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A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Six

Today we come to Chapter Six of Persuasion, which is available online at Molland's and elsewhere, should you be so unfortunate as to not yet have a copy of your very own.

In this chapter, we learn what an easy-going nature Anne has, and how she inspires confidence, something which Austen demonstrates for us, and which informs the reader of a good deal about the natures of the people at Uppercross, as well as convincing us that Anne has the patience of a saint, listening to all of them chatter about one another. We also learn far more about Mary, and, in particular, her parenting abilities, including the information that Charles is the better parent, and that Anne gets almost as much love as and far more respect from Mary's children as Mary does.

Austen marks the time for us: three full weeks of visits and days spent listening to people and playing the pianoforte for their enjoyment (whether thanked for it or not), a point which was almost certainly based at least in part on Jane Austen's personal experience: she was a fairly accomplished player of the pianoforte, and spent an hour or so each morning practicing, despite the fact that nobody in the house was particularly fond of music. She also played dances for nieces and nephews on several occasions. Her discussion of the private pleasure of music is therefore likely based on her own experience, and it is not completely beyond the pale that the visiting nieces and nephews and any supervising adults forgot to show their appreciation to their accompanist now and again.

Then Michaelmas (pronounced rather like Mickle-muhs - sorry, no schwa key readily available) arrives, and the Crofts are at Kellynch. Mary at least has the good grace to acknowledge the day and to rest her hand on Anne's shoulder, the first and only real acknowledgment of Anne's loss of her real home that we get in this chapter. In fact, Austen starts the chapter with everyone quite excited about Sir Walter's move to Bath, quite unconscious of any discomfort on Anne's part, a recurring theme throughout the novel. In fact, I want to point out that there are only a few characters who take note of any discomfort on Anne's part: we've already met one, Lady Russell, and there are two more to come - but only one who takes serious action to ameliorate her discomfort. And there are conclusions to be drawn from that, I believe, but I'm putting the cart before the horse.

Getting back to the point about people being unconcerned or unaware of Anne's sadness at leaving Kellynch and distaste for Bath: it is that sort of omission that allows us, as readers, to fill in more about Anne's personality. As readers who are given information by our omniscient narrator, we know that Anne is sad about leaving Kellynch and dreading Bath, yet the people around her rattle on about what a great thing it all is. Given how kind-hearted the Musgroves are established as being, it must be that Anne pastes on a smile or at least a sense of indifference to cover it all over, for surely if her pain were reflected on her face, someone would notice. And since nobody does at all, she must be wearing her mask well. I think it's something we intuitively grasp as readers, but it represents a deliberate choice on Austen's part not to spell it out. There's a trust in the reader implicit in here that I think modern authors sometimes lack - they rush in to fill all the cracks with newspaper, instead of allowing the reader to do a bit of the work. And I'd argue that it's the work done by the reader to fill in the cracks for themselves that creates a sense of "ownership" of the characters and the text, and one of the reasons that so many people enjoy reading and re-reading Austen's work. But perhaps I digress.

A Visit from the Crofts

Besides the further information as to the daily life at Uppercross and the characters of those who live there, this chapter includes a Key Event: Mary and Charles visit the Crofts, and the Crofts promptly return the visit, allowing Anne to meet Admiral and Mrs. Croft for the first time. She is fortunate to spend quite a bit of time in conversation with Mrs. Croft, Frederick Wentworth's sister, during which she has this heart-stopping exchange:

"It was you, and not your sister, I find, that my brother had the pleasure of being acquainted with, when he was in this country."

Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not.

"Perhaps you may not have heard that he is married?" added Mrs. Croft.

She could now answer as she ought; and was happy to feel, when Mrs. Croft's next words explained it to be Mr. Wentworth of whom she spoke, that she had said nothing which might not do for either brother. She immediately felt how reasonable it was, that Mrs. Croft should be thinking and speaking of Edward, and not of Frederick, and, with shame at her own forgetfulness, applied herself to the knowledge of their former neighbour's present state with proper interest.

The rest was all tranquillity; till, just as they were moving, she heard the Admiral say to Mary, "We are expecting a brother of Mrs. Croft's here soon - I dare say you know him by name."

Austen leaves us with a bit of a cliffhanger on that, changing the scene to later in the day, when the folks from the big house are expected to turn up at the cottage. It is only then that we learn that it is indeed Captain Wentworth who is coming to visit, and we are treated to a bit of nonsense about poor Richard.

Do you know Dick?
The nonsense about Dick Musgrove is based on an Austen family joke invoked more than once by Jane Austen in her letters, which included comments about a close family friend named Richard who needs to get himself a better name, and a similar jesting reference within the text of Northanger Abbey. (It's actually a point I've researched quite well during the Jane project, as it turns out, but as I'm hoping to get a serious article published elsewhere, I'll say no more here.)

Back to Chapter Five
On to Chapter Seven

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( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 10th, 2010 03:22 am (UTC)
That would have to be one big pillow, or one small font.
Jan. 11th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
Definitely! And while I'd never have thought of it, I agree that ownership is probably high up there on the list of why Austen's novels are so enduring.
Jan. 10th, 2010 03:20 am (UTC)
*happy sigh* I love these :)
Jan. 10th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
I'm so glad. And thanks so much for saying so - sometimes when I embark on month-long projects, I start to wonder whether anyone but me is amused by it. Not that it would prevent me from doing it, really, but it makes me happy knowing that you're out there, liking it too!
Jan. 10th, 2010 06:25 am (UTC)
Given how kind-hearted the Musgroves are established as being, it must be that Anne pastes on a smile or at least a sense of indifference to cover it all over, for surely if her pain were reflected on her face, someone would notice. And since nobody does at all, she must be wearing her mask well.

This is such a great point, and it reminds me that Austen tells us over and over again that having too much mastery of one's feelings can be just as destructive as not having enough. Although it's pretty clear which mode she personally prefers! I wonder whether she was nearly as long-suffering and good at hiding her emotions as many of her heroines are, or if that was a quality she saw and admired more in others than herself.
Jan. 10th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
The evidence on Austen's personality is scant, and somewhat mixed on that point. It seems as if her sister, Cassandra, was better at the putting-on of an unflappable exterior than Jane. Jane had a bit of a reputation for seeming a bit stand-offish among crowds of new people, but also seems to have been the more bright and sparkling of the two among acquaintances, so it's hard to form a clear picture of her.
Jan. 10th, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
I'm really enjoying these posts Kelly, thanks! And good luck with the article about Dick Musgrove too! I'd love to hear more eventually...
Jan. 10th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that wish for luck - reminds me to get on the stick and submit the darn thing already! And I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the posts!
Jan. 10th, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
My favorite part of Chapter 6 was this sentence from the description of Mrs. Croft: "Her manners were open, easy, and decided, like one who had no distrust of herself, and no doubts of what to do; without any approach to coarseness, however, or any want of good humour."

Jan. 11th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
I adore Mrs. Croft. And I suppose that sentence articulates why, even though I've never singled it out to realize it.
Jan. 11th, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
Yes, I noticed the cliffhanger at the end too. Austen gives us the sense that the main action of the story is about to begin. This is my first time reading Persuasion, so I am looking forward to see what exactly will happen next.
Jan. 11th, 2010 04:40 am (UTC)
I hope you will enjoy it. I'm pretty certain you will!

If you want to see the best possible movie version of it, watch the one starring Amanda Root as Anne and Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth. It's really very good. The ITV version starring Sally Hawkins is great in some respects and quite horrid in others - there's some hand-held camera work at the start that is awful and then quite a lot of running at the end on Anne's part, which is ridiculous - however, there are excellent performances by Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth (and he's so very beautiful - I told Angela that it was as if Simon Le Bon and David Beckham had a love child) and by Anthony Head as Sir Walter (he's a particular favorite with Buffy fans).
Jan. 11th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
Anthony head as Sir Walter????? I must see this.
Jan. 11th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
He's FABulous in the role.
Jan. 12th, 2010 04:11 am (UTC)
I am glad for this recommendation. I will definitely be getting a movie version from Netflix once I finish the book.
Jan. 11th, 2010 03:37 am (UTC)
I'm enjoying these so much! I finished rereading yesterday--I meant to parcel it out a chapter a day, but then I got so caught up in it I had to keep going. I made my husband read The Letter too, though he did not appreciate it as he ought! *swoons*
Jan. 11th, 2010 04:36 am (UTC)
At the AGM in Chicago in 2008, a guy got down on one knee and proposed in the middle of the Regency Ball, reading from The Letter as he did so. So completely swoon-worthy.

And then at our May meeting, the JASNA president spoke, and had two people read passages from Austen to help make her point. I asked one of our members who is an excellent reader to do it, and women were almost literally drooling over him by the time he was done. (His wife shouldn't have let him come to that one alone!)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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