Balancing the Virtues in Persuasion

  • Sarah Emsley


Loves comes late for Anne Elliot, the heroine so virtuous that Austen said “she is almost too good for me” (Letters, March 23, 1817; 335). Like Catherine Morland, she has had to learn prudence first and love afterwards. Anne “had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older” (P 30).The difference is that romance comes much later for her than for Catherine. Having followed the advice of her dear friend and surrogate mother, Lady Russell, Anne has lost her lover, Frederick Wentworth, to the claims of economic prudence. While Wentworth wishes she had been firm in her resolve to love him at all costs, he has been too proud to court her again in the eight years since they parted, even though he has made a name and a fortune for himself. Anne may not have been firm—she did yield to the persuasion of a friend—but she has certainly been constant in her love for Wentworth, despite the years that have passed since her refusal to marry him. She has been unhappy, but like Miss Bates, in fact, she has not been made mean or unkind by spinsterhood. She has resources of mind and spirit to support her—resources that Emma Woodhouse thinks she herself possesses. But Emma’s resources are not tested as Anne’s are. Emma suffers and is miserable when she learns more about her own mind, but her moral education is rewarded with “perfect happiness” relatively quickly.


Christian Tradition Surrogate Mother True Nobility Firm Resolution Male Writer 
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© Sarah Emsley 2005

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  • Sarah Emsley

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