Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion is the last novel fully completed by Jane Austen. It was published at the end of 1817, six months after her death.

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It is difficult to discover any book or narrative that communicates the divergent, and often contradictory, emotional and rational interaction, the interplay between men and women than Jane Austen’s works.

It short Jane Austen can turn a good phrase on an impossible topic.

Though it would be tempting to start a friendly fiery debate using Miss Austen’s books, alas the battle of the sexes has heated up to full-scale warfare for there to be much fun among men and women anymore.

Here is the point, Jane Austen was no feminist.

Miss Austen was, like the art of the time a Romanticized Regency art form of writing. Robust in quality and thus elevating human activity including the thoughtful discussion and fiery debate between the sexes to a level of art.

Jane Austen was a realist in the expectation department between individuals, not a feminist. She excelled in what to, and what not to expect from human emotions, most notably between husband and wife in such a way as to drive everything to a higher quality.

Consider the closing chapters of Persuasion by Jane Austen, these are not the words of a feminist or even a rebellious wife:

‘No,’ replied Anne, in a low, feeling voice. ‘That I can easily believe.’ ‘It was not in her nature. She doted on him.’ ‘It would not be the nature of any woman who truly loved.’ Captain Harville smiled, as much as to say, ‘Do you claim that for your sex?’ and she answered the question, smiling also, ‘Yes. We certainly do not forget you as soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions.’ ‘Granting your assertion that the world does all this so soon for men (which, however, I do not think I shall grant), it does not apply to Benwick. He has not been forced upon any exertion.

The peace turned him on shore at the very moment, and he has been living with us, in our little family circle, ever since.’ ‘True,’ said Anne, ‘very true; I did not recollect; but what shall we say now, Captain Harville? If the change be not from outward circumstances, it must be from within; it must be nature, man’s nature, which has done the business for Captain Benwick.’ ‘No, no, it is not man’s nature. I will not allow it to be more man’s nature than woman’s to be inconstant and forget those they do love, or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe in a true analogy between our bodily frames and our mental; and that as our bodies are the strongest, so are our feelings; capable of bearing most rough usage, and riding out the heaviest weather.’

‘Your feelings may be the strongest,’ replied Anne, ‘but the same spirit of analogy will authorise me to assert that ours are the most tender. Man is more robust than woman, but he is not longer lived; which exactly explains my view of the nature of their attachments. Nay, it would be too hard upon you, if it were otherwise. You have difficulties, and privations, and dangers enough to struggle with. You are always labouring and toiling, exposed to every risk and hardship. Your home, country, friends, all quitted. Neither time, nor health, nor life, to be called your own. It would be hard, indeed’ (with a faltering voice), ‘if woman’s feelings were to be added to all this.’ ‘We shall never agree upon this question,’

Captain Harville was beginning to say, when a slight noise called their attention to Captain Wentworth’s hitherto perfectly quiet division of the room. It was nothing more than that his pen had fallen down; but Anne was startled at finding him nearer than she had supposed, and half inclined to suspect that the pen had only fallen because he had been occupied by them, striving to catch sounds, which yet she did not think he could have caught. ‘Have you finished your letter?’ said Captain Harville. ‘Not quite, a few lines more. I shall have done in five minutes.’ ‘There is no hurry on my side. I am only ready whenever you are. I am in very good anchorage here’ (smiling at Anne), ‘well supplied, and want for nothing. No hurry for a signal at all. Well, Miss Elliot’ (lowering his voice), ‘as I was saying we shall never agree, I suppose, upon this point.

No man and woman, would, probably. But let me observe that all histories are against you – all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.’ ‘Perhaps I shall.

Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.’ ‘But how shall we prove anything?’

‘We never shall. We never can expect to prove anything upon such a point. It is a difference of opinion which does not admit of proof. We each begin, probably, with a little bias towards our own sex, and upon that bias build every circumstance in favour of it which has occurred within our own circle; many of which circumstances (perhaps those very cases which strike us the most) may be precisely such as cannot be brought forward without betraying a confidence, or in some respect saying what should not be said.’

Austen, Jane. Persuasion (Macmillan Collector’s Library Book 17) (pp. 279-282). Pan Macmillan.

The kindness in Miss Austen’s books, especially the last one called Persuasion reminds me of the following written Word. (You will need it if you debate any of Miss Austen’s themes.)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Bonus:

Jane Austen’s books are a simple pleasure to read and debate with a worthy person, but the Christian man or woman following closely behind Jesus will transcend, rise above and overcome to a level that even Miss Austen could not have imagined.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Yes indeed – through the power of Jesus the new has come!


Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837)

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Sunday, October 15, 2017
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Article Reference

(en.wikipedia.org)—Persuasion is the last novel fully completed by Jane Austen. It was published at the end of 1817, six months after her death.

The story concerns Anne Elliot, a young Englishwoman of 27 years, whose family is moving to lower their expenses and get out of debt, at the same time as the wars come to an end, putting sailors on shore. They rent their home to an Admiral and his wife. The wife’s brother, Navy Captain Frederick Wentworth, had been engaged to Anne in 1806, and now they meet again, both single and unattached, after no contact in more than seven years. This sets the scene for many humorous encounters as well as a second, well-considered chance at love and marriage for Anne Elliot in her second “bloom”.

The novel was well-received in the early 19th century. Greater fame came later in the century, continued in the 20th century, and through to the 21st century. Much scholarly debate on Austen’s work has since been published. Anne Elliot is noteworthy among Jane Austen’s heroines for her relative maturity. As Persuasion is Austen’s last completed novel, it is accepted as her most maturely written novel showing a refinement of literary conception indicative of a woman approaching forty years of age. Unlike Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, the novel Persuasion was not rewritten from earlier drafts of novels which Austen had originally started before 1800. Her use of free indirect discourse in narrative was by 1816 fully developed and in full evidence. The first edition of Persuasion was co-published with the previously unpublished Northanger Abbey, written in 1803; later editions of both were published separately.