Persuasion 200: Louisa’s Firmness of Resolve, and its Consequences – by Diana Birchall — 13 Comments

  1. Thanks for this chapter! I’m torn between sympathy for Louisa – after all, who wants a serious head injury? and exasperation with her, and with Wentworth for indulging her, in behaving so childishly! With all the illustrations you provided, I can’t imagine ever doing anything remotely like jumping down some stairs in the clothes and shoes they were wearing! They were lucky there were not more of them piled on the ground with injured limbs.

    • Kathy, those are some scary stairs – and when we were there, they WERE slimy and slippery! You had to really stretch to even lift your leg up, I cannot imagine how they did it in that clothing. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Having stood on the top of the Cobb at Granny’s teeth and been helped down I cannot imagine anyone running up the steps and jumping once, let alone twice! A beautifully written chapter-loved the photo of you and Peter.

  3. Thanks, Jane! I know, those stairs are so much worse than you even imagine from reading the description, aren’t they? I really neede Peter to help me down! That picture was long ago and reminds me of such happy times, when we did things like that. I’m glad we did.

  4. You brought out that Louisa’s true character in my mind. She was more headstrong and stubborn than determined. It is unfortunate that Wentworth kept giving in to all her demands before as she will not listen now, to her detriment. I can only imagine how slimy and slippery those steps may have been and having a fear of height, I don’t know that I could climb them if they were dry. And as was stated above, in thin slippers and dresses. Thank you for such an excellent chapter.

    • You bring up a good point, Deborah, that through this event Wentworth begins to see the difference between true determination, and mere willfulness. He has compared Louisa to a glossy healthy nut – but that nut cracked, it got hit on the noggin! Yes, it all came back to me as I was writing, that amazement I felt when I realized that those stairs were really like giant steps, nobody could just trot up and down them, they were uneven and took some athletic ability to climb – you do need help! Thanks for commenting.

  5. So Wentworth now has the contrast. One who could be persuaded by family demands and one who is so selfish and spoiled that she can never be persuaded to do something she doesn’t want. In Anne’s place Louisa would probably have left with Wentworth 8 years ago and then where would the story be. Louisa instead of putting herself ahead of Henrietta has now shown Anne as the better woman and Wentworth is realizing it.

    I really enjoyed the pictures especially of you and your husband. Great chapter.

  6. Foolish, silly headstrong girl! What was she thinking! Obviously, not! Great chapter and wise Anne telling Captain Benwick to assist. Loved all the photos and those steps sure look like a stretch for the legs!

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Carole. There was no lack of illustrations of Louisa’s mishap to choose from! Having been on those steps all I can say is that it’s a real wonder she wasn’t killed! 🙂

  7. And I am thinking that the human statue has become longer/taller with generations. So how did women in Jane Austen era actually climb those steps and remain anything close to modest? We know that they didn’t get a lot of exercise. Unless they were like Elizabeth Bennet. We did hear of the one walk the ladies took but no one mentioned Louisa walking daily, i.e., Lizzy did. Those steps look positively scary to me! And then you say that they are slimy. I tried walking/springing down some stones near Annapolis MD once and almost slipped into the Chesapeake Bay there. Never again.

    And we can see Louisa’s character flaw here. She, unfortunately, pays dearly in trying to impress Capt. Wentworth with her daring.

    • I have wondered about that too, Sheila. Modesty was such a big thing then, gowns covered all of a woman’s lower body, and you don’t hear (or read) about women in that era doing athletic feats. They were certainly great walkers though, had to be, probably better than us – because they mostly depended on “shank’s mare” to go anywhere. And when walking especially in the country you had to be prepared for ruggedness such as we no longer encounter unless we’re hiking in the Cairngorms or something! Mud, stiles to climb over, bad roads, things like Granny’s Teeth. I guess the girls just got on with it and did these things, modestly keeping their skirts down and not mentioning it in their letters and diaries. Taken for granted. I was also thinking that Regency girls might have been less modest than Victorian ones, but I remember Violet in Charlotte M. Yonge’s “Heartsease” (1854) actually climbed Helvellyn in the Lake District, and she would have worn much more constricting clothing, corsets and hoopskirts! They were a wonder, those ladies.

  8. And there it goes, the pivotal scene in Persuasion. I’m glad you added some additional dialogues to the scene like Anne asking Benwick to assist Wentworth in case the latter failed to catch Louisa.

    I wouldn’t dare climb down Granny’s Teeth without help, what more jump down. Sheila mentioned a good point there. Do you think the gap between the stairs got wider and wider as the years go by?

  9. Luthien, my first reaction was to think no, how could the gap change, when it’s all stone, but then I thought, well, maybe they got eroded with age – BUT!!! STOP THE PRESSES!!! I just looked up Granny’s Teeth, and GUESS WHAT!!! They are NOT THE STAIRS LOUISA MUSGROVE JUMPED DOWN! Here is an article in a Dorset magazine that says Jane Austen visited Lyme before those particular stairs were put in. How do you like that!

    Most websites say that this IS the spot where Louisa fell, and it certainly is the Cobb – but these particular stairs seem to have been part of the 1820 remodel of the Cobb, after JA’s lifetime. Well, well! I’m glad you asked because it made me look this up!

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