Persuasion is Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Austen died in Winchester on July 18, 1817 at the age of 41. After Austen’s death, in December 1817, Cassandra and Henry Austen arranged with John Murray, Jane’s editor, for the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey in a single volume. Henry Austen contributed a Biographical Note that, for the first time, identified his sister as the author of the novels. In 1832, publisher, Richard Bentley, purchased the remaining copyrights to all of Austen’s novels. In late 1832 or early 1833, Bentley published the novels in five illustrated volumes as part of his Standard Novels series. Since that time, Austen’s novels have been continuously in print.
Persuasion’s Cast of Characters:
Sir Walter Elliot, Baronet—Sir Walter’s extravagance since the death of his prudent wife thirteen years earlier has put his family in financial distress, necessitating the leasing of Kellynch Hall to Admiral Croft so that the family might take a more economical residence in Bath.
Elizabeth Elliot — The eldest and most beautiful daughter of Sir Walter. She encourages her father’s imprudent spending and extravagance. Both “Miss Elliot” and her father routinely put their interests ahead of Anne’s, regarding her feelings as inconsequential.
Anne Elliot — The second daughter of Sir Walter. Eight years earlier, she had broken her engagement to Commander Frederick Wentworth on the advice of her mentor, Lady Russell. At twenty-seven, and past her “bloom,” she remains unmarried because she has never stopped loving Frederick.
Mary Elliot Musgrove — The youngest daughter of Sir Walter. Mary is married to Charles Musgrove, a member of a prominent family in the neighborhood. To get attention from Charles and his family (as well as her own), she often feigns illness.
Charles Musgrove — Husband of Mary and heir to the Musgrove estate. He had wanted to marry Anne but settled for Mary when Anne refused him because of her continued love for Wentworth (much to the disappointment of the Musgrove family and to his ultimate dissatisfaction).
Louisa Musgrove — Younger sister of Charles Musgrove, Louisa, aged about 19, is a high-spirited young lady who has recently returned with her sister from school. Captain Wentworth admires her for her resolve and determination, which contrasts with Anne’s prudence and what he sees as her lack of conviction.
Henrietta Musgrove — Older sister of Charles Musgrove. Henrietta, aged 20, is informally engaged to her cousin, Charles Hayter, but is nevertheless tempted by the more dashing Captain Wentworth.
Lady Russell — Anne’s godmother and mentor and a long-time friend of the Elliots. Lady Russell, the widow of a knight, is instrumental in Sir Walter’s decision to leave Kellynch Hall in order to avoid a financial crisis. Eight years earlier, she had persuaded Anne to turn down Captain Wentworth’s proposal of marriage because of his inferior birth and lack of fortune. While far more sensible than Sir Walter Elliot, she shares his concern for rank and status.
Captain Frederick Wentworth — A naval officer who was briefly engaged to Anne eight years earlier. At the time of his first proposal, he had no fortune and uncertain prospects, but owing to his success in the Napoleonic Wars, his situation has improved greatly. One of two brothers of Sophia Croft.
Admiral Croft — Good-natured, plainspoken tenant at Kellynch Hall and brother-in-law of Captain Wentworth.
Sophia Croft — Sister of Captain Wentworth and wife of Admiral Croft. She offers Anne an example of a strong-minded woman who has married for love.
William Elliot — A relation and heir presumptive of Sir Walter. Mr. Elliot became estranged from the family when he married a woman of much lower social rank for her fortune instead of Elizabeth Elliot. He is now a widower and wishes to mend the rupture for selfish reasons.
Mrs. Clay — A poor widow, daughter of Sir Walter’s lawyer, and intimate friend of Elizabeth Elliot. Her aim is to flatter Sir Walter into marriage.
Captain Timothy Harville — A friend of Captain Wentworth’s. Severely wounded two years previously and discharged from the navy at half-pay, he and his family have settled in nearby Lyme.
Commander James Benwick — A friend of Captain Harville. Benwick had been engaged to Captain Harville’s now deceased sister. The loss of Fanny Harville has left Benwick melancholic and a lover of poetry. His enjoyment of reading makes him one of the few characters in the story to find an intellectual connection with Anne.
Mrs. Smith — A friend of Anne Elliot’s who lives in Bath. Mrs. Smith is a widow who has suffered ill health and financial difficulties. She keeps abreast of the doings of Bath society through news she gets from Rooke, her nurse, who also works for a friend of William Elliot’s.
Lady Dalrymple — A viscountess and cousin of Sir Walter. She occupies an exalted position in society by virtue of her wealth and rank. Sir Walter and Elizabeth are eager to be seen at Bath in the company of this great relation.
Sources: Wikipedia articles on Jane Austen and Jane Austen’s Persuasion.