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|Focus: Looking for JA in Persuasion—End Comments (Long)
Written by Robbin
(11/2/2005 1:47 p.m.)
My focus for the group read was comparing the content of Persuasion to what I learned about JA through her letters. Although it is written that JA did not base characters on anyone she knew, I still found little bits to compare—most are general rather than specific and some are tiny and hardly worth noticing or mentioning, except that I am obsessed. The three themes in Persuasion which stand out to me when thinking of JA’s personal life are the relationship of sisters, Anne’s admiration of the professional naval gentlemen and those connected to them and friendship with an older woman. Whether my connections are strong or weak, I have to say that this focus has provided me a lot of pleasure for it has given me an opportunity to look at JA herself—always a worthwhile endeavor—and the opportunity to compare these themes with what little is known of her life. *
I think the first thing I noticed when reading JA’s letters was that she and her sister, Cassandra, had a wonderful relationship, it shines through the years untarnished and I often wished I could have seen what Cassandra wrote to her sister to elicit some of JA’s responses. Just about the first thing I noticed about Persuasion was that although JA gave Anne two sisters, she very definitely withheld the comforting support dearly esteemed by the Bennet (P&P) and Dashwood (S&S) sisters. Anne is not lacking for creature comforts but her world is nearly bereft of love. Considering her own loving relationship with Cassandra, I wonder if JA thought that a sister’s unkindness would be some of the hardest to bear, the support JA herself had all her life is purposely lacking for Anne. Lady Russell loves her dearly but with blinders almost, as she does not really know the woman Anne has become. She is a “nobody” to her immediate family, except for Mary whose consideration depends largely on what Anne can do for her. The Musgrove’s are fond of her but she is often regulated into the background of their activities at the beginning of the novel. She has lost the love of her life. Anne is JA’s heroine who, IMO, must travel the most difficult road to find her happiness and she is alone in her travels for most of the trip. The links are to Cassandra discussion I found interesting.
I could die of laughter at it: http://www.pemberley.com/bin/library/letters.cgi?read=13526
Anne is “in love” with the Navy, IMO—I do not know if it is a leftover from her relationship with Captain Wentworth or something that always was, but she is immediately overpowered just by the thought of “his” sister residing at Kellynch, “Anne, who had been a most attentive listener to the whole, left the room, to seek the comfort of cool air for her flushed cheeks; and as she walked along a favourite grove, said, with a gentle sigh, "a few months more, and he, perhaps, may be walking here.” Anne has never stopped loving the charismatic Captain Wentworth, she has followed his successful career in the Navy lists and newspapers and she goes on to be completely enchanted by the Crofts, the Harvilles, and the poetic Captain Benwick. JA had two brothers who had successful careers in the Navy and in one letter JA is so excited about Frank Austen’s promotion to the rank of commander that she writes a very short letter, rather than the usual lengthy, cross-written ones of habit, in order to get the good news to Cassandra as quick as possible. I think JA gave Anne a nice portion of her own love and respect for her sea faring brothers and their ilk. The following links are to threads from the August group read of JA’s Letters concerning her brothers. The one, Two Brother’s has pictures of them; one should be interesting to P2 fans—definitely worth a look if you have not seen them. The second is about Frank’s promotion.
Two Brothers: http://www.pemberley.com/bin/library/letters.cgi?read=13544
Lady Russell has been Anne’s lifeline and despite their problems they are still excellent friends and that perhaps says more about the strength of their relationship than mere words can. Lady Russell is similar to JA’s friend Madam Lefroy. Madam Lefroy seems to have disapproved of her nephew, Tom Lefroy, and along with other senior Lefroy family members had “taken fright at the ideas of a formal engagement between such a young and penniless couple, and sent Tom off to London before he could commit himself.” Madame also at one time encouraged a friend of hers to look upon JA with a friendly eye but he was resoundingly rejected by Jane. Despite these little attentions, JA and Madam Lefroy remained great friends until Madam’s death in 1804. It does not seem to me that JA and Madam were as close as Anne and Lady Russell because LR is described as “one who had almost a mother's love, and mother's rights” in Chapter 4 and so far in the letters I have seen only a friendship between JA and Madam. The information about Madam Lefroy is from Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels, by Deirdre Le Faye and Letter 11. The first post below has a picture of Madam Lefroy and the second and third are about Tom Lefroy, and fourth is an account of a visit to JA by Madam Lefroy. I have included the information about Tom Lefroy so you can decide how much of an attraction there was and how much like the breakup in Persuasion it actually was—if you want too.
1. Mrs. Lefroy: http://www.pemberley.com/bin/library/letters.cgi?read=13427
One of my favorite passages is in Chapter 5, “The portraits themselves seemed to be staring in astonishment” and reminds me of Letter 6 when JA visits Nackington and met several pictures instead of the lady and her children. I wrote about this in another post and not wishing to use space by repeating, I am just linking it below if anyone needs a look.
Inanimate objects: http://www.pemberley.com/bin/library/persuasion2005.cgi?read=15863
Charles Prowlett, a neighbor of the Austen’s, is described, among other things as lacking in judgment with opinions taken to extremes and who felt he belonged in a sphere slightly above his own station in life—Sir Walter’s self induced retrenchment reminded me of this comment about Charles Prowlett in Letter 13, “Charles Powlett gave a dance on Thursday, to the great disturbance of all his neighbors, of course, who, you know, take a most lively interest in the state of his finances, and live in hopes of his being soon ruined.” He did eventually face financial ruin and it is noted in discussion that his wife was no Lady Elliot.
Charles Powlett: http://www.pemberley.com/bin/library/letters.cgi?read=14073
“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.” (Chapter 10)
During the long walk in Chapter 10, Anne tells herself she must enjoy the walk for the pleasure of the scenery reminding me of a comment in Letter 14 of a walk JA took and then commented on to Cassandra, “I enjoyed the hard black Frosts of last week very much, & one day while they lasted walked to Deane by myself—I do not know that I ever did such a thing in my life before.” This I admit is a very small and obviously not quite the same thing but it reminds me that JA did imbue Anne, Elizabeth Bennet, and Marianne with this love of nature that she obliviously also had, but also liked to poked fun with when taken to extremes.
An abominable sort of conceited independence: http://www.pemberley.com/bin/library/letters.cgi?read=14085
* Note: Since I have not read all the letters, just 1 to 16, I probably missed some things. I have put some links, well not really links—addresses really—I just call them that, to applicable threads from the August group read of JA’s Letters by Deirdre Le Faye for more information on the content of the referenced letters if the book is not available or an interest in the group read discussion is felt.
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