Chapter II

  • Patricia Beer


Jane Austen, pen in hand, gives this speech to Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion, without, apparently, attaching to the words any kind of resentment or rebellion. And as Anne gracefully accepts this limitation of women’s scope, so do nearly all the other women characters accept all the other limitations. Significantly, the only person who utters anything like feminist sentiments is Mrs Elton, the half-educated vulgarian in Emma. She laments that wives have to leave their own homes for those of their husbands: ‘I always say that this is quite one of the evils of matrimony’; and that they have to consult their husbands before making decisions even in domestic matters: ‘You know, Mrs. Weston, you and I must be cautious how we express ourselves.’ But these remarks are only part of her terrible sparkling vivacity. She is actually far more triumphant at having acquired a husband herself (she alludes to Mr E. as frequently as today’s women columnists allude to their husbands) and at having friends who have achieved marriage (‘Mrs. Jeffereys — Clara Partridge, that was — and the two Milmans, now Mrs. Bird and Mrs. James Cooper’) than anyone else in the novels. And in any case she is the very last person with whom a reader would identify.


Italian Scholar Miss World Young Lady Woman Character Good Wife 
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© Patricia Beer 1974

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  • Patricia Beer

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