I first read Persuasion when I was sixteen, and, thereafter, declared it as one of the most romantic books in existence. Five years later, at almost twenty-one, I like to think that I am now less (although not completely) susceptible to romantic fantasies. The main point of Persuasion hinges on the constancy of both men and women when it comes to love, and, before I started reading the book again, I was a little scared that it might not be as wonderful as I first thought it five years ago.
Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth were engaged years ago, but she was persuaded by friends and family to break off the engagement. Her status in society was too high, he was too poor without any tangible prospects. Seven and a half years later, they meet again. She is considered a spinster who has lost the bloom of youth, and he is now a rich naval officer ready to settle down. In his own words, “any body between fifteen and thirty may have him for asking. A little beauty, and a few smiles, and a few compliments to the navy, and he is a lost man.” He only has one rule. Any body between fifteen and thirty may, in fact, catch his attention, except for, of course, Anne Elliot. The scene is ripe for regret and bitterness.
I could not even begin to describe how much I loved this book. Perhaps, I have more love for it now than when I first read it. This might be too much information, but I lacked the experience of getting my heart broken to fully understand it at sixteen. There were so many passages that are still so relevant today when it comes to matters of the heart, like in this passage:
Once so much to each other! Now nothing! There had been a time, when of all the large party now filling the drawing-room at Uppercross, they would have found it most difficult to cease to speak to one another. With the exception, perhaps, of Admiral and Mrs Croft, who seemed particularly attached and happy, (Anne could allow no other exceptions even among the married couples), there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.Who hasn’t experienced this? You come across a person you used to love, who used to be everything to you, and lament the fact that you are now nothing to each other. That person you used to call at the end of the day to tell him about the annoying co-worker or even what you had for dinner, the person you used to share the minutest details of your life with. That person you don’t speak to anymore. I know there’s no proof of this, but Jane Austen must have been in love at least once in her life to know these feelings, to describe them so accurately.
When I first read Persuasion, I remember being annoyed that Anne seemed to be the one who chased after Captain Wentworth, that it seemed like he didn’t care for her at all until the very end. That isn’t the case now. The book is so subtle, but you can’t miss the little things that show that, yes, Captain Wentworth is still very much in love with Anne Elliot. Even his bitter statements are proof of that. The fact that he thinks any woman between fifteen and thirty can have him, except Anne Elliot, is proof that he still loves her.
And that love letter in the end, when he asks her to marry him again. I think I’ll just pop that into this post for the sake of posterity:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.WHO CAN POSSIBLY RESIST THIS?!?!
In the first part of this post, I declared that I am now less susceptible to romantic fantasies than I was at sixteen.
I TAKE THAT BACK NOW.