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Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.jpg
Title page of the original 1818 edition
Author Jane Austen
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher John Murray
Publication date 1818
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)

Persuasion is Jane Austen's last completed novel. She began it soon after she had finished Emma, completing it in August, 1816. She died, aged 41, in 1817, but Persuasion was not published until 1818.

Persuasion is connected with Northanger Abbey not only by the fact that the two books were originally bound up in one volume and published together two years later, but also because both stories are set partly in Bath, a fashionable health resort with which Jane Austen was well acquainted, having lived there from 1801 to 1805.


Plot introduction

More than seven years prior to the events in the novel, Anne Elliot falls in love with a handsome young naval officer named Frederick Wentworth, who is intelligent and ambitious, but poor. Sir Walter, Anne's father and lord of the family estate of Kellynch, and her older sister Elizabeth are dissatisfied with her choice, maintaining that he is not distinguished enough for their family. Her older friend and mentor, Lady Russell, acting in place of Anne's deceased mother, persuades her to break off the match.

Now, aged 27 and still unmarried, Anne re-encounters her former fiancé when his sister and brother-in-law, the Crofts, take out a lease on Kellynch. Wentworth, now a captain, is wealthy from wartime victories in the Royal Navy and from prize-money for capturing enemy ships. However, he has not forgiven Anne for her rejection of him.

The self-interested machinations of Anne's father, her older sister Elizabeth, Elizabeth's friend Mrs. Clay, and William Elliot (Anne's cousin and her father's heir) constitute important subplots.

Title as variation on a theme

Readers of "Persuasion" might infer Jane Austen intended 'persuasion' as the working theme of the story. Certainly that theme is repeated several times, with vignettes within the story as variations on that theme. On the other hand, there is evidence that Austen did not have in mind such an explicit theme and variations. It even appears she did not envision the title of the story as "Persuasion"; there is speculation that the title of the novel was chosen by her brother Henry or her sister Cassandra. Henry had long championed his sister's writing, especially in business and publishing circles where he had more access than Cassandra. After Jane's death it was he who arranged for publishing the novel, perhaps naming it in the process. Another speculation is that the two siblings collaborated in choosing the title. Some critics believe Austen intended to name the novel "The Elliots" but that she died without titling it.

Plot summary

Anne Elliot is the overlooked middle daughter of the vain Sir Walter Elliot, a baronet who is all too conscious of his good looks and rank and spends excessive amounts of money. Anne's mother, a fine, sensible woman, is long dead, and her elder sister, Elizabeth, resembles her father in temperament and delights in the fact that as the eldest daughter she can assume her mother's former position in their rural neighborhood. Anne's younger sister, Mary, is a nervous, clinging woman who has made an unspectacular marriage to Charles Musgrove of Uppercross Hall, the heir to a bucolic but respected local squire. None of her surviving family can provide much companionship for the elegant-minded Anne, who, still unmarried at 27, seems destined for spinsterhood.

After she met and fell in love with Wentworth, at age nineteen, Anne had been persuaded by her mother's great friend —and her own trusted confidante, the widow Lady Russell— to break the engagement. Lady Russell had questioned the wisdom of Anne marrying a penniless young naval officer without family or connections and whose prospects were so uncertain. Wentworth is left bitter at Lady Russell's interference and Anne's own want of fortitude.

Wentworth re-enters Anne's life when Sir Walter is forced by his own profligacy to let the family estate to none other than Wentworth's brother-in-law, Admiral Croft. Wentworth's successes in the Napoleonic Wars resulted in his promotion and enabled him to amass the then considerable fortune of £25,000 (around £2.5 million in today's money) from prize money awarded for capturing enemy vessels. The Musgroves, including Mary, Charles and Charles's younger sisters, Henrietta and Louisa, are delighted to welcome the Crofts and Wentworth to the neighborhood. Both Musgrove girls are attracted to Wentworth, though Henrietta is informally engaged to clergyman cousin Charles Hayter. Hayter is viewed as a merely respectable match, being a bit beneath the Musgroves, socially and financially. Charles, Mary, and the Crofts continually speculate as to which one Wentworth might marry. All this is hard on Anne, due to her regret at breaking off the engagement and Wentworth's constant attention to the Musgrove girls. She tries to escape their company as often as she can, preferring to spend time with her nephews.

Captain Wentworth's visit to a close friend, Captain Harville, in nearby Lyme Regis results in a day-long outing being organized by those eager to see the resort. While there, Louisa Musgrove sustains a concussion in a fall brought about by her own impetuous behaviour. This highlights the difference between the headstrong Louisa and the more sensible Anne. While onlookers exclaim that Louisa is dead and her companions stand around dumbfounded, Anne administers first aid and summons assistance. Wentworth's admiration for Anne reawakens as a result.

Louisa's recovery is slow and her self-confidence is severely shaken. Her newfound timidity elicits the kind attention and reassurance of Wentworth's friend Captain Benwick, who had been mourning the recent death of his fiancée. The couple find their personalities to be now more in sympathy and they become engaged.

Meanwhile, Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's scheming friend Mrs. Clay, the widowed daughter of Sir Walter's agent, have relocated to Bath. There they hope to live in a manner befitting a baronet and his family with the least possible expense until their finances are restored to a firmer footing. Sir Walter's cousin and heir, William Elliot, who long ago slighted the baronet, now seeks a reconciliation. Elizabeth assumes that he wishes to court her, while Lady Russell more correctly suspects that he admires Anne.

Although William Elliot seems a perfect gentleman, Anne distrusts him; she finds his character disturbingly opaque. She is enlightened by an unexpected source when she discovers an old school friend, Mrs. Smith, living in Bath in straitened circumstances. Mrs. Smith and her now-deceased husband had once been Mr. Elliot's closest friends. Having encouraged them into financial extravagance, he had quickly dropped them when they became impoverished. Anne learns, to her great distress, of his layers of deceit and calculated self-interest. In addition, her friend speculates that Mr. Elliot wants to reestablish his relationship with her family primarily to safeguard his inheritance of the title, fearing a marriage between Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay. This helps Anne to understand more fully the dangers of persuasion—in that Lady Russell pressed her to accept Mr. Elliot's likely offer of marriage—and helps her to develop more confidence in her own judgment.

Ultimately, the Musgroves visit Bath to purchase wedding clothes for their daughters Louisa and Henrietta (who has become engaged to Hayter). Captain Wentworth and his friend Captain Harville accompany them. Anne and Harville discuss the relative faithfulness of men and women in love, while Wentworth writes a note within earshot of the discussion. This causes him to write a note to Anne detailing his feelings for her. In a tender scene, Anne and Wentworth reconcile and renew their engagement. The match is now more palatable to Anne's family — their waning fortunes and Wentworth's waxing ones have made a considerable difference. Also, ever overvaluing good looks, Sir Walter is favorably impressed with his future son-in-law's appearance. Lady Russell admits she has been completely wrong about Captain Wentworth, and she and Anne remain friends.

Main characters

Sir Walter Elliot, Bt. — A vain, sycophantic self-satisfied baronet, Sir Walter's extravagance since the death of his prudent wife 13 years before has put his family in financial straits. These are severe enough to force him to lease his estate, Kellynch Hall, to Admiral Croft and take a more economical residence in Bath.

Elizabeth Elliot — The eldest and most beautiful daughter of Sir Walter, who encourages her father's imprudent spending and extravagance. She and her father routinely put their interests ahead of Anne's, regarding her as inconsequential.

Anne Elliot

The second daughter of Sir Walter is 27 years old and unmarried. She is very intelligent and was very pretty but lost her bloom after breaking off her engagement with Wentworth. Now nearly eight years ago, she fell in love with Captain Wentworth but was persuaded (the persuasion of the title) by Lady Russell to reject his proposal because of his poverty and uncertain future.

Mary Musgrove — The youngest daughter of Sir Walter, married to Charles Musgrove. She is attention-seeking, always looking for ways she might have been slighted or not given her full due, and often claims illness when she is upset. She greatly opposes sister-in-law Henrietta's interest in marrying Charles Hayter, who Mary feels is beneath them.

Charles Musgrove — Husband of Mary and heir to the Musgrove estate. He had wanted to marry Anne and settled for Mary (much to the disappointment of the Musgrove family, and to his misfortune) when Anne refused him due to her continued love for Wentworth.

Lady Russell — A friend of the Elliots, particularly Anne, of whom she is the godmother. She is instrumental in Sir Walter's decision to leave Kellynch hall and avoid financial crisis. Years ago, she persuaded Anne to turn down Captain Wentworth's proposal of marriage. While far more sensible than Sir Walter Elliot, she shares his concern for rank and connections, and did not think Wentworth good enough for Anne because of his inferior birth and financial status.

Mrs. Clay — A poor widow, daughter of Sir Walter's lawyer, and intimate 'friend' of Elizabeth Elliot. She aims to flatter Sir Walter into marriage, while her oblivious friend looks on.

Captain Frederick Wentworth — A naval officer who was briefly engaged to Anne some years ago. At the time, he had no fortune and uncertain prospects, but owing to much success in the Napoleonic Wars, his situation has greatly improved. One of two brothers of Sophia Croft.

Admiral Croft — Good-natured, plainspoken tenant at Kellynch Hall and brother-in-law of Captain Wentworth.

Sophia Croft — Sister of Captain Wentworth and wife of Admiral Croft. She offers Anne an example of a strong-minded woman who has married for love instead of money.

Louisa Musgrove — Second sister of Charles Musgrove, aged about 19. Louisa is a high-spirited young lady who has recently returned with her sister from school. Captain Wentworth admires her for her resolve and determination, especially in contrast to Anne's prudence and what he sees as Anne's lack of conviction. She is ultimately engaged to Captain Benwick.

Henrietta Musgrove — Eldest sister of Charles Musgrove, aged about 20. Henrietta is informally engaged to her cousin Charles Hayter, but is nevertheless tempted by the more dashing Captain Wentworth.

Captain Harville — A friend of Captain Wentworth. Severely wounded two years ago and discharged at half-pay, he and his family have settled in nearby Lyme.

Captain James Benwick — A friend of Captain Harville. Benwick had been engaged to marry Captain Harville's sister Fanny, but she died while Benwick was at sea. Benwick's loss has left him melancholic and a lover of poetry. His enjoyment of reading makes him one of the few characters in the story to find an intellectual connection with Anne, and it is implied that he might have an interest in Anne. But Benwick ultimately becomes engaged to Louisa Musgrove.

Mr. William Elliot — A relation and the heir presumptive of Sir Walter, who became estranged from the family when he wed a woman of much lower social rank, for her fortune. Sir Walter and Elizabeth had hoped William would marry Elizabeth Elliot. He is now a widower. Now wanting very much to inherit the title, he mends the rupture in order to keep an eye on the ambitious Mrs. Clay. If Sir Walter married her, William's inheritance would be endangered. When he meets Anne by accident, his interest is piqued; if he could marry Anne his title and inheritance is likely secured. Rumors circulate that Anne and he are engaged.

Mrs. Smith — a friend of Anne Elliot who lives in Bath. She is a widow and has suffered ill health and financial difficulties. She keeps abreast of the doings of Bath society through news she gets from her nurse, Nurse Rooke, who also works for a friend of William Elliot's. Her financial problems could have been straightened out with some assistance from William Elliot, her husband's former friend, but Elliot would not exert himself, leaving her much impoverished. Later Wentworth acts on her behalf.

Lady Dalrymple — a viscountess, cousin to Sir Walter. She occupies an exalted position in society by virtue of wealth and rank. Sir Walter and Elizabeth are eager to be seen at Bath in the company of this great relation.

Literary significance & criticism

Persuasion is widely appreciated as a moving love story despite what has been labelled as a simple plot, and exemplifies Austen's acclaimed wit and ironic narrative style. Austen wrote Persuasion in a hurry, during the onset of the illness from which she eventually died; as a result, the novel is both shorter and arguably less polished than Mansfield Park and Emma, and was not subject to the usual pattern of careful retrospective revision.

Although the impact of Austen's failing health at the time of writing this novel cannot be overlooked, the novel is strikingly original in several ways. Persuasion is the first of Austen's novels to feature as the central character a woman who, by the standards of the time, is well past the first bloom of youth; biographer Claire Tomalin characterizes the book as Austen's "present to herself, to Miss Sharp, to Cassandra, to Martha Lloyd . . . to all women who had lost their chance in life and would never enjoy a second spring."[1]

At the same time, the novel is a paean to the self-made man. Captain Wentworth is just one of several naval officers in the story who have risen from humble beginnings to affluence and status on the strength of merit and luck, not by inheritance. It marks a time where the very roots of society were changing, as 'old money' (exemplified by Sir Walter) had to accommodate the rising strength of the nouveau riche (such as Wentworth). The success of Austen's own two brothers in the Royal Navy is probably significant. There are also clear parallels with the earlier novel Mansfield Park as there are inherent and sustained messages of the importance of constancy in the face of adversity and of the need to endure.

Austen makes some biting comments about 'family' and those we choose to associate with. Mary wants to nurse Louisa but doesn't want to nurse her son. Elizabeth prefers Mrs Clay to her sister who is 'amongst the nobility of England and Ireland', yet courts the attentions of Lady Dalrymple.

Through her heroine's words, Austen makes pointed remarks about the condition of women as 'rational creatures' at the mercy of males (only) recording history, writing books, etc., while castigating women's "inconstancy" and "fickleness". "Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. ...the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything" (Persuasion Volume 2 Chapter 11).

She ends the novel with the similar theme to Pride and Prejudice, where the heroine leaves the others behind with marriage.

Allusions/references from other works

  • Persuasion is featured in the 2006 movie The Lake House, and provides a thematic background for the lovers.
  • Many themes and incidents from Persuasion are presented in an updated setting in the novel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
  • Persuading Annie, a novel by Melissa Nathan, is a modern version of Persuasion
  • Connivance, (ASIN B002ACZU1A), a novel by Helen Baker is a continuation of Persuasion in which clever Mrs Clay continues to charm both Sir Walter Elliot and Mr Elliot, his heir.
  • Jane Austen in Scarsdale, a novel by Paula Marantz Cohen, is based on the plot of Persuasion. However, Cohen's novel stars Anne Ehrlich, a high school guidance counselor dealing with parents' and students' anxiety over college admissions.
  • Persuasion is referenced in John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman.
  • The novel is referenced in 2004 novel The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler, which was later made into a film by the same name in 2007.
  • Persuasion is quoted in the movie The Book Of Ruth which was made for TV in 2004. (The Book Of Ruth was originally a novel by Jane Hamilton.)
  • The Family Fortune, a novel by Laurie Horowitz, is a modern version of "Persuasion," set in Boston, Massachusetts.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Persuasion has been the subject of several adaptations:


  1. ^ Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life (New York: Vintage, 1997), p. 256

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Persuasion (1818) was the last novel completed by Jane Austen. It was not published until after her death.


  • Vanity was the beginning and the 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 Elliott, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.
    • Ch. 1
  • 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 other two 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.
    • Ch. 1
  • Here Anne spoke:
    "The navy, I think, who have done so much for us, have at least an equal claim with any other set of men, for all the comforts and all the privileges which any home can give. Sailors work hard enough for their comforts, we must all allow."
    "Very true, very true. What Miss Anne says is very true," was Mr. Shepherd's rejoinder, and "Oh! certainly," was his daughter's; but Sir Walter's remark was, soon afterwards:
    "The profession has its utility, but I should be sorry to see any friend of mine belonging to it."
    "Indeed!" was the reply, and with a look of surprise.
    "Yes; it is in two points offensive to me; I have two strong grounds of objection to it. First, as a means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of; and secondly, as it cuts up a man's youth and vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old sooner than any other man. I have observed it all my life. A man is in greater danger in the navy of being insulted by the rise of one whose father his father might have disdained to speak to, and of becoming prematurely an object of disgust himself, than in any other line."
    • Ch. 3
  • She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequence of an unnatural beginning.
    • Ch. 4
  • She thought it was the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly.
    • Ch. 11
  • She left it to himself to recollect, that Mrs. Smith was not the only widow in Bath between thirty and forty, with little to live on, and no surname of dignity.
    • Ch. 17
  • "A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not; he does not."
    • Ch. 20
    • Said by Captain Harville
  • All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!
    • Ch. 23
    • Said by Anne Elliott
  • "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant."
    • Ch. 23
    • Written by Captain Wentworth in a letter to Anne Elliott
  • "If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty; but no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk would have been incurred, and all duty violated."
    • Ch. 23
    • Said by Anne Elliott
  • Anne was tenderness itself, and she had the full worth of it in Captain Wentworth's affection. His profession was all that could ever make her friends wish that tenderness less, the dread of a future war all that could dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.
    • Ch. 24

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Simple English

Title page of the original 1817 edition
Author Jane Austen
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher John Murray
Make date 1818

Persuasion is Jane Austen's last finished novel.



Characters and history introduced

Persuasion is the story of a second chance of lost love.[1] Anne Elliot is the second daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, a proud and foolish baronet. Sir Walter Elliot is a widower with no son, so his land will go to a cousin, William Elliot. Eight years before the story begins, Anne had been engaged to a young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. However, her mother's friend Lady Russell had persuaded her to break off the engagement because he had no fortune. Sadly, she had done so, and Wentworth had angrily left her. Austen writes: "She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older–the natural sequel (following) of an unnatural beginning."[2] Later, Cassandra Austen wrote beside it in her copy of Persuasion, "Dear, dear Jane! This deserves to be written in letters of gold."[3][2] Eight years later, her younger sister Mary has married a neighbor, Charles Musgrove. Anne is growing older, her family does not care about her, and she greatly regrets breaking off the engagement.

Anne stays with her sister Mary, meets with Captain Wentworth

Sir Walter is forced to stop spending so much money. Therefore, he decides to let his house to Admiral Croft and move to Bath for a while. Anne goes to stay with Mary. Anne discovers that Mrs. Croft, Admiral Croft's wife, is Captain Wentworth's sister. He is introduced to the Musgrove family. He has made much money, and is now a very desirable husband. When he and Anne meet, Anne feels deeply unhappy. He does not seem to care any more about her. He flirts with the two Musgrove sisters. Most think that he will marry one of them.

The Musgroves, Captain Wentworth, and Anne visit Lyme Regis, Lousia is hurt

They all go to visit Lyme Regis, where Wentworth's friend Captain Harville is staying. Captain Harville had been mourning for his sister, who died young, and comforting Captain Benwick, who had been engaged to marry her. In Lyme, Louisa Musgrove falls from the Cobb while playing with Captain Wentworth on the steps and is seriously injured. Captain Wentworth feels very guilty, and realizes everyone thinks he will marry her if she becomes well again.

Anne goes to Bath, Captain Wentworth asks Anne to marry him again

Anne joins her father and sister in Bath. They are both being flattered by a widow, Mrs. Clay, the daughter of their family lawyer. William Elliot joins the family. Lady Russell encourages his attentions to Anne, but Anne feels unsure about him. Suddenly, news comes that Louisa is better, and that she and Benwick are engaged. Wentworth appears in Bath, and becomes jealous of Mr. Elliot. She learns from an old friend that Mr. Elliot is a bad person. When Wentworth asks Anne to marry him again, she joyously says yes.


  1. "Persuasion (novel by Austen) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Austen, Jane (1998). Persuasion. 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England: Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-143968-6. 
  3. Tomalin, Claire. Jane Austen: A Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. ISBN 0-679-44628-1.

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