(Do join us for The Book Rat’s group read of Persuasion, now in progress.)
On this reading of Persuasion, John Shepherd came off the page. “A civil, cautious lawyer,” Jane calls him. And then we are treated to the man in action.
What a pretty little dance he leads Sir Walter on! Conversation by conversation we see hints and pauses and flattery. Strategic concealment and cautious disclosure. Just enough to cover John’s Shepherd’s hind end should the truth come out!
It helps that Sir Walter is a fool. Not advertise Kellynch Hall? Right. How in the world will the place be let? By magic? No, by the behind-the-scenes actions of John Shepherd!
- Men of the navy, particularly rich admirals, will be hunting for houses about now.
- These make particularly desirable tenants, an opinion seconded by Shepherd’s daughter. (How much has she heard around the dinner table at home, I wonder?)
- Admiral Croft accidentally heard of the possibility of Kellynch Hall being to let and was interested.
- The man just happens to be of gentlemanly descent and is a hale, hearty, well-looking man. Who like Sir Walter never hunts. And who has plenty of money and no furniture-destroying offspring.
Happy coincidence indeed!
All is sunlight and happiness, as the deal is closed with Admiral Croft. Sir Walter skips happily off to Bath to find a new residence. With John Shepherd’s daughter, Penelope Clay, in tow. A woman who who has ambitions of her own …
The apple does not fall far from the tree, does it? Like father like daughter. Very civil, very cautious…
Enter Persuasion’s lawyer number two: William Walter Elliot. Jane slipped that bit in, almost between the lines. The smooth-talking, very civil, very cautious heir is a lawyer.
His legal training—and his connections in the City—mean that Mr Elliot knew exactly what he was doing when he refused to act for Anne’s poverty-stricken friend, Mrs Smith. And did you notice than when his first wife died—childless, and within a few years of her marriage—William Elliot pocketed her fortune? Legal, yes. And mightily suspicious.
It makes me wonder what Jane thought of lawyers. Because Pride and Prejudice’s villian, Mr Wickham, studied the law for a time…
What other lawyers (or would-be lawyers) are scattered thoughout Austen’s novels?
Update: The Book Rat is giving to one winner either A SET of the Mercy’s books (USA) or one print copy of Mercy’s Embrace: So Rough a Course (International). Entry deadline is Sept 5th.