Persuasion is my favorite of Jane Austen's novels, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it with Heidi during her read-along. We dug deeply into the text and turned up so many treasures, and I have learned a lot about this book from all the participants. Heidi, please do another read-along soon!
In Persuasion, Anne Elliott meets up with the man she was once engaged to, Captain Frederick Wentworth. Eight years previous, she had broken off their engagement, and had regretted that ever since. Neither of them had ever fallen in love again, and this book charts the rekindling of their romance as they slowly ascertain each others' feelings and whether things could ever again be as they once were.
Because I reviewed this a few years ago, I'm not going to spend more time than that on plot or why it's my favorite -- you can read all that in my first review here. Instead, I want to talk about how often Austen emphasized that it is self-persuasion that can be the most harmful, even more than allowing others to persuade you of something. I had always assumed the title referred to when Anne Elliot allowed Lady Russell to persuade her not to marry Frederick Wentworth. But now I think it refers more to how Anne and Wentworth both persuaded themselves regarding that event.
Anne persuaded herself that she was acting for Wentworth's good when she gave him up (see chapter 4). "The belief of being prudent, and self-denying, principally for his advantage was her chief consolation" (p. 29). She knew she ought to obey her parents, and Lady Russell was her surrogate mother. Obey Lady Russell, she did, and she persuaded herself that Wentworth would be better off as a result.
Wentworth, angry and heartbroken, persuaded himself that Anne was weak and timid, that "[s]he had given him up to oblige others" (p. 66). He spent eight years persuading himself he had forgotten her, only to discover that he could neither stop loving her nor forget her. If he had admitted to himself that he still loved her when he was promoted to captain only two years after they parted, he could have tried to reconnect with her, and they would have been spared six years of loneliness.
So that's what I took away from this reading of Persuasion: that it's far more dangerous to persuade yourself of something untrue than to allow others to persuade you.
Instead of listing some favorite lines like I usually do, I'm going to share some pictures of the copy I bought 'specially for this read-along. It's one of the prettiest books I own. I found it at Books-a-Million, and you can buy this edition here online. They had a whole bunch of great classics in a similar style, and I also bought Jane Eyre because it was too lovely to resist.
It has those nifty page edges that look like they're hand slit, and pages are thick and creamy. I happened to have a pen that perfectly matched the cover, so my notes inside look like this:
This was on a display of all kinds of beautiful classics-inspired book marks and such. I spotted some of them at Barnes & Noble the other day too.
This is my nineteenth book read and reviewed for The Classics Club.