How I love Sundays, for they are at once a culmination of the week just past, and a prelude for the week to come. I particularly cherish my Sunday evenings, for the house is usually mine alone -with the exception of my two little dogs, who, once they’ve been walked and treated, are perfectly content to curl up on one end of the couch whilst I sit at the other, reading, writing, or listening to music.
I’m especially anticipating this evening, and the first part of Masterpiece Theater’s homage to Jane Austen. I do love Miss Austen, and her keen depictions of life in the drawing room.
I dove into my bookstacks and came up a well loved bantam paperback edition, of tonight’s episode, Persuasion (c. 1984), it’s cover a deep bronze color, and adorned with a portrait of Mary Ann, Wife of Lenoard Collman, c. 1854, painted by Alfred Stevens. Thumbing through, I recalled the tale of poor Anne Elliot, “forced into prudence in her youth,” and “persuaded to believe her engagement” to the charming Captain Wentworth a “wrong thing…hardly capable of success…and not deserving it.” And all because poor Captain Wentworth had “nothing to recommend him…no hopes of attaining influence…no fortune.”
My feelings about Anne Elliot alternate between great womanly sympathy and frustrated annoyance. Could the girl not have shown some backbone, and stood up for her feelings?
Of course, one must remember the time and place, and the manner in which young ladies were brought up to heed the advise of their elders. Anne truly believed that Lady Russell, “whom she had always loved and relied on…could not be advising her in vain.” And too, Anne was persuaded to believe it was in Captain Wentworth’s best interests to sever their ties, thus “the belief of being prudent, and self-denying pricipally for his advantage was her chief consolation upon the misery of parting.”
But in the end, being a martyr to convention and propriety does no one any good. Why, even Captain Wentworth says his ideal woman must be one who demonstrated “firmness of mind,” for a woman with a “weak spirit that is open to persuasion…can never be relied upon.” The proverbial seven years of suffering and sorrow must pass before Anne is gifted with another opprtunity to follow her heart once again.
So, my dear sisters, let that be a lesson to us. Heed not the vagaries of convention nor the advice of friends when it comes to matters of the heart. Divine your true feelings and act accordingly. Be not persuaded against your deepest desires, whether they are for love, for accomplishment, or for success. For, in the words of the estimable Captain Wenworth, each one of us, female or male, must learn to “brook being happier than we deserve.”