Posted on

She Was Only Anne – On Anne Elliot in Persuasion

Anne Elliot
This article about Anne Elliot is by Rosario Mesta Rodríguez

When we think and talk about Jane Austen’s heroines, we tend to associate characteristics such as happiness, bravery, resourcefulness or intelligence to their personalities. And we are right: Jane created numerous female characters such as Emma or Elizabeth Bennet that make us smile everytime we read their feats. We don’t usually associate Jane Austen with sadness or depression. And this time, I have to say, we are wrong: Jane didn’t always write about happy women. In fact, there is a special character that has always stood out within her literary women: Anne Elliot. Although distant, different, melancholic, resigned and sad, she has been rewarded with the recognition of the public, that, undoubtedly, fell in love with her extraordinary personality.

I’ve always wondered why Jane Austen created someone so different from the sort of characters she usually did. Melancholia and sadness construct the development of the whole novel. Undoubtedly, we should point out that the personal circumstances of the writer at the time is one the main reasons why this book is so different from the others, but also the changes that English society was going through at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. 

The Nineteenth Century Woman

Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the middle classes started to grow due to changes in commerce and economy, and so did the level of literacy among people. The novel began to become popular, especially among women. For the first time, people wanted to read, they demanded books, they had a desire to be more conscious about the world, their surroundings, and themselves. By reading, people became more aware of their own feelings, personalities and for the very first time, the internal landscape started to gain ground on the material things in life and on outward appearances. Romanticism showed the disappointment of the society with the rationalization of the Enlightenment. People looked for other concepts such as feelings and emotions. As such, pessimism prospered and the whole range of the negative feelings began to be explored with Red and Black by Sthendal and the Letters of the young Werther by Goethe as standard bearers.

At this moment in history we must analyze how these new currents affected women, who had (as always) a more difficult time. Not only did their access to popular literature arouse doubts among the most conservative sectors, but they were also frowned upon for the introspection and sentimentality that flooded them.

And this is because there was a well-established ideal female model in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, and everything that went beyond its limits was called abnormal, dangerous, unnatural. This model was largely propagated by the manuals of conduct, which were hugely popular among society. Jane Austen herself could even be an assiduous reader of some of them, as shown by the inclusion of Fordyce’s Sermons in Pride and Prejudice

The Manuals of Conduct

The manuals dictated rules that ranged from the appreciation of one’s own body to female education, domestic economy or even behavior and body language in social gatherings. The woman was limited by an ideological corset that asphyxiated her reality. One of the premises that has struck me most has been the concept of melancholy. The authors of the manuals (always men), were repulsed by the revolution that brought with it Romanticism, and they affirmed with vehemence, and sometimes with violence, how the melancholy, sentimentality and depression that began to be treated in the wake of the increasingly popular readings, was inappropriate for women.

In fact, this didactic literature begins a huge campaign in favor of the perfect woman, and, among its qualities, joy stands out. A woman could not afford to be sad, depressed or taciturn, since women should be the nucleus of the family unit; always attentive, willing and energetic to meet the demands of children and husbands. Joy, for John Bennet, was “a most desirable quality in a woman” (41), “a striking quality is her constant cheerfulness” (On a Variety of Useful and Interesting Subjects calculated to Improve the heart, to form the Manners, and Enlighten the understanding, 40).

A Father’s Legacy by John Gregory presupposes that a spirit always on the rise “will make your company much solicited (36) and in the sermon XIII by Fordyce it is said that “the woman considers herself here a saint who must support everything. Men should look for a shy, complacent, sweet and patient woman who must be at home, not fighting outside and getting her clothes dirty” (112).

According again to John Bennet, women had no reason to be sad, since “men are perplexed with various anxieties of business and ambition, are naturally, more thoughtful, profound and melancholy; They were certainly formed to sooth and to enliven. It is one of the greatest blessings we derive from their society, and from the most sacred of all connections “(42). He goes on to affirm that “men melancholy is as remote from the true point of gracefulness, in the sex, as ill-natured wit, or ironical pertness” (43). 

Perfection in Persuasion

I find it quite curious to see how this theme contrasts with the novel Persuasion. Jane builds a character that rebels against all modeling of women. Anne Elliot allows herself the luxury of being sad, of not hiding it from others, as well as getting angry. She does not care for what society might think of her. The death of her mother during her youth and the loss of her true love certainly leave their mark on Anne.  Since then, she resigns herself to living as the person in charge of the welfare of her family, without anyone worrying about her, she becomes blurred with time, and this leaves her vulnerable, opaque:  “but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people with 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 “.

In addition, the saddest of all the heroines faces a family opposition that leaves her even more alone. We can see the indifference of her family within Elizabeth Elliot’s speech before travelling to Bath: “Then I am sure Anne had better stay, for nobody will want her in Bath”. She is aware of this treatment and apparently, she is resigned. “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 or real taste”.

Step by step, she becomes more and more invisible: “She could do little more than listen patiently, soften every grievance, and excuse each to the other; give them all hints of the forbearance necessary between such near neighbours, and make those hints broadest which were meant for her sister´s benefit”. Paradoxically, Austen also uses music to show Anne’s lack of connection with those around her.  “Anne had been always used to feel alone in the world”.  Although the other “girls were wild for dancing” (48), Anne is isolated from the group, sitting removed from them at the piano – in music she had been always used to feel alone in the world.

But she does not want to cause grief, she knows that she is the first cause of this situation and her mistakes, and carries with them her whole life. She no longer holds grudges, melancholy transcends her life. She does not follow the examples of perfection that manuals and society try to instill in women, she is a woman who suffers, who has anxiety crisis’, “she was ashamed of herself, quite ashamed of being so nervous, so overcome by such a trifle, but so it was; and it required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover it”. 

It’s OK To Be Sad

With the example of Anne Elliot, Jane Austen vindicates the imperfect woman, the one who also suffers, because through suffering comes self-growth. Jane claims in Persuasion that sadness is also part of women’s lives and that it fulfils an essential function. Sadness reduces attention in the external world to focus on the inside. This favors self-examination, reflection, analysis. Anne goes through a complete exploration of her own knowledge of herself throughout the novel, and in a way that few Austen’s other heroines do. Anne was not just Anne, Anne shows us her act of bravery by letting us know that sadness is just another emotion. It is the emotion that most leads us to intimacy with ourselves and with others. 


About the author

Rosario Mesta Rodríguez is a Spanish librarian who is obsessed with Jane Austen and with the Victorian Era. She’s currently studying a PhD in Conduct Books for women in Eighteenth Century England. Books are her passion. 


Enjoyed this article about Anne Elliot? Take a look at our copies of Persuasion available in our online gift shop.


Persuasion hardback

Posted on

Jane Austen: Why do Millennials Love her so Much?

Why do millennials love jane austen

Why do Millennials Love Jane Austen?

A guest blog by the wonderful people at Country House Library.

A long dead 19th century author who wrote about the rather limited lives of women, in a time when success was defined by who you married, might seem a strange crush for the modern millennial, yet on Instagram the hashtag ‘#janeausten’ brings up over half a million hits and counting.

Part of this is surely down to her abilities as a writer – powerful observations, smart and witty dialogue, and the kind of independent and intelligent female leads that Hollywood still hasn’t quite caught up with. However, that only explains her general appeal, whereas on my own book website, she continuously tops the bestseller lists amongst 18-30 year olds in particular.

So what is it about her that appeals so much to young women today?

She was a Woman Ahead of her Time

“I was so intrigued and inspired by Jane’s life.” Sarah, 23

From many of the comments we receive it seems the attraction might well be Jane herself. As an author who generated her own income she was considered unconventional, to say the least, and simply outrageous to many. As was the fact she never married; in fact, Jane turned down a marriage proposal – an experience she drew on when writing Pride and Prejudice, where Lizzie Bennett turns down two of her own, even if she does end up marrying in the end.

Jane would have been a Social Media Influencer Today

“I find Jane Austen so inspiring as a young writer.” Vikki, 26

By becoming a writer, Jane gave herself a voice and the ability to express herself to women of her age and class – something that was especially powerful at a time when there were no female politicians, and few women in public life whatsoever, and conventional wisdom suggested that the only way to have any real power was to share a pillow with a successful man.

She was also a great letter writer, keen to share news, gossip and ideas on a daily basis, although tragically few survive as her sister burnt most of them at Jane’s request. Something else that might chime with a generation facing being worse off than their parent’s one, is that Jane’s life was far from secure. She struggled with money all her life, and often had to rely on her parents. Sound familiar?

 Click the image above for the perfect gift idea!

She Invented the Reality TV Genre

“She can make everyday life and situations sound so interesting. Also, her humour is perfect!” Emma, 30

Prior to Jane Austen, most published novels were either vast historical epics or moody, gothic affairs, which, had they been made into films, would surely have needed a cast of thousands and a special effects budget running into the millions. Jane’s novels, meanwhile, placed the reader as a fly on the wall in the fashionable drawing room of the day, meaning that Sense and Sensibility and Made in Chelsea actually have a surprising amount in common.

 Click the image above for Country House Library’s editor’s picks!

A Drawing Room or a Coffee Shop – What’s the Difference?

“I just love her writing, it’s so eloquent.” Zara, 19

Considering that previous generations had a dependence on a well-oiled night in a night club for dating opportunities, it’s hardly surprising that millennials drink less, with nearly a quarter now abstaining completely. As such, they are far more likely to choose a digitally arranged and predominately sober meeting in a coffee shop – which if you think about it, is not that different from a pen-and-paper arranged meeting in a Regency drawing room. Plus, Jane’s characters, like Pride and Prejudice’s unstoppable Elizabeth Bennet, are independent, fun, witty, clever and usually two steps ahead of any man in the book, which makes for a pretty good dating model for us all.


We hope you enjoyed this article “Why do Millennials love Jane Austen?”. For more information and to browse the beautiful books at Country House Library visit

Country House Library is a community of people who can’t get enough of reading, discussing and looking at books. They have hundreds of vintage books for sale (including a huge range of Jane Austen titles to choose from). 

Posted on

Don’t Insult Your Children, Give Them Jane Austen by Allison Burr

Give Them Jane Austen by Allison Burr

Don’t Insult Your Children, Give Them Jane Austen by Allison Burr

My kids saw that scoundrel Willoughby at Chic-Fil-A last night.

Or so they thought.

Willoughby - a cad by Jane Austen

We had just finished our chicken sandwiches and waffle fries and were headed off to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert, but all four kids stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the unsuspecting dark-haired, large-eyed teenage boy behind the counter. I could read their body language; if this was indeed Willoughby, as they frantically whispered in my ear, he would surely do something reprehensible at any moment.  And they weren’t going to miss it.

Much to their chagrin, we ushered them out the door, and the Willoughby look-a-like was left to finish his work without further danger of besiegement.

In their overactive 10-, 8-, 7-, and 3-year-old minds, they had seen a villain behind the counter. The details of this poor boy’s true identity are of no consequence. The more important reality is that Jane Austen had captured their hearts and imaginations, and my children have not yet entered adolescence.

This surely qualifies as a parental milestone.

Now, I know the purists contend that the consumption of the screen portrayal should never precede the consumption of the written. I don’t hold to that particular standard (but undoubtedly have my own purist standards in other areas). As such, when we began the several-hour long 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility, my kids were immediately enthralled and the questions came with great rapidity.

With my finger perpetually on the pause button in order to field the inquiries, I responded to these (and more) from both my daughters and my son:

How could John Dashwood be so weak? And Fanny be so evil?

Why don’t Elinor and Edward marry each other?

Why exactly is Marianne so foolish?

What does Elinor mean when she says she doesn’t disapprove of Marianne, but only her conduct?

Why doesn’t Willoughby act like a gentleman?

Colonel Brandon is the hero; right? Why can’t Marianne see that?

Why is Lucy Steele engaged to Edward when Edward is clearly meant for Elinor and Lucy seems so sneaky and unkind?

How can Mrs. Ferrars be so utterly vicious and yet everyone is falling down to worship her?

Can we please, please, live in a cottage by the seaside and string up seashells in the garden?

Other than the last one (which breaks my heart to say probably not), I delighted in pausing the visually stunning jewel to help my young children frame the story, discern wisdom from folly, and mourn over the broken hearts of Colonel Brandon and Elinor.

The sumptuous period dress, the breathtaking landscape, the awe-inspiring country manors, and the rapid-fire colloquy amongst some of Austen’s most remarkable characters were exactly the type of feast my kids deserved. Not a culinary feast, mind you; but a literary, moral, and visual one.

Go-to books for a JaneiteWhy settle for one-dimensional twaddle that insults the Imago Dei status of your children, when you can bring them before the work of a master craftsman from another era?

No, my children did not understand every aspect of the witty repartee.  Nor could they grasp the magnitude of the moral and social norms under Miss Austen’s microscope.  But every morning, I read my children the Bible, and they also read it for themselves.  We require this in our family, even while knowing that they cannot possibly understand the depth of the riches contained therein.  But their current ages and developmental limitations should not preclude them from partaking in the banquet table in whatever ways they are able.

In the same way, when I first began reading Austen’s works 16 years ago, in a Brit Lit college course, I am quite certain I appreciated only a minuscule percentage of what Jane Austen was doing.  Two years later, I spent a semester researching and writing an honors thesis on the French Revolution’s impact on Austen’s body of work.  Clearly, I was smitten with her literature and desired to dig deeper.  And yet, every time I revisit Emma or Pride and Prejudice, I surely continue to miss nuances and connections, all these years later.  But I keep savoring the feast, both by book and by screen – and it is altogether better to do so alongside the inquiring, hungry minds of my children.


Note: I recommend, without reservation, this series of 12 audio lectures by Professor Jerram Barrs of the Francis Schaeffer Institute on the life and works of Jane Austen.  The series is free for download, after a quick registration process, courtesy of Covenant Seminary.

Parental disclaimer:  Because my children are so young, I skipped the (brief) opening scene of the 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility, and instead gave a brief synopsis to my children of an immoral man victimizing a young girl. 



About the author Allison Burr:

Allison Burr resides in Franklin, TN, with her husband and four children. Allison Burr is primarily a homeschooling mama, but also an adjunct professor at New College Franklin, co-founder of Sword & Trowel, and resident domestic theologian at TruthBeautyGoodness.

Posted on

“Praying with Jane” – a Review by Laura Boyle

praying with jane

In Praying with Jane, Rachel Dodge has managed to present Jane Austen’s life “in a style entirely new”, taking a closer look at the heart behind the one of the most beloved authors of all time. Much of what is known of Jane’s life comes in the form of her (censored) letters and the reminiscences of family members. While these details paint a cheerful and amusing picture, that which made Jane, Jane, lies at the heart of the three existing prayers we have that she wrote for use during evening prayers. We do not know why she wrote them- whether out of an overflow of devotion or at the bequest of some family member, but the serious, heartfelt tone, when examined, adds a deeper shade to our understanding of the writer.  These are no “vain repetitions”, but rather intimate, whole life lessons, summing up the core values of a woman once noted for her desire for anonymity.

In this book, Rachel Dodge closely examines each line of each prayer, in a day by day format, allowing for a 31 day devotional, to be used either in succession, or occasionally. Using Jane’s own historical background as well as Ms. Dodge’s extensive knowledge of Austen’s fictional works, the prayers are placed into context in Jane’s life, along with insightful ways to apply them to our own, often busy, lives. Each day includes related scripture as well as a call to prayer and worship as the reader seeks to apply Jane’s prayers to her own life. This breaking down works amazingly well to draw out the depth of Austen’s own writing and brings the reader a greater appreciation of Austen’s already acknowledged genius with language and the human heart.

Continue reading “Praying with Jane” – a Review by Laura Boyle

Posted on

Jane Austen: Family Therapist?

jane austen family

by Patrice Sarath

Bath High Street. I think Austen would still recognize the place. (photograph by author)

One of the joys of re-reading Jane Austen’s novels is finding something new each time, bringing with it a deeper understanding of her characters and the society in which they live. Although Austen is known as a romance writer (and, I would argue, the inventor of modern romance structure), I find her illustration of family dynamics to be the most appealing aspect of her work, and the reason she has fans around the world, across time and culture. She invites us into her life and times, and we recognize ourselves and our families in her characters.

Sometimes a re-read lets me see something I’ve missed the dozens of reads before. For instance, in Pride & Prejudice, when Jane catches cold and has to stay overnight at Netherfield, I had read the book countless times before it occurred to me that this wasn’t a ‘Regency thing’. It was just as embarrassing for Jane as if it had happened to someone in the 21st century. Mrs. Bennet’s brazenness in engineering the whole thing became even worse when I looked at it from that standpoint. Can you imagine — going to a stranger’s house for tea and then having to stay overnight for days? And the doctor has to come? Poor Jane!

Continue reading Jane Austen: Family Therapist?

Posted on

Pride and Prejudice and “Universally Acknowledged” “Truths”

Pride and Prejudice and “Universally Acknowledged” “Truths”

by Seth Snow

[Note: Throughout this essay, when I refer to specific words from Pride and Prejudice¸ I will put these words in quotation marks.]

Jane Austen’s readers are quite familiar with the opening line of Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

This passage raises several issues.  Firstly, marriage is obviously important to characters in this novel.  Secondly, “universally acknowledged” would mean all members of this particular society are aware, likely even in agreement, of the “truth” concerning wealthy single men who “must be in want” of wives.  Consequently, when a wealthy man comes onto the scene, the socially “acknowledged” expectation is that these men “must be in want” of a wife solely due to their single status and financial status.  Whatever thoughts or feelings on marriage that these wealthy men may have are secondary to the “acknowledged” “truth.”  The same can be said for single women: their thoughts and feelings on marriage must align with this “universally acknowledged” “truth”; while some women privately may object to “universally acknowledged” “truths,” we do not get the “wife’s” point of view in the opening line.  Therefore, a single woman is expected to marry whichever “single man in possession of good fortune” proposes to her. Finally, it is important to note that the narrator does not say “the truth” but rather “a truth.”  “A truth” suggests that other “truths” are not “acknowledged” and that it is not the only “truth” out there.  This particular “truth,” however, has become “universal” because norms of society “acknowledge” it is “true” and the minds of its members have been conditioned by these norms.  Being different or thinking differently initially means remaining single in the world of Pride and Prejudice.

Continue reading Pride and Prejudice and “Universally Acknowledged” “Truths”

Posted on

Why Jane Austen’s Persuasion Still Captivates Audiences

Jane Austen's Persuasion

This Spring 2018, Theatre6 is producing a touring production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Artistic Director Kate McGregor discusses why they’ve chosen to adapt the work for six actor musicians, and why Persuasion remains so captivating for today’s audiences.

Jane Austen's Persuasion

Adapting a novel like Jane Austen’s Persuasion for the stage, from the earliest planning stages until the opening night, is a project that absorbs your days and nights for at least two years. In making the decision to dedicate such time to a piece, it has to be one which you’d like to explore visually, conceptually, emotionally and intellectually. Most importantly, it has to be a story that will excite, captivate and be relevant for your audiences. For Stephanie Dale (the novel’s adapter) and I, our biggest inspiration for working on the piece was the character of Anne. We envisioned how the themes in Persuasion could transcend time and space, and imagined how Jane’s ideas could breathe and thrive in our modern world.


A novel must show how the world truly is, how characters genuinely think, how events actually occur, a novel should somehow reveal the true source of our actions

– Jane in Becoming Jane.


Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, this is a story about heartbreak. It’s about making decisions you regret, about trusting the right people for the wrong reasons. It asks questions about the inner workings of why we love and who loves the longest. Most importantly it’s an expression of Anne inner thoughts and what pressures being parted from those you love can put on the mind. Out of all of Jane’s novels, Jane Austen’s Persuasion is the one that speaks with the most sincerity, frankness and digs deepest into the fragility of the human spirit. In the film, Becoming Jane, Jane expresses why she writes and what type of stories she’ll strive to create. In this, her last completed novel before her untimely death at 42, Jane was writing a book which dealt with some of the darker themes in her life, possibly a combination of her own experiences and definitely an example of her confidence and skill as a published writer.

In producing a faithful adaptation of the novel, we wanted to take her intention of truthfulness and honesty as far as we could, to explore Anne’s thoughts and feelings in a way that Jane would have applauded. No matter that 200 years exist between Jane and ourselves, we all have the same feelings. We all love and wish to be in love at some point in our lives. Most of us have felt the magic of being in love and many of us have felt the loss of it. As human beings we are accustomed to the agony of heartbreak and being vulnerable. Everyone can identify with what it feels like to struggle with loneliness and regret and concealing those feelings from those around us. Anne is a protagonist who speaks to us all, somehow free of the restrictions of time and history.

Our biggest challenge on identifying what was relevant about the novel for today, was how we could present the inner workings of Anne’s mind for a theatre-going audience. It was also important to us that people who had perhaps never been to the theatre before or had never read a Jane Austen novel, would be able to understand her ideas and relate to them.

There are several themes in Jane’s novels which are prevalent across all six of them. To name a few – matchmaking, marrying for love or for income, rural life, Bath and high society, responsibility and family, the threat of poverty, the navy and the military, a love of the sea, pride, class mobility and immobility, travelling and new beginnings, deceit, deception and unspoken feelings. In her novels we see long walks, card games, close female friendships and sisterhood, gossip, longing and dreams of the future. And, without a doubt, there is music: music as art; music as distraction; music that elevates and the music of love. Without a doubt we were determined to involve music in a way that would unravel and reveal the deepest feelings of Anne and use it to help our audience understand the world of the play – the time and context. In our production of Persuasion we play over 20 characters with only six actors. And each of those actors plays an instrument. True to the narrative of the novel, Anne plays the piano exceptionally well. We have extended this idea so that Anne uses her piano and the beats of the music to express her inner most feelings – her darkest thoughts and her wildest joys. The composer, Maria Haik Escudero has created an original score that is integral to Anne’s thought process and the adaptation.

In order to explore and open up the novel for audiences, we’ve given moments for Anne to speak to the audience. Jane Austen’s Persuasion was a groundbreaking piece of writing in the impression it offered of the female consciousness. Anne’s journey to escape her inner thoughts and use her voice, and it being heard by others is what is at the heart of the novel. The story explores in minute detail how Anne felt during her 8 years of separation from Wentworth and how those years of inner turmoil and taken hold of her. This is a section from the very beginning of Theatre6’s production –


ANNE :            

Sometimes, all I can see is blue; the blue of the sea.

All I can hear is the falling

of the notes on a piano.

And for a time, it goes dark.

The seasons carry me;

I am at their mercy.

I have no desire to harm anyone or anything and yet,

and yet,

because I could not bear to lose my family,

I devastated him

and for that I shall

be eternally tormented.


Our adaptation asks – can people retain their good character even when the ground under their feet is threatened? When they face big changes – losing family members, losing their homes, when their hearts are broken? Women in Jane’s novels were so frequently powerless. Men had choices and women frequently did not. Choices of: marriage; a choice of profession; of entertainments; of travel and of expression. Women could not earn their own money or inherit it. They are entirely at the mercy of the men they are in close proximately with. Love is a precious, perilous and sought after ornament to the necessities required to survive. In a time where the only way they could change their circumstances would be to become involved in a situation with a man who would look after their needs, we felt strongly that Anne must have her voice. She must be understood in 2018.

There’s a thought explored in the final third of the novel that underpins our thinking behind the character of Anne. Whilst men can leave their homes to have careers and find distractions elsewhere, women “live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us.” This idea was the central component which unlocked this adaptation. Whatever was going on in her day to day world, Anne had to cope with the inner turmoil of losing her young love and the duty she believed she owed to her family. Anne’s stoic nature, some believe to be close to that of Austen herself, becomes a shadow of her former self and like the opening of the book she retrenches from society.

Captain Harville in the novel questions whether women are as constant in their feelings as men. He tells Anne that it is impossible for her to understand what it feels like to leave your family behind to sail in the navy. She is quick to correct him, highlighting that women feel just as much if not more. They have no distraction other than what they feel and there is no distraction to take away from the depth of their feeling. Men cannot assume they are the only ones to love. Captain Harville remarks that the history books all talk about women’s fickleness. Anne states “but they are all written by men.” Jane Austen gave Anne the voice to disagree; to assert that the female mind is perhaps the most fraught and yet the most resilient.  Whilst Wentworth learns about the sea and the harsh realities of men and war in their eight years apart, Anne learns about duty, responsibility for herself and the true power of her own mind.

A review in the March 1818 edition of the British Critic praised the realism of Jane Austen’s works, saying that they “display a degree of excellence that has not often been surpassed”. She writes on epic themes but portrays them beautifully in miniature; she creates characters in witty and often satirical manner – and so whatever time or place, we all feel that we know a Sir Walter, Mary or a brooding Captain Benwick.

Something we have focused on is Anne’s reasoning and how it is inextricably linked with how she feels – the two work together and eventually, the conclusions demonstrate a deep insight and understanding of her situation and what must be done in order for her to achieve happiness. The novel is ahead of its time in the sense that it shows the reader that happiness can be found if women are bold enough to find their voices and use them.

Persuasion is unique amongst Austen’s novels in that we have the original manuscript chapters – and the alternative happy ending she was striving to find. In Theatre6’s production of Persuasion we explore the biggest journey of our lives – to find love for ourselves, regardless of the love of others. Anne’s love for Wentworth and his unbreakable commitment to her is the conclusion of this timeless story. If we can find love and hold onto it and yet not break the commitment to ourselves – our own voice and our own worth, then love itself is worth having and worth waiting for. Even if the wait spans a lifetime. And just like Anne and Wentworth, we all deserve a second chance.


Theatre6’s Persuasion runs from 17 April – 20 May 2018 opening at London’s Playground Theatre and touring to Dorchester Arts (Dorset), Marine Theatre (Lyme Regis), The Hat (Brighton), Theatre Royal Windsor and the Mill Studio in Guildford. For more information and bookings on this production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion visit

Posted on

The Janeites by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling's The Janeites

The Janeites – Rudyard Kipling’s Short Story

Rudyard Kipling’s short story entitled “The Janeites”, about a group of World War I soldiers who were secretly fans of Austen’s novels. This short story is often cited as the place from where the term Janeite came. 



Jane lies in Winchester-blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made!
And while the stones of Winchester, or Milsom Street, remain.
Glory, love, and honour unto England’s Jane!

In the Lodge of Instruction attached to ‘Faith and Works No. 5837 E.C.,’ which has already been described, Saturday afternoon was appointed for the weekly clean-up, when all visiting Brethren were welcome to help under the direction of the Lodge Officer of the day: their reward was light refreshment and the meeting of companions.

This particular afternoon-in the autumn of ’20-Brother Burges, P.M., was on duty and, finding a strong shift present, took advantage of it to strip and dust all hangings and curtains, to go over every inch of the Pavement-which was stone, not floorcloth-by hand; and to polish the Columns, Jewels, Working outfit and organ. I was given to clean some Officers’ Jewels-beautiful bits of old Georgian silver-work humanised by generations of elbow-grease-and retired to the organ- loft; for the floor was like the quarterdeck of a battleship on the eve of a ball. Half-a-dozen brethren had already made the Pavement as glassy as the aisle of Greenwich Chapel; the brazen chapiters winked like pure gold at the flashing Marks on the Chairs; and a morose one- legged brother was attending to the Emblems of Mortality with, I think, rouge.

‘They ought,’ he volunteered to Brother Burges as we passed, ‘to be betwixt the colour of ripe apricots an’ a half-smoked meerschaum. That’s how we kept ’em in my Mother-Lodge-a treat to look at.’

‘I’ve never seen spit-and-polish to touch this,’ I said.

‘Wait till you see the organ,’ Brother Burges replied. ‘You could shave in it when they’ve done. Brother Anthony’s in charge up there- the taxi-owner you met here last month. I don’t think you’ve come across Brother Humberstall, have you?’

‘I don’t remember–‘ I began.

‘You wouldn’t have forgotten him if you had. He’s a hairdresser now, somewhere at the back of Ebury Street. ‘Was Garrison Artillery. ‘Blown up twice.’

‘Does he show it?’ I asked at the foot of the organ-loft stairs.

‘No-o. Not much more than Lazarus did, I expect.’ Brother Burges fled off to set some one else to a job.

Brother Anthony, small, dark, and humpbacked, was hissing groom- fashion while he treated the rich acacia-wood panels of the Lodge organ with some sacred, secret composition of his own. Under his guidance Humberstall, an enormous, flat-faced man, carrying the shoulders, ribs, and loins of the old Mark ’14 Royal Garrison Artillery, and the eyes of a bewildered retriever, rubbed the stuff in. I sat down to my task on the organ-bench, whose purple velvet cushion was being vacuum-cleaned on the floor below.

‘Now,’ said Anthony, after five minutes’ vigorous work on the part of Humberstall. ‘Now we’re gettin’ somethin’ worth lookin’ at! Take it easy, an’ go on with what you was tellin’ me about that Macklin man.’

‘I-I ‘adn’t anything against ‘im,’ said Humberstall, ‘excep’ he’d been a toff by birth; but that never showed till he was bosko absoluto. Mere bein’ drunk on’y made a common ‘ound of ‘im. But when bosko, it all came out. Otherwise, he showed me my duties as mess-waiter very well on the ‘ole.’

‘Yes, yes. But what in ‘ell made you go back to your Circus? The Board gave you down-an’-out fair enough, you said, after the dump went up at Eatables?’

‘Board or no Board, I ‘adn’t the nerve to stay at ‘ome-not with Mother chuckin’ ‘erself round all three rooms like a rabbit every time the Gothas tried to get Victoria; an’ sister writin’ me aunts four pages about it next day. Not for me, thank you! till the war was over. So I slid out with a draft-they wasn’t particular in ’17, so long as the tally was correct-and I joined up again with our Circus somewhere at the back of Lar Pug Noy, I think it was.’ Humberstall paused for some seconds and his brow wrinkled. ‘Then I-I went sick, or somethin’ or other, they told me; but I know when I reported for duty, our Battery Sergeant-Major says that I wasn’t expected back, an’-an’, one thing leadin’ to another-to cut a long story short-I went up before our Major-Major-I shall forget my own name next-Major–‘

‘Never mind,’ Anthony interrupted. ‘Go on! It’ll come back in talk!’

”Alf a mo’. ‘Twas on the tip o’ my tongue then.’

Humberstall dropped the polishing-cloth and knitted his brows again in most profound thought. Anthony turned to me and suddenly launched into a sprightly tale of his taxi’s collision with a Marble Arch refuge on a greasy day after a three-yard skid.

”Much damage?’ I asked.

‘Oh no! Ev’ry bolt an’ screw an’ nut on the chassis strained; but nothing carried away, you understand me, an’ not a scratch on the body. You’d never ‘ave guessed a thing wrong till you took ‘er in hand. It was a wop too: ‘ead-on-like this!’ And he slapped his tactful little forehead to show what a knock it had been.

‘Did your Major dish you up much?’ he went on over his shoulder to Humberstall, who came out of his abstraction with a slow heave.

‘We-ell! He told me I wasn’t expected back either; an’ he said ‘e couldn’t ‘ang up the ‘ole Circus till I’d rejoined; an’ he said that my ten-inch Skoda which I’d been Number Three of, before the dump went up at Eatables, had ‘er full crowd. But, ‘e said, as soon as a casualty occurred he’d remember me. “Meantime,” says he, “I particularly want you for actin’ mess-waiter.”

‘”Beggin’ your pardon, sir,” I says perfectly respectful; “but I didn’t exactly come back for that, sir.”

‘”Beggin’ your pardon, ‘Umberstall,” says ‘e, “but I ‘appen to command the Circus! Now, you’re a sharp-witted man,” he says; “an’ what we’ve suffered from fool-waiters in Mess ‘as been somethin’ cruel. You’ll take on, from now-under instruction to Macklin ‘ere.” So this man, Macklin, that I was tellin’ you about, showed me my duties… ‘Ammick! I’ve got it! ‘Ammick was our Major, an’ Mosse was Captain!’ Humberstall celebrated his recapture of the name by labouring at the organ-panel on his knee.

‘Look out! You’ll smash it,’ Anthony protested.

‘Sorry! Mother’s often told me I didn’t know my strength. Now, here’s a curious thing. This Major of ours-it’s ail comin’ back to me-was a high-up divorce-court lawyer; an’ Mosse, our Captain, was Number One o’ Mosses Private Detective Agency. You’ve heard of it?’Wives watched while you wait, an’ so on. Well, these two ‘ad been registerin’ together, so to speak, in the Civil line for years on end, but hadn’t ever met till the War. Consequently, at Mess their talk was mostly about famous cases they’d been mixed up in. ‘Ammick told the Law- courts’ end o’ the business, an’ all what had been left out of the pleadin’s; an’ Mosse ‘ad the actual facts concernin’ the errin’ parties-in hotels an’ so on. I’ve heard better talk in our Mess than ever before or since. It comes o’ the Gunners bein’ a scientific corps.’

‘That be damned!’ said Anthony. ‘If anythin’ ‘appens to ’em they’ve got it all down in a book. There’s no book when your lorry dies on you in the ‘Oly Land. That’s brains.’

‘Well, then,’ Humberstall continued, ‘come on this secret society business that I started tellin’ you about. When those two-‘Ammick an’ Mosse-‘ad finished about their matrimonial relations-and, mind you, they weren’t radishes-they seldom or ever repeated-they’d begin, as often as not, on this Secret Society woman I was tellin’ you of-this Jane. She was the only woman I ever ‘eard ’em say a good word for. ‘Cordin’ to them Jane was a none-such. I didn’t know then she was a Society. ‘Fact is, I only ‘ung out ‘arf an ear in their direction at first, on account of bein’ under instruction for mess-duty to this Macklin man. What drew my attention to her was a new Lieutenant joinin’ up. We called ‘im “Gander” on account of his profeel, which was the identical bird. ‘E’d been a nactuary-workin’ out ‘ow long civilians ‘ad to live. Neither ‘Ammick nor Mosse wasted words on ‘im at Mess. They went on talking as usual, an’ in due time, as usual, they got back to Jane. Gander cocks one of his big chilblainy ears an’ cracks his cold finger joints. “By God! Jane?” says ‘e. “Yes, Jane,” says ‘Ammick pretty short an’ senior. “Praise ‘Eaven!” says Gander.” It was ‘Bubbly’ where I’ve come from down the line.” (Some damn revue or other, I expect.) Well, neither ‘Ammick nor Mosse was easy-mouthed, or for that matter mealy-mouthed; but no sooner ‘ad Gander passed that remark than they both shook ‘ands with the young squirt across the table an’ called for the port back again. It was a password, all right! Then they went at it about Jane-all three, regardless of rank. That made me listen. Presently, I ‘eard ‘Ammick say–‘

”Arf a mo’,’ Anthony cut in. ‘But what was you doin’ in Mess?’

‘Me an’ Macklin was refixin’ the sand-bag screens to the dug-out passage in case o’ gas. We never knew when we’d cop it in the ‘Eavies, don’t you see? But we knew we ‘ad been looked for for some time, an’ it might come any minute. But, as I was sayin’, ‘Ammick says what a pity ’twas Jane ‘ad died barren. “I deny that,” says Mosse. “I maintain she was fruitful in the ‘ighest sense o’ the word.” An’ Mosse knew about such things, too. “I’m inclined to agree with ‘Ammick,” says young Gander. “Any’ow, she’s left no direct an’ lawful prog’ny.” I remember every word they said, on account o’ what ‘appened subsequently. I ‘adn’t noticed Macklin much, or I’d ha’ seen he was bosko absoluto. Then ‘e cut in, leanin’ over a packin’-case with a face on ‘im like a dead mackerel in the dark. “Pa-hardon me, gents,” Macklin says, “but this is a matter on which I do ‘appen to be moderately well-informed. She did leave lawful issue in the shape o’ one son; an’ ‘is name was ‘Enery James.”

‘”By what sire? Prove it,” says Gander, before ‘is senior officers could get in a word.

‘”I will,” says Macklin, surgin’ on ‘is two thumbs. An’, mark you, none of ’em spoke! I forget whom he said was the sire of this ‘Enery James-man; but ‘e delivered ’em a lecture on this Jane-woman for more than a quarter of an hour. I know the exact time, because my old Skoda was on duty at ten-minute intervals reachin’ after some Jerry formin’- up area; and her blast always put out the dug-out candles. I relit ’em once, an’ again at the end. In conclusion, this Macklin fell flat forward on ‘is face, which was how ‘e generally wound up ‘is notion of a perfect day. Bosko absoluto!

‘”Take ‘im away,” says ‘Ammick to me. “‘E’s sufferin’ from shell- shock.”

‘To cut a long story short, that was what first put the notion into my ‘ead. Wouldn’t it you? Even ‘ad Macklin been a ‘ighup Mason–‘

‘Wasn’t ‘e, then?’ said Anthony, a little puzzled.

”E’d never gone beyond the Blue Degrees, ‘e told me. Any’ow, ‘e’d lectured ‘is superior officers up an’ down; ‘e’d as good as called ’em fools most o’ the time, in ‘is toff’s voice. I ‘eard ‘im an’ I saw ‘im. An’ all he got was-me told off to put ‘im to bed! And all on account o’ Jane! Would you have let a thing like that get past you? Nor me, either! Next mornin’, when his stummick was settled, I was at him full-cry to find out ‘ow it was worked. Toff or no toff, ‘e knew his end of a bargain. First, ‘e wasn’t takin’ any. He said I wasn’t fit to be initiated into the Society of the Janeites. That only meant five bob more-fifteen up to date.

‘”Make it one Bradbury,” ‘e says. “It’s dirt-cheap. You saw me ‘old the Circus in the ‘ollow of me ‘and?”

‘No denyin’ it. I ‘ad. So, for one pound, he communicated me the Password of the First Degree, which was Tilniz an’ trap-doors.

‘”I know what a trap-door is,” I says to ‘im, “but what in ‘ell’s Tilniz?”‘

‘”You obey orders,” ‘e says, “an’ next time I ask you what you’re thinkin’ about you’ll answer, ‘Tilniz an’ trap-doors,’ in a smart and soldierly manner. I’ll spring that question at me own time. All you’ve got to do is to be distinck.”

‘We settled all this while we was skinnin’ spuds for dinner at the back o’ the rear-truck under our camouflage-screens. Gawd, ‘ow that glue-paint did stink! Otherwise, ’twasn’t so bad, with the sun comin’ through our pantomime-leaves, an’ the wind marcelling the grasses in the cutting. Well, one thing leading to another, nothin’ further ‘appened in this direction till the afternoon. We ‘ad a high standard o’ livin’ in Mess-an’ in the Group, for that matter. I was talon’ away Mosses lunch-dinner ‘e would never call it-an’ Mosse was fillin’ ‘is cigarette-case previous to the afternoon’s duty. Macklin, in the passage, comin’ in as if ‘e didn’t know Mosse was there, slings ‘is question at me, an’ I give the countersign in a low but quite distinck voice, makin’ as if I ‘adn’t seen Mosse. Mosse looked at me through and through, with his cigarette-case in his ‘and. Then ‘e jerks out ‘arf a dozen-best Turkish-on the table an’ exits. I pinched ’em an’ divvied with Macklin.

‘”You see ‘ow it works,” says Macklin. “Could you ‘ave invested a Bradbury to better advantage?”

‘”So far, no,” I says. “Otherwise, though, if they start provin’ an’ tryin’ me, I’m a dead bird. There must be a lot more to this Janeite game.”

‘”‘Eaps an’ ‘eaps,” he says. “But to show you the sort of ‘eart I ‘ave, I’ll communicate you all the ‘Igher Degrees among the Janeites, includin’ the Charges, for another Bradbury; but you’ll ‘ave to work, Dobbin.”‘

”Pretty free with your Bradburys, wasn’t you?’ Anthony grunted disapprovingly.

‘What odds? Ac-tually, Gander told us, we couldn’t expect to av’rage more than six weeks longer apiece, an’, any’ow, I never regretted it. But make no mistake-the preparation was somethin’ cruel. In the first place, I come under Macklin for direct instruction re Jane.’

‘Oh! Jane was real, then?’ Anthony glanced for an instant at me as he put the question. ‘I couldn’t quite make that out.’

‘Real!’ Humberstall’s voice rose almost to a treble. ‘Jane? Why, she was a little old maid ‘oo’d written ‘alf a dozen books about a hundred years ago. ‘Twasn’t as if there was anythin’ to ’em, either. I know. I had to read ’em. They weren’t adventurous, nor smutty, nor what you’d call even interestin’-all about girls o’ seventeen (they begun young then, I tell you), not certain ‘oom they’d like to marry; an’ their dances an’ card-parties an’ picnics, and their young blokes goin’ off to London on ‘orseback for ‘air-cuts an’ shaves. It took a full day in those days, if you went to a proper barber. They wore wigs, too, when they was chemists or clergymen. All that interested me on account o’ me profession, an’ cuttin’ the men’s ‘air every fortnight. Macklin used to chip me about bein’ an ‘air-dresser. ‘E could pass remarks, too!’

Humberstall recited with relish a fragment of what must have been a superb comminationservice, ending with, ‘You lazy-minded, lousyheaded, long-trousered, perfumed perookier.’

‘An’ you took it?’ Anthony’s quick eyes ran over the man.

‘Yes. I was after my money’s worth; an’ Macklin, havin’ put ‘is ‘and to the plough, wasn’t one to withdraw it. Otherwise, if I’d pushed ‘im, I’d ha’ slew ‘im. Our Battery Sergeant Major nearly did. For Macklin had a wonderful way o’ passing remarks on a man’s civil life; an’ he put it about that our B.S.M. had run a dope an’ dolly-shop with a Chinese woman, the wrong end o’ Southwark Bridge. Nothin’ you could lay ‘old of, o’ course; but–‘ Humberstall let us draw our own conclusions.

‘That reminds me,’ said Anthony, smacking his lips. ‘I ‘ad a bit of a fracas with a fare in the Fulham Road last month. He called me a paras-tit-ic Forder. I informed ‘im I was owner-driver, an’ ‘e could see for ‘imself the cab was quite clean. That didn’t suit ‘im. ‘E said it was crawlin’.’

‘What happened?’ I asked.

‘One o’ them blue-bellied Bolshies of postwar Police (neglectin’ point-duty, as usual) asked us to flirt a little quieter. My joker chucked some Arabic at ‘im. That was when we signed the Armistice. ‘E’d been a Yeoman-a perishin’ Gloucestershire Yeoman-that I’d helped gather in the orange crop with at Jaffa, in the ‘Oly Land!’

‘And after that?’ I continued.

‘It ‘ud be ‘ard to say. I know ‘e lived at Hendon or Cricklewood. I drove ‘im there. We must ‘ave talked Zionism or somethin’, because at seven next mornin’ him an’ me was tryin’ to get petrol out of a milkshop at St. Albans. They ‘adn’t any. In lots o’ ways this war has been a public noosance, as one might say, but there’s no denyin’ it ‘elps you slip through life easier. The dairyman’s son ‘ad done time on Jordan with camels. So he stood us rum an’ milk.’

‘Just like ‘avin’ the Password, eh?’ was Humberstall’s comment.

‘That’s right! Ours was Imshee kelb. Not so ‘ard to remember as your Jane stuff.’

‘Jane wasn’t so very ‘ard-not the way Macklin used to put ‘er,’ Humberstall resumed. ‘I ‘ad only six books to remember. I learned the names by ‘eart as Macklin placed ’em. There was one called Persuasion, first; an’ the rest in a bunch, except another about some Abbey or other-last by three lengths. But, as I was sayin’, what beat me was there was nothin’ to ’em nor in ’em. Nothin’ at all, believe me.’

‘You seem good an’ full of ’em, any’ow,’ said Anthony.

‘I mean that ‘er characters was no use! They was only just like people you run across any day. One of ’em was a curate-the Reverend Collins- always on the make an’ lookin’ to marry money. Well, when I was a Boy Scout, ‘im or ‘is twin brother was our troop-leader. An’ there was an upstandin’ ‘ard-mouthed Duchess or a Baronet’s wife that didn’t give a curse for any one ‘oo wouldn’t do what she told ’em to; the Lady-Lady Catherine (I’ll get it in a minute) De Bugg. Before Ma bought the ‘airdressin’ business in London I used to know of an ‘olesale grocer’s wife near Leicester (I’m Leicestershire myself) that might ‘ave been ‘er duplicate. And-oh yes-there was a Miss Bates; just an old maid runnin’ about like a hen with ‘er ‘ead cut off, an’ her tongue loose at both ends. I’ve got an aunt like ‘er. Good as gold-but, you know.’

‘Lord, yes!’ said Anthony, with feeling. ‘An’ did you find out what Tilniz meant? I’m always huntin’ after the meanin’ of things mesel?’

‘Yes, ‘e was a swine of a Major-General, retired, and on the make. They’re all on the make, in a quiet way, in Jane. ‘E was so much of a gentleman by ‘is own estimation that ‘e was always be’avin’ like a hound. You know the sort. ‘Turned a girl out of ‘is own ‘ouse because she ‘adn’t any money-after, mark you, encouragin’ ‘er to set ‘er cap at his son, because ‘e thought she had.’

‘But that ‘appens all the time,’ said Anthony. ‘Why, me own mother–‘

‘That’s right. So would mine. But this Tilney was a man, an’ some’ow Jane put it down all so naked it made you ashamed. I told Macklin that, an’ he said I was shapin’ to be a good Janeite. ‘Twasn’t his fault if I wasn’t. ‘Nother thing, too; ‘avin’ been at the Bath Mineral Waters ‘Ospital in ‘Sixteen, with trench-feet, was a great advantage to me, because I knew the names o’ the streets where Jane ‘ad lived. There was one of ’em-Laura, I think, or some other girl’s name-which Macklin said was ‘oly ground. “If you’d been initiated then,” he says, “you’d ha’ felt your flat feet tingle every time you walked over those sacred pavin’-stones.”

‘”My feet tingled right enough,” I said, “but not on account of Jane. Nothin’ remarkable about that,” I says.

‘”‘Eaven lend me patience!” he says, combin’ ‘is ‘air with ‘is little hands. “Every dam’ thing about Jane is remarkable to a pukka Janeite! It was there,” he says, “that Miss What’s-herName” (he had the name; I’ve forgotten it) “made up ‘er engagement again, after nine years, with Captain T’other Bloke.” An’ he dished me out a page an’ a half of one of the books to learn by ‘eart-Persuasion, I think it was.’

”You quick at gettin’ things off by ‘eart?’ Anthony demanded.

‘Not as a rule. I was then, though, or else Macklin knew ‘ow to deliver the Charges properly. ‘E said ‘e’d been some sort o’ schoolmaster once, and he’d make my mind resume work or break ‘imself. That was just before the Battery Sergeant-Major ‘ad it in for him on account o’ what he’d been sayin’ about the Chinese wife an’ the dollyshop.’

‘What did Macklin really say?’ Anthony and I asked together. Humberstall gave us a fragment. It was hardly the stuff to let loose on a pious post-war world without revision.

‘And what had your B.S.M. been in civil life?’ I asked at the end.

”Ead-embalmer to an ‘olesale undertaker in the Midlands,’ said Humberstall; ‘but, o’ course, when he thought ‘e saw his chance he naturally took it. He came along one mornin’ lickin’ ‘is lips. “You don’t get past me this time,” ‘e says to Macklin. “You’re for it, Professor.”

‘”‘Ow so, me gallant Major,” says Macklin; “an’ what for?”

‘”For writin’ obese words on the breech o’ the ten-inch,” says the B.S.M. She was our old Skoda that I’ve been tellin’ you about. We called ‘er “Bloody Eliza.” She ‘ad a badly wore obturator an’ blew through a fair treat. I knew by Macklin’s face the B.S.M. ‘ad dropped it somewhere, but all he vow’saifed was, “Very good, Major. We will consider it in Common Room,” The B.S.M, couldn’t ever stand Macklin’s toff’s way o’ puttin’ things; so he goes off rumblin’ like ‘ell’s bells in an ‘urricane, as the Marines say. Macklin put it to me at once, what had I been doin’? Some’ow he could read me like a book.

‘Well, all I’d done-an’ I told ‘im he was responsible for it-was to chalk the guns. ‘Ammick never minded what the men wrote up on ’em. ‘E said it gave ’em an interest in their job. You’d see all sorts of remarks chalked on the sideplates or the gear-casin’s.’

‘What sort of remarks?’ said Anthony keenly.

‘Oh! ‘Ow Bloody Eliza, or Spittin’ Jim-that was our old Mark Five Nine-point-two-felt that morning, an’ such things. But it ‘ad come over me-more to please Macklin than anythin’ else-that it was time we Janeites ‘ad a look in. So, as I was tellin’ you, I’d taken an’ rechristened all three of ’em, on my own, early that mornin’. Spittin’ Jim I ‘ad chalked “The Reverend Collins”-that Curate I was tellin’ you about; an’ our cut-down Navy Twelve, “General Tilney,” because it was worse wore in the groovin’ than anything I’d ever seen. The Skoda (an’ that was where I dropped it) I ‘ad chalked up “The Lady Catherine De Bugg.” I made a clean breast of it all to Macklin. He reached up an’ patted me on the shoulder. “You done nobly,” he says. “You’re bringin’ forth abundant fruit, like a good Janeite. But I’m afraid your spellin’ has misled our worthy B.S.M. That’s what it is,” ‘e says, slappin’ ‘is little leg. “‘Ow might you ‘ave spelt De Bourgh for example?”

‘I told ‘im. ‘Twasn’t right; an’ ‘e nips off to the Skoda to make it so. When ‘e comes back, ‘e says that the Gander ‘ad been before ‘im an’ corrected the error. But we two come up before the Major, just the same, that afternoon after lunch; ‘Ammick in the chair, so to speak, Mosse in another, an’ the B.S.M, chargin’ Macklin with writin’ obese words on His Majesty’s property, on active service. When it transpired that me an’ not Macklin was the offendin’ party, the B.S.M, turned ‘is hand in and sulked like a baby. ‘E as good as told ‘Ammick ‘e couldn’t hope to preserve discipline unless examples was made-meanin’, o’ course, Macklin.’

‘Yes, I’ve heard all that,’ said Anthony, with a contemptuous grunt. ‘The worst of it is, a lot of it’s true.’

”Ammick took ‘im up sharp about Military Law, which he said was even more fair than the civilian article.’

‘My Gawd!’ This came from Anthony’s scornful midmost bosom.

‘”Accordin’ to the unwritten law of the ‘Eavies,” says ‘Ammick, “there’s no objection to the men chalkin’ the guns, if decency is preserved. On the other ‘and,” says he, “we ‘aven’t yet settled the precise status of individuals entitled so to do. I ‘old that the privilege is confined to combatants only.”

‘”With the permission of the Court,” says Mosse, who was another born lawyer, “I’d like to be allowed to join issue on that point. Prisoner’s position is very delicate an’ doubtful, an’ he has no legal representative.”

‘”Very good,” says ‘Ammick. “Macklin bein’ acquitted–”

‘”With submission, me lud,” says Mosse. “I hope to prove ‘e was accessory before the fact.”

‘”As you please,” says ‘Ammick. “But in that case, ‘oo the ‘ell’s goin’ to get the port I’m tryin’ to stand the Court?”

‘”I submit,” says Mosse, “prisoner, bein’ under direct observation o’ the Court, could be temporarily enlarged for that duty.”

‘So Macklin went an’ got it, an’ the B.S.M. had ‘is glass with the rest. Then they argued whether mess servants an’ non-combatants was entitled to chalk the guns (‘Ammick versus Mosse). After a bit, ‘Ammick as C.O. give ‘imself best, an’ me an’ Macklin was severely admonished for trespassin’ on combatants’ rights, an’ the B.S.M. was warned that if we repeated the offence ‘e could deal with us summ’rily. He ‘ad some glasses o’ port an’ went out quite ‘appy. Then my turn come, while Macklin was gettin’ them their tea; an’ one thing leadin’ to another, ‘Ammick put me through all the Janeite Degrees, you might say. ‘Never ‘ad such a doin’ m my life.’

‘Yes, but what did you tell ’em?’ said Anthony. ‘I can’t ever think my lies quick enough when I’m for it.’

‘No need to lie. I told ’em that the backside view o’ the Skoda, when she was run up, put Lady De Bugg into my ‘ead. They gave me right there, but they said I was wrong about General Tilney. ‘Cordin’ to them, our Navy twelve-inch ought to ‘ave been christened Miss Bates. I said the same idea ‘ad crossed my mind, till I’d seen the General’s groovin’. Then I felt it had to be the General or nothin’. But they give me full marks for the Reverend Collins-our Nine-point-two.’

‘An’ you fed ’em that sort o’ talk?’ Anthony’s fox-coloured eyebrows climbed almost into his hair.

‘While I was assistin’ Macklin to get tea-yes. Seem’ it was an examination, I wanted to do ‘im credit as a Janeite.’

‘An’-an’ what did they say?’

‘They said it was ‘ighly creditable to us both. I don’t drink, so they give me about a hundred fags.’

‘Gawd! What a Circus you must ‘ave been,’ was Anthony’s gasping comment.

‘It was a ‘appy little Group. I wouldn’t ‘a changed with any other.’

Humberstall sighed heavily as he helped Anthony slide back the organ- panel. We all admired it in silence, while Anthony repocketed his secret polishing mixture, which lived in a tin tobacco-box. I had neglected my work for listening to Humberstall. Anthony reached out quietly and took over a Secretary’s jewel and a rag. Humberstall studied his reflection in the glossy wood.

‘Almost,’ he said critically, holding his head to one side.

‘Not with an Army. You could with a Safety, though,’ said Anthony. And, indeed, as Brother Burges had foretold, one might have shaved in it with comfort.

‘Did you ever run across any of ’em afterwards, any time?’ Anthony asked presently.

‘Not so many of ’em left to run after, now. With the ‘Eavies it’s mostly neck or nothin’. We copped it. In the neck. In due time.’

‘Well, you come out of it all right.’ Anthony spoke both stoutly and soothingly; but Humberstall would not be comforted.

‘That’s right; but I almost wish I ‘adn’t,’ he sighed. ‘I was ‘appier there than ever before or since. Jerry’s March push in ‘Eighteen did us in; an’ yet, ‘ow could we ‘ave expected it?’Ow could we ‘ave expected it? We’d been sent back for rest an’ runnin’-repairs, back pretty near our base; an’ our old loco’ that used to shift us about o’ nights, she’d gone down the line for repairs. But for ‘Ammick we wouldn’t even ‘ave ‘ad our camouflage-screens up. He told our Brigadier that, whatever ‘e might be in the Gunnery line, as a leadin’ Divorce lawyer he never threw away a point in argument. So ‘e ‘ad us all screened in over in a cuttin’ on a little spur-line near a wood; an’ ‘e saw to the screens ‘imself. The leaves weren’t more than comin’ out then, an’ the sun used to make our glue-paint stink. Just like actin’ in a theatre, it was! But ‘appy. But ‘appy! I expect if we’d been caterpillars, like the new big six-inch hows, they’d ha’ remembered us. But we was the old La Bassee ’15 Mark o’ Heavies that ran on rails-not much more good than scrap-iron that late in the war. An’, believe me, gents-or Brethren, as I should say-we copped it cruel. Look ‘ere! It was in the afternoon, an’ I was watchin’ Gander instructin’ a class in new sights at Lady Catherine. All of a sudden I ‘eard our screens rip overhead, an’ a runner on a motor-bike come sailin’, sailin’ through the air-like that bloke that used to bicycle off Brighton Pier-and landed one awful wop almost atop o’ the class. “‘Old ‘ard,” says Gander. “That’s no way to report. What’s the fuss?” “Your screens ‘ave broke my back, for one thing,” says the bloke on the ground; “an’ for another, the ‘ole front’s gone.” “Nonsense,” says Gander. ‘E ‘adn’t more than passed the remark when the man was vi’lently sick an’ conked out. ‘E ‘ad plenty papers on ‘im from Brigadiers and C.O.’s reporting ’emselves cut off an’ askin’ for orders. ‘E was right both ways-his back an’ our front. The ‘ole Somme front washed out as clean as kiss-me-‘and!’ His huge hand smashed down open on his knee.

‘We ‘eard about it at the time in the ‘Oly Land. Was it reelly as quick as all that?’ said Anthony.

‘Quicker! Look ‘ere! The motor-bike dropped in on us about four pip- emma. After that, we tried to get orders o’ some kind or other, but nothin’ came through excep’ that all available transport was in use and not likely to be released. That didn’t ‘elp us any. About nine o’clock comes along a young Brass ‘At in brown gloves. We was quite a surprise to ‘im. ‘E said they were evacuating the area and we’d better shift. “Where to?” says ‘Ammick, rather short.

‘”Oh, somewhere Amiens way,” he says. “Not that I’d guarantee Amiens for any length o’ time; but Amiens might do to begin with.” I’m giving you the very words. Then ‘e goes off swingin’ ‘is brown gloves, and ‘Ammick sends for Gander and orders ‘im to march the men through Amiens to Dieppe; book thence to New’aven, take up positions be’ind Seaford, an’ carry on the war. Gander said ‘e’d see ‘im damned first. ‘Ammick says ‘e’d see ‘im courtmartialled after. Gander says what ‘e meant to say was that the men ‘ud see all an’ sundry damned before they went into Arniens with their gunsights wrapped up in their puttees. ‘Ammick says ‘e ‘adn’t said a word about puttees, an’ carryin’ off the gunsights was purely optional. “Well, anyhow,” says Gander, “puttees or drawers, they ain’t goin’ to shift a step unless you lead the procession.”

‘”Mutinous ‘ounds,” says ‘Amrnick. “But we live in a democratic age. D’you suppose they’d object to kindly diggin’ ’emselves in a bit?” “Not at all,” says Gander. “The B.S.M.’s kept ’em at it like terriers for the last three hours.” “That bein’ so,” says ‘Ammick, “Macklin’ll now fetch us small glasses o’ port.” Then Mosse comes in-he could smell port a mile off-an’ he submits we’d only add to the congestion in Amiens if we took our crowd there, whereas, if we lay doggo where we was, Jerry might miss us, though he didn’t seem to be missin’ much that evenin’.

‘The ‘ole country was pretty noisy, an’ our dumps we’d lit ourselves flarin’ heavens-high as far as you could see. Lyin’ doggo was our best chance. I believe we might ha’ pulled it off, if we’d been left alone, but along towards midnight-there was some small stuff swishin’ about, but nothin’ particular-a nice little bald-headed old gentleman in uniform pushes into the dug-out wipin’ his glasses an’ sayin’ ‘e was thinkin’ o’ formin’ a defensive flank on our left with ‘is battalion which ‘ad just come up. ‘Ammick says ‘e wouldn’t form much if ‘e was ‘im. “Oh, don’t say that,” says the old gentleman, very shocked. “One must support the Guns, mustn’t one?” “‘Ammick says we was refittin’ an’ about as effective, just then, as a public lav’tory. “Go into Amiens,” he says, “an’ defend ’em there.” “Oh no,” says the old gentleman, “me an’ my laddies must make a defensive flank for you,” an’ he flips out of the dug-out like a performin’ bullfinch, chirruppin’ for his “laddies.” Gawd in ‘Eaven knows what sort o’ push they was-little boys mostly-but they ‘ung on to ‘is coat-tails like a Sunday-school treat, an’ we ‘eard ’em muckin’ about in the open for a bit. Then a pretty tight barrage was slapped down for ten minutes, an’ ‘Ammick thought the laddies had copped it already. “It’ll be our turn next,” says Mosse. “There’s been a covey o’ Gothas messin’ about for the last ‘alf-hour-lookin’ for the Railway Shops, I expect. They’re just as likely to take us.” “Arisin’ out o’ that,” says ‘Ammick, “one of ’em sounds pretty low down now. We’re for it, me learned colleagues!” “Jesus!” says Gander, “I believe you’re right, sir.” And that was the last word I ‘eard on the matter.’

‘Did they cop you then?’ said Anthony.

‘They did. I expect Mosse was right, an’ they took us for the Railway Shops. When I come to, I was lyin’ outside the cuttin’, which was pretty well filled up. The Reverend Collins was all right; but Lady Catherine and the General was past prayin’ for. I lay there, takin’ it in, till I felt cold an’ I looked at meself. Otherwise, I ‘adn’t much on excep’ me boots. So I got up an’ walked about to keep warm. Then I saw somethin’ like a mushroom in the moonlight. It was the nice old gentleman’s bald ‘ead. I patted it. ‘im and ‘is laddies ‘ad copped it right enough. Some battalion run out in a ‘urry from England, I suppose. They ‘adn’t even begun to dig in-pore little perishers! I dressed myself off ’em there, an’ topped off with a British warm. Then I went back to the cuttin’ an’ some one says to me: “Dig, you ox, dig! Gander’s under.” So I ‘elped shift things till I threw up blood an’ bile mixed. Then I dropped, an’ they brought Gander out-dead-an’ laid ‘im next me. ‘Ammick ‘ad gone too-fair tore in ‘alf, the B.S.M. said; but the funny thing was he talked quite a lot before ‘e died, an’ nothin’ to ‘im below ‘is stummick, they told me. Mosse we never found. ‘E’d been standing by Lady Catherine. She’d up-ended an’ gone back on ’em, with ‘alf the cuttin’ atop of ‘er, by the look of things.’

‘And what come to Macklin?’ said Anthony.

‘Dunno…’E was with ‘Ammick. I expect I must ha’ been blown clear of all by the first bomb; for I was the on’y Janeite left. We lost about half our crowd, either under, or after we’d got ’em out. The B.S.M. went off ‘is rocker when mornin’ came, an’ he ran about from one to another sayin’: “That was a good push! That was a great crowd! Did ye ever know any push to touch ’em?” An’ then ‘e’d cry. So what was left of us made off for ourselves, an’ I came across a lorry, pretty full, but they took me in.’

‘Ah!’ said Anthony with pride. ‘”They all take a taxi when it’s rainin’.” ‘Ever ‘eard that song?’

‘They went a long way back. Then I walked a bit, an’ there was a hospital-train fillin’ up, an’ one of the Sisters-a grey-headed one- ran at me wavin’ ‘er red ‘ands an’ sayin’ there wasn’t room for a louse in it. I was past carin’. But she went on talkin’ and talkin’ about the war, an’ her pa in Ladbroke Grove, an’ ‘ow strange for ‘er at ‘er time of life to be doin’ this work with a lot o’ men, an’ next war, ‘ow the nurses ‘ud ‘ave to wear khaki breeches on account o’ the mud, like the Land Girls; an’ that reminded ‘er, she’d boil me an egg if she could lay ‘ands on one, for she’d run a chicken-farm once. You never ‘eard anythin’ like it-outside o’ Jane. It set me off laughin’ again. Then a woman with a nose an’ teeth on ‘er, marched up. “What’s all this?” she says. “What do you want?” “Nothing,” I says, “only make Miss Bates, there, stop talkin’ or I’ll die.” “Miss Bates?” she says. “What in ‘Eaven’s name makes you call ‘er that?” “Because she is,” I says. “D’you know what you’re sayin’?” she says, an’ slings her bony arm round me to get me off the ground. “‘Course I do,” I says, “an’ if you knew Jane you’d know too.” “That’s enough,” says she. “You’re comin’ on this train if I have to kill a Brigadier for you,” an’ she an’ an ord’ly fair hove me into the train, on to a stretcher close to the cookers. That beef-tea went down well! Then she shook ‘ands with me an’ said I’d hit off Sister Molyneux in one, an’ then she pinched me an extra blanket. It was ‘er own ‘ospital pretty much. I expect she was the Lady Catherine de Bourgh of the area. Well, an’ so, to cut a long story short, nothing further transpired.’

”Adn’t you ‘ad enough by then?’ asked Anthony.

‘I expect so. Otherwise, if the old Circus ‘ad been carryin’ on, I might ‘ave ‘ad another turn with ’em before Armistice. Our B.S.M. was right. There never was a ‘appier push. ‘Ammick an’ Mosse an’ Gander an’ the B.S.M. an’ that pore little Macklin man makin’ an’ passin’ an’ raisin’ me an’ gettin’ me on to the ‘ospital train after ‘e was dead, all for a couple of Bradburys. I lie awake nights still, reviewing matters. There never was a push to touch ours-never!’

Anthony handed me back the Secretary’s Jewel resplendent.

‘Ah,’ said he. ‘No denyin’ that Jane business was more useful to you than the Roman Eagles or the Star an’ Garter. ‘Pity there wasn’t any of you Janeites in the ‘Oly Land. I never come across ’em.’

‘Well, as pore Macklin said, it’s a very select Society, an’ you’ve got to be a Janeite in your ‘eart, or you won’t have any success. An’ yet he made me a Janeite! I read all her six books now for pleasure ‘tween times in the shop; an’ it brings it all back-down to the smell of the glue-paint on the screens. You take it from me, Brethren, there’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight place. Gawd bless ‘er, whoever she was.’

Worshipful Brother Burges, from the floor of the Lodge, called us all from Labour to Refreshment. Humberstall hove himself up-so very a cart-horse of a man one almost expected to hear the harness creak on his back-and descended the steps.

He said he could not stay for tea because he had promised his mother to come home for it, and she would most probably be waiting for him now at the Lodge door.

‘One or other of ’em always comes for ‘im. He’s apt to miss ‘is gears sometimes,’ Anthony explained to me, as we followed.

‘Goes on a bust, d’you mean?’

”Im! He’s no more touched liquor than ‘e ‘as women since ‘e was born. No, ‘e’s liable to a sort o’ quiet fits, like. They came on after the dump blew up at Eatables. But for them, ‘e’d ha’ been Battery Sergeant-Major.’

‘Oh!’ I said. ‘I couldn’t make out why he took on as mess-waiter when he got back to his guns. That explains things a bit.’

”Is sister told me the dump goin’ up knocked all ‘is Gunnery instruction clean out of ‘im. The only thing ‘e stuck to was to get back to ‘is old crowd. Gawd knows ‘ow ‘e worked it, but ‘e did. He fair deserted out of England to ’em, she says; an’ when they saw the state ‘e was in, they ‘adn’t the ‘eart to send ‘im back or into ‘ospital. They kep’ ‘im for a mascot, as you might say. That’s all dead-true. ‘Is sister told me so. But I can’t guarantee that Janeite business, excep’ ‘e never told a lie since ‘e was six. ‘Is sister told me so. What do you think?’

‘He isn’t likely to have made it up out of his own head,’ I replied.

‘But people don’t get so crazy-fond o’ books as all that, do they?’E’s made ‘is sister try to read ’em. She’d do anythin’ to please him. But, as I keep tellin’ ‘er, so’d ‘is mother. D’you ‘appen to know anything about Jane?’

‘I believe Jane was a bit of a match-maker in a quiet way when she was alive, and I know all her books are full of match-making,’ I said. ‘You’d better look out.’

‘Oh, that’s as good as settled,’ Anthony replied, blushing.