Blasphemy! Stay behind after class, Mark, and write 100 times on the blackboard:
I will not disrespect Mr Darcy. I will not disrespect Mr Darcy
So, of all the Jane Austen novels, why is this one my favourite?
Well, why not? Pride and Prejudice took top place for “Best Austen” in a recent Bodleian Library poll on Twitter. But it was not a walkover. Persuasion was just a few votes behind.
Perhaps it’s the loyalty of Captain Wentworth, his unrelenting love for Anne Elliot that survives her initial rejection, the intervening years and, presumably, no shortage of willing substitutes.
Perhaps it’s the reward for the underdog. Poor Anne. Always there for others, uncomplaining, reluctant to seek the limelight.
I have no Austen hero to identify with (someone once compared me with Northanger Abbey’s Henry Tilney, but I know nothing of muslin). But if it’s possible for a man to identify with an Austen heroine, then I can identify with Anne Elliot. The mediator. Always willing to quietly join the back of the queue.
Maybe, though, it’s the setting. I grew up near Bath so the final chapters of Persuasion are a little piece of home echoed in text. The city always had a little mystique about it. We rarely visited, almost as if it was too good for the likes of us.
Or maybe it’s the scene where Anne berates Captain Harville for doubting the constancy of women. She points out that books are not the most reliable reference source, given they are mainly written by men:
A subtle nod to feminism around 100 years before the Representation of the People Act 1918 that first gave (many) women the vote in the UK.
But I think it’s probably the one line from the beginning of Captain Wentworth’s letter in that very same passage:
“I am half agony, half hope” – six words that perfectly capture that moment when you declare your love, not knowing if it will be returned.
It was the same feeling I had offering similar sentiments to my (future) wife.
Hope prevailed, though the effect was spoiled a little by me declaring myself in German and getting the grammar wrong. Ah well, love is rarely perfect.