Persuasions #15, 1993                                                                                                                                                         Pages 148-156



“There is so little real friendship in the world!”:

“Distant civility,” conversational “treat[s],”

and good advice in Persuasion



Associate Professor of English, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY


Friendship and conversation hardly seem two topics at the center of Persuasion.  Indeed, the heroine spends a tremendous amount of the novel in emotional if not physical isolation.  Think of the responses when Anne, who has always been overlooked when her father and Elizabeth take their annual jaunt to London, is once more left behind at Kellynch.  “ ‘I cannot possibly do without Anne,’ was Mary’s [selfish] reasoning; and Elizabeth’s reply was, ‘Then I am sure Anne had better stay, for nobody will want her in Bath’ ” (33).1  Mary’s great advantage in Anne’s estimation is that she “was not so repulsive and unsisterly as Elizabeth” (43); but nonetheless, and despite her being able to be “of some use” (33), Anne’s stay in Uppercross marks again her separation from the social world of the novel:


She played a great deal better than either of the Miss Musgroves; but having no voice, no knowledge of the harp, and no fond parents to sit by and fancy themselves delighted, her performance was little thought of, only out of civility, or to refresh the others, as she was well aware.  She knew that when she played she was giving pleasure only to herself; but this was no new sensation: excepting one short period of her life, she had never, since the age of fourteen, never since the loss of her dear mother, known the happiness of being listened to, or encouraged by any just appreciation or real taste.  In music she had been always used to feel alone in the world.  (46-47)


This poignant scene of Anne’s solitary enjoyment of music recalls also that no one at home “listens to her” when she gives advice on such subjects as retrenching to repay the family’s debts or Mrs. Clay’s designs on Sir Walter.

Once Captain Wentworth joins the circle at Uppercross, Anne’s eagerness to avoid contact with him leads her to conspire with those who habitually exclude her from the community of her peers (like Charles and Mary, for example, when they leave her alone to take care of their injured son as they go off to a dinner party), a process that enhances our sense of her loneliness.  On one occasion where her project of self-segregation fails, she agrees to take a walk with her sister and Henrietta and Louisa – only to be joined by Charles and Frederick after an abortive hunting trip:


Anne’s object was, not to be in the way of any body, and where the narrow paths across the fields made many separations necessary, to keep with her brother and sister.  Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.  She occupied her mind as much as possible in such like musings and quotations; but it was [not always] possible.  (84)


The “many separations necessary” during this country walk mirror Austen’s strategy in the novel, as she seems to force her somewhat unwilling heroine back into society after a long period of almost confirmed spinsterhood.  This autumn walk marked by Anne’s anxiety to evade association with the marriageable members of the party will be replaced by Anne’s other complacent reaction to Mr. Elliot’s admiration at Lyme.  And soon, Austen will describe her heroine – still, after all, only twenty-seven – as “hoping that she was to be blessed with a second spring of youth and beauty” (124).

But the process whereby Anne becomes willing to consider herself one of the young people in the book’s society – a process that moves from autumn through to another spring – is a gradual one.  After Louisa’s fall has resulted in the entire Musgrove family moving temporarily to Lyme, Anne remains again alone, at Uppercross, before Lady Russell comes to take her to Bath:


She was the last, excepting the little boys at the cottage, she was the very last, the only remaining one of all that had filled and animated both houses, of all that had given Uppercross its cheerful character.  A few days had made a change indeed!


If Louisa recovered, it would all be well again ….  A few months hence, and the room now so deserted, occupied but by her silent, pensive self, might be filled again with all that was happy and gay, all that was glowing and bright in prosperous love, all that was most unlike Anne Elliot!  (123)


As Austen implies at the very beginning of the novel, her heroine has internalized her father’s estimation that she is “of inferior value”: “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: … she was only Anne” (5).

But Austen will not let Anne Elliot remain too long without friends as an emotional and social resource, despite the unfriendly treatment she receives from her sisters.  In Austen’s world, marriage is not the sole certification of female value – whatever Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot may think.  “People of real understanding” can be of either sex, though they are admittedly scarce in the society of Persuasion.  Anne needs friends who will help awaken her to her own errors.  For the reader, the narrative tone provides this reality check, as Anne’s view of her situation – the self-pitying exaggeration of her solitude – is subtly, gradually undermined by the authorial voice, even while Anne’s opinions on many issues, like the parenting techniques of Mary Musgrove and the wiles of Mrs. Clay, are virtually identical with the views Austen seems to intend us to take.  But no reader ought to expect Anne to be without some distortion in her perspective.  “She had been forced into prudence in her youth,” Austen tells us at the start, using rather extreme language; “she learned romance as she grew older – the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning” (30; emphasis mine).  This newly learned “romance” – a kind of belated opportunity to indulge in adolescent excess, including excessive long-suffering – has its male counterpart in Captain Benwick’s sighing over his dead fiancée, Fanny Harville, and perhaps Anne’s exposure to it in Benwick makes her begin to reconsider her own romantic possibilities.  (The novel is notoriously suspicious of the sentimental: hence the controversial scene in which Mrs. Musgrove, who has not thought of her dead son Dick for years, suddenly begins to fancy herself the melodramatic mother of “Poor Richard,” in one of Austen’s most often discussed bits of satire.)  Certainly, Anne’s encounter with Benwick, whose indulgence in his grief she discourages, is coincident with her meeting and being evidently admired by Mr. Elliot, the event that gives independent confirmation that Anne has changed in the course of Volume I of the novel, and that she is beginning to resemble once more the young woman with whom Frederick Wentworth fell in love.

Anne’s emotional handicap, the cause of her flawed perspective on herself and on at least certain events in the novel, has been brought about by a combination of factors, not least her mother’s imprudent choice of husband followed by her untimely death.  But much of Anne’s social predicament at the beginning of the novel can be said to have been caused by bad advice that must be overcome with the help of good advice.  Anne receives these two forms of teaching from two significant and indeed parallel figures, Lady Russell and Mrs. Smith.  In Volume II, the heroine undergoes a transition from one influential woman friend to another.  In the process, some of Anne’s own most cherished qualities have to be recognized to be ultimately superficial, in order for her to take advantage of the best kind of friendship and advice: moving from Lady Russell as a touchstone for female behavior to the de-classed Mrs. Smith is crucial to this change.

Jane Austen is eloquent on the kind of damage a bad companion can cause: Mrs. Clay is the novel’s archetypal bad companion.  Lady Russell’s opinion is that “From situation, Mrs. Clay was … a very unequal, and in her character she believed a very dangerous companion … one who ought to have been nothing to [Elizabeth] but the object of distant civility” (16).  Mrs. Clay’s name alone suggests her less than celestial associations, and her vulgarly transparent fawning behavior among the Elliot family – the conversation she holds with Sir Walter about the effect on male beauty of various professions is priceless – gives evidence that, even if we are not to accept Lady Russell’s opinion in general, it seems not to be wrong about Mrs. Clay.

Lady Russell is in fact good at assessing when someone is of “unequal situation” – lower class – but that’s about it.  Austen sums up her advantages when she is introduced: Lady Russell is the “very intimate friend” of Lady Elliot; “a sensible, deserving woman”; “kind” and “valu[ing] Anne” as Anne should be valued.  These are not irrelevant considerations.  But Lady Russell’s shortcomings are also serious: “a woman of sound, rather than quick abilities”; “[s]he had a cultivated mind, and was, generally speaking, rational and consistent – but she had prejudices on the side of ancestry; she had a value for rank and consequence, which blinded her a little to the faults of those who possessed them” (5-6; 11).  Lady Russell’s respect for rank and ancestry allies her with Sir Walter Elliot and Mary Musgrove (“ ‘I never think much of your new creations.’ ” [75]), hardly the novel’s most discerning company.

Lady Russell’s having used her position of influence with the impressionable Anne at the time of her engagement can be understood, when the reader factors her “value for rank and consequence” into Anne’s decision, as having created the past problems the novel sets out to undo.  To get the flavor of her characteristic intervention, we can look at another example within the novel of the same kind of meddling: Mary Musgrove’s attempts to cut off her husband’s family from Mrs. Musgrove’s (her mother-in-law’s) sister’s family, the gentleman-farming Hayters.  Mary’s objections to Charles Hayter as Henrietta’s suitor are on virtually the same grounds Lady Russell offered in encouraging Anne to dissolve her engagement.  As Austen summarizes it, Lady Russell is crass in the extreme, calculating Anne’s marriageability, her age, her rank, her future income, all into the equation, when deciding that the engagement is a wrong one (26-27).  She goes further – and persuades Anne that it will be to Frederick’s own good that she withdraw from their agreement (28).  That Austen wants us to object to Lady Russell’s standards is clear when we see that her advice to Anne shifts rather arbitrarily: only three years after she has encouraged Anne to reject Frederick, she decides that the hunting-and-shooting Charles Musgrove will now be an appropriate spouse for an Anne whose eligibility is tarnished by her “advancing” age: “however Lady Russell might have asked yet for something more, while Anne was nineteen, she would have rejoiced to see her at twenty-two, so respectably removed from the partialities and injustice of her father’s house, and settled so permanently near herself” (29; emphasis added).

Charles Musgrove’s vacuous conversation about guns and dogs matters less to Lady Russell than his rank (second in the neighborhood to Sir Walter) and his good appearance, and her advice – never given, because, at twenty-two, Anne has already outgrown referring decisions to this mentor – would appear not to consider Anne’s complete lack of affection for him.  (It is interesting evidence of her reputation that the Musgrove family assumes that Lady Russell was, in fact, consulted by Anne, and encouraged by Anne to reject Charles.)  To Henrietta, Lady Russell is a formidable neighborhood boss indeed, and she wishes there were such a person at Uppercross to convince the vicar that he needs a curate, ensuring Charles Hayter an income to marry on (88-89; 103).  These ascriptions to Lady Russell of almost super-human powers of persuasion would be almost humorous, except for the fact that the novel is clear, in hindsight, on the point of Lady Russell’s original advice regarding Frederick Wentworth:  Anne has decided not that she herself was wrong (at the age of nineteen) to follow this advice, but that Lady Russell was probably wrong to give it (29), and the novelist seems to agree.  And, quite late in the novel, Anne congratulates herself that she has avoided being “persuaded by Lady Russell” to marry Mr. Elliot (211).

Lady Russell’s “uptight,” highly class-conscious view of the world is thus already losing its hold on the novel’s heroine before Anne arrives in Bath.  Her new acquaintances at Lyme, and the Crofts themselves, represent a new view of society for Anne: people who are really each other’s friends, who share each other’s interests and personal gains and losses; people who are not concerned with the vanity of rank and wealth as represented by mortgaged Kellynch with its dozens of mirrors, but who have earned the right to supplant Sir Walter and his useless family by their own arduous, dangerous, and patriotic toil.  That their manners are down-to-earth rather than polished is beside the point to Anne, as she appreciates the genuineness of their accomplishments and of their feelings.

Thus, when she arrives in Bath and finds an almost parodic microcosm of the social order she thought she left behind with the letting of Kellynch Hall, she is ready for a stark reeducation, at the hands of her old school-mate, Mrs. Smith.  Austen introduces this character in direct juxtaposition with “ ‘our Cousin[s], Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret,’ ” that aristocratic pair of insipid relations who obsess Sir Walter and Elizabeth: “While Sir Walter and Elizabeth were assiduously pushing their good fortune in Laura-place, Anne was renewing an acquaintance of a very different description” (152).  Mrs. Smith represents the worst outcome in the novel of an impulsive marriage choice; the impoverished widow of a beloved spendthrift, dependent and arthritic, her future seems particularly bleak – and she is only thirty.  (Sir Walter’s disdainful summary of her situation is intended as satire of Anne’s do-gooding tendencies, but it is not far from accurate: “ ‘A poor widow, barely able to live, between thirty and forty – a mere Mrs. Smith … such a name!’ ” [158].)  Her two rooms are dark and noisy, cluttered with keepsakes, in marked contrast to the fashionable classiness of Lady Russell’s surroundings.  But Mrs. Smith’s little parlor is a kind of refuge; its sole similarity to any place Anne has been before is to the Harvilles’ tiny but hospitable house at Lyme.  In Mrs. Smith’s lair, Anne learns some important lessons about human relationships and human nature.

During Anne’s second visit to Mrs. Smith, she realizes that, instead of repining, the invalid enjoys the limited possibilities of her current life, including both the socially and morally appropriate activity of charity needlework and that less defensible, undignified pastime of gossip, her most frequent source of which is her friend and sometime attendant, Nurse Rooke.


“[Nurse Rooke, says Mrs. Smith] is a shrewd, intelligent, sensible woman.  [Using a vaguely vulgar expression to describe the dubious topic, she continues,] Hers is a line for seeing human nature; and she has a fund of good sense and observation which, as a companion, make her infinitely superior to thousands of those who having only received ‘the best education in the world,’ know nothing worth attending to.  Call it gossip if you will; but when nurse Rooke has half an hour’s leisure to bestow on me, she is sure to have something to relate that is entertaining and profitable, something that makes one know one’s species better ….  To me, who live so much alone, her conversation I assure you is a treat.”  (155)


Anne’s initially prim reply to this is “Women of that class have great opportunities, and if they are intelligent may well be worth listening to.”  She continues in a more idealizing mode, “Such varieties of human nature as they are in the habit of witnessing! …  What instances must pass before them of ardent, disinterested, self-denying attachment, of heroism, fortitude, patience, resignation …” (155-56).  But Mrs. Smith challenges Anne’s sentimental effusion with the more down-to-earth account of a sick chamber generally characterized rather by “ ‘selfishness and impatience … than generosity and fortitude ….’ ”  But this gentle correction gives way almost immediately to Mrs. Smith’s own extravagant lament:  “ ‘There is so little real friendship in the world!’ ” (156).  Her ejaculation foreshadows her indictment of the false friendship William Elliot offered her husband, but in context it shows gratitude not only for Anne’s attentions, but also for those of her friend Nurse Rooke – and as a friend, not a mere “woman of that class.”  Patricia Meyer Spacks’ study of Gossip points out its social leveling: “Gossip as a verbal engagement depends upon and fosters intimacy.  It exemplifies the power of one-to-one talk: a mode not of domination, but of linkage.”2  Gossip, friendly talk, permits Mrs. Smith to indulge unabashedly by proxy her deep interest in the social life of Bath.  It later develops that her knowledge of local current events is assisted by other part-time servants and newsmongers, a laundress and a waiter (193).

Anne is a bit distant in response to her friend’s revelation of her part in the Bath grapevine,  despite  Mrs. Smith’s  reassurance that she listens to stories  because they are “ ‘entertaining and profitable’ ”; they “ ‘interest or edify’ ” her (155, 156).  Anne remains attentive to her friend, but adopts more the role of patroness than equal or subordinate, whenever Mrs. Smith makes a jocular reference to some social insight her sources have given.  Once Anne’s social circle at Bath begins to include Captain Wentworth, and her visits to Mrs. Smith become briefer and less frequent, that lady shrewdly speculates that Anne’s friendship is being supplanted by courtship.  Of course, she is correct, though she assumes, along with everyone else in Bath, that the gentleman in question is Mr. Elliot.  When Anne cancels an evening engagement with Mrs. Smith to attend a concert, where she intends to run into Frederick, she is startled and disconcerted by Mrs. Smith’s familiar insinuation, made with “an expression half serious, half arch,” that she knows something about Anne’s personal life (180).  The knowing breech of decorum leaves Anne “obliged, and not sorry to be obliged, to hurry away” (180).

Anne is of course disdainful of Mrs. Smith’s report of having had “the whole history” of her engagement to Mr. Elliot from Nurse Rooke, via Mrs. Wallis: “ ‘The whole history!’ repeated Anne, laughing.  ‘She could not make a very long history, I think, of one such little article of unfounded news’ ” (197-98).  Mrs. Smith is sensitive to Anne’s discomfort with the excessive familiarity of her references to Anne’s life: “ ‘One hates to be officious, to be giving bad impressions, making mischief’ ” (198).  Fortunately, despite understanding Anne’s rebuke of her insinuations, Mrs. Smith goes on to give Anne insight into Mr. Elliot’s true character, a satisfying development in the novel’s plot despite the error of Mrs. Smith’s conjecture that Anne is about to accept this villain as a suitor.

In the process of surrendering to her friend’s ethics of eavesdropping, Anne is implicated in the further impropriety of seeing Mr. Elliot’s letter to the late Mr. Smith.  Anne is “obliged to recollect that her seeing the letter was a violation of the laws of honour, that no one ought to be judged or to be known by such testimonies, that no private correspondence could bear the eye of others” (204), but she is convinced by, rather than scandalized by being offered, the evidence.  And Mrs. Smith goes on to defend the information-mill that has kept her apprised of Anne’s family’s social climbing and her relationship with the deceptive Mr. Elliot.  Her metaphor for gossip is an extraordinary, vigorous one: “ ‘The stream is as good as at first; the little rubbish it collects in the turnings, is easily moved away.’ ”  Anne counters that “ ‘Facts or opinions which are to pass through the hands of so many, to be misconceived by folly in one, and ignorance in another, can hardly have much truth left’ ” (204-5), but through a long cross-examination, Mrs. Smith proves her point.

Further proof of the importance to the novel of conversation – of even confidential conversation that betrays a perhaps too intense interest in the lives of others – is the fact that the dénouement of the novel depends on gossip.  Captain Wentworth overhears in a shop women of his acquaintance discussing Anne Elliot’s relationship with her cousin:


As soon as [Anne, escorted by Mr. Elliot] were out of sight, the ladies of Captain Wentworth’s party began talking of them.


“Mr. Elliot does not dislike his cousin, I fancy?”


“Oh! no, that is clear enough.  One can guess what will happen there ….  What a very good-looking man!”  (177-78)


This encounter with its overhearing helps lay the ground of jealousy that motivates Captain Wentworth’s behavior at the concert and reveals to Anne the state of his feelings for her.  The unexpected news of Captain Benwick’s engagement to Louisa Musgrove gives him an opportunity to engage in a bit of gossip himself, as he tells Anne that the bereaved Benwick’s second choice is inferior to his first, another occasion for him to make clear to Anne his opinions about appropriate marriage partners (182-83).  The proposal letter itself is written by him during a long, cosy gossip, in which Mrs. Musgrove is giving Mrs. Croft “the history of her eldest daughter’s engagement, and just in that inconvenient tone of voice which was perfectly audible while it pretended to be a whisper” (230).  Both Anne and Frederick are eavesdropping on this conversation, which is about the impropriety of long engagements, and hence relevant to the decision long ago taken by her, and for which he has always blamed her.  Listening to his eminently sensible sister on this topic gives him another perspective on it, and contextualizes his forgiveness of the past and his admission of his own role in the eight-year delay in his own happy marriage.  Like Anne’s reading of Mr. Elliot’s letter, however, his eavesdropping is a violation of honor; even so, Frederick does some more of it in this scene, as Anne defends women’s love to Captain Harville in a famous, moving speech.  When Anne refuses to let him bring literary examples to bear on his side of the argument with the words “ ‘Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books.  Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story.  Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands’ ” (234), Captain Wentworth, who has been writing two letters, as it turns out, creates a small disturbance: “It was nothing more than that his pen had fallen down.”

It would seem clear that the resolution of the novel’s plot could take place without Mrs. Smith; she is a relatively minor character whose late introduction in the novel has various plot-smoothing advantages, but she would seem to be hardly necessary.  Throughout the last chapters, however, Austen harps on the significance of what Anne has learned from Mrs. Smith about Mr. Elliot, most often to emphasize the urgency Anne feels about conveying it to Lady Russell.  As soon as Anne leaves Westgate Buildings after hearing the truth, she thinks, “It was very desirable that Lady Russell should be no longer deceived” (211).  The next chapter begins “She must talk to Lady Russell, tell her, consult with her, and having done her best, wait the event with as much composure as possible” (212), while musing that “She had never considered herself as entitled to a reward for not slighting an old friend like Mrs. Smith, but here was a reward indeed springing from it!”  “On Friday morning,” we are next told, “[Anne] meant to go very early to Lady Russell, and accomplish the necessary communication,” but, she decides when she finds that the Musgroves are in Bath, that “her plan of sitting with Lady Russell must give way for the present …. Anne convinced herself that a day’s delay of the intended communication could be of no consequence” (220).  Next morning, “it became a matter of course … still to defer her explanatory visit in Rivers-street” (229).  And of course, Lady Russell’s opinion doesn’t matter any more; it has taken Anne a long time to admit this to herself, even though she has unconsciously known it since she refused Charles Musgrove.  Another scene late in the novel emphasizes Lady Russell’s lack of perspicacity as to what really matters.  Captain Wentworth has arrived in Bath and Anne and her friend are out together.


[Anne] distinguished him on the right hand pavement at such a distance as to have him in view the greater part of the street.  There were many other men about him, many groups walking the same way, but there was no mistaking him.  She looked instinctively at Lady Russell; but not from any mad idea of her recognising him so soon as she did herself.  No, it was not to be supposed that Lady Russell would perceive him till they were nearly opposite.  She looked at her however, from time to time, anxiously; and when the moment approached which must point him out, though not daring to look again (for her own countenance she knew was unfit to be seen), she was yet perfectly conscious of Lady Russell’s eyes being turned exactly in the direction for him, of her being in short intently observing him.  She could thoroughly comprehend the sort of fascination he must possess over Lady Russell’s mind, the difficulty it must be for her to withdraw her eyes, the astonishment she must be feeling that eight or nine years should have passed over him, and in foreign climes and in active service too, without robbing him of one personal grace!


“You will wonder,” said [Lady Russell], “what has been fixing my eye so long; but I was looking after some window-curtains ….”  (178-79)


This great comic moment comes at Anne’s expense in one sense, but, taken together with the repetitious allusions to talking to Lady Russell about Mrs. Smith’s information – talking which doesn’t occur in the body of the novel, but is presumed to take place sometime after the betrothal – it helps to emphasize the shift in influence on Anne from Lady Russell with all her refinement, to the somewhat vulgar Mrs. Smith.  Austen summarizes that Lady Russell, at the novel’s end,


must learn to feel that she had been mistaken with regard to both [Captain Wentworth and Mr. Elliot]; that she had been unfairly influenced by appearances in each; that because Captain Wentworth’s manners had not suited her own ideas, she had been too quick in suspecting them to indicate a character of dangerous impetuosity; and that because Mr. Elliot’s manners had precisely pleased her in their propriety and correctness, their general politeness and suavity, she had been too quick in receiving them as the certain result of the most correct opinions and well regulated mind.  There was nothing less for Lady Russell to do, than to admit that she had been pretty completely wrong, and to take up a new set of opinions and of hopes.  (249)


And Lady Russell, after a struggle, submits, and retains her friendship with Anne, thus becoming, with Mrs. Smith, one of only two friends Anne can share with her new husband, who brings, in contrast, a whole family of naval connections to share with her (251).  I think that the lower-middle-class affiliations of Mrs. Smith are not insignificant in the novel’s overall scheme, which is why I have emphasized that the perfect understanding the principals arrive at by the novel’s end is actually dependent on confidential violations of strict, upper-class codes of honor: gossiping, eavesdropping on others’ gossip, and reading other people’s mail.  Things in this society are changing: the eviction of the Elliots from Kellynch, justifiably supplanted by the Crofts, who have earned and saved their money, as opposed to inheriting and squandering it, signals an important shift in values.  The “worth” has “gone” (“Wentworth”) from the landed class to a new, somewhat entrepreneurial, though still (by a revised definition) genteel class, and, in the novel’s scale of values, that is a development, like the marriage that ends the book, that is long overdue.3  The shift in values is seen also in the damning summary of Lady Russell’s manifold mistakes in judging people: she has sized them up the same way she inspects window-curtains, and the role of people like her as arbiters of right and wrong choices in society is or should be diminishing significantly, Austen tells us.  The last two paragraphs of the novel focus on Mrs. Smith and “her good offices by Anne” and their continued friendship4 before turning briefly to the marital happiness of the hero and heroine, again attesting to the importance of what I would term the friendship plot of the novel, which runs parallel with the courtship plot, and plays almost an equally central role in the developing story of the heroine.





1 Jane Austen, Persuasion, ed. R. W. Chapman, 3rd ed. (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1933).  All quotations are taken from this edition.


2 Patricia Meyer Spacks, Gossip (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1985, 1986), p. 57.


3 Nina Auerbach catalogues the novel’s portrayal of shifting social values more generally in “O Brave New World: Evolution and Revolution in Persuasion,”  ELH 39 (1972), pp. 112-28.


4 Though K. K.Collins has, overall, a more equivocal interpretation than mine of Mrs. Smith’s role in the novel, she notes that Mrs. Smith’s “predominance in the novel’s last paragraph establishes her as an essential agent of Anne’s fulfillment” (“Mrs. Smith and the Morality of Persuasion,” Nineteenth Century Fiction 30 [1975], pp. 383-97; p. 395).  See also her “Prejudice, Persuasion, and the Puzzle of Mrs. Smith,” Persuasions 6 (1984), pp. 40-43.

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