Category Archives: Austen in August

Austen Men I Have Known

Austen Men Are Real.

Writers borrow from their own lives when they construct their characters and circumstances. I am at my most realistic when I insert a scene or person from my own life into the story, for I can feel the emotions and describe the events very well, especially if I was experiencing strong feelings when I lived it.

Austen men

Yesterday, I was thinking of that and of the very different Darcys Laura Hile and I have written. Her Darcys are playful. They banter with cheerful Elizabeth. My Darcys are kind and courteous, but they brood. They’re moody, and Elizabeth is by turns angry, sad, happy – she’s all over the place. Like me.

I have been told that I’m dramatic. I might be.

Anyhow, I now realize that I’ve combined Austen’s characters with bits and pieces of people I’ve known throughout my life. As I processed that epiphany, I began to think of the men (and boys) I’ve known and how bits and pieces of them have made it into my characters. I knew all of them well. Some of them were classmates, some were casual dates, some were/are friends or relatives, some were boyfriends, and one is my husband.

In fact, I have known all of the Austen men. Let that sink in. I was able to think through Austen’s characters and select the man I know/knew who fit that character. I knew Darcys, Bingleys, Hursts, Wickhams, Collinses, Edwards, Toms, Brandons, Wentworths, Tilneys, Knightleys, Churchills, Mr. Bennets, – all of them.

My first boyfriend was definitely a Bingley – sweet, kind, cheerful, well-liked, lovable, unfailingly polite, popular, and courteous. I dated him for three years and never heard a cross word from him, though I’m certain he heard a few from me. Unlike Austen’s Bingley, he was very intelligent and spiritual. I think that’s why my Bingleys are always smarter and more capable than the Austen original.

Is there a Bingley in your past?

For the next few months, I plan to trace Austen’s characters, male and female (yes, I knew those, too) through my life. Please feel free to join me.

Congratulations …

June Abner!

Persuasion,Penry-Jones, HawkinsJune entered the give away during Austen in August and has won a copy of the 2007 adaptation of Persuasion starring Rupert Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins.

I’ll be sending this out Monday. I hope you enjoy it June.

Have a great weekend all–Susan Kaye

 

 

Happily Ever After? Austen in August, Week 3

Rupert Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins in the 2007 film

This week, I chose to answer this question from Misty of The Book Rat: “Will Anne’s family ever come to accept Wentworth, or is she essentially disowning herself by marrying him?”

The last third of Persuasion leaves no doubt in my mind that Anne’s family accepted Captain Wentworth as soon as they learned of the engagement. Beginning with Chapter 9, when Lady Russell sees Wentworth, Austen drops hints of the happy outcome. “She could thoroughly comprehend the sort of fascination he must possess over Lady Russell’s mind, the difficulty it must be for her to withdraw her eyes, the astonishment she must be feeling that eight or nine years should have passed over him, and in foreign climes and in active service too, without robbing him of one personal grace!”

In Chapter 20, Anne overhears Sir Walter and Elizabeth talking. “While they were speaking, a whispering between her father and Elizabeth caught her ear. She could not distinguish, but she must guess the subject; and on Captain Wentworth’s making a distant bow, she comprehended that her father had judged so well as to give him that simple acknowledgement of acquaintance, and she was just in time by a side glance to see a slight curtsey from Elizabeth herself. This, though late, and reluctant, and ungracious, was yet better than nothing, and her spirits improved.”

Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds in the 1995 version

Also, in Chapter 20, Frederick makes a telling remark to Anne concerning Captain Benwick: “‘A man like him, in his situation! with a heart pierced, wounded, almost broken! Fanny Harville was a very superior creature, and his attachment to her was indeed attachment. A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman!—He ought not—he does not.’

Anne saw nothing, thought nothing of the brilliancy of the room. Her happiness was from within. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed,—but she knew nothing about it. She was thinking only of the last half hour, and as they passed to their seats, her mind took a hasty range over it. His choice of subjects, his expressions, and still more his manner and look, had been such as she could see in only one light. His opinion of Louisa Musgrove’s inferiority, an opinion which he had seemed solicitous to give, his wonder at Captain Benwick, his feelings as to a first, strong attachment,—sentences begun which he could not finish— his half averted eyes and more than half expressive glance,—all, all declared that he had a heart returning to her at least; that anger, resentment, avoidance, were no more; and that they were succeeded, not merely by friendship and regard, but by the tenderness of the past. Yes, some share of the tenderness of the past. She could not contemplate the change as implying less.—He must love her.”

As she becomes convinced of Wentworth’s continued love for her, Anne overhears Lady Dalrymple talking with Sir Walter about the Captain. “Her father and Lady Dalrymple were speaking. ‘A well-looking man,’ said Sir Walter, ‘a very well-looking man.’
‘A very fine young man indeed!’ said Lady Dalrymple. ‘More air than one often sees in Bath.—Irish, I dare say.’
‘No, I just know his name. A bowing acquaintance. Wentworth—Captain Wentworth of the navy. His sister married my tenant in Somersetshire,—the Croft, who rents Kellynch.’

When Wentworth leaves the Bath musical evening abruptly, Anne begins to think of reasons for his actions and comes to a correct conclusion: “Jealousy of Mr. Elliot! It was the only intelligible motive. Captain Wentworth jealous of her affection! Could she have believed it a week ago—three hours ago! For a moment the gratification was exquisite.”

Whether or not her family would accept Wentworth, Anne’s resolve was firm, as is made evident in Chapter 21: “How she might have felt had there been no Captain Wentworth in the case, was not worth enquiry; for there was a Captain Wentworth; and be the conclusion of the present suspense good or bad, her affection would be his forever. Their union, she believed, could not divide her more from other men, than their final separation.”

In Chapter 22, Anne has the decided pleasure of seeing her family, particularly Elizabeth, acknowledge Wentworth. “Her jealous eye was satisfied in one particular. Captain Wentworth was acknowledged again by each, by Elizabeth more graciously than before. She even addressed him once, and looked at him more than once. Elizabeth was, in fact, revolving a great measure. The sequel explained it. After the waste of a few minutes in saying the proper nothings, she began to give the invitation which was to comprise all the remaining dues of the Musgroves. ‘To-morrow evening, to meet a few friends: no formal party.’ It was all said very gracefully, and the cards with which she had provided herself, the ‘Miss Elliot at home,’ were laid on the table, with a courteous, comprehensive smile to all, and one smile and one card more decidedly for Captain Wentworth. The truth was, that Elizabeth had been long enough in Bath to understand the importance of a man of such an air and appearance as his. The past was nothing. The present was that Captain Wentworth would move about well in her drawing-room. The card was pointedly given, and Sir Walter and Elizabeth arose and disappeared.”

Sir Walter appreciates good looks almost as much wealth, and Captain Wentworth has both in abundance. What the captain lacks in social position, he would gain by an association with the Elliots. One is led to believe that Elizabeth herself would have accepted his attentions in time, as she was no longer young.

Chapter 23 is famous for Wentworth’s wonderful missive, the most moving letter in all of Austen’s writings.

“‘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 forever. 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.’”

The reader, already assured of Anne’s unwavering devotion to Wentworth, now knows the depth of his love for her. Had her family not approved of their marriage, it would have made no difference. They would have wed and been happy in any case.

Anne actually addresses the subject with Wentworth: “‘You should have distinguished,’ replied Anne. ‘You should not have suspected me now; the case is so different, and my age is so different. If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty, but no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk would have been incurred, and all duty violated.’”

Wentworth admits his folly in resisting contacting Anne for eight years, which to me, is the last barrier between them: “‘But I too have been thinking over the past, and a question has suggested itself, whether there may not have been one person more my enemy even than that lady? My own self. Tell me if, when I returned to England in the year eight, with a few thousand pounds, and was posted into the Laconia, if I had then written to you, would you have answered my letter? Would you, in short, have renewed the engagement then?’

‘Would I!’ was all her answer; but the accent was decisive enough.

‘Good God! he cried, ‘you would! It is not that I did not think of it, or desire it, as what could alone crown all my other success; but 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.’”

Chapter 24 puts a definitive end to any doubt concerning the approval of the Elliots and the felicity of the couple.

“Sir Walter made no objection, and Elizabeth did nothing worse than look cold and unconcerned. Captain Wentworth, with five-and-twenty thousand pounds, and as high in his profession as merit and activity could place him, was no longer nobody. He was now esteemed quite worthy to address the daughter of a foolish, spendthrift baronet, who had not had principle or sense enough to maintain himself in the situation in which Providence had placed him, and who could give his daughter at present but a small part of the share of ten thousand pounds which must be hers hereafter.

Sir Walter, indeed, though he had no affection for Anne, and no vanity flattered, to make him really happy on the occasion, was very far from thinking it a bad match for her. On the contrary, when he saw more of Captain Wentworth, saw him repeatedly by daylight, and eyed him well, he was very much struck by his personal claims, and felt that his superiority of appearance might be not unfairly balanced against her superiority of rank; and all this, assisted by his well-sounding name, enabled Sir Walter at last to prepare his pen, with a very good grace, for the insertion of the marriage in the volume of honour.”

Trust Sir Walter to remain shallow ‘til the end.

The approval of Lady Russell put the issue to rest.

“There was nothing less for Lady Russell to do, than to admit that she had been pretty completely wrong, and to take up a new set of opinions and of hopes. There is a quickness of perception in some, a nicety in the discernment of character, a natural penetration, in short, which no experience in others can equal, and Lady Russell had been less gifted in this part of understanding than her young friend. But she was a very good woman, and if her second object was to be sensible and well-judging, her first was to see Anne happy. She loved Anne better than she loved her own abilities; and when the awkwardness of the beginning was over, found little hardship in attaching herself as a mother to the man who was securing the happiness of her other child.”

Even Mary was pleased with the match, and she was rarely pleased with anything.

“Of all the family, Mary was probably the one most immediately gratified by the circumstance. It was creditable to have a sister married, and she might flatter herself with having been greatly instrumental to the connexion, by keeping Anne with her in the autumn; and as her own sister must be better than her husband’s sisters, it was very agreeable that Captain Wentworth should be a richer man than either Captain Benwick or Charles Hayter.”

Anne’s only impediment to her complete happiness was a feeling of inferiority to Wentworth. She gained his family members and friends by their union, yet all she had to offer was Lady Russell and Mrs. Smith in addition to her pompous father and sisters.

Fortunately, Wentworth was in a very forgiving mood when he gained Anne’s hand, and he came to value Lady Russell and Mrs. Smith “from his heart.”

The kiss!

After this reread of Persuasion, I have come to believe that it is the most romantic of Austen’s works. While my favorite remains Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion has more of the “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” factor, and Darcy’s letter defending himself does not provoke the emotion of Wentworth’s impassioned plea to Anne. Thunderous applause for Jane Austen!

Laura and Susan, I surrender.

Austen in August: Week 3, Susan Kaye

Austen in August/PersuasionWelcome to the Jane Started It! portion of AUSTEN IN AUGUST. I want to thank MISTY, mistress of THE BOOK RAT blog, for hosting this wonderful, last chance, all-out, Austencentric book read of the summer. I am particularly happy with her choice of Austen novels, PERSUASION.  To say it is my favorite novel would be an understatement. I have grown to love Anne Elliot over the years, and I am a bona fide FREDERICK FANGIRL. (There are some who like the designation, Wentworth Wench, but I’m not fond of that.)  Anyway, I’m happy to talk Persuasion with anyone who will stand still.

Misty gave us some great questions to start with. My compatriots, LAURA HILE and ROBIN HELM will be posting answers here as well. Check back everyday to join the conversation.

I chose two questions from the last section. The first: Discuss one of the biggest fangirl-inducing moments on Austen: “The Letter,” did you know the ending was originally written without “The Letter” in it? Do you think the overall perception of the story would change without “The Letter”?

When I think about the two different endings of Persuasion, I can’t help but think, “Thank Heaven for rewrites!” The original ending of Persuasion has Frederick and Anne getting back together in the company of the Crofts, but it is pretty thin gruel when compared to the “new” material. I love the letter, but I love the following chapters even more. On the page, Wentworth apologizes and admits his knuckleheadedness, and he elaborates on that when they take a little stroll on The Gravel Walk. Then, at the evening party, he goes even further in admitting he wanted to write her in the year ’08 when he’d returned from the Indies, but was too proud. “Six years of separation and suffering might have been spared.”

The letter is his admission of guilt in being unjust to her and of his own pain, but to me his admitting, face-to-face that he made mistakes in how he behaved with the Musgrove girls, how he perceived her in the past, and now that he could have ended the entire painful separation had he acted shows me that he’s probably learned his lesson and is going to be far more mindful of his actions as a husband.

As I say, I love the letter. Some of the phrases are the most wonderful lines in the book, but it’s the scenes that follow are the real heart of the relationship of Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot. They have so few scenes with any real interaction that those following the letter are sweeter for it.

Question #2: On reflection, are you bothered by the fact that Anne is essentially put in the same position—to give up the life she knows and loves—for Wentworth, and that the same is never expected of him. Does this bother your modern sensibilities, or do you think the right decision was made?

I don’t see there was another decision to make. Anne had an existence that played out in locations completely under the control of others. She may have loved Kellynch Hall, but her connection would end, unless she married Mr. Elliot, with the death of her father. Her only hope after that was being taken in by either Lady Russell or her sister, Mary. Marrying Frederick gained her a position in society—yes, attached to a man, but at least he, unlike her father, LOVED her—and opened the chance that she would have borne him children, who would offer her a place in the future. If they had not had children, she would have had his estated upon his death. I can’t see that Frederick would have been the sort to put Anne under the control of someone else.

I’m intrigued by the idea that, to be fair, perhaps Frederick should have given up something. Pray, what? His career? I’ve messaged with people who thought it only fair that he give up his career and stay home with Anne. 20k to 25k in the bank wouldn’t have afforded them a very comfortable lifestyle. At the usual 3%, that would have only been about 600 pounds a year. (The Dashwoods had about 500 and were barely scraping by.) I guess they could have lived with Sir Walter. Of course Anne would have been in a pickle after Frederick murdered her father.  I suppose they could have lived with Sophia and the Admiral. That would have put Anne back at Kellynch, but not as the mistress. I don’t see Frederick as the sort of guy who would be comfortable living off his family in any circumstance.

Besides, I think Anne admired the fact that he was a self-made man. That blue and gold uniform had an attractive shine to it. Who knows, maybe the ’95 adaptation was right and Frederick put aside his objection to women on ships took Anne on his next voyage.

No one, in any age, had, has, or will have it all. Life is a series of concessions. The key is choosing who you will compromise with and how far are you willing to go.

Join the chatter.

Thanks for dropping by.

Take care–Susan Kaye

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.

Austen in August – Frederick and My Poor Nerves

Continuing my participation in Austen in August, I answered this question from The Book Rat’s Misty: Is there ever a time you dislike Captain Wentworth? Were you put off by his treatment of Anne?

Well, yes, actually. I am a huge admirer of the Y chromosome, but I have yet to meet a man who truly knows how women think. I spent half of the book wanting to kick Captain Wentworth, and the other half feeling very sorry for him. In these particular chapters (8-18), I was in “What a jerk!” mode at least five times.

At the end of chapter 8, Austen writes: “Anne did not wish for more of such looks and speeches. His cold politeness, his ceremonious grace, were worse than anything.”

Who among us has not suffered the impersonal civility of a former, spurned boyfriend? Austen is quite accurate in her assessment. The frigid courtesy is worse than outright rudeness. It says, “I do not care enough about you anymore to work up a good show of hostility.”

In chapter 9: “In another moment, however, she found herself in the state of being released from him; someone was taking him from her, though he had bent down her head so much, that his little sturdy hands were unfastened from around her neck, and he was resolutely borne away, before she knew that Captain Wentworth had done it.”

The captain sends mixed signals here, further confusing Anne. I have sympathy for him in this passage. He still loves her, though he won’t yet admit it to himself, and he cannot stand by while she is abused.

In chapter 10, Anne overhears the captain talking to Louisa: “My first wish for all whom I am interested in, is that they should be firm. If Louisa Musgrove would be beautiful and happy in her November of life, she will cherish all her present powers of mind.”

Anne is so overcome by his explicit approval of Louisa’s character, as well as his warm statement of interest in her, that she takes great pains to remain undiscovered. However, rather than finding relief for her unhappiness, she hears the captain and Louisa continue to speak of Charles Musgrove’s offer for her and her rejection of him. Knowing that Frederick compares her to Louisa, and she suffers by the comparison, is troubling enough without having to suffer the humiliation of hearing herself being the subject of gossip and speculation. Louisa did not really know why Anne had refused Charles’s suit.

However, at the end of the chapter, Frederick again sends an ambiguous message when he prevails upon his sister to give the exhausted Anne a ride back to Uppercross.

Discussing Persuasion

Chapter 11: Anne found herself by this time growing so much more hardened to being in Captain Wentworth’s company than she had at first imagined could ever be, that the sitting down to the same table with him now, and the interchange of the common civilities attending on it (they never got beyond), was become a mere nothing.

In my opinion, it is at Lyme, in these lines, that the reader begins to feel the sea change in the weather. Anne starts to become accustomed to Frederick’s presence; she is able to bear it without pain, though she still loves him. However, as is so often the case in reality, once she is not as centered on him, he begins to relent toward her. Watching her converse with Benwick all evening probably caught his interest.

Chapter 12: The tone, the look, with which “Thank God!” was uttered by Captain Wentworth, Anne was sure could never be forgotten by her; nor the sight of him afterwards, as he sat near a table, leaning over it with folded arms and face concealed, as if overpowered by the various feelings of his soul, and trying by prayer and reflection to calm them.

“Don’t talk of it, don’t talk of it,” he cried. “Oh God! that I had not given way to her at the fatal moment! Had I done as I ought! But so eager and so resolute! Dear, sweet Louisa!”

I cannot imagine how Anne must have suffered as Frederick uttered these words during their journey to return Henrietta to her home. This chapter most displayed her true character. A lesser woman would not have felt the sympathy for Frederick, the concern for Louisa, or the responsibility of the situation. Anne calmly assumed control of the tragedy, and the others’ confidence in her was so strong that they turned to her for advice and instantly followed her instructions when they were given.

I was heartened that Anne displayed her strong backbone by wondering silently if Frederick was perhaps rethinking his ideas of a “firmness of character” taken to extremes. One might call it stubbornness.

Anne is very sweet, but she is not weak. To my way of thinking, she displays more strength of character than does Frederick. I chalk it up to that pesky Y chromosome.

Austen in August, Week 2: Susan Kaye

Welcome to Week 2 of Austen in August, hosted by Misty of The Book Rat blog.

We’ve had some great comments about this year’s choice, Persuasion. And we’re looking forward to more.

This week I chose just one questions to answer. Feel free to ask any of your own so we can all have a part of the conversation.  😉

This question is from the Middle questions. “As Anne and Wentworth are thrown together more and more, how do you feel about the fact that they never address their shared history? Do you find either to be irrational or unjust in not being open with the other and broaching the topic? Do you find Anne too self-sacrificing?”

Effects by BeFunky.com

I’ve sub-titled this post, Emotional Chicken Anyone? because in that game, neither party wants to be the first to rip open their chest and show their heart. Or still-broken heart in the case of Frederick and Anne. Delving into the past for these two would be like oral surgery sans the anesthetic, hence, IMO, each are silent on the matter in the first half of the book.

As Wentworth tells Anne after they straighten out all the misunderstandings that aside from the constant ache, he didn’t really know his own heart. He was angry, but underlying the huffy, angry toddler behavior was a constant love for her that dictated the previous eight years of his life. For Anne’s part, she observed the anger, but as time went on on she felt it softening and hoped they might become friends eventually. She observed and hoped, but she wasn’t going to open that emotional I-still-love-you-Frederick vein. That would have been like jumping into a pool of rejection sharks with an open wound.

I don’t see Anne as self-sacrificing, but taking advantage of the circumstances.

Years ago I posited that Anne should have stepped up and spoken candidly with Frederick. Ouch! I was told, in no uncertain terms, that both the lovers, but most particularly Anne, were shackled by the social conventions of the time. I didn’t buy the argument then and I don’t buy it now. Besides the fact that love has always managed to find a way around conventions, the neighborhood society of the Musgroves was astonishingly casual.  The elder Musgroves weren’t fastidious about much of anything, much less propriety. Charles Musgrove saw Frederick interacting with his family and sisters in ways far too intimate and he said nothing. At the very least, he should have dropped a few discrete hints about the impression forming while they were off shooting together.

We’ll not bother discussing whether it was even possible for a Musgrove to drop a discrete hint, and just say that it’s doubtful Charles would have had a thunderous reaction if he found Frederick and Anne in a quiet tête à tête somewhere around Uppercross. I can’t imagine anyone, except Mary perhaps, would have had a thing to say period.  In the same way that Austen instinctively used societal constriction to ramp up tension to further her story, Anne used it as the excuse to avoid risking Frederick’s rejection again.

This sort of social/romantic hide-n-seek is so true to life; I can’t help think that maybe Jane Austen had played the game herself.

Comment as you will. Have fun.

If this is your first visit with us, check out last week’s AiA posts:
Susan Kaye: What Does Does Mary Know?
Robin Helm: Should Anne have Yielded to Persuasion?
Laura Hile: A Civil Cautious Lawyer

Take care–Susan Kaye