Good Afternoon everyone,
How are you this week? I am still recovering from some unexpected health issues but I’m feeling much better then in the last few days so I’m on my way to recovery 🙂
You may have noticed that I was absent from social media last week, but I’m returning with a guest post that is most pleasurable, and much anticipated by me! After Pride & Prejudice, my favourite book from Jane Austen is Persuasion and that is one of the reasons why I’m so happy to publish this post today. I was very excited to know that a group of authors whose work I respect and admire was coming together to write the scenes we never saw in Austen’s novel, and today I’m very happy to welcome Maria Grace, one of those authors with a wonderful guest post. She will come in the defense of Lady Russell and I hope you are as eager to read her guest post as I am of reading the book (yup, first one one my TBR list!).
But before the guest post I’m sharing the blurb and if you find this idea fascinating, and somehow you didn’t know yet, you may be happy to discover that there is also a Pride & Prejudice: Behind the Scenes which only costs 0,99$ at Amazon.com and whose royalties, just like the ones from Persuasion: Behind the Scenes, will be donated to Jane Austen related charities 🙂
Happy reading everyone!
You pierce my soul.
Before Jane Austen wrote that romantic letter from Captain Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot, she crafted a masterful story of heartbreak and longing that still resonates with readers today.
But what of those scenes that Jane Austen never wrote? What Persuasion fan doesn’t want to listen in on Anne and Wentworth’s first courtship, laugh at the follies and foibles of the Elliot family, sail along on Captain Wentworth’s harrowing adventures at sea or attend Wentworth and Anne’s wedding.
Twelve authors of Austen-inspired fiction: Diana Birchall, Marilyn Brant, Jack Caldwell, L.L. Diamond, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Kara Louise, Susan Mason-Milks, Jane Odiwe, C. Allyn Pierson, Mary Lydon Simonsen, and Shannon Winslow collaborated to put this unique collection that fills in “missing” scenes from Austen’s classic work, sure to delight any true Persuasion fan.
You can find Persuasion: Behind the Scenes at:
Lady Russell: Meddling God-mother or Faithful Friend?
To many readers, Lady Russell is the villain of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Afterall, Lady Russell persuaded Anne to refuse Wentworth’s first proposal, largely setting the plot into motion. It seems so clear: Lady Russel is class conscious, snobby and should not have interfered in Anne’s life so freely. Right?
Maybe, maybe not. A closer look at the text suggests that perhaps there might have been more to Lady Russell’s advice than class-consciousness and indifference to Anne’s wishes. In fact, there could have been some really good reasons. But what possible motives might Lady Russell have had that would justify her near disastrous advice to Anne?
First off, Wentworth was an unknown stranger who attached himself to Anne after only a very brief romance. He had neither wealth not any real connections, and his profession was the Navy. Considering the era, each of these were significant marks against the young suitor.
With Wentworth’s lack of fortune and connection, Anne’s future living situation would certainly have been a big question. During their early acquaintance, Wentworth appeared to spend money freely, giving an impression that he might not be a wise manager of finances. So, even if Anne had a good dowry, which isn’t very clear in the text, Lady Russell may have had very serious questions as to whether or not there would be money for Anne to live off of.
Even more significant, sailors were gone for long periods of time. There was a very real possibility that Anne would be left as a young wife, pregnant and living in a port city without any support system around her. With all the danger of childbirth and the need for assistance through it all, Lady Russell had reason to worry whether Anne would have what she needed.
Moreover, the mortality rate of men in the navy was staggering. There was a very good chance that when Wentworth left, he might never return, thereby leaving a widow and possibly a small child in uncertain financial conditions. Even if Anne were to return to her father’s home, Sir Walter Elliot was not in a good financial state himself and might not have been able or willing to take Anne and a child in.
In the Regency era, women of the upper class, unless they were wealthy widows, were usually entirely dependent upon their husbands or fathers. Jane Austen provides us a poignant picture of this in Anne’s friend, Mrs. Smith. The stark financial realities of the era meant that a woman had to have a husband who could provide for her and her children. For Anne to walk into a situation with such a high likelihood of leaving her in desperate straits would naturally alarm Lady Russell and move her to dissuade Anne from such a very risky match.
A careful reading of the book, though, suggests an even more sympathetic reason for Lady Russell’s opposition to the match. Jane Austen describes Anne as very much like her mother. Lady Russell knew and esteemed Lady Elliot and was aware that Lady Elliot had married her husband in a youthful infatuation and was not happy in her marriage. Lady Elliot made the best of the difficult situation, though and managed the silliness and vanity of her husband admirably.
After the death of Lady Elliot, Lady Russell looked upon Anne as a favorite and friend. She would have wanted the best for Anne and likely saw an alarming similarity between Anne and Wentworth and Lady Elliot’s youthful infatuation with Sir Walter. Knowing the grief that it brought her friend, is it any wonder that Lady Russell wanted Anne to avoid making the same mistake that played out a generation earlier?
If all this is so, then why would Lady Russell have pushed Anne to accept Sir Walter’s scheming heir presumptive, William Elliot? Perhaps it was his excellent manners that first attracted her attention. His financial security as heir of Kellynch could not have hurt his cause. But in all likelihood, William Elliot was the first person Lady Russell ever saw as truly admiring her favorite goddaughter. Granted, we, as readers, were able to see him through less rose-colored glasses, but Lady Russell had no such reason to be suspicious. To her, finally a worthy man paid Anne proper attentions.
Although it is not what Austen wrote, consider this: had the most likely outcomes taken place, Wentworth dying at sea or returning home as poor as he left, and William Elliot being just as he appeared, Lady Russell’s advice would have been hailed as the making of Anne Elliot.
It seems to me that, without an omniscient narrator to tell her things she could not otherwise know, Lady Russell’s advice was actually quite sound. Really, her biggest mistake was not predicting that Wentworth would go on to be successful enough to support a wife and family. So, far from being a meddling busy body who only succeeded in making Anne and Wentworth miserable for the years until their reunion, I think Lady Russell was a well-meaning friend, who dispensed advice which would have been considered excellent had things turned only a little different.
In Defense of Lady Russell; or, The Godmother Knew Best by JOAN KLINGEL RAY. Persuasions #15, 1993, Pages 207-215, a JASNA publication.
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.
She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, written six different series, built seven websites, started her eighth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.
She can be contacted at:
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