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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

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Rachel Dodge on Writing “Praying with Jane”

The inspiration behind "Praying With Jane"

Author Rachel Dodge details the inspirations and process behind her new book Praying with Jane.

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“Prayers Composed by my ever dear Sister Jane”

 

My first introduction to Jane Austen’s prayers, over a decade ago, happened by chance. I was in graduate school, working on my master’s thesis on Pride and Prejudice, when I found them at the back of the Chapman edition of Austen’s novels (in the Minor Works volume). At the time, I thought the prayers were beautifully written and wondered why I had heard so little about them.

Continue reading Rachel Dodge on Writing “Praying with Jane”

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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?

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Austen Superpowers: Self-Awareness & True Love

Jane Austen superpowers in Emma
Austen Superpowers: Self-Awareness & True Love
Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.

Can self-importance, meddling, and delusion be considered superpowers?

Hardly. And yet, the self-congratulating and clueless titular heroine of Jane Austen’s Emma rises above being the character that Austen thought that no one but herself would like. In the course of the story, Emma has a series of aha! moments about herself. More important, she acts on that self-awareness.

via GIPHY –Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, a brilliant adaptation of Emma.

In a Jane Austen novel, a lady can only earn her cape by acknowledging that there are are huge cracks in what she once thought was the truth.

Once she tears down that wall of delusion and replaces it with wisdom, the heroine-in-training develops more self-awareness, more self-empowerment, and more capability to create happiness than she ever had before. That is what Emma does. For that is what Austen superpowers are all about.

Emma’s Austen superpower #1: Acknowledging one’s cruelty and choosing kindness instead.

Emma realizes – with the tough-love help of her dear friend Mr Knightley – that she really was unconscionably cruel to the babbling Miss Bates at the Box Hill picnic. For Emma, Knightley’s confrontation is a painful moment of self-awareness. But instead of retreating in angry pride or mortification, Emma attempts to make amends, paying a visit to Miss Bates, humbled and penitent, and works hard to restore herself as a friend.

via GIPHY And we couldn’t agree more. Jonny Lee Miller is Mr. Knightley to Romola Garai’s Emma in another fine adaptation.

 

Emma’s Austen superpower #2: Acknowledging one’s vanity as a weakness to be conquered.

Emma is shocked to learn that Frank Churchill, the man who has been openly flirting with her, is actually secretly engaged to a woman he had fake-gossiped about with Emma. What’s more shocking, however, is Emma’s realization of how her own vanity made her the perfect target for Frank’s duplicity. Emma realizes that Frank’s public admiration of her had flattered her vanity. And that flattery had rendered her blind. Though she is miffed at Frank for toying with her feelings when he was in reality engaged to another, Emma takes responsibility for her own vanity and weakness. She is especially pained when she realizes that her public flaunting of being the supposed object of Frank’s affections caused Frank’s fiancée a great deal of pain. She is also humbled and grateful for her lucky escape – imagine how much more painful her newfound self-awareness would have been if she really had fallen in love with such a man.

Emma’s Austen superpower #3: Acknowledging one’s blindness to the fact that what you want has been right in front of you all the time.

Emma has been raised to think well of herself, but she takes it much further than the typical indulged child. Emma is, in a sense, the queen of her little village of Highbury, with all but a few deemed to be her inferior subjects. One of the few neighbors whom she considers to be her equal is her old friend Mr. Knightley, who is her brother-in-law and, though sixteen years her senior, still a relatively young man. And yet Emma has never seen Mr. Knightley as anything but a friend, has never considered marriage to him or any man a possibility, except perhaps to Frank Churchill, and that because of a childhood fancy. That is, until the sneaking awareness of her dawning feelings for Mr. Knightley begin to niggle at the back of her brain after Emma’s former governess Mrs. Weston decides that Mr. Knightley is in love with another young woman in Highbury. But Emma’s true feelings for Mr. Knightley hit her full force when yet another young lady, Emma’s friend and protegée Harriet Smith, announces that not only is she herself in love with Mr. Knightley, but she also believes he returns her affections.

via GIPHY Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma in another excellent adaptation.

It is then that “it darted through her, with the speed of an arrow, that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!” That revelation, however is anything but glorious, for what if Mr. Knightley is indeed in love with Harriet? Even if he isn’t, how could a man who scolded her for being cruel to Miss Bates ever think such a woman worthy of his love?

In Jane Austen, self-awareness + right action leads to true love.

For the seasoned Austen fan, it comes as no surprise that Emma’s awakening takes her to to a perfect happily ever after. In the world of Austen stories, true love is the reward for unflinching self-examination and consequent action to bring the world back into balance. Yes, we Austen fans know what happens next. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to read and re-read Emma till the book covers falls off. Or stream the movies in between readings. Or ever get bored watching it all unfold.

via GIPHY Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam in Emma

 

Because we could all do with a long hard look in the mirror sometimes. And if Emma can do it, surely we can, too? Maybe all those readings and re-readings and screenings of Emma are getting us ready for our own aha moments. One can only hope. Or better still, observe. And act.

***

Austen Superpowers: Self Awareness & True Love was written by Laurie Viera Rigler – the author of the Jane Austen Addict series. Visit her at her website www.janeaustenaddict.com

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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.

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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 www.theatre6.co.uk/whatson.

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Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours With Anne Elliot

anne elliot

Anne Elliot: A quiet force to be reckoned with.

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.

Lizzy Bennet may be the one with all the flash and sparkle, but one should never underestimate one of Austen’s more reserved heroines, Anne Elliot of Persuasion.

At first glance, Anne may not seem to fit the typical ideal of a cape-wearing, save-the-day superhero, but let’s take a closer look at Miss Anne:

Austen Superpower 1: Grace under Fire.

Who had the presence of mind that no one else had when Louisa Musgrove fell from the Cobb at Lyme?

That’s right; Anne Elliot did. Everyone else was wailing and flailing while she was the voice of calm and reason in the midst of the emergency. She was the one who gave Captain Wentworth calm and rational directions as to how to help Louisa.

Austen Superpower 2: Trusting Observation and Instinct.

Who realized that Captain Wentworth was in love with her–despite his eight years of silence after she broke his heart, despite his ignoring her while happily being the Musgrove girls’ object of worship, and despite everyone else being ready to marry him off to Louisa Musgrove?

You got it; Anne Elliot. Though not by any stretch of the imagination conceited or vain, and despite having been brought up to think of herself as beneath the notice of everyone in her family (aside, that is, from Lady Russell and Anne’s own dear, departed mother ), this gentle soul’s keen gaze penetrated to Captain Wentworth’s very soul. She knew–knew, I say!–that he cared for her again. 

She knew this not from any direct declaration of Captain Wentworth’s, but from the way he talked of the unsuitability of the engagement of his friend Benwick to Louisa, and of Benwick’s inconstancy to Benwick’s fiancee, who died only a short time before.

Austen Superpower 3: The Courage to Act

Anne not only KNEW this, she acted upon it–granted, within the very limited means that a lady of her time was authorized to act, for as Anne herself said of the lot of females in general in the time of Jane Austen:

“We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us.”

How did she act upon it? She encouraged Captain Wentworth to stay at the concert when jealousy of his rival, Mr. Elliot, was driving him away. She wasn’t successful, but her encouragement may have given him something to think about.

She expressed her feelings about female constancy to Captain Wentworth’s dear friend Captain Harville. She did this not because she knew–which she did not–that Captain Wentworth could overhear her, nor did she do it because she imagined that Captain Harville might repeat her words to Captain Wentworth. No, she acted purely out of a wish to defend the integrity of women’s feelings that she so passionately believed in, and as a mark of her friendship with Captain Harville.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

And that was enough to jolt Captain Wentworth out of his comfort zone and into declaring his own feelings.

 

How can we cultivate our own inner Anne Elliot?

When in doubt, read the book. And/or see the movie(s).

We can also contemplate the following passages to cultivate each of Anne Elliot’s Austen superpowers:

Grace under fire.

Check out Miss Anne in the aftermath of Louisa Musgrove’s fall from the Cobb. This is the girl you’d want by your side in any emergency. Here are some snippets of Anne taking charge while everyone around her falls apart, including Captain Wentworth, who holds the unconscious Louisa in his arms; Louisa’s sister Henrietta, who falls into a faint at the sight of her sister; and Louisa’s brother Charles Musgrove, whose wife Mary is in her usual hysterics. 

Anne not only suggests they fetch a surgeon, but makes sure that Captain Benwick, who knows the area, is the one to do it. As they wait for the surgeon:

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

“Anne, Anne,” cried Charles, “What is to be done next? What, in heaven’s name, is to be done next?”

Captain Wentworth’s eyes were also turned towards her.

“Had not she better be carried to the inn? Yes, I am sure: carry her gently to the inn.”

“Yes, yes, to the inn,” repeated Captain Wentworth, comparatively collected, and eager to be doing something. “I will carry her myself. Musgrove, take care of the others.”

The courage to act.

When Captain Wentworth walked in alone to the concert in Bath, Anne had the courage to approach him and be friendly to him, despite the presence of her formidable father and sister, who had snubbed him previously. It doesn’t sound like much, but for a young single woman whose family had absolutely rejected him as a suitor eight years before and who  herself had been rejected in turn by that man when he returned from the war, Anne’s actions show tremendous courage and integrity: 

Anne was the nearest to him, and making yet a little advance, she instantly spoke. He was preparing only to bow and pass on, but her gentle “How do you do?” brought him out of the straight line to stand near her, and make enquiries in return, in spite of the formidable father and sister in the back ground. Their being in the back ground was a support to Anne; she knew nothing of their looks, and felt equal to everything which she believed right to be done.

Trusting observation and instinct. 

After Anne has a world-changing conversation with Captain Wentworth before a concert in Bath, in which he talks to her, for the first time, about the engagement of his friend Captain Benwick to Louisa Musgrove, she reviews it all in her head, and she doesn’t second-guess her observations at all:

His choice of subjects, his expressions, and still more his manner and look, had been such as she could see in only one light. His opinion of Louisa Musgrove’s inferiority, an opinion which he had seemed solicitous to give, his wonder at Captain Benwick, his feelings as to a first, strong attachment; sentences begun which he could not finish, his half averted eyes and more than half expressive glance, all, all declared that he had a heart returning to her at least; that anger, resentment, avoidance, were no more; and that they were succeeded, not merely by friendship and regard, but by the tenderness of the past. Yes, some share of the tenderness of the past. She could not contemplate the change as implying less. He must love her.

The same keenness of observation serves Anne well with respect to Captain Wentworth’s rival, Mr. Elliot:

Mr. Elliot was rational, discreet, polished, but he was not open. There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. Her early impressions were incurable. She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others. Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.

Doesn’t it make you want to read Persuasion again? Or for the first time? Oh yes, you are in for a treat!

Read on, my dears, and may you be blessed with Austen superpowers!

 

***

Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours with Anne Elliot was written by Laurie Viera Rigler – the author of the Jane Austen Addict series.

Visit her at her website www.janeaustenaddict.com

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A Library Talk About Jane Austen

by Margaret Mills

As a part-time adult education lecturer in English literature and history, I am never happier than when I am asked to deliver a course or a talk about Jane Austen’s life and work.

In October 2017 I was asked to give a talk at our local public library, and I was delighted to hear that this library, along with others in Essex, has decided to offer talks and refreshments in the evenings, when the library would normally be closed to the general public.  This particular library is offering a varied programme of different talks, and considering this is a fairly new venture, I was pleased to find that an audience of 18 people attended, all interested in learning more about Jane, aided by a slide presentation and followed by refreshments and a discussion.  Thanks to the articles and comments in the Jane Austen News I was also able to bring into my talk some more recent developments and discoveries about Jane, her life and times.

People are often surprised at how relatively unknown Jane was as an author at the time of her death.   The comment made by the verger of Winchester Cathedral to a gentleman visiting her grave is a perfect example of this: ‘Pray, sir, can you tell me whether there was anything particular about that lady: so many people want to know where she was buried?’ (Austen Leigh, James Edward. A Memoir of Jane Austen).  This really sums things up.   In today’s world, where we are inundated with the cult of ‘celebrity’, (too often based on very little in the way of genuine talent and ability), it strikes many people as amazing that she was seemingly content to stay in the background. Her letters to her beloved older sister, Cassandra, often project a wistful desire for recognition and acknowledgement, but this is concealed behind a self-effacing, dry humour.

Continue reading A Library Talk About Jane Austen