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|How about The Asp?
Written by Rachel G
(7/1/2013 2:43 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, brilliant wit, penned by Nikki N
In Johnson's Dictionary (1755), "Brilliance " is defined as 'shining, sparkling, splendid'.
We also speak of 'sparkling wit'. So I agree with Nikki N that Wentworth's 'brilliance' refers to his witty way of expressing himself. I think it also implies something more - a splendid, charismatic attractive quality which is appealing to Anne and also makes Wentworth an effective leader of men.
I think the passage in chapter 9 where Wentworth is speaking about The Asp demonstrates what JA was getting at when she described him as brilliant. Look closely at the language he is using.
- He uses comic understatement, eg "our touch with the Great Nation not having much improved our condition". After fighting several privateers and the much larger frigate, the Asp was probably barely seaworthy at this point.
- His comparison of the Asp with a worn out pelisse is vivid, and perfectly tailored to suit his audience.
- He even manages to refer to the horrific eventuality of a ship sinking with all hands into a joke about being worthy of nothing better than a small paragraph at one corner of a newspaper.
Wentworth's speech is vivid, vigorous and full of humour - I'd call that 'brilliance'
I have not checked so I cannot be certain, but I think this is one of the longest speeches in which Wentworth is quoted verbatim in the entire novel. I think it demonstrates not only his wit and brilliancy, but also his "sanguine temper and fearlessness of mind" - in fact the whole package of Wentworth's qualities which Lady Russell finds so dangerous in the passage from chapter 4 which Nikki N quoted.
So why do we see so little of Wentworth's wit and brilliance demonstrated in the novel? Perhaps it is because we see the events largely through Anne's eyes, and for almost the whole of the story the interactions between Anne and Wentworth are characterised by the great constraint which each of them feels. The passage about the Asp is different - Anne sees and hears Wentworth, but he is not speaking to her directly. He is performing without constraint to an admiring audience and does so with wit and brilliance.
Margaret C makes a very good point in her "Do you see any wit..." post, about the laboured metaphor of the hazelnut, and JA not wanting Wentworth to appear brilliant when he addresses Louisa. The contrast with his "Asp performance" is very striking.
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