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Increasing Your Daily Joy with Jane Austen

“As Many Holds Upon Happiness as Possible”:

Increasing Your Daily Joy with Jane Austen

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator

In January of this year (2022), our region created and hosted an “Eat. Read. Love.” scavenger hunt on Zoom as part of our celebration of Jane Austen’s December birthday.  We had people attend from all over the country and a few other countries.  The three categories were food and drink in the novels; books related to Jane Austen, examples of the novels, and reading mentioned in the novels; and items displaying our love for Jane Austen, the Regency era, and the video/film adaptations.  I was struck by how much joy attendees had in sharing their Jane Austen-related items with others and the variety of ways we proclaim our love of Jane Austen.

I will discuss how to be a bit more intentional and mindful throughout our day in using our Jane Austen love to increase joy.  Some of these suggestions might be things that you already do, and my hope is that doing them more intentionally will help you feel more joyful.

Take a breath and smile when you see anything related to Jane Austen.   Most of us have Jane Austen mugs, or pictures, or figures.  When you use or see something that is Jane Austen-related, take a breath in, smile, and think about a specific scene or quotation that makes you feel good.  For example, I have three bone china mugs that I use with my morning tea with botanical pictures of apples, peaches, and cherries.  Apples remind me of Mr. Knightley and Donwell Abbey (big smile), peaches remind me of Mr. Darcy and Pemberly (when Lizzy and Mrs. Gardiner visit with Georgiana), and cherries are mentioned by Mrs. Elton during the strawberry picking monologue in Emma (I always smile because of the genius of how Austen portrays Mrs. Elton’s speech). Using bone china also connects me to Jane Austen’s time (although it is not Wedgwood or Staffordshire).  Have Jane Austen items in places where you can see them throughout your day to frequently have that pause and smile. 

Connect Jane Austen to something else you love.  I work as a psychologist at a university counseling center.  We are privileged to work with students from all cultural backgrounds and all gender identity and sexual orientations.  I have a large “More Pride, Less Prejudice” graphic in my office (see below) that was designed by Georgie Castilla of Duniath Comics https://www.duniathcomics.com/.  I also ordered some of Georgie’s P&P stickers and brought them into work to share with my co-workers and the graduate student trainees.  Thirty stickers were gone in no time and even the “big boss” wanted one.  It is so neat to see the stickers around the center, and I feel happy to have spread some Jane Austen and Pride joy!

Do some GIF therapy.  My favorite GIF is the “Knightly Approves” GIF.  I laugh every time I see it and it has become a running joke with a small group of other Mr. Knightley fans on our region’s Facebook page.  Our region officers also love a good Clueless GIF (“As if!”).  When I see a GIF, I have associations to the work it is from, which brings more happiness.  Take some time each day for a little GIF therapy.  [Also, my computer friends want me to note that it is pronounced “jif”, like the peanut butter, according to the late Steve Wilhite, the GIF creator.]  Another alternative is to find video clips of the TV show/movie adaptations you like on a video platform when you don’t have time to watch a whole movie or TV episode. Knightley Approves: https://tenor.com/UyTp.gif and Cher, “As If”: https://tenor.com/xUTi.gif.

Wear your Jane Austen colors.  We can’t always wear our Jane Austen t-shirts or Regency togs, to work for example (darn professional standards!).  We can pick colors to wear that we associate with specific characters or film adaptations.  I have several Cher-yellow (Clueless) items that make me extra happy when I wear them.  See if you can make Jane Austen associations to the colors of clothes you own—Captain Wentworth navy blue, Lizzy (2005) loden green, Emma (2009) pink, Catherine or Fanny white (preferably in muslin with glossy spots), Elinor (2008) muted lavender, Marianne (1995) ice blue, Darcy black, etc.  I also have a pashmina scarf that I bought at an AGM that I have taken to wearing in the winter instead of packing it away in the cedar chest.  I call it my “Pride and Prejudice Peacock Edition” shawl and very much feel like a Regency woman when I wear it.

If it fits with your space and your budget, get the DELUXE edition!  I have several versions of most of the novels and enjoy reading the notes in annotated editions.  I bought Bharat Tandon’s edited Emma: An Annotated Edition (2012, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) a couple of years ago and recently bought the Robert Morrison’s edited Persuasion: An Annotated Edition (2011, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) and the Patricia Meyer Spacks’s edited Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition (2010, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press).  They are each such beautiful editions with excellent annotations and pictures.  It is a pleasure to hold them and feel their heft.  I plan to get the Belknap editions of Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey soon.

I hope that these suggestions seem doable.  The main point about each is being intentional as you interact with objects you already have in order to take a minute to let the positive emotions associated with Jane Austen create joy in your day.  Leave a comment if you have another way you bring Jane Austen joy into your day.


Ten “Exquisite Moments” of the 2018 Persuasion AGM

The JASNA Annual General Meeting in Kansas City, MO, hosted by the JASNA Metropolitan Kansas City Region (Julienne Gehrer, AGM Coordinator) was magical and the largest attendance ever—900 people.  Each day was filled with fun events and informative presentations.  I thought I would share a few highlights for those not able to attend and, I hope, convince you to attend one in the future.  I’ve sprinkled in a few quotations from Persuasion, the Oxford/Chapman version (for page numbers).  Note that some of the photos were taken from the jumbo screens, so the coloring might be off.  I took all the pictures here myself (or had someone use my camera for the pictures I am in). The picture in the header is the canvas tote bag that we got at the AGM along with a colorful luggage tag.  Michele Larrow, Co-Regional Coordinator


  1. “Glowing and lovely in sensibility and happiness” (245). AMANDA ROOT shared dramatic readings from the novel and from her journal that she kept during filming Persuasion (1995). She said that Persuasion was her favorite movie to act in of all time! She was funny, kind, and warm and stayed around the next day to listen to several of the speakers and go to the concert.  Many people got pictures with her and several times I was within feet of where she was.  After her talk, it was a treat to re-watch the 1995 adaptation with about 900 other fans.


  1. “The company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation” (150). Everyone at an AGM is so friendly!  I met and talked with folks from all over the country and Canada, even connecting with some friends from the area who follow our Facebook page.  At the meeting for the Regional Coordinators (RCs), I met most of the RCs from the Pacific Northwest and also got to chat with Liz Philosophos Cooper, current VP for Regions and incoming JASNA President.    I sat at the banquet and the breakfasts with the welcoming members for the Puget Sound Group (see picture below of the group).  I was especially lucky that Agnes Gawne (far left in picture), the RC from Puget Sound, took me under her wing.  She helped me learn more about being an RC and gave great Regency fashion advice.  She is an expert Regency dancer who was very patient in helping me learn the steps to the dances.  I also danced with Shirley from Puget Sound and other JASNA members for across the country.

puget sound

  1. “The sense of an Italian love song” (186). The Bath Assembly Room concert was amazing.  Ensemble Musica Humana did a performance of the kinds of music one might have heard in Bath in Jane Austen’s lifetime.  There was Italian singing, a piano concerto played on period instruments, and a flute concerto (see below concert program).  The performers played and sang with such passion (the video is very short from the end of one of the songs).



  1. “She could only resolve to avoid such self-delusion in the future” (42). JOHN MULLAN (author of What Matters in Jane Austen?) was seriously funny as he discussed the many delusions about the self that characters operate under in Persuasion.  He moved from the funny (Sir Walter) to more subtle self-delusions (for example, how Anne thinks she must be happier because Captain Wentworth thinks her altered), suggesting that inner dialogue with the word “must” is a good clue to self-delusions.  He was entertaining and informative, all while speaking with a charming British accent.


  1. “In earnest contemplation of some print” (169). DEB BARNUM, owner of a collectible books store and member of the JASNA VT Region, presented on the history of illustrations of Persuasion. The first illustration was actually for the French translation in 1821. There were many examples of the classic illustrators (Hugh Thompson and C.E. Brock; see below for two Brock illustrations of Louisa’s fall at Lyme) but the funniest were some covers from paperbacks (see below).  Deb also presented on creating reading groups in your region with Holly Fields, so I have some great ideas for that.



  1. “The girls were wild for dancing” (47). After taking one of the optional dance workshops, I danced at the Ball!  There was a wide range of levels of dance experience among the attendees and the caller taught the dance moves to beginners before the music started.  I was not very elegant, but I had great fun and danced several times, including to Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot, which was in both Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Emma (1996).


  1. “A gown, or a cap would not be liable to any such misuse” (142). One of the pleasures about this AGM was actually creating a ball gown before the event.  I sewed a white silk under-slip and a blush silk overdress and created a reticule.  Jane Provinsal, our wonderful social media coordinator, knit me a shawl that I wore around my shoulders.  Overall, I felt happy with my first attempts at Regency attire. Agnes Gawne loaned me a small gold tiara with leaves (see photo below of Agnes and me).  There were so many amazing costumes.  The video show about a minute of the promenade before the ball when all the costumed attendees paraded around the fountain.  Perhaps the most elegant costume was worn by the woman who portrayed Lady Dalrymple at the concert, with her escort (below).  We also had versions of a French captain (with the bad mustache) and a British naval captain.


8. “To take up a new set of opinions and of hopes” (249). KATIE DAVIS (Liberty in Jane Austen’s Persuasion) did an excellent presentation on how Lady Russell changes over the course of the novel, showing a source of hope for “aging with grace”.  She focused in part on how Lady Russell saw Anne as so like her mother that she may have had trouble differentiating Captain Wentworth from Sir Walter in imagining Anne’s future at the initial proposal time.


9.  “A foolish spendthrift Baronet” (248). SHERYL CRAIG (Jane Austen and the State of the Nation) did another informative talk on money and financial crises in Jane Austen’s time.  She discussed how after the Battle of Waterloo, Britain experienced a financial crisis that ended up bankrupting Jane’s brother Henry.  Contemporary readers of Persuasion would have known that the crash was coming soon after the end of the story, and this would have added an element of tension to the story.  Naval officers’ money would be quite safe, but there is a chance that Sir Walter could have ended up in debtor’s prison!


10.  “I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve” (247). One of the most amazing things about an AGM is actually getting to talk to some of the Jane Austen scholars and experts.  I got to visit with two of JASNA’s grande dames.  JULIET MCMASTER (Jane Austen, Young Author; Jane Austen on Love, etc.) did a wonderful presentation on the Lake Louise AGM in 1993 that was on Persuasion.  She is also the illustrator of The Beautifull Cassandra and I had a chance to chat with her a little about that book and how I got an autographed copy used through Amazon!  I also had breakfast with JOAN KLINGEL RAY (Simply Austen; Jane Austen for Dummies, etc. and former JASNA president) one morning when we entered the crowded breakfast buffet at the same time.  We chatted about the history of JASNA, which novel is our favorite (her heart loves P&P and her head loves Emma, but I love Emma most, head and heart), and traveling.  To quote The Beautifull Cassandra: “This is a day well spent!”



I feel so lucky to have been able to go to the AGM.  It is such an exciting experience if you love the novels.  Many of the talks will be featured in Persuasions On-Line, which will come out in December 2018, and the published Persuasions for next spring.  Next year’s AGM will be on Northanger Abbey October 4-6 2019 in colonial Williamsburg, VA (see more info at http://www.jasna.org/agms/williamsburg/index.html).  The fortieth anniversary of the founding of JASNA will also be celebrated at that time.   Then on October 9-11, 2020, Cleveland, OH will host an AGM on the Juvenilia: http://jasna.org/agms/cleveland/index.html.  So, save the dates, make your plans, and please join the festivities!  Michele


Jane Austen and the British Navy


Jane Austen and the Navy by Michele Larrow

In Persuasion and to a lesser extent in Mansfield Park, Jane Austen incorporates details about naval life that are very realistic and also connect to the themes of her works.  At our meeting on Sunday July 29, 2018 at the Coeur d’Alene public library, we will explore how Jane Austen portrays the British Navy and naval characters and how these characters contrast with the other characters in the novel, mainly focusing on Persuasion.  Below we present a couple of the themes that are discussed in the two optional readings you can find on the JASNA.org website.  You do not need to read these articles before the meeting, but if you have time to do so, they are quite informative!

Women and the Navy

“I Hate to Hear of Women on Board”: Women aboard War Ships by Rowland McMaster, Persuasions On-Line, 36, 2015.

This excellent article discusses what it might be like to be a woman on board a ship if one were married to the captain, or married to a petty officer, or a sex worker.  Mrs. Croft’s experiences reflect being a woman on board when her husband is a captain. When Mrs. Croft and her brother, Captain Wentworth, discuss ladies being on board ship, Captain Wentworth declares: “ I hate to hear of women on board, or to see them on board; and no ship, under my command, shall ever convey a family of ladies anywhere, if I can help it”.  (69)  Mrs. Croft brings in her own experience and speaks the memorable lines:

“Oh Frederick!—But I cannot believe it of you.—All idle refinement!—Women may be as comfortable on board, as in the best house in England.  I believe I have lived as much on board as most women, and I know nothing superior to the accommodations of a man of war. . . . My dear Frederick, you are talking quite idly.  Pray, what would become of us poor sailors’ wives, who often want to be conveyed to one port or another, after our husbands, if every body had your feelings? . . . But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth waters all our days.’” (69-70)

Mrs. Croft argues that women are rational, just like men.  She is portrayed as a woman of good sense, who is described by the lawyer Mr. Shepard as “more conversant with business” (22) than the admiral was when they discussed renting Kellynch.  In another scene, Anne reflects that the way she manages the admiral’s driving so they don’t turn over is a similar to the way she manages him and their marriage.  We might think of Mrs. Croft as a role model for Anne of how to be a naval wife and to have an equal marriage.

Some questions we will discuss:  How does being affiliated with the navy through marriage to a naval officer allow a woman greater freedom of travel and activity?  Are the naval marriages that are portrayed (the Crofts and the Harvilles) more egalitarian than those of the Musgroves (older and younger)?  What kind of married life do we imagine Anne will have when she is connected with the navy?  How does Mrs. Croft compare and contrast to Lady Russell and Mrs. Musgrove?

The Connections between Jane Austen’s Family and Naval Characters

“The Influence of Naval Captain Charles Austen’s North American Experiences on Persuasion and Mansfield Park” by Sheila Johnson Kindred Persuasions, 31, 115-129, 2009

Sheila Johnson Kindred focuses mainly on Jane Austen’s younger brother Charles and his wife Fanny in finding connections between their lives and friends in Halifax and Bermuda and characters and events in Persuasion. Kindred concludes that Austen took the information she had from Charles and applied it in a complex was in her novels.  “Through her communication with her brother Charles she had access to a personal narrative about the world of a naval station.  For more than six years, Charles related his own accomplishments; he reported the enterprises of his fellow officers and recorded the lives of his own young family.  This rich database gave Jane Austen an intriguing catalogue of sentiments, feelings, attitudes, and personality traits that animated naval life.  We can appreciate the quality of Jane’s fiction by the way she imaginatively selected items from this catalogue and reworked them to her own purposes in the construction of the unique range of character traits, opinions, and actions which brings to life her naval characters” (Kindred 126).

Some questions we will discuss:  What is the portrayal of a father’s feelings for his children shown in Charles Musgrove compared to Captain Harville?   A few of the naval characters as shown to have good hearts, but not the best social manners.  Which trait is more valued in Persuasion?  Sir Walter’s criticisms of the navy are humorous, but the contrast between him and Admiral Croft show his moral failures as a landowner.  Is Austen using the contrast between the navy and the landed gentry to make predictions about the future of England?

The Ending of Persuasion

The ending of Persuasion specifically includes a connection with the navy for Anne’s happiness and the uncertainty of the future:

Anne was tenderness itself;–and she had the full worth of it in Captain Wentworth’s affection. His profession was all that could ever make her friends wish that Tenderness less; the dread of a future War, all that could dim her Sunshine.—She gloried in being a Sailor’s wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm, for belonging to that Profession which is—if possible—more distinguished in it’s Domestic Virtues, than in it’s National Importance.—Finis July 18.—1816” (p. 273, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization from the draft of the final chapters)

Kindred and other authors suggest that by incorporating the Navy, Austen is bringing the larger world of current events and war into her novels, which readers of her day would have known.  Persuasion start the story in 1814 when there is peace with France and finishes in spring of 1815.  The Battle of Waterloo happened in June 1815 after Napoleon left exile and peace was shattered.  Readers of the day (1817 or 1818) would have known that the peace in Persuasion would soon be gone.  Any thoughts about how that would inform their understanding of the end of the novel?  Thinking about the “tax” of being a wife of a naval officer, what might Austen be saying about life in general?

Pages are from:  Austen, Jane.  Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.  Ed. R. W. Chapman.  3rd ed.  London: Oxford UP, 1966.

Bring other questions for discussion.  If you have read the letters or know something about the lives of her two naval brothers, Charles and Francis, bring that for discussion.  We hope to see you on July 29!

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator


Tea and Sympathy, Part 2 (Discussion at the Spring “Great House” Tea)

End Persuasion

Tea and Sympathy, Part 2

Michele Larrow

At our Spring “Great House” Tea on Sunday May 6 at the McConnell Mansion in Moscow, ID the most exciting part of the tea for me was the passionate and engaged discussion that members had about sympathy in Persuasion.  There were two sections of Persuasion discussed per table, for the total of eight sections.  Then we got together as the big group and each table shared their discussion of the scene they had.  Since I can’t remember who was in each individual group, I will summarize what each table group shared, mentioning who was at the table by first name.  The page numbers listed refer to: Austen, Jane.  Persuasion. Ed. R.W. Chapman. 3rd ed. Oxford: OUP, 1933.  Please see the prior blog for the other references.

I started the discussion by doing a quick summary of the material that was summarized in our first blog on this topic Tea and Sympathy, Part 1 https://jasnaewanid.org/2018/04/22/tea-and-sympathy-part-1/.   I gave my opinion that Captain Wentworth did not understand Anne’s reasons and feelings when she broke the engagement and did not appreciate her character and judgment.  Over the course of the novel, Captain Wentworth has to progress from anger and resentment about the past to acceptance and full sympathy with Anne before they can re-unite and have a successful marriage. I also offered a discussion of the philosopher Adam Smith’s A Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS) as a resource to help us explore what “sympathy” meant to Jane Austen.  “Sympathy is defined by Smith as our ability imaginatively to feel others’ emotions (9-10) as they would experience the situation, changing ‘persons and characters’ with others (317)” (Larrow 3; also Fricke 10).  Austen’s novels show the challenges in fully understanding another person’s emotions and point of view and in Persuasion, Austen has to show Captain Wentworth as both a warm person capable of caring, but initially unsympathetic to Anne.

Table 1, with Sheryl N., Linnea, Vivian, Kay, Valerie, and Jennifer discussed the scenes when Anne and Captain Wentworth first meet at Uppercross and his comments afterwards that Mary shares with Anne (58-62) and when Captain Wentworth takes Anne’s nephew off her back (78-81).  They discussed how his early interactions with Anne were fairly cold. Anne interprets his behaviors as “He wished to avoid seeing her” and she feels “mortification” that he has seen her as “altered beyond recognition”.  The narrator also tells us information that Anne does not have access to:

Frederick Wentworth had used such words, or something like them, but without an idea that they would be carried round to her.  He had thought her wretchedly altered, and in the first moment of appeal, had spoken as he felt.  He had not forgiven Anne Elliot.  She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure.  She had given him up to oblige others.  It had been the effect of over-persuasion.  It had been weakness and timidity.

When Captain Wentworth removes Walter from her back, he is showing some concern for her feelings, but then he negates that by avoiding her thanks or talking to her:

the little particulars of the circumstance, with the conviction soon forced on her by the noise he was studiously making with the child, that he meant to avoid hearing her thanks, and rather sought to testify that her conversation was the last of his wants, produced such a confusion of varying, but very painful agitation, as she could not recover from, till enabled by the entrance of Mary and the Miss Musgroves to make over her little patient to their cares, and leave the room.

So, the early interactions between Anne and Captain Wentworth allow us to see Anne’s pain at how he treats her, but he appears oblivious to her feelings.

Table 2, with Stephanie, Amy, Katherine, Laura, Jane, and Mary Ellen discussed the scenes when Anne overhears Captain Wentworth talking to Louisa while walking and then when he helps her into the carriage (87-91) and Captain Wentworth’s talk about Anne after Louisa falls and then the carriage ride to Uppercross (114-117).  After Captain Wentworth puts Anne in the carriage, Anne offers (in free indirect discourse) a summary of what he thinks of her at this point:

She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it, that she owed it to his perception of her fatigue, and his resolution to give her rest.  She was very much affected by the view of his disposition towards her, which all these things made apparent.  This little circumstance seemed the completion of all that had gone before. She understood him.  He could not forgive her, but he could not be unfeeling.  Though condemning her for the past, and considering it with high and unjust resentment, though perfectly careless of her, and though becoming attached to another, still he could not see her suffer, without the desire of giving her relief.  It was a remainder of former sentiment; it was an impulse of pure, though unacknowledged friendship; it was a proof of his own warm and amiable heart, which she could not contemplate without emotions so compounded of pleasure and pain, that she knew not which prevailed.

After Louisa falls, Anne overhears him talking about her in a way that seems to appreciate her as “proper” and “capable”, but she soon realizes that he appreciates her mainly so she can nurse Louisa.  When he asks her opinion about how to break the news of the fall to the Musgroves, she feels happy that he has asked for her concurrence:  “But the remembrance of the appeal remained a pleasure to her, as a proof of friendship, and of deference for her judgement, a great pleasure; and when it became a sort of parting proof, its value did not lessen.”  Thus, when Anne leaves Uppercross, Captain Wentworth appears to have some value for her and some sympathy about her feelings, but in the context of her usefulness to him or Louisa.

Table 3, with Anne, Marie, Vickey, Ariel, Leslee, Melody, and Rose discussed the scenes when Anne sees Captain Wentworth the first time in Bath in Molland’s (175-178) and at the concert, the discussion between Anne and Captain Wentworth (181-186).  Anne has trouble determining his feelings for her when they first meet in Bath:  “The character of his manner was embarrassment.  She could not have called it either cold or friendly, or anything so certainly as embarrassed.” Anne is not sure if he is disappointed that Louisa is to marry someone else and tries to determine it.  In the scene at the concert, Captain Wentworth has more appreciation of Anne’s feelings, for example thinking that she might have had a shock about the fall:  “I have hardly seen you since our day at Lyme.  I am afraid you must have suffered from the shock, and the more from its not overpowering you at the time.”  He also has some sense of what she feels about not being supported in the past by her family when he discusses how the Musgroves are such supportive parents: “A sudden recollection seemed to occur, and to give him some taste of that emotion which was reddening Anne’s cheeks and fixing her eyes on the ground.”  Finally at the end of the scene, Anne thinks she understands him and that he must love her:

His choice of subjects, his expressions, and still more his manner and look, had been such as she could see in only one light.  His opinion of Louisa Musgrove’s inferiority, an opinion which he had seemed solicitous to give, his wonder at Captain Benwick, his feelings as to a first, strong attachment; sentences begun which he could not finish, his half averted eyes and more than half expressive glance, all, all declared that he had a heart returning to her at least; that anger, resentment, avoidance, were no more; and that they were succeeded, not merely by friendship and regard, but by the tenderness of the past.  Yes, some share of the tenderness of the past.  She could not contemplate the change as implying less.  He must love her.

Although Anne senses his love for her, she also sees that Captain Wentworth is jealous of Mr. Elliot and unsure of what her feelings are.  Social conventions of the time prevent her from directly saying what she feels and so she must find a way to acknowledge her love to him.

Table 4, with Sheryl D., Lorena, Donna, Angel, Sonya, and Moriah discussed the scenes at the White Hart, when Captain Wentworth overhears Anne talking to Captain Harville and writes his letter (236-238) and the discussion between Captain Wentworth and Anne after they become engaged again and the night of the party at Anne’s house ( 240-247).  When he writes his letter to Anne, Captain Wentworth recognizes her full worth.  He is “half agony, half hope” because he finally sees her moral and emotional superiority to all other women and fears he has lost her.  We read the letter that he wrote, savoring the emotions expressed:

“I can listen no longer in silence.  I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach.  You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.  I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.  Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.  I have loved none but you.  Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.  You alone have brought me to Bath.  For you alone, I think and plan.  Have you not seen this?  Can you fail to have understood my wishes?  I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine.  I can hardly write.  I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me.  You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature!  You do us justice, indeed.  You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.  Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

When they are engaged again, the narrator reflects on Captain Wentworth and Anne’s mutual love and that they are both “fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment”:

There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement.  There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting.

Captain Wentworth sees Anne’s full worth and his errors.  “Her character was now fixed on his mind as perfection itself, maintaining the loveliest medium of fortitude and gentleness; but he was obliged to acknowledge that only at Uppercross had he learnt to do her justice, and only at Lyme had he begun to understand himself.”  He even learns to forgive Lady Russell, when he considers that he was to blame for not reuniting when he had prize money a few years after the broken engagement:

“Good God!” he cried, “you would!  It is not that I did not think of it, or desire it, as what could alone crown all my other success; but I was proud, too proud to ask again.  I did not understand you.  I shut my eyes, and would not understand you, or do you justice.  This is a recollection which ought to make me forgive every one sooner than myself.  Six years of separation and suffering might have been spared. It is a sort of pain, too, which is new to me.  I have been used to the gratification of believing myself to earn every blessing that I enjoyed.  I have valued myself on honourable toils and just rewards. Like other great men under reverses,” he added, with a smile. “I must endeavour to subdue my mind to my fortune.  I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve.”

At the end, we agreed that Anne and Captain Wentworth were indeed now a better match for each other than they were before because Captain Wentworth could fully sympathize with Anne’s feelings.  The discussion was a great ending to a wonderful tea.  Thanks to everyone who helped and participated.  We look forward to more fun events.



Tea and Sympathy, Part 1


Tea and Sympathy, Part 1

Michele Larrow

At our tea on May 6, we will discuss sympathy in Persuasion.  The following is a short discussion of sympathy in Jane Austen’s time to get you thinking about the topic.  If you have not read Persuasion, we will provide excerpts of the book for the sections we will discuss.  We hope you will join us.  Please see our Events page for more information about the tea https://jasnaewanid.org/events/ .

The most moral characters in Jane Austen’s novels balance their emotions and reason. Sympathy, which engages both “head and heart”, is central to moral relationships.  In Persuasion, when Anne Elliot leaves Kellynch to spend time with her sister Mary and the Musgrove family, she muses (in free indirect discourse) that she “must now submit to feel that another lesson in the art of knowing our own nothingness beyond our circle, was become necessary for her; . . . she had expected rather more curiosity and sympathy than she found” from the Musgroves (42).  Anne next reflects on her relationship with Lady Russell, thinking “with heightened gratitude of the extraordinary blessing of having one such truly sympathising friend as Lady Russell” (42).  In Persuasion, Anne is the character who is adept at reading others’ emotions and sympathizing with their experiences, yet others rarely show her sympathy in return.  When she broke her engagement to Captain Wentworth, years before the start of the novel, he did not understand her reasons and feelings, felt “ill-used”, and left the country (28). Over the course of the novel, Captain Wentworth has to progress from anger and resentment about the past to acceptance and full sympathy with Anne before they can re-unite and have a successful marriage.

Sympathy in Austen’s time was a concept that had broader meaning than today’s usage– in some ways it might be thought of as what we would call empathy–and the philosopher Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS), which he significantly revised during Austen’s lifetime in 1790, is an excellent resource to help us explore what “sympathy” meant to Jane Austen*.  “Sympathy is defined by Smith as our ability imaginatively to feel others’ emotions (9-10) as they would experience the situation, changing ‘persons and characters’ with others (317)” (Larrow 3; also Fricke 10).  Christel Fricke uses TMS to explore how Elizabeth and Darcy learn to treat each other as equals and eventually love each other through engaging in “a sympathetic process, an interactive process of moral learning” (1). When we have sympathy for others, we not only feel their emotions, we judge their emotions to be proper (Smith 10-23; also Fricke 10).  In social interaction, we want others to approve of our emotions, so we tend to moderate our display of feeling to get the approval of others.  Those who are judging others’ emotions are supposed to try to “increase their sympathetic emotions that they feel for others to be virtuous” (Larrow 5).  Austen’s novels show the challenges in fully understanding another person’s emotions and point of view and judging their behavior properly.

Like all Austen novels, characters in Persuasion vary in their capacity to be sympathetic to others. Elizabeth and Sir Walter are cold and uncaring about anyone else.  The Musgroves are well meaning and warm, but can’t imagine what it is like for Anne to leave her house.  In contrast, Admiral and Mrs. Croft are able to imagine Anne’s experience returning to Kellynch for a visit and offer sympathy.  Captain Wentworth is an interesting case and Austen has to portray him as both a warm person capable of caring, but initially unsympathetic to Anne.  He is shown as sympathetic to Mrs. Musgrove about her grief over her son, even though he experienced the son as trouble when he was on his ship.  His actions in caring for Captain Benwick after telling him his fiancé has died show sympathy and profound compassion. Yet at the beginning of the novel, his actions to Anne are unfeeling and cold.  He is probably unaware of the pain that he causes her by his treatment, but she feels the pain nonetheless. Through the course of the novel, Anne tries to infer what he is feeling for her, especially if he feels sympathy for her and forgiveness for the past.  By the end of the book, when he writes his letter to Anne, Captain Wentworth recognizes her full worth and finally can sympathize with her feelings—that is why he is “half agony, half hope” (237), because he finally sees her moral and emotional superiority to all other women and fears he has lost her.  Once Captain Wentworth is a “truly sympathising friend” (42) to Anne, they are able to marry.

* Both Larrow and Fricke review specific examples from the novels that resonate with the writings of Adam Smith in TMS. Larrow focuses on Mr. Knightley’s development of sympathy for Emma and Fricke explores how many characters in Pride and Prejudice seem to derive from Smith’s discussions of vanity and pride, as well as exploring how Darcy and Elizabeth both change morally through interacting with the other.  Please see below for links to the two articles.  If you are interested in reading Adam Smith, you can find TMS online for free.

At our tea on May 6, we will explore how Jane Austen shows the changes in Captain Wentworth’s feelings of sympathy for Anne–how he comes to understand her better and thus judge her feelings appropriately.  We will focus on several scenes that show how Anne infers Captain Wentworth’s feelings toward and sympathy for her, from his behavior (the pages refer to the Chapman edition).  We will have eight small groups discuss a scene, using a couple of questions to stir debate, and then present to the larger group.  You do not need to have read the book; we will provide a copy of the selected pages for each group.  After the tea, I will write up a summary of the discussion we had for those who are not able to attend the tea and post it on the website.  

Here are the scenes we will discuss:

  1. When Anne and Captain Wentworth first meet at Uppercross and his comments afterwards that Mary shares with Anne (59-61).
  2. When Captain Wentworth takes Anne’s nephew off her back (80-81).
  3. When Anne overhears Captain Wentworth talking to Louisa and then when he helps her into the carriage (87-91).
  4. Captain Wentworth’s talk about Anne after Louisa falls and then the carriage ride to Uppercross (114-117).
  5. When Anne sees Captain Wentworth the first time in Bath in Molland’s (175-178).
  6. At the concert, the discussion between Anne and Captain Wentworth (181-186).
  7. At the White Hart, when Captain Wentworth overhears Anne talking to Captain Harville and writes his letter (236-238).
  8. The discussion between Captain Wentworth and Anne after they become engaged again and the night of the party at Anne’s house ( 240-247).

Works Cited

Austen, Jane.  Persuasion. Ed. R.W. Chapman. 3rd ed. Oxford: OUP, 1933.

Fricke, Christel. “The Challenges of Pride and Prejudice: Adam Smith and Jane Austen on Moral Education.”  Revue International de Philosophe 269 (2014): 343-372. Retrieved from http://www.christelfricke.no/publications, pp. 1-21.

Professor Fricke has kindly allowed me to include the PDF of her article see below:


Larrow, Michele.  “’Could He Even Have Seen into Her Heart’:  Mr. Knightley’s Development of Sympathy”, Persuasions Online, 37 (2016): 1-14.  Available at: http://www.jasna.org/publications/persuasions-online/vol37no1/larrow/

Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Ed. D. D. Raphael and A. L. MacFie. Oxford: Clarendon, 1976.  A free e-book of TMS is available at:  http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smMS.html