"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 10
If you were wondering what last Friday's concert was, here is your answer . . .
No, I didn't take the book to the concert, although I was tempted to. But my ticket stub will remain in my copy of Persuasion forever.
Chapters 17 to 20
So . . . Louisa Musgrove and Captain Benwick! =P Did you see that coming?
The first time I read Persuasion, I didn't! And this second time around, I'm still very pleased at the way Jane Austen set this couple up. But I find I don't want to discuss them so much. If they strike your fancy, then, by all means, tell me so in the combox--but for now, please indulge me while I explain why I think two other characters totally eclipse them this week.
". . . a mere Mrs. Smith--an every day Mrs. Smith, of all people and all names in the world . . ."
Sir Walter is lucky that Innocent Smith didn't hear him say that. =P It's clear that Anne's old friend has a name that was chosen as carefully as Beacon House's most memorable tenant.
I find it interesting that Anne is meeting so many "Blasts from the Past" these days. Captain Wentworth is only the most obvious example. Mr. Eliot counts inasmuch as he was first expected at Kellynch Hall years ago. And now there is Mrs. Smith, who, after a twelve-year separation, might have made it Anne's turn to say, "You were so altered [I] should not have known you."
It's true that many things have changed since Anne and Mrs. Smith went to school together, including the dynamic of their relationship. But what strikes Anne the most is her old friend's resilience in the face of some very severe misfortunes. She tries to pinpoint what it is in Mrs. Smith's character that has made this possible, and concludes:
A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more; here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from Nature alone.
I'm a bit tickled that we get a great contrast with Mary in the very next chapter. Mary has written in her letter to Anne, "I daresay I shall catch [a bad sore-throat]; and my sore-throats, you know, are always worse than anybody's." Isn't it just like her to moan over an ailment she hasn't even come down with yet!
But the real contrast seems to be with Louisa Mugrove. At the end of Volume 1, after a headstrong Louisa ends up with a terrible head injury (I see my subconscious chose that compound adjective well!), Anne wonders "whether it occurred to [Captain Wentworth] . . . to question the justness of his own previous opinion as to the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character." I didn't bring it up in Meeting 8 because I don't like Austen's obviousness there. Yes, I get that there are contrasts to be drawn between our heroine and her biggest rival for Captain Wentworth's heart; but I wish Austen had been more subtle about it. I guess she's making up for it here, with Mrs. Smith.
If this were an essay for uni and not a Book Club post for my blog, I'd write at least another 500 words to compare and contrast Louisa's brain injury and Mrs. Smith's inflamed joints.
Then there is the perfectly healthy Mr. Eliot . . .
She saw that there had been bad habits; that Sunday-travelling had been a common thing . . .
ROFLMAO! I think "Sunday-travelling" is going to be my new euphemism for "He used to be a rake." (Oscar Wilde would totally get it, if you know what I mean. ;-) LOL!)
For Anne, one major red flag is that her cousin is "too generally agreeable." There is something off if one can manage to please all the "tempers" in a household like her own--the irony being that it is the quickest way to turn off the one temper he is actually attracted to.
There was a point when I wondered whether Austen was just giving Anne an easy way out. Now that she is more "over" Captain Wentworth than she ever was, other decent suitors actually stand a chance with her. So the only way for her old flame to remain the better choice is for the other men to be demonstrably "bad."
Then I remembered that Mr. Eliot's dark side does not come out of nowhere. We've known since Chapter 1 that he has been letting Anne's family down for years. And although he has since acquitted himself in Sir Walter's and Elizabeth's eyes, Anne is clearly not convinced. I can't remember what I thought of him the first time I read this book, but I won't go any further now because this is where the discussion gets spoilery.