The beginning of Persuasion is sad. A family must make decisions about moving out of their grand, ancestral home and into cheaper digs in order to save money. This has been a while in coming. At least sir Walter’s man-of-business, Mr. Sheperd knew it was. He was on the prowl for a tenant in the summer. There is mention of meeting the Crofts at the Quarter Sessions in Taunton. That would have been around the 24th of June. the meeting of the Elliot family that opens the novel is sometime in July to give enough time for the Crofts to visit, agree to the lease, find a place in Bath, clean out the house, and have Sir Walter and Elizabeth leave in early September.
“Michaelmas came; and now Anne’s heart must be in Kellynch again. A beloved home made over to others; all the precious rooms and furniture, groves, and prospects, beginning to own other eyes and other limbs! She could not think of much else on the 29th of September; and she had this sympathetic touch in the evening from Mary, who, on having occasion to note down the day of the month, exclaimed, “Dear me, is not this the day the Crofts were to come to Kellynch? I am glad I did not think of it before. How low it makes me!”
The Crofts took possession with true naval alertness, and were to be visited.”
The Crofts’ lease of Kellynch Hall began on Michaelmas. Traditionally this is the third quarter-day of the year. Rents are paid and accounts settled. It is also a good day to begin a lease evidently. In a way it’s like getting married on a holiday so you don’t forget your anniversary.
The first meal served to the Crofts would no doubt feature a fine fat goose. This is the time of the year that geese are at their peak and with the 29th being the feast of St Michael, it’s likely the second best silver was employed in celebration. The quote tells us the Crofts operated with naval alertness. Perhaps, at the end of the meal, the Admiral toasted to the birth of Admiral Horatio Nelson in 1758. It’s possible that Croft had met Lord Nelson when he was in the action at Trafalgar and so might have a bit of sentimentality about the day and the man. Another glass would have been raised on October 21, the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, where Nelson met his end in 1805.
In many parts of the kingdom, Michaelmas is the end of fishing season and the beginning of hunting season. This would have mattered little to Admiral Croft as he sometimes took out a gun but never killed. I’m sure he saw enough death at sea, violent or otherwise, and didn’t feel the need to partake on land. The 29th was considered the end of the harvest. The apples were mostly picked and cider making had commenced. Farmers were calculating how many animals they could afford to feed over the winter, and how many would be sold or slaughtered and salted down for winter provision.
Many areas took this opportunity to re-elect their town councils. There were also hiring fairs where laborers looking for winter employment would gather.
Autumn is a busy time of the year in the country. It’s also a nice time of the year to settle into a new home to rest after years abroad in service to the King. But you have to wonder if the Crofts were very content. They wound up in Bath after just a few months in the country. Maybe after the busyness of Michaelmas, winter in the country was a bit too quiet for them.