Jane Austen, Persuasion: Ch. 1

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That Lady Russell, of steady age and character, and extremely well provided for,w should have no thought of a second marriage, needs no apology to the public, which is rather apt to be unreasonably discontented when a woman does marry again, than when she does not; but Sir Walter's continuing in singleness requires explanation. Be it known then, that Sir Walter, like a good father, (having met with one or two private disappointments in very unreasonable applications),d prided himself on remaining single for his dear daughters' sake. For one daughter, his eldest, he would really have given up any thing, which he had not been very much tempted to do. 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; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way--she was only Anne.h

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.

A few years before,h Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early; and as even in its height, her father had found little to admire in her, (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own), there could be nothing in them, now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem. He had never indulged much hope, he had now none, of ever reading her name in any other page of his favourite work. 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:d Elizabeth would, one day or other, marry suitably.

It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before; and, generally speaking, if there has been neither ill health nor anxiety, 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, amidst the wreck of the good looks of everybody else; for he could plainly see how old all the rest of his family and acquaintance were growing. Anne haggard, Mary coarse, every face in the neighbourhood worsting, and the rapid increase of the crow's foot about Lady Russell's temples had long been a distress to him.

Elizabeth did not quite equal her father in personal contentment. Thirteen years had seen her mistress of Kellynch Hall, presiding and directing with a self-possession and decision which could never have given the idea of her being younger than she was. For thirteen years had she been doing the honours, and laying down the domestic law at home, and leading the wayh to the chaise and four,d and walking immediately after Lady Russell out of all the drawing-rooms and dining-rooms in the country. Thirteen winters' revolving frosts had seen her opening every ball of credit which a scanty neighbourhood afforded, and thirteen springs shewn their blossoms,d as she travelled up to London with her father, for a few weeks' annual enjoyment of the great world. She had the remembrance of all this, she had the consciousness of being nine-and-twenty to give her some regrets and some apprehensions; she was fully satisfied of being still quite as handsome as ever, but she felt her approach to the years of danger, and would have rejoiced to be certain of being properly solicited by baronet-blood within the next twelvemonth or two. Then might she again take up the book of books with as much enjoyment as in her early youth, but now she liked it not. Always to be presented with the date of her own birth and see no marriage follow but that of a youngest sister, made the book an evil; and more than once, when her father had left it open on the table near her, had she closed it, with averted eyes, and pushed it away.

She had had a disappointment, moreover, which that book, and especially the history of her own family, must ever present the remembrance of. The heir presumptive,h the very William Walter Elliot, Esq., whose rights had been so generously supported by her father, had disappointed her.

She had, while a very young girl, as soon as she had known him to be, in the event of her having no brother, the future baronet, meant to marry him, and her father had always meant that she should. He had not been known to them as a boy; but soon after Lady Elliot's death, Sir Walter had sought the acquaintance, and though his overtures had not been met with any warmth, he had persevered in seeking it, making allowance for the modest drawing-back of youth; and, in one of their spring excursions to London, when Elizabeth was in her first bloom, Mr Elliot had been forced into the introduction.

X [w] well provided for,


Wealthy, through her deceased husband. The ideal situation for a woman, for it conferred both wealth and independence.

X [d] (having met with one or two private disappoin…

Love & Marriage

Proposals to women, made so discreetly so as to cause him no public embarrassment were he to be rejected. Austen adds that his "applications" (a snidely debasing word), were "unreasonable," the woman being too wealthy and perhaps of a higher rank. 

Austen's use of the parentheses nicely mimics Sir Walter's self-protective discretion and his denial of the reality of rejection. He ha…

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X [h] only Anne.

Compared with Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, Anne was a modest and yet accomplished queen. 

X [h] A few years before,

Love & Marriage

Anne is twenty-seven, a pivotal age in the life of an unmarried woman of the time. Consider a woman such as Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice.

X [d] given all the honour and received none:

Love & Marriage

Though marrying respectability and wealth, Mary did not marry a title and so in Sir Walter's eyes had conferred on her husband an undeserved luster for which nothing he could do would compensate.

X [h] leading the way


Precise categories determined the hierarchy and so precedence of men and women by rank and position, whether entering a dining room, a church, the court, or a carriage. As the oldest daughter of a baronet Elizabeth proceeds first and is second only to Lady Russell, if she is present, who is first by virtue of having been married. Sir Walter is the ranking figure in the area and so, although a mote in the eyes of a duke, regards himself as the very sun.

X [d] chaise and four,


A traveling carriage with an enclosed body and seating for up to three, with the driver riding as a postilion on one of the horses.

Carriages were expensive to buy and the horses to maintain. Livery and a panoply of attendants added further to the costs. But aside from the manor house itself, nothing drew attention so much as a carriage and four (or even six) matched horses.


X [d] thirteen springs shewn their blossoms,


Austen is having fun. The phrase conjures up epic or pastoral poetry when nature's major events are invoked as the only worthy measure of human time. 

Elizabeth came out when she was sixteen, which is average. At twenty-nine she is at the shoals, though her social standing and beauty add some time. Nevertheless, she is at "the years of danger" that may consign her to spinsterhood, owing in large part to her vanity.


X [h] heir presumptive,

Custom & Law

An Elliot long ago entailed or legally insured that the estate may be inherited only by a male Elliot. Thus, even Mary's male children are ineligible for the title. Sir Walter's handwritten addendum names the next heir, barring his having a son, to be William Walter Elliot, Esq. (Absent a title, "Esquire" denotes his status as a gentleman.)…

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