This is the last entry to Wentworth Wednesday. It’s taken me a while to figure out what to write, because, frankly, the last chapter of Persuasion is meh. Boring even.
The last chapter does the perfunctory job of tying up loose ends. We are told Sir Walter comes to think more highly of Frederick and so does Lady Russell. We find out that William Elliot takes off for London and that Penelope Clay eventually joins him. Mary takes credit for having Anne stay with her over the autumn, and thus making the reunion possible. Mrs Smith is also credited and is rewarded when Frederick helps resolve her husband’s estate. Ho-hum.
The most exciting thing we learn is the somewhere along the way Anne acquires a landaulette. It was a sassy little conveyance for its time, but we don’t even know what color it is. And what Frederick is doing is anyone’s guess.
There is no romantic close.
I suppose it’s no one’s fault. I am the child of the movies and so I expect to go out on a high. There are no intimate, sensual words whispered by a roaring fire. No exciting moment of joy where Frederick takes her in his arms and they kiss under a tree. There is no sigh of satisfaction as the screen fades to black.
I am also a child of the 70s where the myth of Happily Ever After was exploded in favor of the Ambiguous Ending, or Happily For Now. Unfortunately, Jane Austen didn’t even give me that.
Here is the last line of Persuasion: “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 its domestic virtues than in its national importance.”
Okay, I do sigh, but not in a good way.
This is why I have decided that when I read Persuasion next, I am ending with Chapter 23.
The last scene of Chapter 23 is the evening party at Camden Place. Anne and Frederick are admiring some of Elizabeth’s house plants. All the loose ends are waving in the breeze, but we don’t care because they are secretly re-engaged and sneaking in a tete-a-tete right under everyone’s noses. Anne is still glowing from the walk on the gravel path, while Frederick is still contrite about his mistakes over the past several months. It is perfecto!
Here is now—for me anyway—the new last lines of Persuasion: “Like other great men under reverses,” he added with a smile, “I must endeavor to subdue my mind to my fortunes. I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve.”
Anne smiles and leans into him. The voices of the party come up. The music rises. Camera fades to black.
Now that’s a Happily Ever After I can sigh over.
Thank you for sticking with me through Wentworth Wednesdays. Let me know what you think about my having the temerity to change Austen.
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