Books: Persuasion by Jane Austen (Chapters VII–XII)

I must say, I find Anne a bit colorless as a heroine. Fanny in Mansfield Park is no less retiring, though I suppose Fanny at least had her cousin to speak openly to, when he happened to be around; Anne mostly keeps her own counsel and is hardly heard when she does try to say anything.

Except that's not exactly true. In this part of the book, a troupe of characters goes down to Lyme, and Anne finds herself attended to by a Captain Benwick. They discuss poetry, and Anne gives him the titles of some books she thinks he might enjoy.

Anne also proves valuable when Louisa Musgrove tosses herself down the stairs of the Cobb. Captain Wentworth is meant to catch her but he does not, and Louisa suffers a head injury that leaves her "insensible" (that is, unconscious). Indeed, at first everyone thinks she's dead, but no. Louisa is left to be looked after at Captain Harville's home (Harville being a friend of Captain Wentworth), while Wentworth, Anne, and Louisa's sister Henrietta travel back to Uppercross to tell Louisa's parents of her fall.

The one other interesting incident would be that they crossed paths with one Mr. Elliot, the heir to the baronetcy. Sir Walter had aimed to have Mr. Elliot marry Elizabeth, but Mr. Elliot . . . Let's say he did not pursue the connection. Though invited to visit, he never did, and he eventually married someone else. But now he is a widower. Meanwhile, Sir Walter and Elizabeth took it quite personally that Mr. Elliot did not fall in with their plans. And Anne never met the man at all, so though they crossed paths twice in this selection of chapters, she did not know him until after he'd gone. But it is said that Mr. Elliot looked quite admiringly at Anne; the fresh air at Lyme had done her some good, it seems.

Where does this leave Anne? Well, she is growing accustomed to the new circumstances between herself and Captain Wentworth; they are civil but not warm toward one another. And it has been expected that Wentworth might choose either Henrietta or Louisa as a future bride (though Henrietta is moderately attached to one Charles Hayter, a curate). But now we have Captain Benwick on the scene, who seems to enjoy Anne's company, and even Mr. Elliot admired Anne's looks, so . . . Might she have other suitors? Other options?

Louisa's headstrong determination and refusal to listen to others is what has put her in a bad place. This much seems to be the point of this part of the story. Yet it was Anne's lack of determination that kept her from happily marrying Wentworth some seven or eight years prior. I suppose a balance is needed, or at the least one is meant to pick one's battles. Not to force things, but instead to allow natural attachments to form and then nurture those. Rather like planting native plants and cultivating them instead of trying to force an unnatural transplant. When two people discover they have things in common beyond an initial liking of one's looks—that is the difference between an annual, short-lived attraction and a perennial affection that can last over many seasons.

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