Austen in August: With a twist of Lyme…

Ah, Lyme. It is here, by the sparkling sea—Captain Wentworth’s venue, ha!—that the fresh winds of change begin to blow for Anne Elliot.

For it is in Lyme-Regis that Anne comes into her own.

What a glorious prospect, away from the sameness of Kellynch and Uppercross! As this section of the story unfolds, it’s payback time for Captain Wentworth.

Remember those scenes around the dinner table at Uppercross, where he chatted up the Musgrove girls while Anne looked on? Now it’s his turn to squirm in his chair. He must watch Anne deep in conversation with Captain Benwick. Or strolling apart with him whenever the group walks about. Not by Anne’s design, but because James Benwick seeks her out. Think Wentworth doesn’t notice? Captain Harville does, and he praises the good she’s done.

Poor Frederick Wentworth! Where he has been distant and polite, James Benwick is unreserved and personal. He shares Anne’s interest in books and poetry, and he converses knowledgeably. And Frederick, knowing Benwick as he does, becomes more than a little worried. Because Benwick sees Anne’s worth.

And he listens. An intelligent, thinking man—whose fiance was a woman of uncommon quality—gives Anne his full attention.

Who’s sorry now?

And if catching a fellow officer’s interest were not enough, Anne is noticed by a fellow of the gentlemanly class. We learn his identity later, but William Elliot’s admiration is not lost on Captain Wentworth. And when he later appears at Anne’s side in Molland’s, it spells trouble for Wentworth’s hopes.

How heartening it is to see the “so-faded, so-altered” Anne Elliot capture hearts, man by man:

  • Charles Musgrove, who has loved her;
  • James Benwick, who confides in her;
  • Captain Harville, who praises her;
  • William Elliot, who admires her “exceedingly”;
  • and Frederick Wentworth, who realizes something of what he has lost.

Even before Louisa’s fall, the tide has begun to turn for our Anne.


8 thoughts on “Austen in August: With a twist of Lyme…

  1. Jane Odiwe

    How heartening it is to see the “so-faded, so-altered” Anne Elliot capture hearts man by man – wonderful – I loved this article!


  2. Laura Hile Post author

    Oh, isn’t that the truth, Jane! Since Persuasion is told from Anne’s point of view, we see her through harsh, merciless eyes. Is she downright ugly now, we wonder? And we cringe for her, for who has not felt the same?

    What sweet relief Lyme brings! Of course she is still the same lovely Anne. What is she, twenty-seven? Ancient and past prayers? Not at all!

    Anne was an influence for good in Captain Benwick’s life, but he has certainly returned the favor.


  3. Robin Helm

    Wonderful article, Laura. I see our minds ran somewhat in the same direction. Anything becomes more valuable in our eyes when someone else wants it.


  4. Gayle Mills

    After eight years, Anne is in essentials the same. She’s still the perfectly polite Anne who gives Benwick her attention because he seeks it. She is still the Anne who can be taken advantage of by Mary. She’s still the Anne who plays for dances rather than participating in them. But eight years has changed Anne, too. She defies her father to spend time with her friend. She still loves Wentworth, but her love has had to endure the cruel reality of separation. When faced with another choice, the chance to tell Frederick yes, she doesn’t hesitate. The only one who will persuade her this time is Frederick.


  5. Ellen

    catching up on my reading here while putting off getting ready for the first day of school. i am always amazed when i read this book at how vital it is for a woman to hear/ know that she is beautiful in the eyes of a man. not sure where this comes from, but it seems to be something universal that austen picked up on. i think anne does get prettier as she realizes she is still valued by the men around her. what do you think this is all about?


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