Volume 1, Chapter 1

Synopsis of Volume 1, Chapter 1

Persuasion opens with a lengthy description of Sir Walter Elliot's fascination with the details of his heritage as set forth in the baronetage. We learn that Sir Sir Walter Elliot with his agentWalter was widowed fourteen years prior to the opening of the story, and that he has three daughters: Elizabeth (unmarried), Mary (married to the inconsequential Charles Musgrove), and Anne (unmarried). Sir Walter very much favours Elizabeth, having little regard for Mary and even less for his youngest daughter Anne. We are introduced to Lady Russell who was Lady Elliot's close friend. Since Lady Elliot's death, Lady Russell has played the role of motherly advisor to Anne, and intimate friend to Sir Walter. At the close of the chapter we find Sir Walter being advised by Lady Russell and his agent, Mr. Shepherd, on the matter of his severe financial difficulties, due to his undisciplined spending.

Commentary on Volume 1, Chapter 1

the baronetage A list of baronets in book-form with notes on their births, marriages, descendants and deaths. That Sir Walter should be so fascinated with his own heritage, despite his relatively low rank, helps to establish his vain and selfish character.

Duodecimo This refers to the size of the books pages as being one twelfth of the printer's sheet, which is five inches by seven and three quarter inches.

heir presumptive, William Walter Elliot, Esq. Because Sir Elliot has no sons, William Elliot, his nephew and closest male relative, will inherit the property unless Sir Walter produces a son before he dies.

Sir Walter Elliot … was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion The narrator satirises Sir Walter's character with this humorous criticism of his vanity.

she was nobody with either father or sister ... she was only Anne This reinforces the low esteem in which Anne's immediate family holds her, and clearly indicates their poor judgment.

chaise and four A four-wheeled coach and the four hores drawing it.

the book of books The Baronetage. Austen is being ironic, given that this phrase would usually be assumed to refer to the Bible.

Tattersall's Betting rooms and auctioneer of horses.

This very awkward history of Mr. Elliot, was still … felt with anger by Elizabeth Both Elizabeth and Sir Walter are resentful that she has been passed over by her cousin William Elliot in favour of a wealthy woman of lower rank (who has recently died).

this present time, (the summer of 1814,) Persuasion is the only Jane Austen novel that is set at a particular date.

retrench Cut down living expenses. 

had every acre been alienable Had Sir Walter been able to sell all of his estate.

Investigating Volume 1, Chapter 1
  • How does Jane Austen introduce us to the main characters of the novel?
  • What are your first impressions of Anne Elliot?
  • Consider Sir Walter and Elizabeth's attitudes towards rank and class.
    • Do you think they reflect Jane Austen's own attitudes?
  • Pay attention to the narrator's viewpoint.
    • Does it move around?
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