Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Best Bit of Persuasion

I am an avid Jane Austen fan -- especially Persuasion. I don't know why I like that book best. My sisters prefer Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice. However, I think the book is written by a much more mature Austen, someone who understood the world better.

Now if the modern day publishing world got hold of one of her books, they probably would place it on the rejection pile merely for POV (point of view) issues alone. So for that, I'm glad she wrote long ago.

I thought I would share my favorite part of Persuasion. It's not in any of the films  -- which is sad. I would've loved to have seen Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds act this part out.

More than seven years prior to the events in the novel, Anne Elliot falls in love with a handsome young naval officer named Frederick Wentworth, who is intelligent and ambitious, but poor. Sir Walter, Anne's father and lord of the family estate of Kellynch, and her older sister Elizabeth are dissatisfied with her choice, maintaining that he is not distinguished enough for their family. Her older friend and mentor, Lady Russell, acting in place of Anne's deceased mother, persuades her to break off the match.

Now, aged 27 and still unmarried, Anne re-encounters her former fiancé when his sister and brother-in-law, the Crofts, takes out a lease on Kellynch. Wentworth, now a captain, is wealthy from wartime victories in the Royal Navy and from prize-money for capturing enemy ships. However, he has not forgiven Anne for her rejection of him.

One morning, very soon after the dinner at the Musgroves, at which Anne had not been present, Captain Wentworth walked into the drawing-room at the Cottage, where were only herself and the little invalid Charles, who was lying on the sofa.
The surprise of finding himself almost alone with Anne Elliot, deprived his manners of their usual composure: he started, and could only say, "I thought the Miss Musgroves had been here: Mrs Musgrove told me I should find them here," before he walked to the window to recollect himself, and feel how he ought to behave.
"They are up stairs with my sister: they will be down in a few moments, I dare say," had been Anne's reply, in all the confusion that was natural; and if the child had not called her to come and do something for him, she would have been out of the room the next moment, and released Captain Wentworth as well as herself.
He continued at the window; and after calmly and politely saying, "I hope the little boy is better," was silent.

She was obliged to kneel down by the sofa, and remain there to satisfy her patient; and thus they continued a few minutes, when, to her very great satisfaction, she heard some other person crossing the little vestibule. She hoped, on turning her head, to see the master of the house; but it proved to be one much less calculated for making matters easy--Charles Hayter, probably not at all better pleased by the sight of Captain Wentworth than Captain Wentworth had been by the sight of Anne.
She only attempted to say, "How do you do? Will you not sit down? The others will be here presently."
Captain Wentworth, however, came from his window, apparently not ill-disposed for conversation; but Charles Hayter soon put an end to his attempts by seating himself near the table, and taking up the newspaper; and Captain Wentworth returned to his window.
Another minute brought another addition. The younger boy, a remarkable stout, forward child, of two years old, having got the door opened for him by some one without, made his determined appearance among them, and went straight to the sofa to see what was going on, and put in his claim to anything good that might be giving away.
There being nothing to eat, he could only have some play; and as his aunt would not let him tease his sick brother, he began to fasten himself upon her, as she knelt, in such a way that, busy as she was about Charles, she could not shake him off. She spoke to him, ordered, entreated, and insisted in vain. Once she did contrive to push him away, but the boy had the greater pleasure in getting upon her back again directly.
"Walter," said she, "get down this moment. You are extremely troublesome. I am very angry with you."
"Walter," cried Charles Hayter, "why do you not do as you are bid? Do not you hear your aunt speak? Come to me, Walter, come to cousin Charles."
But not a bit did Walter stir.
In another moment, however, she found herself in the state of being released from him; some one was taking him from her, though he had bent down her head so much, that his little sturdy hands were unfastened from around her neck, and he was resolutely borne away, before she knew that Captain Wentworth had done it.

Her sensations on the discovery made her perfectly speechless. She could not even thank him. She could only hang over little Charles, with most disordered feelings. His kindness in stepping forward to her relief, the manner, the silence in which it had passed, the little particulars of the circumstance, with the conviction soon forced on her by the noise he was studiously making with the child, that he meant to avoid hearing her thanks, and rather sought to testify that her conversation was the last of his wants, produced such a confusion of varying, but very painful agitation, as she could not recover from, till enabled by the entrance of Mary and the Miss Musgroves to make over her little patient to their cares, and leave the room. She could not stay. It might have been an opportunity of watching the loves and jealousies of the four--they were now altogether; but she could stay for none of it. It was evident that Charles Hayter was not well inclined towards Captain Wentworth. She had a strong impression of his having said, in a vext tone of voice, after Captain Wentworth's interference, "You ought to have minded me, Walter; I told you not to teaze your aunt;" and could comprehend his regretting that Captain Wentworth should do what he ought to have done himself. But neither Charles Hayter's feelings, nor anybody's feelings, could interest her, till she had a little better arranged her own. She was ashamed of herself, quite ashamed of being so nervous, so overcome by such a trifle; but so it was, and it required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover her.

 It's a small scene in the book, but I think one of the most powerful. Jane Austen, trying to express to the reader that Wentworth does still care for Anne. She does a brilliant job of it. Every time I read the passage, it sends a warm feeling to my heart. Oh, if only we can write like this...


Arlee Bird said...

I never read any of my Jane Austen books when I was in college--guess I just faked it--but I still have them after all these years. This past summer I read Pride and Prejudice because I was going to read P & P & Zombies snd I thought I should read the original first. Initially, I found it difficult to get accustomed to the style, but once I did, I loved it. I watched every DVD version I could find. It's such a great story.
Now I'll have to read some of her other books-- I know I still have more of them out in my garage.

Doralynn Kennedy said...

I read Jane Austen and just marvel at the fact that they're classics. As I read them, I really don't think they're all that good, but yet they stick with me, the characters come to life, and I find myself thinking about the story long after I finish the book. Then I go and find the movies and watch them over and over. I really don't understand why I do that if I think she is overrated. (I certainly think Charlotte Brontë is a far greater talent.) Anyway, I do love Persuasion and the two movies I've watched based on it. I love Ciarán Hinds, so that's my favorite one.

If I remember correctly, Jane Austen died after writing this and before she could edit it.

Okay, time to go watch Persuasion again -- the one with Ciarán Hinds.

Anonymous said...

I definitely want to read this; you (and others) have ignited my curiosity with talk of Jane Austen.

I've read two of her short stories but nothing more. So many brilliant undercurrents in her writing.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Corra, after you finish reading it, try and see if you can find a copy of the movie with Hinds and Root.