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|Chapter 4: Engagement vs. marriage
Written by Joan Ellen
(9/20/2005 7:27 p.m.)
I have in recent years been very much inclined to agree with Lady Russell that it would have been too great a risk for Anne to marry FW when he had no money to support her and was in a very dangerous profession which might at any time have left her a poor widow with children to support (not unlike Mrs Clay, as a matter of fact - in situation if not in personality).
But now on re-reading chapter four I find it unclear how much it is merely the engagement which is at issue rather than the marriage. And here is where I begin to have a big problem with Lady Russell:
Anne Elliot, with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen...to be snatched off by a stranger without alliance or fortune...
Had LR not had that unreasonable prejudice in favor of birth and rank, but only the more reasonable concerns about FW's future in an uncertain & dangerous profession, perhaps she might have suggested some compromise - that they maintain only an informal engagement for a certain period, wait to see how FW would fare in his career, etc. But instead she persuaded Anne to break with him entirely ('She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing - indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it.') Of course, he himself might have suggested a compromise, had he not been such a hotheaded young man ('totally unconvinced and unbending, and of his feeling himself ill-used by so forced a relinquishment.')!
I do think he was very wrong in expecting Anne to risk her future with him at that point. I can't help but recall one of Rae’s posts of a while back (linked below), about a young man of the era in a similar predicament, and how he felt that in his situation it would not be right for him to ask the woman he loved to commit herself to him. His whole concern was with the young lady's welfare - and I must say it made FW's conduct look terribly selfish by comparison.
|Rae's earlier post|
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