lady Russell:
    " integrity, sense of honor, benevolent, charitable, decorum, manners, cultivated mind, rational..." She is also described as someone who "values rank and consequence." Though this may not be a completely likeable trait nowadays, it might actually be a natural disposition in J.A's time in England.

    But my questions is this: What is her exact relationship to the Elliot family? I thought she was the wife of Mr. Elliot's deceased friend and just a neighbor? If so, how is it that she is given the authority to revamp Mr. Elliot's economic woes?

    She cares enough about her "dear Anne" to want her to come out into the world and loves Elizabeth enough to break the relationship between Elizabeth and Mrs. Clay, whom she finds not so trustworthy. And she also seems genuinely concerned about Mr.Elliot's feelings concerning his "gentlemen image." All of this seems to indicate that she a good person but I guess I still have to know her more to make a final decision about her.

    1. Kim,
      Oh, I love Austen's little irony there! With Lady Russell doing "what nobody else thought of doing, she consulted Anne." ;) And yes, Austen does describe Lady Russell very positively.

      To answer your question.... Austen never elaborates on it, but I'm not sure that Sir Walter ever actually knew Lady Russell's husband. She was a good friend of Anne's mother, purposefully coming to live near her and her family; and, as a friend of very old standing, visits the house on an almost daily basis. She's Anne's godmother (and possibly Elizabeth and Mary's as well) and seemingly Lady Elliot had entrusted to her to give future advice and guidance to all three of her daughters as needed. And apparently, as an old and trusted family friend, Sir Walter considers it natural to solicit her opinion on their current financial crisis.


Challenging questions and thoughts are most welcome! Please just keep all comments wholesome and God-honoring. Also, if someone else has left a comment you’d like to reply to/interact with—do feel free!