“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. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.
“I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”
What can be said about the letter? It’s a grand declaration of love and longing, and a grand admission of failure.
“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.
At this point, Frederick is still not positive of Anne’s feelings. He’s asking that she put him out of his soul-pierced misery and tell him how she genuinely feels. In an earlier chapter, Frederick is sarcastic when talking to Sophy about the sort of woman he wants to marry. On the shallow end of his mind, he described a flirty young thing, one a lot like Louisa Musgrove. But soon he gets to the nitty-gritty describes a serious, thinking woman that is actually Anne Elliot. He’s still angry and confident at that point. But now, after making a lot of mistakes and taking a long time-out, he’s contrite and unsure that he’s reading the signs properly. He’s an intelligent man who is overthinking everything he sees and hears. Fortunately for us, he throws caution to the wind and bares his heart to Anne.
For most of the adaptations, the letter is the culmination of the story. The ’95 version gives us a circus outside the White Hart as a metaphor for their internal joy. There are lots of Persuasionites who like it. I am neutral. The ’07 version had Anne running around the town looking for Frederick. I call this, The Aerobic Version. I think that tells you what I think of it.
Along with the Frederick vs. Little Walter scene at Uppercross Cottage, I can only hope this scene is included in a future adaptation. I hope this because the beginning of the walk is where the romance truly happens.
Since this is Jane Austen, there is no lusty mauling like we have in contemporary romances. Frederick and Anne keep everything family-friendly for public viewing with “smiles reined in and spirits dancing in private rapture.”
“There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting.”
Occasionally, I wish Austen had written this part of the conversation instead of going over his behavior with Louisa, the fall at Lyme, and the concert earlier in the week. But, I have to say that her dislike of writing the more tender aspects of love work out well for fiction writers. We do know they understand more deeply their pasts and how those shaped their present. And I think it’s safe to say they are more solidly in love now than in ’06.
The 1995 version of Persuasion has a short scene of the evening party. It’s well-done and shows some of the underlying storylines being tied up or unravelling as the case may be. Though, it’s wrecked for me with Frederick’s public, and wholly inappropriate asking Sir Walter for Anne’s hand in marriage. I am a purist in a lot of ways and this really bugs me. Though, Harville’s look is too good to miss.
In the novel, the scene would be a lot longer and would include another admission of failure and guilt on Frederick’s part.
After asking if Anne would have renewed the engagement in ’08, when returned to England with a little money and a good posting, and she answers in the affirmative, he says this:
“I was proud, too proud to ask again. I did not understand you. I shut my eyes, and would not understand you, or do you justice. This is a recollection which ought to make me forgive every one sooner than myself. Six years of separation and suffering might have been spared. It is a sort of pain, too, which is new to me. I have been used to the gratification of believing myself to earn every blessing that I enjoyed. I have valued myself on honourable toils and just rewards. Like other great men under reverses,” he added, with a smile. “I must endeavour to subdue my mind to my fortune. I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve.”
I think the reason I like Frederick is that he’s the “everyman.” He thinks he deserves every good thing. The bad stuff? Well, that’s filed under Why Me? In the last line, I am reminded why I have to be careful not to get too puffed up. The love and people I have in my life are gifts that need to be cared for with gratitude and thankfulness. My ability to earn them is miniscule.