Saturday, 10 January 2015

Persuasion Read-Along (Chapters 2-3)

A Summary
In Chapter Two, Lady Russell consults with Anne and comes up with a sensible new budget for the Elliot family that will get them out of their debt within seven years. However, Sir Walter is disgusted. He decides to rent Kellynch out and move somewhere else instead of bearing the "degradation" of a lower budget. Anne hopes that Sir Walter won't consider a move to Bath because she loves the countryside around Kellynch and dislikes the city. Anne has bad memories of Bath. She spent three years at boarding school there following the death of her mother and on the second time she visited the city she was "not in perfectly good spirits". But Sir Walter decides to move to Bath. Lady Russell is pleased about this though because she often visits the city and will still be able to visit Anne. Lady Russell has another reason for being happy about the move too. Elizabeth has become good friends with Mr Shepherd's daughter - a woman called Mrs Clay. Lady Russell thinks Mrs Clay is a very unsuitable companion for Elizabeth and is pleased that Elizabeth's departure from the neighbourhood will end their intimacy.

In Chapter Three, Mr Shepherd suggests to Sir Walter that an admiral would be his ideal tenant as the war is over and there are plenty of naval officers who are coming ashore and looking to settle down. Sir Walter isn't at all impressed. Mrs Clay assures Sir Walter that a naval officer would take good care of his house and might even do some gardening but Sir Walter isn't at all pleased with the idea of his tenants venturing into his shrubberies. Anne stands up for the navy here and points out how deserving they are which prompts Sir Walter to explain why he dislikes the profession. Firstly, because it makes men wealthy through their own success - Gasp! Shock! Horror! - and secondly because they're all old and ugly. Apparently. At this point Mrs Clay defends the navy here too, pointing out that no-one can be expected to look young and healthy forever if they aren't rich enough not to work. Mr Shepherd then announces that a man called Admiral Croft is interested in renting out Kellynch and even Sir Walter isn't opposed to the idea when he learns that the Admiral comes from a gentlemanly family and isn't ugly. Mr Shepherd also points out that Admiral Croft is willing to pay high rent and has a sensible wife whose brother used to be a curate in the area. No-one can remember the curate's name though - apart from Anne who says that his name was Mr Wentworth. Sir Walter then remembers that Mr Wentworth didn't come with a gentlemanly family and so the subject is quickly dropped. Sir Walter then decides that an Admiral wouldn't be such a bad tenant after all, because the title sounds impressive but is still inferior to Sir Walter's own. Anne then goes out into the garden alone to calm herself down and makes a cryptic remark: that soon "he" may be walking down these garden paths.

Some Thoughts:
  • Sir Walter is Jane Austen's Mike Jeffries. How can anyone be so vain? So ungrateful to men who served his own country during the war?! His comment about keeping his shrubberies out of bounds to his tenants makes me smirk though. What are you going to do to prevent it then, Sir? Put up a big honking "KEEP OUT!" sign?!
  • Lady Russell is really quite an interesting and complex character. She's very loving and affectionate towards Anne and Austen makes it clear that she has many good qualities, and yet she's so snobbish and blind. Sure, she's nowhere near as bad as Sir Walter but it's still a major character flaw. A fellow blogger suggested that Lady Russell is like an older version of Emma Woodhouse in my last post and I agree. 
  • On the previous occasions when I've read Persuasion I've never been able to grasp why Mrs Clay is supposed to be such a bad companion for Elizabeth but after reading some comments on Heidi's read-along I finally understand why. I've always assumed that Mrs Clay must be a widow but actually, all that Austen says is that Mrs Clay has "returned from an unprosperous marriage" (pg.17). In fact Mrs Clay is probably divorced. We know that Lady Russell is a very traditional sort so she obviously wouldn't approve of this but the fact that Austen also describes Mrs Clay as being "clever" and understanding "the art of pleasing" suggests that she's manipulative and cunning - and that Lady Russell can see it. 
  • Yay! Anne is really starting to come into her own now! Chapter two shows us how principled Anne is with her insistence that all Sir Walter's debts must be paid off and in chapter three Austen starts to give her dialogue. Her final sentence is really quite a cliffhanger! :) I love it! It's mysterious, it's romantic, and it's even a little bit funny. If you didn't know any better you could be forgiven that Anne was in love with Mr Wentworth!

Favourite Quotes

“She (Lady Russell) drew up plans of economy, she made exact calculations, and she did, what nobody else thought of doing, she consulted Anne, who never seemed considered by the others as having any interest in the question. (pg. 13)
Another occasion when I want to hug Lady Russell or at least give her a high-five :)

"And with regard to Anne's dislike of Bath, she [Lady Russell] considered it as a prejudice and a mistake, arising first from the circumstance of her having been three years at school there, after her mother's death, and, secondly, from her happening to not be in particularly good spirits there the only winter which she had afterwards spent there with herself" (pg. 16)
I love how Austen is hinting at Anne's past. Anne's second visit to Bath probably occurred soon after her engagement to Captain Wentworth was broken off.

'The navy, I think, who have done so much for us, have at least an equal claim with any other set of men, for all the comforts and all the privileges which any home can give. Sailors work hard enough for their comforts, we must all allow'. (pg. 21)
Anne's first line of dialogue.

"Mr Shepherd was completely empowered to act; and no sooner had such an end been reached, than 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" (pg. 28)
Again, this is quite a cliffhanger! And it's really quite a romantic thought :)

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