By: Jane Austen Information you may want to know about this author
Published by: John Murray
Publication Date: 1817

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Persuasion is a story of what seldom happens, but is often wished for: a second chance at a first love. Both Jane and her sister Cassandra knew how painful the loss of one’s true love is; it is the loss of the beloved, yes, but also the death of all the promise bound up in that love: a shared future, a lifetime of joys doubled and sorrows halved, a home, a family, and children of one’s own.

Cassandra’s heart belonged to Thomas Fowle, a young man who, with several other boys, had boarded at the Austen home in order to be educated by her father, alongside the curate’s own large family. Neither Cassandra nor Thomas had enough to marry upon, so after graduating from Oxford University he undertook an appointment from his cousin Lord Craven to serve as chaplain in the West Indies in order to put by enough money for them to marry. Just as their three-year engagement was finally drawing to a close, Cassandra received word that he had succumbed to Yellow Fever. She was never to marry.

Jane’s own love stories also ended unhappily. We learn from Jane and Cassandra’s correspondence that when Jane was twenty she was courted by Tom Lefroy, the nephew of a neighbor, but both their families determined the marriage to be impractical. He was sent away from the neighborhood, and therefore from Jane, by his family. At age twenty-six, she received a materially advantageous proposal from wealthy childhood friend Harris Bigg-Wither, heir to a large family estate. She accepted the proposal for purely practical reasons, but the next morning in a panic withdrew her acceptance. Years later she wrote to her niece Fanny, who was seeking Janes’s advice in her own affairs of the heart, “Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection.” Cassandra, in a private conversation with a niece, related that Jane had gone on to suffer her own broken heart. A young clergyman gained Jane’s acquaintance, and her heart, while the sisters were making a tour of Devonshire. Cassandra thought him “one of the most charming persons she had ever known.” When the Austen sisters arrived at the appointed place of their next meeting, he was not there; instead, they were handed a letter informing them of his untimely death.

Persuasion was written in the space of a year or so, unlike Jane’s earlier novels which had been the result of revisions over many years. It tells the story of Anne Elliot, now in her late twenties, who nearly a decade before had allowed herself to be persuaded by others more materially minded to break off her engagement with a man who had only his good character to recommend him. Now, following their reacquaintance, after making his fortune and having risen in society, Anne must look on as he is sought after by young ladies aspiring to make an advantageous match, certain that she has lost not only his love, but also his good opinion.

Anne remarks, upon learning of the recent romantic attachment of a friend, who had so lately sworn his undying love to another, “we certainly do not forget you (men) so soon as you forget us. It is perhaps our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves.” Her love later answers her, having overheard these remarks, “Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.”

Of Persuasion, C. S. Lewis writes, “It is, in a sense the other novels are not, a love story.”

— Written by Johanna Bittle


Persuasion Reprint

Reprinted in 2016 by The Folio Society
Reprint illustrated by Deanna Staffo
Reprint foreword by Siri Hustvedt
Available formats: Hardcover
View on the The Folio Society site

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