Jane Austen, Persuasion: Ch. 5

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"Nothing remarkable. One always knows beforehand what the dinner will be, and who will be there; and it is so very uncomfortable not having a carriage of one's own.d Mr and Mrs Musgrove took me, and we were so crowded! They are both so very large, and take up so much room; and Mr Musgrove always sits forward. So, there was I, crowded into the back seat with Henrietta and Louise; and I think it very likely that my illness to-day may be owing to it."

A little further perseverance in patience and forced cheerfulness on Anne's side produced nearly a cure on Mary's. She could soon sit upright on the sofa, and began to hope she might be able to leave it by dinner-time. Then, forgetting to think of it, she was at the other end of the room, beautifying a nosegay; then, she ate her cold meat; and then she was well enough to propose a little walk.

"Where shall we go?" said she, when they were ready. "I suppose you will not like to call at the Great House before they have been to see you?"

"I have not the smallest objection on that account," replied Anne. "I should never think of standing on such ceremony with people I know so well as Mrs and the Miss Musgroves."

"Oh! but they ought to call upon you as soon as possible. They ought to feel what is due to you as my sister. However, we may as well go and sit with them a little while, and when we have that over, we can enjoy our walk."

Anne had always thought such a style of intercourse highly imprudent;d but she had ceased to endeavour to check it, from believing that, though there were on each side continual subjects of offence, neither family could now do without it. To the Great House accordingly they went, to sit the full half hour in the old-fashioned square parlour, with a small carpet and shining floor, to which the present daughters of the house were gradually giving the proper air of confusion by a grand piano-forte and a harp,h flower-stands and little tables placed in every direction. Oh! could the originals of the portraits against the wainscot, could the gentlemen in brown velvet and the ladies in blue satin have seen what was going on, have been conscious of such an overthrow of all order and neatness! The portraits themselves seemed to be staring in astonishment.

The Musgroves, like their houses, were in a state of alteration, perhaps of improvement.h The father and mother were in the old English style, and the young people in the new. Mr and Mrs Musgrove were a very good sort of people; friendly and hospitable, not much educated, and not at all elegant. Their children had more modern minds and manners. There was a numerous family; but the only two grown up, excepting Charles, were Henrietta and Louisa, young ladies of nineteen and twenty, who had brought from school at Exeter all the usual stock of accomplishments,h and were now like thousands of other young ladies, living to be fashionable, happy, and merry. Their dress had every advantage, their faces were rather pretty, their spirits extremely good, their manner unembarrassed and pleasant; they were of consequence at home, and favourites abroad. 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;d and envied them nothing but that seemingly perfect good understanding and agreement together,d that good-humoured mutual affection, of which she had known so little herself with either of her sisters.

They were received with great cordiality. Nothing seemed amiss on the side of the Great House family, which was generally, as Anne very well knew, the least to blame. The half hour was chatted away pleasantly enough; and she was not at all surprised at the end of it, to have their walking party joined by both the Miss Musgroves, at Mary's particular invitation.

X [d] a carriage of one's own.

Transportation

For Austen's less admirable women, a status symbol. 

X [d] such a style of intercourse highly imprudent;

Manners & Morals

Anne's scruples originate in the Musgrove elders being in effect Mary's mother and father. To speak of them in such bald terms even to her sister betrays feelings that should be kept between her husband and her, if even to be confided to him. 

X [h] a grand piano-forte and a harp,

Arts

The piano-forte (literally, soft-strong, or the ability to control the volume, which one could not with the clavichord or harpsichord) and the harp were the instruments young women learned, not the violin or cello. The latter certainly and perhaps the former involved unacceptable positions, and in any case were far more difficult to play than a harp or piano. (Search)

X [h] improvement.

Education

A central word in the Austen lexicon (Search). The "perhaps" is facetious. It is often the case in her fiction that those most invested in the improvement and modernization of a house and grounds are most lacking in moral and intellectual accomplishment, if they are not downright stupid as in …

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X [h] usual stock of accomplishments,

Education

A central word in the Austen lexicon (Search). The "perhaps" is facetious. It is often the case in her fiction that those most invested in the improvement and modernization of a house and grounds are most lacking in moral and intellectual accomplishment, if they are not downright stupid as in …

(read more)

X [d] her own more elegant and cultivated mind for …

Mind

The Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham argues for the utility of actions and behavior that leads to pleasure and the avoidance of pain. He will not concede the automatic superiority of even fine fiction or poetry if in fact they don't bring more pleasure than, say, "pushpin" (tiddlywinks), for the intellectual pleasures have no intrinsic superiority as they do in, say, Shaftesb…

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X [d] perfect good understanding and agreement toge…

Love & Marriage

In one of the most affecting passages in her fiction (it is in Mansfield Park) Austen maintains that sibling love, such as that between Cassandra and her or between one of her brothers and her, is more powerful than erotic or conjugal love. The love between siblings is grounded in a nearly infinite web of early associations and impressions that imprint themselves on the young mind,…

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