Amanda Root, Anne Elliot, bawdy wordplay, Ciarán Hinds, fiction, Frederick Wentworth, Jane Austen, Persuasion, phallic symbols, Regency period, Roger Michell
My favorite Jane Austen novel is always the one I’m reading at the time, but Persuasion has a special place in my personal literary pantheon for several reasons. First, it contains what is arguably the best love letter of all time (“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…”). Second, I am very fond of the 1995 movie version, one of the finest Austen adaptations ever filmed. And third, I always thought that Captain Wentworth was Austen’s most desirable hero, with Mr. Darcy a close second and Mr. Knightley in third place (yes, I have given considerable thought to this topic).
Watching a movie adaptation of a beloved book can create cognitive dissonance when the actors don’t match your mental images of the characters. I never could reconcile myself to the idea of Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (2005). And much as I revere the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, I’ve never seen a Darcy that matched the one in my head. But every character in the 1995 film Persuasion, from Anne Elliot, to Sir Walter and Lady Russell, to Captain Wentworth himself, seemed to me to have sprung straight from the pages of the novel.
The plot of Persuasion is simple enough. Eight years ago, nineteen-year-old Anne Elliot broke off her engagement because the naval officer she loved, Frederick Wentworth, was deemed by her family and friends too lacking in wealth, connections and prospects to be a suitable match for an Elliot of Kellynch Hall. But now the positions are reversed. Anne’s father, a spendthrift baronet, has been forced to economize by renting out his ancestral home to Wentworth’s sister, the wife of an admiral. Wentworth, meanwhile, has profited handsomely from the war and is now considered a matrimonial prize, the equivalent of a millionaire in today’s money.
Austen specified the financial status of each character in her books, and she undoubtedly judged the eligibility of potential spouses –at least in part– by their fortunes. The condition of the poor in the early nineteenth century was horrific, and women were barred from making their own way in the world. When a woman of modest means chose a husband, she was simultaneously choosing her future standard of living, her health insurance, and her retirement plan. To be sure, Austen never cheered on the gold-diggers of her society (male or female). In Persuasion, she suggests that the most desirable qualities in a partner are not looks, money and connections, but personal integrity, refined sensibilities, compassion, and shared understanding. And yet this story is a fantasy fulfillment in which Anne Elliot, who was quite willing to marry Wentworth when he was penniless, is rewarded in the end with a rich husband who also happens to be sexy and strikingly handsome.
Persuasion was Austen’s last completed novel, and it contains some of her most biting satire. The selfishness and vanity of Anne Elliot’s father and sisters is breathtaking. Her father, Sir Walter, is in love with his own reflection in the mirror, and measures everyone’s value by physical appearance and social standing.
A few years before, Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early; and as even in its height, her father had found little to admire in her, (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own), there could be nothing in them, now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem. (-Chapter 1)
When the film came out in 1995, a great deal of attention was (ironically) paid to the supposedly unhandsome looks of the two actors cast as the leads. Amanda Root, especially, was excoriated as not pretty enough.
She lacks the charm with which even much homelier performers have been known to enchant an audience (John Simon, National Review, 23 Oct 1995, 58-9, quoted in Collins 83)
She has pleasant eyes but a grim mouth. (Stanley Kauffman, The New Republic Oct. 1995, 26-7, quoted in Collins 83)
From the number of times Amanda Root’s thin lips are mentioned, one suspects that these people are actually Restylane salesmen in disguise. Or Sir Walter in disguise.
The movie suffered by comparison with the much prettier, glossier, and more heavily adapted version of Sense and Sensibility (written by and starring Emma Thompson) that emerged about the same time. By contrast, Persuasion feels realistic. Ladies do not wear makeup. Skirts are muddied, and clothing is wrinkled. Indoor spaces are often cramped and dark. Men are interestingly unshaven in the later hours of the day…
One disapproving critic wrote:
In their attempts to purify the movie of Hollywood sheen and give it an air of naturalism, the producers… have too zealously ripped away the romantic gauze. The distressing results are an unappealing Anne Elliot, a pockmarked Captain Wentworth, a greasy-necked Captain Benwick, and a slovenly-looking Lady Russell. (Brooke Allen, The New Criterion, Sept. 1995, 15-22, quoted in Collins 85-6)
Happily, time has proved these critics wrong, and Persuasion has received the recognition it deserves for its restrained screenplay, elegant direction, fine acting, and fidelity (for the most part) to the original.
But what of the looks of the two principal characters, as Austen envisioned them? Although Austen satirizes Sir Walter’s preoccupation with good looks, the relative sex appeal of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth forms an important theme in the novel. Anne Elliot, now 27, is a woman who has “lost her bloom.” She is described as thin, faded and haggard. Upon first seeing her after eight years, Wentworth confides to others that she is so altered, he would hardly have recognized her. Later, however, the sea breezes of Lyme Regis and the admiration of another man combine to increase her beauty in Wentworth’s eyes:
She was looking remarkably well; her very regular, very pretty features, having the bloom and freshness of youth restored by the fine wind which had been blowing on her complexion, and by the animation of eye which it had also produced. It was evident that the gentleman, (completely a gentleman in manner) admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance, a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, “That man is struck with you, and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again.” (-Chapter 12)
Wentworth himself is always described as a man of unusual good looks. When he returns to the district, he is greeted by a “little fever of admiration” from the Musgrove sisters.
Anne herself is impressed that his physical attractions are, if anything, even more apparent after eight years:
No: the years which had destroyed her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages. (-Chapter 7)
At the concert in the Octagon Room, Captain Wentworth stands out among a cluster of other men. His good looks are acknowledged by none other than Sir Walter himself:
“A well-looking man,” said Sir Walter, “a very well-looking man.”
“A very fine young man indeed!” said Lady Dalrymple. “More air than one often sees in Bath. Irish, I dare say.” (-Chapter 20)
Austen hints strongly at Wentworth’s sexual charisma by describing his masculine cockiness, which had been irresistible to the nineteen-year-old Anne, but offensive to Lady Russell:
…full of life and ardour, he knew that he should soon have a ship, and soon be on a station that would lead to everything he wanted. He had always been lucky; he knew he should be so still. Such confidence, powerful in its own warmth, and bewitching in the wit which often expressed it, must have been enough for Anne; but Lady Russell saw it very differently. His sanguine temper, and fearlessness of mind, operated very differently on her. She saw in it but an aggravation of the evil. It only added a dangerous character to himself. He was brilliant, he was headstrong. (-Chapter 4)
And now we come to the interesting question of sexual wordplay and symbolism in Persuasion. Given the high standards of decorum in her novels, we might not expect Austen to use bawdy wordplay. But according to at least one Austen scholar (Heydt-Stevenson 2000), there is a joke in Persuasion about the size of Captain Wentworth’s… ehhm, mast. When Anne, walking with Lady Russell in Bath, catches sight of Wentworth in the street, she is seized with anxiety about how Lady Russell will react to him:
she was yet perfectly conscious of Lady Russell’s eyes being turned exactly in the direction for him–of her being, in short, intently observing him. She could thoroughly comprehend the sort of fascination he must possess over Lady Russell’s mind, the difficulty it must be for her to withdraw her eyes, the astonishment she must be feeling that eight or nine years should have passed over him, and in foreign climes and in active service too, without robbing him of one personal grace! (-Chapter 19)
Lady Russell, however, chooses not to speak of Wentworth directly, but instead turns to Anne and says:
“You will wonder,” said she, “what has been fixing my eye so long; but I was looking after some window-curtains, which Lady Alicia and Mrs Frankland were telling me of last night. They described the drawing-room window-curtains of one of the houses on this side of the way, and this part of the street, as being the handsomest and best hung of any in Bath, but could not recollect the exact number, and I have been trying to find out which it could be; but I confess I can see no curtains hereabouts that answer their description.” (-Chapter 19)
In other words, certain foolish ladies may find themselves transfixed by the sight of that which is said to be “the handsomest and best-hung in Bath,” but Lady Russell does not count herself among their number.
Upon first reading Heydt-Stevenson’s argument, I was skeptical, but she demonstrates (2000.314, 334) that there is a very clear joke in Mansfield Park about sodomy in the navy (involving Rear- and Vice- Admirals), and that Austen’s own letters contain a witticism about an Admiral “whose legs are too short and his tail too long” (tail being a euphemism for penis, which itself means “tail” in Latin). Furthermore, one of Jane Austen’s favorite books was Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, a book characterized by very bawdy, typically eighteenth-century humor and wordplay.
I still found it difficult to accept that Jane Austen could make such an indelicate joke, until I ran across strong evidence that Heydt-Stevenson is correct. Wentworth’s rival for Anne is the scheming William Elliot, heir to Sir Walter. Mr. Elliot is generally thought a fine-looking man because of his superior address and manners, but the discriminating Sir Walter has doubts about his appearance:
He did justice to his very gentlemanlike appearance, his air of elegance and fashion, his good shaped face, his sensible eye; but, at the same time, “must lament his being very much under-hung, a defect which time seemed to have increased; nor could he pretend to say that ten years had not altered almost every feature for the worse.” (-Chapter 15)
I take “under-hung” to refer to a receding chin. A jutting, prominent chin may be perceived as a sign of confidence and masculinity, while a small chin indicates the opposite. Both Captain Wentworth and Mr. Elliot have been absent for several years, but the virile good looks of the former have only been magnified, while those of the latter have apparently suffered a certain… shrinkage. In both cases observations about the respective rivals’ endowments are made by persons addressing Anne. Their opinions reveal exactly how the two men are perceived by those around them.
According to the OED, the word “hung” was used as early as 1611 to describe men with massive members. Austen uses the term adjectivally only twice in Persuasion, once to refer (albeit indirectly) to Wentworth’s charms and once to refer to Elliot’s lack of them.
The phallic theme is not neglected in the film of Persuasion (Richards 2003.123). At one point during her stay in Bath, Anne unexpectedly meets Wentworth in a tea shop on a rainy day. They exchange a few words, and it is clear that Wentworth’s interest in her has been reignited. On learning that she is to walk home, he offers her his umbrella and she accepts. Then the ingratiating Mr. Elliot appears to escort Anne home, and she awkwardly hands the umbrella back to Wentworth, taking Elliot’s instead.
The umbrella symbolism continues when Captain Wentworth, overhearing a conversation between Anne and Harville that moves him deeply, writes the fateful love letter.
He leaves the room with Harville, then returns, giving the excuse that he has forgotten his umbrella. This strategem gives him the opportunity to draw Anne’s attention to the letter lying on the writing desk. In the novel, it is his gloves that Wentworth “forgets,” but in the film, the umbrella is symbolic of Wentworth’s desire for Anne, and his anxiety about whether she will accept him. His masculine pride has already been wounded to the quick, yet he summons the courage to bare his vulnerable… soul to her again.
Once an understanding is achieved between them, Captain Wentworth kisses Anne. This is one of the film’s anachronisms (there is no kiss in the original, and a public kiss would have violated accepted standards of decorum). It’s a bow to modern taste, after the enforced emotional and verbal restraint that impedes the lovers in most of the film. At the end of both Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, Austen’s happy couples conduct long conversations about their feelings, once their betrothal makes it safe to declare themselves. This is a substitute for physical affection. Cinematically, however, one image must stand in for the detailed post-game analysis of the books. The kiss in the film is chaste, brief– and extremely satisfying.
Collins, Amanda. 2000. “Jane Austen and the Pitfalls of Modern Nostalgia” in L. Troost ed. Jane Austen in Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. 79-89.
Heydt-Stevenson, Jill. 2000. “‘Slipping into the Ha-Ha’: Bawdy Humor and Body Politics in Jane Austen’s Novels.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 55.3.309-339.
Paulette Richards. 2003. “Regency Romance Shadowing in the Visual Motifs of Roger Michell’s Persuasion” in G. McDonald and A. McDonald eds., Jane Austen on Screen. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. 111-126.
This is indeed a fine adaptation and a delicious adaptation to the hideous Andrew Davies Pride and Prejudice – the single worst thing the BBC has ever done. A far better Pride and Prejudice adaptation was the multi-episode 1980 Fay Weldon adaptation – well worth trying to excavate.
I remember seeing this adaptation in the same week that I saw Fiona Shaw and John Woodvine co-star in a play called Machinal at the National Theatre in London. In the play they were partners in a loveless marriage which ended in murder and execution. In Persuasion the same two actors played the affectionate Crofts.
Persuasion also offers, as you note, some of the most penetrating criticism of class prejudice. Walter Elliot, has done nothing with his life except stare at his own reflection and trace his own family tree, yet has the nerve to patronise and look down on Admiral Croft – a man who actually fought at the Battle of Trafalgar – who has played an active role in events of global strategic significance.
Those critics how found the leading players “plain” could not possibly have read the book.
And I agree that the “vices and rears” joke in Mansfield Park makes possible any number of playful erotic allusions in Persuasion.
Thanks for the great comment! I very much enjoyed the Fay Weldon P&P too. And I’m incredibly envious that you got to see Fiona Shaw in Machinal! Wow!
The 1995 Persuasion also portrayed the class prejudice issue very well, with the naval officers shown as men who judged others on merit rather than birth or wealth. I loved the scene where the group at Lyme visits Harville’s modest house, and Sophie Thompson’s look of horror at its squalor!
Forgot to note the fact that the production of Machinal also starred Ciaran Hinds
Yes indeed! I looked it up and I see that he played the lover. Wish I could have seen that…(she said wistfully)
Bettina Hammer said:
Ciarán Hinds, Fiona Shaw, AND John Woodvine were in the 1993 production of Machinal at the NT. There is no production listed at the NT for 1995
Thanks for the comment, Bettina! I’m sure Conrad had the 1993 production in mind. It is fun to imagine them finishing up that play, and then finding themselves all cast in “Persuasion” a few months later!
I LOVE the 90’s film version of Persuasion and it is my fav Austen novel. This was a fab article and an eye opener, to say the least.
Many thanks! I tried to visit your site but could not access it!
Yes, it must have been 1993 – with the passing of the years “around the same time” has become “exactly the same time” through the compression of flawed recollection.
This film version of Persuasion was easily one of my favorites. I liked the fact that the women did not wear makeup, and Anne was “plain,” although I think Amanda Root is beautiful, naturally beautiful.
I was also impressed with The Mayor of Casterbridge. These adaptations aren’t all Hollywood gloss, or polished to suit the growing trend, “what women should look like.” They are more about the characters, what they say and do, than how they look. And I really like that, because it is closer to good writing, and good reading.
In other words, don’t show me your definition of what is true, beautiful, right, wrong etc, just let the characters speak and act, and I’ll decide for myself. Great post Linnet. Thanks for sharing.
Many thanks! I agree, and I am most drawn to films (especially if period dramas) where people look “real.” Sometimes when I watch a show without Hollywood-level beauty in the casting, I begin by thinking the actors are not attractive, but by the end I feel completely different. Letting the character come through makes them beautiful.
A good blog today Linnet. The first time I saw Persuasion I caught it mid movie, when this rather plain woman was about to be helped from a carriage by a strikingly handsome man. It may be her plain visage made me watch the movie to the end and then hunt for it to see beginning of a story with a kiss so subtle as to cause a bit of a swoon.
I missed the phallic analogy but, really, isn’t it a bigger surprise that despite generations we haven’t grown to not being surprised that sexual fantasies are not limited to the current time but have been discussed and acted upon by both sexes throughout time? What may be surprising is that we are surprised not only about prior generations. but of women and men today, old people and homely people understand innuendo and sexual content, and have sexual fantasies. As advanced as our culture is, we have not yet mastered making judgments based on preconceived notions have we?
Many thanks for the comment! Yes, we are (almost) all sexual beings regardless of age or looks. To some extent I think that sex is wasted on the young and beautiful. It is such a complex phenomenon, and people with less looks and more experience may have a better appreciation of Mutual Pleasure. And indeed, whether a person has good looks is quite a subjective matter and can change as one knows him or her better.
It’s good to know this is a good movie version. I’m always wary of classics on film because of that potential to go badly astray, and Persuasion is my favourite. I did envision “under-hung” as meaning jowly, though. Ha ha!
Yes, “under-hung” might mean jowly. It’s something I ought to check into. Thanks for the comment!
With classics on film, there is always that potential for disappointment, but when they’re really good, they can convey things that don’t come through in the words alone.
How dd I miss this? This is fantastic, and a bit hysterical, about one of my very favorite televised Austin interpretations.
First of all, Hinds is an amazing Capt. Wentworth. I too fell in love, and still am, with his Wentworth. (Although I do enjoy the Rupert Penry-Jones version as well.) But Hinds and Amanda Root play off each other so beautifully. Is was great casting as a match-up. But I swear I can feel what he is feeling acutely, almost more that how much I identify with Root’s Jane.
But about phallic references – I am afraid I missed those completely, and in any of the books. The “hung curtain” reference is very interesting and compelling though. But I still would have trouble with this, seeing as we should assume the Jane Austin died unmarried – a virgin. Even if other ladies talked, she would not really know the connection. (Not to acknowledge the validity in that – an actual connection between penis size and female sexual satisfaction. I just had to say that.)
And as much as I love the kissing in the all of the Austin movie interpretations, where used, they are all indeed wrong. Kissing in public would have been a big no-no – frowned upon outside of marriage as well. But, in this instance, it fits the filmmakers statement. The passing parade goes unnoticed by them, signifying their own rejection of their world’s imposed morals that has so restricted them to this point. They no longer care what anyone thinks, that people are just a ridiculous circus act around them, and they are now going to live their lives under their own terms.
Great comments. Yes, Austen died unmarried and most likely with little or no sexual experience. I think that penis size in this case has less to do with female sexual satisfaction than with perceptions of masculinity. She was surely aware of such jokes if she enjoyed the writings of Laurence Sterne.
I agree with your interpretation of the parade, that they are so absorbed in each other, they simply don’t notice it. And under the cover of a raucous parade, perhaps a kiss could be stolen between betrothed lovers. I hate to think that the period was really so prudish that such things never happened…
I would hate to think so also. Very sincerely hope there were really many stolen kisses.
Perceptions of masculinity as relates to Laurence Sterne work – I’m afraid I need to educate myself on that connection. I’ve had my nose in too much classic romantic fiction and contemporary fiction, it appears. :blush:
Well, it’s not so very different from today. Sometimes I think heterosexual men are more interested in the size of each other’s d***s than women are. Because they think it’s a measurement of manliness.
I think exactly that. But I do have homosexual friends quite fixated on size as well. Although that is an area where I can honestly say I know nothing intimately, really, as to the exact “whys” for that fixation, except to the extent where I understand the sensitivities of the prostate where “thickness” is a consideration.
Well, with acting as with sex, I always say it’s not the size of the part, but what they do with it.
Ha! Exactly right.
Diane Belleora said:
What a wonderful analysis of the book and one of my favorite films.
Many thanks, Diane!
Brilliant and hugely satisfying review of all the strapping, red-blooded and lusty parts of Persuasion. Again, I cannot wait to review my own copy with your keen analysis by my side. It might be better if I could have Wentworth at my side whilst rereading, but I’m going to guess that might be a bit of a stretch. Oops, and there we go with length again. 😉
LOL. I have no doubt that the Captain would be a “worthy” companion for any lady’s reading pleasure…
If we cut out the word “reading” in your response, I’d find it even more appealing. 😉
I know. It was self-censorship when I really wanted to say “boudoir.”
I’d even let him eat crackers in bed…
Great post! I was at TIFF (Toronto) in September. After watching The Sea (adaptation of John Banville’s novel) starring Ciarán Hinds there, and actually seeing him, in close range, short of going over to chat and get an autograph, I came home, dug out my 1995 Persuasion DVD and re-watched it several times. He has a quiet charisma that befits his role as Wentworth. But I’m afraid I’m quite put off by Amanda Root. I visited Bath a few years ago, using Austen’s Persuasion as a guide book. Yes, I found all the places mentioned there.
While I’m fond of the 1995 Persuasion, the 1995 P & P is still my fave, and the book top of the six on my Austen list. And yes, Colin Firth remains the one and only Darcy, unrivalled. Matthew Macfadyen is no match, or the movie, albeit he probably is the best actor in Anna Karenina (2012). But back to the 1995 Persuasion, it feels a bit constrained, but Lyme and Bath have their natural and man-made beauty so cinematography is appealing like your last photo posted here. However, I do believe that as an adaptation to a different art form, the filmmaker, director and screenwriter can have some liberty for artistic expressions. Under the hands of Ang Lee, and Emma Thompson as screenwriter, I feel the 1995 S & S is well done.
Thanks for this excellent comment! I am sooooo envious of your getting to attend TIFF and view “The Sea,” not to mention seeing Mr. Hinds in person. What did you think of the film, if I may ask? So far the reviews have been mixed to negative. But the cast is truly amazing.
I very much enjoyed “Sense and Sensibility” too, and I agree that a screen adaptation is a different animal from a book. I have nothing but admiration for Emma Thompson and Ang Lee! It’s interesting how personal our reactions are to these films, isn’t it? Especially with regard to the casting, but also many other aspects. Probably because the books mean so much to us. And that’s a good thing.
The Sea has some fine acting. Overall it is aesthetically done, but not overly impressive a film though. However, I think I enjoyed it more than the book. The occasion I saw Ciarán Hinds, however, was not at the screening of The Sea, but in another premier he was in, a film with which I was most impressed. It’s called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her, starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. I’ve written a review on them (it’s a 2-in-1 movie) with more photos. If you’re interested, here’s the link to my post.
Yes, indeed! I already read your ER post and loved it. Mr. Hinds had a total of three films at TIFF: The Sea, ER, and McCanick. I’m looking forward to seeing all three.
I must say that I adored the book of The Sea. It was my first John Banville, and I was strongly reminded of Nabokov. I’m looking forward to the film with great anticipation, but it’s hard to imagine how such an impressionist novel can be adapted–even by its own author.
Well, you don’t expect it to by a ‘loyal’ transposition. I don’t think it needs to be, film being a visual art form, and more direct in its effects. Again, it’s more like the director’s interpretation and vision of the novel, it’s his personal take. However, I wonder if anyone had picked up the distribution of the film. Maybe in the UK, I doubt if it will show here in N. Am. So, I’m just glad I’d seen it. A film I missed at TIFF is Le Week-End with Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan. You can tell I’m an Anglophile. 😉
Le Weekend! As a fellow Anglophile (to say nothing of Hibernophile), I’ll have to check that out. As for “The Sea” I don’t think there is north American distribution yet. I’m keeping fingers crossed. If worst comes to worst, I have a multi-region DVD player!
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That was a great read, Linnet! Interesting thoughts of the phallic theme, I love these little nuggets hidden in Austen’s work and wonder if she really meant it that way. I do hope so, her evil sense of humour would suggest to me she would be very capable of meaning it that way. 🙂
I adore this Persuasion adaptation, have seen it countless times… and that letter… ah…
Thanks Esther! I think it’s the best Austen adaptation, but I love them all (though I admit to not having seen/read anything with zombies).
🙂 Haven’t read those either but I might watch one in time.
In Chapter 10 the Admiral and his wife are telling Anne about how quickly their relationship had developed. The Admiral says ‘and what were we to wait for besides? I do not like having such things so long in hand.’ I thought seeing this as a joke about premarital sex replacing masturbation was just my dirty mind but then I read this passage in the same chapter: ‘by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart’. The suggestion that the wife gives a handjob to avoid either a ‘rut’ or getting it up the shitter is further confirmed by Anne imagining that the couple’s ‘style of driving’ is ‘no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs’.
Haha! Hilarious! Thanks for the contribution to the growing catalogue of Jane’s ribaldry 🙂
According to ‘What Killed Jane Austen?’ (1998) by Dr George Biro and Dr Jim Leavesley: ‘Until the mid 20th century tuberculosis was the prime cause of Addison’s Disease. Now it is likely to be due to an auto-immune reaction, as was the case in that other famous sufferer, John F. Kennedy.
Only one aspect does not completely fit. It is said that tubercular patients are commonly more sexually charged than the general run of the population, possibly due to the persistent low-grade fever. No hint of sexual impropriety in Miss Austen has come down to us.’
I think we have found the ‘sexual impropriety’ – it’s in the subtext of her final novel. Even in the teenage ‘History of England’ Jane jokes about James I’s male lovers but it’s while she is ill and writing ‘Persuasion’ that the sex jokes are more frequent and more bold.
Fascinating–a persistent low-grade fever! Would that not be more exhausting than invigorating? I suspect that she simply had an earthy sense of humor, something that was more permissible in the 18th century, and of course more encouraged in males. By Austen’s day, it seems, a more prudish sensibility had begun to prevail.
Black Tulip said:
Regarding Anne’s appearance – ages ago I read an interview with Amanda Root in which she said that unusually for a film, Persuasion was filmed more or less in sequence, which made it easy for her to ‘blossom’ as time went on. I love the way she achieves that without makeup.
Yes, I think that film is something special, and I am fascinated by how much resistance there was when it first came out. More adaptations of that type would be welcome. Thanks for the comment!
Jennifer Adam said:
Very interesting details that I didn’t know about. Now I will have to read Persuasion! Love the film – I can watch it again and again and catch new things. I just noticed on my last watching that during the dinner party scene at the Great House (or whatever it was called) Wentworth looks over at Anne when he mentions how his ship almost sank early in his career. He gives her a look like, see, you might have lost me and you didn’t even know it!
Ooh, good catch, Jennifer! You make me want to see it again myself! This is why we love Mr. Hinds. His performances are layered, and full of subtle details like that.
Interesting how we each interpret things a little differently. I saw that comment and look as a bitter reference to his and Anne’s ended relationship and the effect it had on him.
Jennifer Adam said:
Yes, I agree. I stumbled upon a couple of scenes from The Man Who Cried, starring Hinds and Root years earlier. They were both very good, and it was neat to see them in such different roles. Great chemistry! And of course Hinds looked as yummy as usual. 😉
Oh yes, The Man Who Cried is excellent– and nobody does manly crying like Mr. H.! I ought to do a post with his crying scenes 🙂
Jennifer Adam said:
Hi Karen, Well, I guess I saw his other comments in that scene about wanting to be busy, away at sea, etc. as carrying that meaning of ‘see what you did to me.’ But the way in which he stated the near miss of his ship going down seemed to me like he was more trying to make her aware of this fact and that indeed, he could have been killed and gone forever and she might not even have known about it. It also helps build the drama for the viewer who senses that an underlying romance is being rekindled.
Now I’m curious about how this incident functions as adaptation and whether it’s in the book.
Jennifer Adam said:
I’m going to read it soon and will let you know if I come across anything!
As a Jane Austen fan, I loved this film right up until the end, when I felt the last scene of the betrothed – or married pair perhaps – on Wentworth’s ship didn’t ring true…
So enjoyed reading your blog…
Many thanks, Valerie! Yes, that shipboard scene was gratuitous. I suppose it was meant to suggest that Anne would follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Croft, so memorably played by Fiona Shaw.
Archie Woosung said:
In the novel, doesn’t Wentworth return to the room for his gloves, not his umbrella?
Didn’t see any reviews of Persuasion at its release, but I had no trouble accepting Amanda Root as the heroine.
Afraid I remain unconvinced of the ‘hung’ usage being a baudy Austen joke
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I’ve discovered your blog as a new fan of Mr. Hinds. I really have enjoyed his performances in Rome and countless other shows and films over the years, but seeing Persuasion flipped a switch. ❤ You've written in words very much how I've been feeling lately having just read and watched this adaptation of Persuasion. I think I know how Miss Elliot must have felt. This was an absolute treat to read. Thank you! – Hannah
Hannah, welcome to the fandom! So pleased that you are enjoying the blog.😀There are lots more posts about Himself, so have fun, and thanks for the feedback!