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|A picture of perfection?
Written by Rachel G
(10/5/2011 2:06 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, In 4 chapters we see an almost faultless & superior heroine, penned by jeffrey
Jeffrey's description of Anne Elliot's "almost flawless perfection" stopped me in my tracks.
I have no quarrel with that statement, considering what we have seen of Anne so far, but it does raise a couple of issues for me.
1. I do not want Anne to be perfect. Part of the charm of JA's work for me is that her characters are so real, so believably human, with the imperfections that go with the human condition. Her heroes and heroines are not uniformly good, nor are her 'villains' uniformly bad.
So JA's famous statement:- "pictures of perfection ... make me sick and wicked"(*) resonates very strongly with me. This was written in a letter to her niece Fanny Knight just as 'Persuasion' was ready for publication. Referring to this, JA's letter goes on to say:
So it looks as though Anne may indeed prove to be almost perfect. JA and Jeffrey both qualify Anne's perfection with that word "almost". Why? This makes me want to discover what flaws or faults Anne may have that make her human and save her from being too oppressively perfect.
2. Allowing that Anne may be almost perfect, I then have to wonder why I react so differently to Anne Elliott and Fanny Price. I will cheerfully admit all Fanny's good qualities but I cannot really warm to her, whereas I instinctively like Anne very much indeed. It is a conundrum which I'll be bearing in mind through the rest of the GR.
** The letter I have quoted from is number LXXXIV in the Brabourne edition (on-line here at Pemberley), where it is dated 23 March 1816. In the Le Faye edition this letter is number 155 and is dated 23 March 1817. The Norton Critical edition of 'Persuasion' also gives 1817 as the date for this letter, citing Chapman. Whichever year is correct, it is clear that the second passage I have quoted must refer to 'Persuasion'.
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