Persuasion: (A Modern Library E-Book)

Persuasion: (A Modern Library E-Book)

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by Jane Austen
     
 

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Called a 'perfect novel' by Harold Bloom, Persuasion was written while Jane Austen was in failing health. She died soon after its completion, and it was published in an edition with Northanger Abbey in 1818.

In the novel, Anne Elliot, the heroine Austen called 'almost too good for me,' has let herself be persuaded not to marry Frederick Wentworth, aSee more details below

Overview


Called a 'perfect novel' by Harold Bloom, Persuasion was written while Jane Austen was in failing health. She died soon after its completion, and it was published in an edition with Northanger Abbey in 1818.

In the novel, Anne Elliot, the heroine Austen called 'almost too good for me,' has let herself be persuaded not to marry Frederick Wentworth, a fine and attractive man without means. Eight years later, Captain Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars with a triumphant naval career behind him, a substantial fortune to his name, and an eagerness to wed. Austen explores the complexities of human relationships as they change over time. 'She is a prose Shakespeare,' Thomas Macaulay wrote of Austen in 1842. 'She has given us a multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.'

Persuasion is the last work of one of the greatest of novelists, the end of a quiet career pursued in anonymity in rural England that produced novels which continue to give pleasure to millions of readers throughout the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Stevenson has read all of Austen's novels for audiobook, in abridged or unabridged versions, and her experience shows in this delightful production. Though dominated by the intelligent, sweet voice of Anne Elliot-the least favored but most worthy of three daughters in a family with an old name but declining fortunes-Stevenson provides other characters with memorable voices as well. She reads Anne's haughty father's lines with a mixture of stuffiness and bluster, and Anne's sisters are portrayed with a hilariously flighty, breathy register that makes Austen's contempt for them palpable. Anne's voice is mostly measured and reasonable-an expression of her strong mind and spirit-but Stevenson imbues her speech with wonderful shades of passion as Anne is reacquainted with Capt. Wentworth, whom she has continued to love despite being forced, years before, to reject him over status issues. Listening to Stevenson, as Anne, describe a sudden encounter with Wentworth, one hardly needs Austen's description of how Anne grows faint-Stevenson's perfectly judged and deeply felt reading has already shown that she must have. Even those who have read Austen's novels will find themselves loving this book all over again with Stevenson's evocative rendition ringing richly in their ears. (Apr.)

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Library Journal
Austen is the hot property of the entertainment world with new feature film versions of Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility on the silver screen and Pride and Prejudice hitting the TV airwaves on PBS. Such high visibility will inevitably draw renewed interest in the original source materials. These new Modern Library editions offer quality hardcovers at affordable prices.
From the Publisher
 • "In Persuasion, Jane Austen picks up the pen to tell us who we are and what we want." —Independent

 • "Everyone has their Austen, and this is mine. Sparer, more savage — and also more poignant than Pride and Prejudice, this is a novel that tells us wisely and wittily about the nature of romantic entanglements and the follies of being human. It isn't riven with the deep, muscular ironies of, say, Emma, but there is something about the dry lightness of Persuasion that is deceptive. It stays with you long after you've read it." —Nigella Lawson

 • "I worship all of Austen's novels, but if I have to choose one over the others, I plump for the autumnal pleasures of Persuasion. This is the last work Austen completed before her death in 1817, and it is rather more tender and melancholy in tone than the novels that preceded it. I read it once or twice a year, whenever I feel in need of a good cry." —Zoe Heller

Claudia L. Johnson Princeton University
"Linda Bree has done a marvelous job in this superb new edition of Persuasion. The searching introduction, the informative notes, and most of all the illuminating selection of contextual material make Austen's well-known masterpiece come alive again as a compelling and unsettling new text. Bree clarifies subtleties of class structure, social criticism, and manners that elude many North American as well as British students. Newcomers and longtime admirers of this novel will find much to learn from and enjoy here. All in all, Bree's edition deepens and enriches our understanding of Persuasion. An impressive and admirable achievement!"
Catherine Ingrassia Virginia Commonwealth University
"This splendid edition is ideal for both the student and the scholar of Austen. Always one of Austen's most fascinating novels, Persuasion is made eminently teachable and readable with this wonderful edition; reading it made me want to teach the novel again, soon, just so I can take advantage of Bree's fine work."
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Twenty-seven year old Ann Elliot bemoans having denied herself true love when she was 19 to satisfy her father's objections. Now she is stuck, unloved, with a pompous, spendthrift father, equally uncaring older sister, and a broken heart. But her heart's desire comes back into her life, now a wealthy and successful British Navy Captain, only to woo eligible daughters of Elliott family friends. After many twists and turns, including the alarming advances by her cousin—the heir to her father's estate—Ann is reunited with her love. Ms. Austen's gentle sneering at upper crust snobbishness has always been a delight and there is a good romance—though not as steamy as in a modern novel—to read about in her books. The publisher has included some quizzes at the end of the book, as an enticement for modern girls to help them relate to the book. The writing is a bit stilted, but the reader will come away with a look into upper class English society of the nineteenth century and be happy that Ann and her Captain Wentworth end up together. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679641117
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/01/2000
Series:
Modern Library Series
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,149,355
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, on December 16, 1775. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, was rector of Steventon, where she spent her first twenty-five years, along with her six brothers (two of them later naval officers in the Napoleonic wars) and her adored sister, Cassandra. She read voraciously from an early age, counting among her favorites the novels of Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Fanny Burney, and the poetry of William Cowper and George Crabbe. Her family was lively and affectionate and they encouraged her precocious literary efforts, the earliest dating from age twelve, which already displayed the beginnings of her comic style. Her first novels, Elinor and Marianne (1796) and First Impressions (1797), were not published. The gothic parody Northanger Abbey was accepted for publication in 1803 but was ultimately withheld by the publisher.

In 1801 the family moved to Bath, where for four years Austen was able to observe the fashionable watering place that would later figure prominently in her fiction. Austen was sociable in her youth, and was briefly engaged in 1802. Two years later she began work on The Watsons, a novel that remained unfinished. After the death of her father in 1805, she lived with her mother and sister in Southampton for a few years before moving with them to a cottage at Chawton in Hampshire. This would be her home for the rest of her life, and she wrote many of her novels in its parlor. She continued to revise her earlier unpublished work, and in 1811 a version of Elinor and Marianne was published as Sense and Sensibility, followed two years later by Pride and Prejudice, a reworking of First Impressions. In the next few years she published Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816).

Austen became ill in 1815, perhaps with Addison's disease, and she died on July 18, 1817. Persuasion, her last novel, and the earlier Northanger Abbey appeared the following year. Of her last days her brother wrote: 'She wrote whilst she could hold a pen, and with a pencil when a pen was become too laborious. The day preceding her death she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour.' Although Austen received some praise from her contemporaries—notably Sir Walter Scott, who discerned in her work 'the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment'—her detractors included Charlotte Bronte ('very incomplete and rather insensible') and Ralph Waldo Emerson ('vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention'), and her books did not immediately find a wide readership. The turn in her reputation came late in the nineteenth century, and has been succeeded by an enduring popularity and widespread critical praise in the twentieth.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 16, 1775
Date of Death:
July 18, 1817
Place of Birth:
Village of Steventon in Hampshire, England
Place of Death:
Winchester, Hampshire, England
Education:
Taught at home by her father

Read an Excerpt

Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed. This was the page at which the favourite volume always opened:--

'ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH HALL'

'Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq., of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue, Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, November 5, 1789; Mary, born November 20, 1791.'

Precisely such had the paragraph originally stood from the printer's hands; but Sir Walter had improved it by adding, for the information of himself and his family, these words, after the date of Mary's birth:--'Married, December 16, 1810, Charles, son and heir of Charles Musgrove, Esq., of Uppercross, in the county of Somerset,' and by inserting most accurately the day of the month on which he had lost his wife.

Then followed the history and rise of the ancient and respectable family in the usual terms; how it had been first settled in Cheshire, how mentioned in Dugdale, serving the office of high sheriff, representing a borough in three successive parliaments, exertions of loyalty, and dignity of baronet, in the first year of Charles II with all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married; forming altogether two handsome quarto pages, and concluding with the arms and motto:--'Principal seat, Kellynch Hall, in the county of Somerset,' and Sir Walter's handwriting again in this finale:--

'Heir presumptive, William Walter Elliot, Esq., great-grandson of the second Sir Walter.'

'Vanity was the beginning and end of Sir Walter Elliot's character: vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth, and at fifty-four was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new-made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.

His good looks and his rank had one fair claim on his attachment, since to them he must have owed a wife of very superior character to anything deserved by his own. Lady Elliot had been an excellent woman, sensible and amiable, whose judgment and conduct, if they might be pardoned the youthful infatuation which made her Lady Elliot, had never required indulgence afterwards. She had humoured, or softened, or concealed his failings, and promoted his real respectability for seventeen years; and though not the very happiest being in the world herself, had found enough in her duties, her friends, and her children, to attach her to life, and make it no matter of indifference to her when she was called on to quit them. Three girls, the two eldest sixteen and fourteen, was an awful legacy for a mother to bequeath, an awful charge rather, to confide to the authority and guidance of a conceited, silly father. She had, however, one very intimate friend, a sensible, deserving woman, who had been brought, by strong attachment to herself, to settle close by her, in the village of Kellynch; and on her kindness and advice Lady Elliot mainly relied for the best help and maintenance of the good principles and instruction which she had been anxiously giving her daughters.

This friend and Sir Walter did not marry, whatever might have been anticipated on that head by their acquaintance. Thirteen years had passed away since Lady Elliot's death, and they were still near neighbours and intimate friends, and one remained a widower, the other a widow.

That Lady Russell, of steady age and character, and extremely well provided for, should have no thought of a second marriage, needs no apology to the public, which is rather apt to be unreasonably discontented when a woman does marry again, than when she does not; but Sir Walter's continuing in singleness requires explanation. Be it known, then, that Sir Walter, like a good father (having met with one or two private disappointments in very unreasonable applications), prided himself on remaining single for his dear daughter's sake. For one daughter, his eldest, he would really have given up anything, which he had not been very much tempted to do. Elizabeth had succeeded at sixteen to all that was possible of her mother's rights and consequence; and being very handsome, and very like himself, her influence had always been great, and they had gone on together most happily. His two other children were of very inferior value. Mary had acquired a little artificial importance by becoming Mrs. Charles Musgrove; but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way--she was only Anne.

To Lady Russell, indeed, she was a most dear and highly valued goddaughter, favourite, and friend. Lady Russell loved them all, but it was only in Anne that she could fancy the mother to revive again.

A few years before Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early; and as, even in its height, her father had found little to admire in her (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own), there could be nothing in them, now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem. He had never indulged much hope, he had now none, of ever reading her name in any other page of his favourite work. All equality of alliance must rest with Elizabeth, for Mary had merely connected herself with an old country family of respectability and large fortune, and had, therefore, given all the honour and received none: Elizabeth would, one day or other, marry suitably.

It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before; and, generally speaking, if there has been neither ill-health nor anxiety, it is a time of life at which scarcely any charm is lost. It was so with Elizabeth, still the same handsome Miss Elliot that she had begun to be thirteen years ago, and Sir Walter might be excused, therefore, in forgetting her age, or, at least, be deemed only half a fool, for thinking himself and Elizabeth as blooming as ever, amidst the wreck of the good looks of everybody else; for he could plainly see how old all the rest of his family and acquaintance were growing. Anne haggard, Mary coarse, every face in the neighbourhood worsting, and the rapid increase of the crow's foot about Lady Russell's temples had long been a distress to him.

Elizabeth did not quite equal her father in personal contentment.

Thirteen years had seen her mistress of Kellynch Hall, presiding and directing with a self-possession and decision which could never have given the idea of her being younger than she was. For thirteen years had she been doing the honours, and laying down the domestic law at home, and leading the way to the chaise and four, and walking immediately after Lady Russell out of all the drawing-rooms and dining-rooms in the country. Thirteen winters' revolving frosts had seen her opening every ball of credit which a scanty neighbourhood afforded, and thirteen springs shown their blossoms, as she travelled up to London with her father, for a few weeks' annual enjoyment of the great world. She had the remembrance of all this, she had the consciousness of being nine-and-twenty to give her some regrets and some apprehensions; she was fully satisfied of being still quite as handsome as ever, but she felt her approach to the years of danger, and would have rejoiced to be certain of being properly solicited by baronet-blood within the next twelvemonth or two. Then might she again take up the book of books with as much enjoyment as in her early youth, but now she liked it not. Always to be presented with the date of her own birth and see no marriage follow but that of a youngest sister, made the book an evil; and more than once, when her father had left it open on the table near her, had she closed it, with averted eyes, and pushed it away.

She had had a disappointment, moreover, which that book and especially the history of her own family, must ever present the remembrance of. The heir presumptive, the very William Walter Elliot, Esq., whose rights had been so generally supported by her father, had disappointed her.

She had, while a very young girl, as soon as she had known him to be, in the event of her having no brother, the future baronet, meant to marry him, and her father had always meant that she should. He had not been known to them as a boy; but soon after Lady Elliot's death, Sir Walter had sought the acquaintance, and though his overtures had not been met with any warmth, he had persevered in seeking it, making allowance for the modest drawing-back of youth; and, in one of their spring excursions to London, when Elizabeth was in her first bloom, Mr. Elliot had been forced into the introduction.

He was at that time a very young man, just engaged in the study of the law; and Elizabeth found him extremely agreeable, and every plan in his favour was confirmed. He was invited to Kellynch Hall; he was talked of and expected all the rest of the year; but he never came. The following spring he was seen again in town, found equally agreeable, again encouraged, invited, and expected, and again he did not come; and the next tidings were that he was married. Instead of pushing his fortune in the line marked out for the heir of the house of Elliot, he had purchased independence by uniting himself to a rich woman of inferior birth.

Sir Walter had resented it. As the head of the house, he felt that he ought to have been consulted, especially after taking the young man so publicly by the hand; 'For they must have been seen together,' he observed, 'once at Tattersalls, and twice in the lobby of the House of Commons.' His disapprobation was expressed, but apparently very little regarded. Mr. Elliot had attempted no apology, and shown himself as unsolicitous of being longer noticed by the family, as Sir Walter considered him unworthy of it: all acquaintance between them had ceased.

This very awkward history of Mr. Elliot was still, after an interval of several years, felt with anger by Elizabeth, who had liked the man for himself, and still more for being her father's heir, and whose strong family pride could see only in him a proper match for Sir Walter Elliot's eldest daughter. There was not a baronet from A to Z whom her feelings could have so willingly acknowledged as an equal. Yet so miserably had he conducted himself, that though she was at this present time (the summer of 1814) wearing black ribbons for his wife, she could not admit him to be worth thinking of again. The disgrace of his first marriage might, perhaps, as there was no reason to suppose it perpetuated by offspring, have been got over, had he not done worse; but he had, as by the accustomary intervention of kind friends they had been informed, spoken most disrespectfully of them all, most slightingly and contemptuously of the very blood he belonged to, and the honours which were hereafter to be his own. This could not be pardoned.

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