“Persuasion” is the last and the most mature work of Jane Austen which she was intending to revise a bit before publication at the time of her death.
The book was published posthumously with a title provided by her brother Henry. Persuasion has the best of construction, characterization and style amongst all Jane Austen works with deeper emotions than ever revealed elsewhere.
|Publisher||:||Peacock (2008), Harpercollins Uk (2010); And Others|
The story starts with Sir Walter Elliot, vain and imprudent, with only concerns in the world about physical beauty and pompous manners, facing a financial situation that forces him to rent his ancestral abode “Kellynch Hall” to relieve his debts. Of his three daughters Elizabeth, Anne and Mary, he is most attached to Elizabeth. Mary has married a wealthy gentleman of a respectable family living in the vicinity and Anne, with her mild temper and caring nature remains with her family only to receive negligence of her father and Elizabeth.
Anne’s best friend is Lady Russell who was an intimate friend of her late mother. At the very young age of eighteen, Anne had found love in Frederick Wentworth, but was persuaded by Lady Russell to give up the engagement, as at that time Frederick did not possess any fortune. And Anne who lost her bloom and her happiness with him never could get over the loss and still cherishes the affection for him secretly.
But the period of eight years after their break-up have changed the circumstances, rather reversed it, as the arrogant and in debt Baronet Sir Elliot is obliged to rent his estate to none other than the sister and brother-in-law of Frederick Wentworth. Sir Walter leaves with Elizabeth for Bath accompanied by a friend of Elizabeth, a widow Mrs. Clay, while Anne stays back at Kellynch. The first phase of her stay is to be spent with Mary and her husband Charles Musgrove, and second with Lady Russell.
While Anne is with Mary, Frederick, now Captain Wentworth, comes to visit his sister. It so happens that one of Charles’s younger brother had worked under Captain Wentworth and had died after a transfer from his ship. The connection is revived and soon Frederic becomes a daily visitor and acquaintance of the Musgroves, courting Misses Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove.
Frederick has not forgotten Anne, but he is still angry with her for giving him up. Though frequently thrown together, he doesn’t have anything to give to Anne but cold civility. Anne suffers in solitude as her heart grieves while attending everybody around her. Since, Henrietta is almost engaged to her cousin Charles Haytor, Louisa is considered as Captain Wentworth’s choice, and she once hearing from him his preference for a firm and resolute mind tends to become obstinate at times. The evil of such obstinacy is fully manifested in her meeting a fatal accident during their excursion at Lyme. It is here that Captain Wentworth starts understanding the requirement of having a calm and persuadable mind in addition to firmness of character.
Louisa and the Musgrove family stay at Lyme until her recovery but Anne is obliged to leave for Bath, where she is left without any news from Lyme. At Bath, she meets William Elliott, His father’s heir, who attends her with utmost attentions and civilities which gradually turns into admiration and wish to marry her on his side. But Anne’s heart is constant as ever to Wentworth. Lady Russell tries to persuade Anne about the suitability of the match and by her friends and acquaintances, their union is considered almost final.
And then Anne listens that Louisa is engaged to Captain Benwick, a friend of Wentworth’s who resides at Lyme, with astonishment and a flicker of hope. And she also learns the truth of Mr. Elliott’s character, behaviour and designs through her friend Mrs. Smith. What happens next? Does Wentworth still love Anne and left Louisa for her? Or does he love Louisa and this will be the end of his friendship with Benwick? Surrounded by her family and Mr. Elliott, will she ever be able to tell Wentworth about her feelings for him? The happiness that she had known at the age of eighteen, will it ever come back to her?
Despite the lighter tone in which the story is written, this is Jane Austen’s most eloquent plea for romance – and for romance that is gallant, high-spirited and ecstatic. Nowhere else she has revealed so much of her inner nature and deeper feelings. The well-known passage on woman’s constancy, with its generous tribute to men ‘capable of everything great and good in their married lives, equal to every important exertion and every domestic forbearance’, is the text of her philosophy of life; a passionate protest against false judgements of her sex; the message, or purpose, which in time came to dominate her art.
Anne, gentle, sophisticated, elegant and cultured is the sweetest and tenderest of her heroines, the personified idea of constant and passionate love that a woman’s heart is capable of irrespective of the material benefits and worldly concerns about her own welfare. And she is lucky to find a worthy match in Wentworth with open, frank disposition, generous temper, firm will and power to act and capability to love back as passionately as Anne deserves.
An emotional and entertaining tale…….