Volume 2, Chapter 9 / 21

Synopsis of Volume 2, Chapter 9 / 21

Anne visits Mrs. Smith who has the mistaken impression that Anne and Mr. Elliot will soon marry, on the evidence of Nurse Rooke. She requests that Anne be of help by mentioning her to Mr. Elliot, with whom she was once acquainted. Anne makes it clear that she is not going to marry Mr. Elliot, then asks what Mr. Elliot was like when he was younger.

Mrs. Smith explains that he is motivated by money, which is why he took advantage of her husband and dropped his associations with Anne's sister and father in favour of marrying a wealthy woman of low status. An old letter from Mr. Elliot proves his debased motives. Mr Elliot's desire to inherit is why he is now getting close to their family and marrying Anne, so as to prevent Mrs. Clay from marrying Sir Walter and providing a new heir.

Anne's previous suspicions about Mr. Elliot are confirmed, as Mrs. Smith gives more detail about his part in her and her husband's financial downfall. When Anne challenges her for seeming to approve of her marriage to Mr. Elliot, Mrs. Smith explains that she thought there was no turning back and so she had decided to keep quiet. Anne is horrified to think how her life would have been if she had ended up marrying Mr. Elliot. Mrs. Smith agrees that Anne should tell Lady Russell what she has discovered about Mr. Elliot.

Commentary on Volume 2, Chapter 9 / 21

How she might have felt … was not worth enquiry; for there was a Captain Wentworth … her affection would be his for ever Anne has unequivocally decided against Mr. Elliot and in favour of constancy and Captain Wentworth. Nevertheless, she cuts off any thoughts about what might have been with Mr. Elliot, which makes us wonder whether she might have said yes to him had the circumstances been different.

It was almost enough to spread purification and perfume all the way The rhetorical tone of this comment suggests that Jane Austen is intruding as an author to make a gentle dig at her ‘almost too good heroine'.

through the short cut of a laundress and a waiter Jane Austen traces the path of gossip, showing how the servant classes moved in and out of the upper classes as they did their jobs and how information was passed along that way.

Mr. Elliot's wife has not been dead much above half a year The proper period of mourning for a spouse was a full year, and it was not proper to consider marrying again until after that.

he is not a man to be known intimately soon Although Anne has enjoyed Mr. Elliot's company, she still feels there is a lack of openness about him - that he is holding something back. We will soon see that her intuition is correct.

Mr. Elliot had not the share … in whatever pleasure the concert of last night might afford ‘Mr. Elliot is not the reason I enjoyed the concert so much': after this Anne falters because she still cannot say who is.

Marlborough-buildings Where the Wallises live.

Even the smooth surface of family union seems worth preserving, though there may be nothing durable beneath. Whether this is true is a recurrent question throughout Persuasion as the sham of the Elliots' family life is exposed to us repeatedly. We watch Sir Walter and Elizabeth squander their wealth and relationship with Anne, and realise there is nothing durable beneath their elegant appearance.

Cold-blooded … cruelty … treachery … ruin … he is black at heart, hollow and black Stirring language that sets the tone for the dramatic stories Mrs. Smith is about to tell.

Chambers in the Temple One of the four Inns of Court where barristers were ‘trained' by attending dinners and mixing with others in the legal profession.

Farthing A coin worth a quarter of a pre-decimal penny. Here it denotes a very small amount of money. 

her inferior situation in society, indeed, rendered that impossible This shows how stratified society still was.

low woman Woman of low social status.

grazier Farmer who raises cattle for market.

fine Attractive

arms and motto, name and livery Each of these items was unique and particular to each high-ranking family.

to the hammer To auction. Mr. Elliot had no intention of keeping Kellynch. Rather, he wanted to sell it for as much money as he could.

they will leave me in peace, which may be a decent equivalent for the reversion Mr. Elliot so despised the Elliots that he would almost rather have lost his inheritance and have no further dealings with them.

romancing Exaggerating.

Sensible Aware.

He has been gradually learning to pin his happiness upon the consequence he is heir to Mr. Elliot has more esteem for social status than he did when he was younger, and he knows that the title of Baronet would give him an immediate promotion in society.

a scheme, worthy of Mrs. Wallis's understanding In other words, not a very clever scheme.

executor of his will Person responsible for following the instructions laid out in a will – in this case, Mr. Elliot. Among his duties would have been the disbursement of Mr. Smith's estate as well as arranging for the payment of any debts he had incurred.

sequestration for the payment of its own incumbrances The income from this property was tied up to pay for any claims of interest that were on the property.

to stir in it To do anything about it.

natural connextions Blood relatives.

straightened means Straitened (inadequate) income.

It was just possible that she might have been persuaded by Lady Russell This comment recalls how Anne was momentarily ‘bewitched' in Vol. 2 Ch 5 / 17 by the thought of all the benefits of a union with Mr. Elliot that Lady Russell had listed. However, she has shown herself to have grown beyond being subject to persuasion to do something that contravenes her own sense of what is right.

Investigating Volume 2, Chapter 9 / 21
  • This chapter is the longest in Persuasion and contains mostly dialogue.
    • Why do you think Jane Austen chose to reveal the particulars of the sub-plot in this way?
  • At the beginning of the chapter Anne is on the verge of wondering whether she might have been interested in Mr. Elliot if there were no Captain Wentworth. Make a chart indicating how and when her attitude changes so that, by the end, she realises what misery he could have caused her if she had married him.
  • Make note on how deception functions in the theme of ambition as it unfolds in this chapter.
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.