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|Revision & Return
Written by Emmeline
(10/31/2005 5:29 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, The cancelled chapters, penned by Cheryl
I would like to share with you…
Revision and Return
Persuasion is a book about a longed-for and impossible return. It is, in that sense, a ghost story, and Frederick Wentworth a revenant. Like The Winter’s Tale it is about love restored against all likelihood. It is as if the beloved dead come back. The gap of loss can be closed up, youth and beauty retrieved, dead affection revived. The work is both domestic and uncanny, offering to Anne and the reader at last paradisal relief. In the midst of spry comedy, wit and character-sketches runs an unstaunchable river of need; need that is finally and astonishingly satisfied. No wonder Jane Austen had difficulty in reaching that resolution. All her dexterity and indirection were required to bring about a satisfaction so total. She cannot have one single scene of Wentworth’s return. She needs two to reach a believable accord. Jane Austen wrote, ‘Finis. July 16. 1816’ on the last page as it then stood of the manuscript of Persuasion. Two days later she added a further paragraph and again wrote, ‘Finis July 18.—1816’. But it was not finished. She was unsatisfied.
In the first manuscript version of Volume II, chapters 10 and 11, the explanations between the alienated lovers run rapidly. … Wentworth in this earlier version has been given the embarrassing task by Admiral Croft of inquiring whether Anne and Mr Elliot would wish to live at Kellynch when – as is confidently believed – they are married. Admiral Croft, with his own unique form of delicacy and bluffness, wishes to assure them that as tenants the Crofts would move out promptly and consider the lease cancelled. Wentworth acts – with decorum and pain – as Admiral Croft’s envoy. …
In this final version the scene mixes mourning and chagrin with hopefulness. Harville is the emissary, asked by Benwick to arrange the framing for Louisa of a miniature of himself originally intended for his dead Fanny: a hard task for friendship indeed. Ghosts haunt those who love them, who are not always those they loved. Not everything can be retrieved. In an exchange of profound emotion the old saws of woman’s inconstancy and man’s strength of feeling are offered. Pressed upon, and revised by Harville and Anne. …
Jane Austen had to write the process of reconciliation twice over to reach this full resolve. Wentworth in this second version is also in an act of revision. The over letter conceals an under text. Hidden beneath his public missive is an intimate, immediate, dashed-off note to Anne, generated out of the debate he has been listening to. This, with an awkward and explosive flurry, he returns to press upon her. All happiness can then begin again, though at first still tempered by silence.
[Persuasion, Penguin Classics, Introduction]
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