Book Name: Persuasion
Author: Jane Austen
First Published: 1818
Jane Austen was forty years old when she penned her last complete novel, Persuasion. Her health was failing as she wrote and she would die at the young age of 41 before this novel would see print. Persuasion was bundled together with an earlier novel, Northanger Abby, and would prove to be her biggest bestseller. It was also the first of her novels to be published under her real name. Previously, all her novels had been written by the pen name “a lady”. While Persuasion lacks some of the polish of her earlier works due to the little time she had left to revise it to perfection, there are many who claim that it is her finest novel and most mature work of all. Persuasion has not been out of print for at least 150 years and is considered in the public domain.
Until this novel, Austen had always taken as her heroine a young inexperienced woman, falling in love for the first time. In Persuasion, Anne Elliot is twenty-seven years old, a spinster with common sense and decency, but with a beaten spirit. For her, love is something that belongs to her past, not the present. Before the novel opens, Anne is briefly engaged to marry a young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but was persuaded to break off the understanding by her god-mother for reasons of prudence. She has spent the last eight years regretting this decision, and she does not expect to discover love again.
At the opening of the novel, Sir Walter Elliot, a vain and imprudent baronet, must rent his country house and move himself and his family to Bath to pay off his debts. Where once he and his three daughters were rich and respected, now they are poor and the subject of ridicule. His new tenants are Admiral Croft and his wife, Captain Wentworth’s sister. The pair move into Anne’s former home and invite Wentworth to join them. The tables have turned on the fortunes of Captain Wentworth, where once he was a poor navel officer with dubious prospects, now he is wealthy and an eligible bachelor. Being paid off by the navy, he is of a mind to settle down with the “first woman between 15 and 30” to catch his eye. Anyone, that is, except for Anne Elliot, the woman who had broken his heart.
Anne remains in the area to care for her ill sister, Mary Musgrove and tend to her nephews. Time has not been kind to Anne and she has become wane and thin, exhaustion taking its toll on her appearance. Anne and Captain Wentworth meet again due to proximity. The captain treats Anne with cool formality as he flirts with Mary’s two sister-in-laws. The younger women hero-worship Wentworth as they vie for his attentions, each hoping to capture his heart. At the same time, Anne notices small gestures of kindness in Wentworth’s behavior toward her, as if he can not bear to see her in discomfort, gestures that pull the spinster into a private mix of hopeless pleasure and pain, as Anne realizes that she still loves the captain.
During a two-day visit to the village of Lyme, the Musgroves and Anne meet the naval friends of Captain Wentworth and are charmed by their warmth and hospitality. Released from her obligations and refreshed by the sea air, Anne begins to regain some of her youthful complexion. This is noticed by not only Wentworth, but she is admired by other gentlemen in the village. The party’s visit is brought short by an accident on the Cobb and it is Anne’s common sense that saves the day.
After the visit to Lyme, Anne rejoins her father and elder sister in Bath, convinced that Captain Wentworth is to marry another woman. She takes the addresses of her cousin, William Elliot more seriously as she tries to move on with her life. Bath’s society paint the two as all but engaged. Then word comes that Wentworth and his intended have parted and she finds that the captain has suddenly arrived in Bath. Anne is overjoyed that this might mean she has a second chance at happiness with her captain, but how is she to let him know that he still is in her heart and that she has not accepted William Elliot’s offer of marriage? Would the captain risk making a second offer to her after she had refused him all those years ago?
Attempting to branch out my reading habits from a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy novels, I found a list of classic literature that I decided to use to guide my choice of novels from the local library. One of the authors on this list was Jane Austen. I could not decide which of her novels to begin with and because Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were not available in the public library, I picked up Persuasion to be the first to cross off my list of recommended Austen classics. Opening the book, I found myself lost in a world of loneliness, sadness and of the hope of a second chance, not only by this quiet young woman, but by a dashing naval captain who was all to human in his hurt and memories of the past. I not only found myself in sympathy with Anne Elliot, but I was fascinated by the culture of the time. The breaking down of the tradition English class system, the elevation of men based on their merits instead of their birth, and the pride that the English people had in their navy. Persuasion reads today as a historical novel with contemporary overtones although it was penned during the Regency period itself. The characters are timeless and the situations as believable today as they were over 200 years ago. I’ve gone on to read all of Austen’s novels, but Persuasion remains my favorite of all her works and to my belief, is the most romantic of them all.
You may find Persuasion at Project Gutenberg and in your local library.
Let’s start off March right with a new batch of writer’s links. From using twitter to stealing your way to freelancing success. There is a variety of subjects here for both the beginning and more advanced writer. Enjoy!
In addition to my writing, I’ve been a creator of artisan jewelry for around 16 years. One of the staples that I use in my jewelry are handmade coiled beads. They are accents in earrings, form gently bended arms on bracelets or add a texture element to necklaces. The wire beads are simple to make once you have the proper tools and the technique down, but look complex. The trick is all in the steadiness of the tension you put in the wire as you make them. Ten years ago, I had purchased a device called a Coiling Gizmo. It is the basic tool that most other artisan jewelers use to make the beads. The tool is a U shaped form that you clamp to your bench with holes that will hold two iron rods, each bent on one end to form a handle crank. By turning the rod in the hole, you create the wire beads. One rod is thick and is similar in size to a 14 gauge wire. The other is thinner and conforms to a 18 gauge wire. Both rods created coils that were too large for my intended use. For a time, I stopped using the Coiling Gizmo and only used the coil beads in my larger creations.
I’m not one to admit to admit to defeat in my design ideas and set about creating my own coiling gizmo that would make coils and beads small enough to work in my intended creations. The first replacement needed were the rods. After chatting with other artists, ones that were more advanced than I in the art of coiling, I was told that a 0000 knitting needle was close to a 20 gauge wire and the G string of a guitar was just over the size of a 26 gauge wire. These were the sizes of wire I would rather work with. So I bought the knitting needles and the guitar string and added them to my studio tool box.
Next I needed a way to turn the needles and string so that I could create the coils. My first attempt was with a battery operated power drill. That did not go well. I was not able to control the speed enough to create smooth coils without gaps. I was at a loss as to how to fix this problem until I read of another artist that used a hand cranked manual drill. By using the manual drill, I would be able to go slow enough and to regulate the tension of the wire to create the smooth coils I craved. It was one of those eureka moments and I knew that this would be the solution. But where to find one???
I searched every hardware store in my area and only found power drills. I was told that no one used manual drill anymore because they were old-fashioned and out of date. I searched online, but again had no luck. Only power drills were for sale and the one or two manual drills I did see online were very expensive and had high shipping costs. I was not willing to pay the price.
Months after I had started my fruitless search, I was selling my jewelry at a Harvest Festival located at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum. It is a place full of various models of steam powered machines that ran cotton gins, tractors and other antique farm equipment. During the festival, the children are given rides around the grounds on 100 year old tractors. Demonstrations on how life on the frontier are given for the children’s education and amusement. Handmade crafts and jewelry are one of the attractions of the Harvest Festival and the reason I was there. Two booths down from mine was a husband and wife team that sold antique tools. Their shop stocked old wooden boxes, files, saws and low and behold, antique manual drills! He had two of the little treasures for sale, each for $10. I bought one that had clean moving gears and operated smoothly. It is a POWR-Kraft drill from Montgomery Ward that was made starting in the 1930s through the 1950s. It is a tool that was manufactured in the United States and is solid steel with a wooden handle. It will out live me due to its rugged construction.
After the venue was over, I returned to my studio and was able to have complete control over the coiling of my wire. The egg beater style handle of the drill was easy to use and the collate held my knitting needles securely. After that it was easy. My new bracelets and earrings were a huge hit. Other artists had trouble figuring out how I made my beads so small and I was given much kudos for them. Now I make the beads twice a year and use them regularly in my jewelry.
One of the beauties of self-publishing is that the gatekeeper has been fired. In this new world of books made possible by the Internet, no one is left to guard the door. To tell the reader what is what. This state of affairs may introduce an element of confusion for dogmatic readers, but the good news is, new breeds of literature are being created.
Self-publishing allows literature to cross over in new ways. Traditional Christian fiction publishers, for instance, disallow most references to sex, and even the most juvenile profanity. Self-publishing changes this. Not to suggest a writer should ever debase a genre—as writers we are obliged to choose our words carefully. But the old Christian books kept many readers away. “I’m not going to read that. That’s Christian. It’s boring.” Still, nearly every Christian I know periodically swears, fights, and even becomes amorous from time to time. Christians like good stories too, with depth of character, excitement, whimsy, action. The success of a book like The Shack shows the need for stories of real people dealing with real problems, in a faith-based context. It doesn’t even have to be good literature.
As humans, we all look for answers. Stories are stories. Conflict builds to crisis, which leads to a form of resolution. Sure, some people never doubt their faiths, even in the face of horrible tragedy. Others do. Some never ascribed to a faith in the first place, and instead spend their days casting about for a context to this condition we call humanness. The problem with much traditional Christian literature is this; when a character is pushed to a crisis, and the only change we read is “he fell on his knees, then and there, and accepted Jesus into his heart,” that incident may describe a beautiful sentiment, and may have value to a real person in real life, but as a reader, it doesn’t tell me anything. A reader wants details. He wants to see the sweat break out. She wants to hear the thoughts and words that accompany the character’s condition. Literature is literature. We want to see development. We want to get inside the characters. We want to get to know them. That’s why we care. Regardless of the genre label put on the book.
Doxology is a story in between. The book has a religious message; given its primary setting in rural north Louisiana, that message is Christian. But the characters are just people. They experience the same emotions all people do—love, joy, loss. Their conflicts grow and grow until they must be resolved. Like real people, they go astray, take paths of separation from God, or just from what is good for them. They experience desires that can never be fulfilled, want things that can never be had or even understood. They discover the traits in their lives that aren’t working, and set out to find new habits that will work. Many Christian values are universal—a belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that our lives are worthwhile. An understanding that letting go, and learning how little we are in charge, makes life more manageable. A certainty that the kindness and compassion we offer to others is returned to us a hundredfold.
Some say God. Some say the universe. But we all–when we’re honest, and when we pay attention, have a sense of something looking out for us, giving us what we need. Putting people we need into our lives. We give credit for these gifts as we see fit. Good literature promotes a point of view by showing the reader how a character’s modes of operation and beliefs work for her (or don’t). Good literature, whatever its genre, lets the reader inside. Lets the reader do part of the work. Doxology, in this vein, is a story at the crossroad of God and man. It presents God as the characters experience God, and as real people experience God, looking out for them, giving them what they need. Coming to understand how God has been there all along.
Doxology is a love story. Faith plays a role, as it helps the characters find answers and resolution, improves their lives. Like Jody and Vernon and the others, we all look for redemption from brokenness of the past. They and we find it, as people both real and imaginary alike do, in family, friends, productive work, a sense of place, a faith in something greater. Doxology is a story, first and foremost. Its characters face problems. Their conflicts grow. They look for resolutions and ultimately find them, imperfect as they are. We the readers get to know them, and we care. We sympathize. They matter.