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Persuasion 200: Lady Russell Hints about Dangers of Mrs. Clay by Maria Grace — 11 Comments

  1. “Anne’s look would have shattered glass”. That line made me laugh out loud. It was an excellent way to cut the tension from this chapter. This chapter made us better understand the relationship between Anne and Lady Russell, and in particular, it made me understand how much she looked to her for support and advice, and vice versa. Lady Russell looks to Anne for common sense and sound judgements, just as Anne looks to Lady Russell for the same things. This must have been a difficult chapter to write, because it is difficult to be delicate and still comprehensible, which the times would have required. You did a perfect job with this. I felt Anne’s horror, despair, and melancholy very keenly, and I truly felt Lady Russell’s concern. I no longer see her as a loving busybody as I once did, but as a loving friend and counseller. It was a lovely friendship that they had. I especially liked the way that Lady Russell pointed out how harmful the sycophantic flattery was that Mrs. Clay provided. Anne herself realized this, because she saw evidence of it every day, but it was good for her to know that someone else saw and felt the same concerns that she did. As the only sane, rational person in a family of eccentric and foolishly self-indulgent people, it must have been comforting to know someone who loved and respected her, and validated her opinions. Too often her family dismissed her because they didn’t like what she said. Self important egotistical snobs quite often attract people who tell them exactly what they want to hear, and who thereby flatter themselves into a cozy position. I recall Sir Walter saying something in the original, to the effect that Mrs. Clay’s looks had improved, that her freckles were no longer very noticeable. He put it down to her use of Gowland’s skin creme, but the rest of us put it down to something else entirely. It may have been due to her bowing, scraping and flattery alone, although we may assume more. Mrs. Clay wasn’t very smart, but she was smart enough to get what she wanted from Sir Walter and his heir: skin creme had nothing to do with it. To get rid of her freckles, Mrs. Clay would have needed so much face creme, that cheese would have formed on her face. Although Lady Russell wasn’t right about everything, she was a very good, solid friend for Anne, and she does appear to regret being wrong about Wentworth. A very insightful and satisfying chapter. Everything that needed to be said was said. You have made a convert of me. The next time I read Persuasion, I will see it through different eyes. It is funny how times change. To think that freckles were once considered a bad thing is funny, when 100 plus years later, Sarah Ferguson was celebrated for her red hair and freckles! As someone of Celtic decent, I have always had a light sprinkling of freckles, and I have never minded them. In P&P, poor Mary King was scathingly called a nasty freckled little thing. In an age when appearance was everything, women were held to a higher standard than men for something as meaningless as that. Men were also more easily forgiven for lapses and indiscretions than women were for having freckles!

  2. A wonderful chapter; I agree with everything that Mari said. Perhaps that makes me sound a bit like Mrs. Clay? Nonetheless, your writing and insight were excellent!

  3. I too agree with everything Mari so eloquently stated as Leslie said. Yes, Anne has Mrs. Russel to go to for advice, but no one to give her solace. Even with Mrs. Russell’s friendship she is so alone. While reading this I too agree with Shannon…the hint of the scene at Uppercross….the 2008 movie version showed, very clearly, how everyone would underburden themselves to her. It would almost be comical, if she weren’t so much a lone ship at sea. My favorite part is…”Perhaps if you make yourself more useful to your father…”

    Anne’s look would have shattered glass.

    “Then again, perhaps not…your sister then…no that is equally unlikely””. It was quite funny as Anne is already doing that. 😉

    I just wish she were appreciated more. Another wonderful piece of writing that gives us more insight into Anne and Mrs. Russell. One of the first things I noted is that this was told from Mrs. Russell’s point of view. Thank you so much. 🙂

  4. A well written chapter, showing another side of Anne and Lady Russell s relationship. Anne is always the sounding board, yet no one ever really just listens to her. Every so often we just need to be truly listened to, not so they can fix it or offer advice, just to be heard.

  5. Oh gosh, AWKWARD!

    Brilliantly handled, Grace! This is a scene I never gave any thought to before, but I loved how you portrayed it. Poor Anne (again!) – and I too loved how you acknowledged she is everyone’s ‘go to’ person when they need an ear or a shoulder!

  6. OK, I will be a “ditto-head”: Mari took so much time to give us her perspective but it was so well said.

    Yes, just the fact that everyone bends Anne’s ear tells us how deep down inside people respect her, even if it is not stated. She is a listener, and doesn’t cast judgments, when in that role.

    Considering this: “He is a man my dear and I should be surprised if he has lost the taste for baser pleasures.” We don’t talk about this side of our characters but were they any different in their needs, wants and/or desires? There are too many hints that Mrs. Clay becomes the mistress for William Eliot at the end of this story or in the movie. So she might think she could have her cake and eat it too one way or another? – Someone to support her since her husband left her nothing? Leaves me wondering if her father is footing the bill for her children and thus is really pushing for financial help, in any way possible?

    But those thoughts are no going to be explicitly addressed by authors of that day and age.

    Thank you for a look at how a close family acquaintance viewed this situation. Her thoughts on Anne give us a view of how valued Anne was to her, even with the bad advice about Frederick. I love the thought that “Silhouetted in the sun light, she was the spit and image of her dear mother.”

  7. That was an enjoyable read. Poor Anne having to speak of such things! (I know I shouldn’t, but I rather feel a small bit of pleasure when Lady Russell feels the pain of her previous advice to Anne.)

  8. Very delicately written Maria! Anne does not really want to say a bad word about anyone but people are so willing to unburden to her!

  9. I like this story as I never imagine Lady Russell would discuss this difficult subject with Anne. It sure shed some light on Mrs Clay’s motives and inserted herself in the Elliots household.

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