Who’s Anne?

IMG_2669I took notes on our Persuasion salon.

Few occasions are more amusing than the meeting of my cousin, my friend Janet, and myself to decide which of us most resembles Anne, the heroine of Austen’s Persuasion.

Persuasion Jane Austen PenguinMany of you have read Persuasion, and I am sure, like us, you are interested in the question of whether you are  Anne. She is the most sympathetic of Austen’s heroines.

It’s simple on the surface:  a matter of ABC, or 1 + 2.  Anne, the quiet, charming 27-year-old  middle daughter of a baronet, is not esteemed by her family, and are you as highly regarded as you should be?  Formerly very pretty, she has lost her bloom over the years, and is a bit of a Cinderella figure.  At 19, she refused Frederick Wentworths’ proposal, because Lady Russell, her late mother’s best friend, advised her to.  She regrets having parted with Captain Wentworth, her true love, and has turned down the suitor who later married her sister, Mary.

It’s all about m-o-n-e-y with Lady Russell.  (And with Jane.)

Austen tells us,

Captain Wentworth had no fortune.  He had been lucky in his profession, but spending freely, what had come freely, had realized nothing.  But, he was confident that he should soon be rich;–full of life and ardor, he knew he should soon have a ship, and soon be on a station that would lead to every thing he wanted.

Bad enough that he’s a naval officer:  he has no cash.   Lady Wentworth cannot approve such an unequal match.  We know that Jane Austen usually cannot approve such a match.

what-matters-in-jane-austen-john-mullan-2013-x-2001John Mullan says in his brilliant book, What Matters in Jane Austen?  Twenty Crucial Puzzled Solved (Ch. 13, “How Much Money Is Enough?”):

What is extraordinary about Austen is not her candour but the precision with which she shows the influence of particular sums on particular people.  Most of her major characters come with income tickets attached, not so much because the novelist wants us to notice how important money and lack of money might be, but because she wants us to see her characters noticing these things.

Unable to reduce his spending to pay his creditors, Anne’s father, Sir Walter, is persuaded to rent out his house (to Captain Wentworth’s sister and husband) and move to Bath with his oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Anne stays behind for a few months with her sister Mary (and later with Lady Russell), is appreciated by Mary’s in-laws, meets Captain Wentworth again (who now has 25,000 pounds), and is admired by two other men.

She gets her bloom back.

“I’ve got my bloom back, too, like Anne,” my cousin protests when we say she can’t be Anne.

It is a bit of a bore when someone who’s only 37 claims she has got her bloom back.  She has never lost her bloom, as Janet and I point out.

Then we remind her that she doesn’t WANT to be Anne anyway.

She wants to be Louisa Musgrave.

Louisa, who is 20, pretty and bossy, claims brazenly that she is not easily persuaded. Captain Wentworth admires her.

“It is the worst evil of too yielding and indecisive a character, that no influence over it can be depended on.  You are never sure of a good impression being durable; everybody may sway it.  Let those who would be happy be firm.

Poor Anne overhears this.

Then when they go to Lyme, Louisa is jumping off the steps and he doesn’t catch her and she is unconscious and they don’t know if she’ll recover or not… and Anne starts to look good to him again.

I don’t want to be Louisa, but what are the choices?  Having married three times, I can hardly pretend that I would have been single at 27.

Janet has never been without a boyfriend, either, or at least a date.  “How about Mrs. Clay?” she asks.

Mrs. Clay has a wayward tooth and freckles, but is charming enough that Anne’s sister Elizabeth invites her to Bath.  The daughter of Mr. Shepherd, Sir Walter’s lawyer, she is of the wrong class, and everyone is terrified that she will persuade Sir Walter to marry her.

Then there’s Mrs. Smith.  We ALL like Mrs. Smith, Anne’s old school friend.  When Anne and Lady Russell go to Bath, Anne meets Mrs. Smith, now an invalid.  Mrs. Smith makes the best of things, has a positive attitude, but also is worldly, and knows all about Mr. Elliot, Anne’s father’s heir, who wants to marry her.

Lady Russell tries to persuade Anne… but Anne is true to Captain Wentworth.

Mr. Elliot, a highly intelligent, sophisticated widower, genuinely admires Anne, but has no principles.

Lady Russell is always wrong, though she is charming and reads a lot.

The plot of Persuasion is typical of Jane:  a true man and a false man pursue the heroine (sometimes even more pursue her).  In Emma, we have Mr. Knightley and Frank Churchill (Mr. Elton doesn’t count), but Frank isn’t really after Emma at all, and Mr. Knightley, a lifelong friend, isn’t considered a beau till the end of the novel.  In Mansfield Park, Fanny loves Edmund but is pursued by Mr. Crawford, a rich, licentious young man who is suddenly struck by Fanny after she blooms into prettiness.  Eventually Edmond goes after her, too.

Captain Wentworth is the only Austen hero I like.  All three of us agree that he is very sexy.

We also like the funny details in Persuasion:  one day Anne runs into Admiral Croft, Captain Wentworth’s brother-in-law, and he is staring at a painting in a shop window.  He wonders who on earth designed this ship, which would capsize immediately.

What a lovely novel!  Anne Elliot is now my favorite Austen heroine, surely the most sympathetic of them.

And now here we have both a Persuasion playlist and a movie list.  Enjoy!

"The Lake House":  the heroine's favorite book is Persuasion.

In “The Lake House,” the heroine’s favorite book is Persuasion.


“Persuasion,” Richard Thompson

“Pretty Persuasion,” R.E.M.

“Friendly Persuasion,” Pat Boone

“Persuasion,” Santana

“Crystal Blue Persuasion,” Tommy James and the Shondells

The Lake House, with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves.  Actually, this is a time-travel romance, and has nothing to do with Persuasion (as I remember) but the heroine’s favorite book is Persuasion.

Persuasion (2007)
And there are many other versions of Persuasion at IMBD.

Radical with a Notebook: Persuasion & The Free Little Library

She did not blame Lady Russell, she did not blame herself for being guided by her.”–Jane Austen’s Persuasion

I am the only person at the coffeehouse with a notebook.  Everyone else has a laptop.

I scribbled notes at a glass table filled with coffee beans.

persuasion-jane-austen-paperback-cover-artAlthough the Persuasion Book Club could be a full-time job–more articles have been written on Austen than I could read in a lifetime–I will not trivialize the experts by summarizing their theses.

No, I am dashing through Persuasion, loving every word of this classic, enthralled by Austen’s romance about an older heroine (the only romance Austen wrote, in my opinion).

Anne Elliot is only 28, not 40 or 50something, as I suspect many of us are. Austen never married.  Her heroines are under 30, or they’d never have a conjugal chance.

Few are as fascinated as I am by Austen’s middle-aged characters, from silly Miss Bates in Emma to Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.  In Persuasion, Lady Russell, Anne’s late mother’s best friend, is a kind, devoted, thoughtful, if conservative, widow.   She does not marry Anne’s father, as everyone expects. Instead, she advises Anne on marriage.   Badly.

We are more liberal than Lady Russell.  Live with him, we might have said.  Men come and go:  husbands disappear in their 40s only to resurface after midlife crises, or, if we divorce them, we go on blind dates, walk out on men who make racist remarks, and indignantly trudge the three miles home in very uncomfortable shoes. Fortunately, a friend of our fix-us-up friend is so delighted by the story he asks us out…  and three months later we’re married!  (This stuff happens.)

THE OPENING OF THE LITTLE FREE LIBRARY is the big event in our neighborhood this week.

It is part of a literacy movement.  You can build or order a little house-on-a-stick from Little Free Library and plant it in your yard.

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Fill it up with old books.  Then neighbors can open the hinged window to borrow a book, or exchange one of their own for a free library book.

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

I walk down this street almost every day.  “Have you seen the Little Free Library?” everyone wants to know.

Yes, yes.

The selection could be better.  There’s  Janet Evanovich, Michael Connolly, Edward Sawtelle, Stieg Larsson.  Enjoyable books, but the only one I approved was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  He said, and this is appropriate:

…the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.

He also praised the pie and ice cream in Iowa.

I saw the travelling exhibit of Kerouac’s scroll (the typed pages taped together) of On the Road at the University of Iowa Art Museum.  The long glass case was endless; I peered too closely and accidentally touched the glass.  The guard came.  “Don’t touch the glass.”  Okay!

The beats pekarEverything you need to know about Kerouac can be found in Harvey Pekar’s The Beats:  A Graphic History.

We should all go on the road.

It is September.

It’s cooler.

Good road trips taken in the past:  Iowa City to Bloomington (many times),  Bloomington to Washington, D.C., (twice), D.C. to Buffalo, Buffalo to Toronto, Des Moines to Omaha, Lanesboro to Winona, Princeton to New York City.

Will I ever make it to Kansas City?

Can’t go, because I’ve been told I’d have to sit through a Kansas City Royals game.

I like baseball, but only at World Series parties.

Anyway, I’d prefer to ride my bicycle.

Too late in the season.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a couple of books I’ve been reading.

The Persuasion Book Club

She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older–the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.”—-Jane Austen, Persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen Penguin Deluxe Edition

Heavens, what’s with this cover? Do you like it?

My cousin and I have formed a Persuasion book club.

We are doing this for you.

Yes, we’re grateful for your consternation over the fact that (1)  she was called an idiot by a private online Austen book group; and (2) you don’t entirely dismiss her view that Anne Elliott, the heroine of Persuasion, was a wimp.

And so I suggested that I reread the book, and that she and I discuss it next week.  Possibly Wednesday, possibly Thursday:  it depends on when I finish.  There will not be a video:  I will write from notes in my reporter notebook.  I am a good note taker.

I have read Persuasion many times, and of course am on the side of Anne Elliott, the smart, quiet, charming heroine who behaves so beautifully with her ex-boyfriend.

My cousin thinks Anne is a wimp, and I think that point can be argued.  As I put it, some of us are Annes, some of us are not.

I fear that in my youth I was like Louisa Musgrave, the gregarious, bright 20-year-old rival who jumps off walls on walks to get attention.  Far worse, I wore leotards without a bra and made out with Captain Wentworth, oops, I mean So and So, on the stairway at work.

But a modern Anne might well have done the same.  She probably made out with Captain Wentworth, don’t you imagine?  Or did she have to wait till the official engagement?  We are not scholarly here, and we want to know.

May I say that Captain Wentworth is Austen’s sexiest hero?  Don’t you love it when he wordlessly picks up Anne and puts her in the carriage?

Now, guys and gals, I am PRETENDING to be a hip, silly reader. (Perhaps like the heroine of a Tama Janowitz story.)  I am hip, but not dumb, and I am not a blonde, though that might be a good idea.  Perhaps I WILL dye my hair before the book group.  But last time I dyed it I had an allergic reaction.

My cousin is occasionally blonde, and she is not dumb: she just doesn’t read many novels.  She wants me to add that her favorite book is Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians.  Now she wants me to tell you that she made that up because she knew we would enjoy that comment.  Her favorite book is Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August.  She also likes Diana Gabaldon’s romances.

We will find at least one sequel to Persuasion.  (We will comb Jane Austen websites for suggestions.)

We will post a playlist.  (The video of Richard Thompson’s song, “Persuasion,” appears at the bottom of the post.)  Please contribute songs to our playlist.

I look forward to the discussion and your comments.