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Persuasion 200: Lady Russell Decides to Persuade Anne to Break Engagement — 26 Comments

  1. I like your approach to this scene – showing Lady Russell’s thought processes before her conversation with Anne. Lady Russell clearly feels a sense of responsibility to her dear friend’s daughter. I’ll bet at this point she’s glad she didn’t marry Sir Walter. She already sees him for the shallow, vain man that he is. Nice job!

  2. When you so eloquently put Lady Russell’s jumbled thoughts and fears for Anne, I can’t help but see her side of the story. Although objectively I do feel for both Anne and Wentworth, there is a real possibility that her fears would come true. Look at what became of Fanny Price’s parents in Mansfield Park. Love doesn’t always conquer all. Ideally I would think that they should be engaged for two years until Wentworth gain more prize money and settle down.

    Thanks for the lovely scene, Maria.

    • Thanks, Luthien, I’m glad I could present the other side of the story in a sympathetic way. Fanny Price is a good example to consider here. Thanks for mentioning it.

  3. Thank you so much .Maria. Putting us inside Lady Russell’s head makes her a much more sympathetic character than I had originally envisioned. She truly seems to care for Anne and wants what was best for her. I think I can understand why she would want her not to be engaged as anything could happen to him while at sea, from serious illness to accidental injury to battle causing death. It was more than likely his mortality would get in the way. the comparison to Sir Walter was one I had not thought of before. The way he spent his money, “He spent what money he had freely enough—almost as freely as Sir Walter himself”, all the poor woman could think of was her best friend and what happened to her and then what could possibly happen to Anne at the worst, especially since her father washed his hands of her. And then, no one knew him. He could’ve been abusive.

    You have definitely made Lady Russell a sympathetic character. I cannot, any longer, fault her for her interference. It was done in Anne’s best interests. She would not have had the same opportunities we have today. Thank you so very much Maria. I am looking/not looking forward to the next few chapters. I believe they will be heart-wrenching.

  4. This was easier to read, because it did show us what went on in her mind. I have to say that Lady Russell comes off more sympathetically here than she did in the original book. Austen often glossed over things like this, when it would have been more beneficial to the reader to have some additional insight into the characters. She also wrote at a time when women had few rights, and no redress when a poor choice of spouse could have lasting repercussions. What a pity that Lady Russell didn’t try to get to know Wentworth better before she decided what to do. And what a pity that Anne wasn’t stronger. The irony is that she loved Anne enough to prevent what she considered a bad choice, while Sir Walter didn’t care at all, and would happily have seen Anne in a bad situation because it meant she was off his hands. What a dreadful man! I did love the infamous hedgerows comment, so often favored by Mrs. Bennett. Many of Austen’s heroines appear to have a poor relationship with a parent, who doesn’t esteem and love them as they should. I wonder if this in any way reflects on Austen’s life, or if she just saw a lot of it in a time when large families were the norm, rather than the exception? Did she think that a more sensitive soul might get lost in the shuffle as it were? In this instance of course, with only three daughters, that wasn’t the case. Sir Dumbo just didn’t care for anyone but himself and his eldest, who was as self involved as he was. Again though, a five minute chat with Wentworth would have reassured Lady Russell before she ruined Anne’s life and happiness for eight years. Her thought process about Frederick just coming into the neighborhood and swooping down on Anne were a bit skewed too. She appears to think he had no right to be attracted to Anne at all because of his station in life, and doesn’t seem to understand that he could be seriously attached. In this way she does Anne’s gentle personality a great disservice and shows that she is not so different as Sir Walter in not esteeming Anne highly enough. For all the talking Austen’s characters do, they skirt or ignore the big issues. There is always an elephant in the the room in all of the Austen stories. Still we can’t totally attack reticent Regency folks, when we see the same situations today! Human nature doesn’t change much, does it? A fantastic job on your part Maria. Only you could have rendered Lady Busybody sympathetically and made us see her in a better light. I have often disliked her for what I considered interfering and officious behavior, even while I understood what she had done. I will never warm up to the character, but I will consider that she had her good point. Even if the point was the top of her head! Alright rude joke on my part, and I will stifle myself. Another excellent chapter, and not an easy one to have written, considering the average reader’s prejudice against the character. Well done.

    • I think Austen didn’t explain a lot of things because she never assumed her books would be read 200 yeas later! LOL. The things she didn’t say would largely have been understood by the reader of the day.

      I’m not sure a five minute chat could have taken place in the era. Women, certainly women not related to the person, or women not very well acquainted, did not ask personal questions. Not to mention at given both Lady Russell and Wentworth were both unmarried, they wold not have had a private conversation at all. That makes this all the re difficult.

      I’m glad Lady Russell s a more sympathetic character now. Thanks, Mari.

  5. This is excellent, Grace! I think it enhances the original story so well.

    I loved the way you handled it, especially her having her dear friend’s portrait in her drawer, the recollection of drawing it and her inner debate.

    Lady Russell makes some excellent points – what did they know of Wentworth really? We all know it was an insecure profession at the best of times – it’s easy for us with hindsight and knowing of his successes to consider this ill advice, but it was definitely in the best interests of Anne.

    The parallels with Sir Walter are interesting too, especially their spending of money! Something I never thought of before, but incredibly pertinent to the situation and, again, the lack of true knowledge of Captain Wentworth’s background at this point in time.

  6. A great explanation for how Lady Russell determined this was something that (she felt) had to be done. She looked at it very sensibly and knew there was no other way. Thanks for letting us get into her head!

  7. I had never before given Lady Russell’s thought processes one moment of my time but reading your story completely changed my mind about her. All we think of is young love unfulfilled but really what did they know of him – only his own self to recommend him. There truly was a negative side to consider, and Anne had to be presented with it. I agree, though, with another comment, that a long engagement instead of out and out refusal, would have put to rest Lady Russell’s fears. Really well done today!

    • Thanks, Martha. I’m glad I was able to give the other side of the story some life.

      The trouble with a long engagement though is that it still left Anne tied to him with little way out. Breaking an engagement was very serious business and damaged a woman’s reputation so severely she might never be considered by another. So if they’d had a long engagement and he came back with little or no prize money, she still would have been in serious trouble. Things were very different in that era.

      Thanks, Martha!

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  9. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this post today due to the gloomy topic, but I am glad I did. It was nice to get to understand Lady Russel’s motivation a bit…although I still do not agree with her. Surely there could have been more done to understand Wentworth’s value (not monetary) and who his family was before she made such a decision.

    Sad, but beautifully written.

  10. Beautifully written. I can feel Lady Russell’s pain – that horrible spot where you know you are going to give your child pain, but you have to do it for their best interest. And she is right, too. Wentworth, we know from JA, was very confident in his future, but that confidence was not a guarantee of success. If only Lady Russell could have convinced her to postpone an engagement until his next return from sea instead of giving him up completely!

  11. I loved this episode, Maria-lovely writing-I really enjoyed reading a sympathetic account for Lady Russell-her heart was in the right place!

  12. Interesting seeing inside Lady Russell’s mind…put her advice in a different light…never a favourite character of mine…but through your eyes …I see her with a little more sympathy…still wish she had supported Anne…even if it was to postpone engagement. until Wentworth could prove himself worthy of Anne. Lady Russell meant well but oh the sorrow she causes…

  13. Thanks for giving us such a clear look at Lady Russell’s motives and legitimate concerns for Anne’s future. I think Anne sees her as the wisest and most loving “parent” she has, and it’s understandable that at her young age she would be strongly influenced by her – for better or for worse.

  14. I put off reading this post as I was not anticipating anything positive. Agree with others that your view/writing of Lady Russell’s reasoning make me much more receptive to her actions, even though I/we know the heartache such caused. Sadly, we can’t change how this turns out so we know we are in for more heart break.

    Well done.

  15. That was beautifully written Maria. From this perspective, I can understand Lady Russell’s reasoning as well and can sympathize with her. It just doesn’t minimize the pain.

    The portrayals in the movies I have seen have clouded my judgment of her but I should go back and read the book again as well.

  16. I’ll add my praise to everyone else’s. This was very touching and revealing because it was clear that Lady Russell’s concerns weren’t just over class/society differences, and had to do with practical concerns – Anne being completely cut off from any financial support from her family, and possibly weathering pregnancy in terrible conditions — and of course taking into account Wentworth’s obviously dangerous occupation and their general lack of knowledge of what kind of person he was. It was very parental for her not to want Anne to have a terrible marriage like her parents. But Lady Russell’s logic was a little off in her suspicions that Wentworth was trying to romance an heiress, since Sir Walter had already decided to cut Anne off and yet Wentworth persisted in his suit. That should have helped his cause, but I guess wouldn’t have been enough to overcome all her other reservations.

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