Persuasion Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Persuasion

Sir Walter Elliot is a conceited man, vain of both his good looks and his title. He lives at his country seat, Kellynch Hall, with two of his daughters, Elizabeth and Anne. Elizabeth, handsome and much like her father, is the oldest and her father’s favorite. Anne, sweet, self-effacing, and quietly intelligent, is ignored and underrated by both. Mary, the youngest daughter, is married to an agreeable young man named Charles Musgrove; they live in an untidy house at Uppercross, three miles from Kellynch Hall.

Living beyond his means had brought financial disaster to Sir Walter. On the advice of his solicitor and of a family friend, Lady Russell, he is persuaded to rent Kellynch Hall and take a smaller house in Bath. Anne would have preferred to take a modest house near home, but as usual, her father and sister have their way in the matter.

Reluctantly, Sir Walter lets his beloved country seat to Admiral Croft and his wife, who is the sister of a former suitor of Anne, Captain Frederick Wentworth. Anne and Captain Wentworth had fallen in love when they were both very young, but the match had been discouraged. Anne’s father felt that the young man’s family was not good enough for his own, and Lady Russell considered the engagement unwise because Captain Wentworth had no financial means beyond his navy pay. Anne had followed their advice and broken the engagement, but Wentworth had advanced and became rich in the navy, just as he had said he would. Anne, now twenty-seven years old, has not forgotten her love at age nineteen, and no one else has taken Captain Wentworth’s place in her affection.

With all arrangements completed for the renting of Kellynch Hall, Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and her friend, Mrs. Clay, are off to Bath. Before they depart, Anne warns Elizabeth that Mrs. Clay’s is not a disinterested friendship and that she is scheming to marry Sir Walter if she can. Elizabeth will not believe such an idea, nor will she agree to dismiss Mrs. Clay.

Anne is to divide her time between her married sister, Mary Musgrove, and Lady Russell until Christmas. Mary and her family also live near her husband’s father and mother and their two daughters, Henrietta and Louisa. During her visit to the Musgroves, Anne meets Captain Wentworth again while he is staying with his sister at Kellynch Hall. She finds him little changed in eight years.

Because the Musgroves take the Crofts and Captain Wentworth into their circle immediately, the captain and Anne meet frequently. He is coldly polite to Anne, but his...

(The entire section is 1045 words.)

Persuasion Summary

Volume I Summary

The novel opens in the summer of 1814 with Sir Walter Elliot, widower and father of three daughters, Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary, in Kellynch...

(The entire section is 1013 words.)

Volume II Summary

After Anne moves to Bath, she becomes friendly with William Elliot, her cousin and the heir presumptive to the Elliot estate, who has been...

(The entire section is 316 words.)

Persuasion Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1817) was published after her death and is considered by some critics as her best novel. The story’s protagonist is Anne Russell, the second oldest daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, a pompous and vain man. Anne’s mother died before the story begins, leaving Sir Elliot with the task of raising three girls: Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary (who is already wed).

The story begins with an unflattering reflection of Sir Elliot. One of the first things Austen points out is that Sir Elliot is not well-read. The only material he spends any time with is a book in which is recorded the history of many important English families. Sir Elliot’s attention is drawn to the portion of this book that includes details of his personal heritage. While pouring over the family’s history, the reader is informed of the death of Sir Elliot’s wife and the fact that since Sir Elliot has no son (his only son died at birth), his fortune and home will be passed on to William Walter Elliot, cousin of Sir Elliot’s daughters.

Sir Elliot was very handsome in his youth, the narrator states; this might be the source of the man’s great vanity. His rank in British society as well as his fortunate marriage only added to his self-admiration. It was through Lady Elliot’s promotion that Sir Elliot enjoyed a comfortable position in society: his wife ignored or concealed his flaws. Before her death, Lady Elliot secured the assistance of a friend to help raise her children. Lady Elliot brought Lady Russell (a widow) to the village of Kellynch. After Lady Elliot’s death, Lady Russell continued to advise the three girls, and Anne is her favorite. Thirteen years have gone by since the death of Lady Elliot. Although some neighbors had thought Lady Russell and Sir Elliot would eventually marry, they never did.

Elizabeth, the oldest daughter of Sir Elliot’s, was her father’s favorite. In his eyes, she was the most beautiful...

(The entire section is 582 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary

Mr. Shepherd, Sir Elliot’s lawyer, bows out of the discussion of how to budget the remaining Elliot fortune. Before leaving, he submits his full recommendation for Lady Russell.

Upon reading Lady Russell’s proposal, Anne objects to it. She finds the changes too timid. Instead, Anne suggests streamlining the spending to a point that would disengage the family from all debts in seven years. All spending would be cut back, from the foods they eat to the purchase of new horses. Anne’s suggestions might have worked, but there is no opportunity for her father to read her budget. Sir Elliot looks over Lady Russell’s proposal first and turns it down. Sir Elliot is completely unwilling to give up any of his...

(The entire section is 582 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary

Mr. Shepherd takes it upon himself to find someone to rent Sir Elliot’s house. Shepherd begins by building up the notion that a man in the navy might make the perfect tenant. A man in the British Navy, Shepherd tells Sir Walter, is known for taking particular care of his own possessions. Therefore, he most assuredly would take great care not only of Sir Elliot’s manor but any paintings or furnishings Sir Elliot may wish to leave behind or store at the house. Shepherd’s daughter, Penelope Clay, agrees with her father and supports his assumptions about naval men. She claims to have known several sailors and backs up her father’s statements concerning the reputation naval men have for being neat. They would even take care of...

(The entire section is 656 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary

This chapter offers information about Captain Frederick Wentworth and Anne’s relationship with him. Wentworth was an orphan; his only relations were his sister and brother. In the summer of 1806, he lived for six months at Monkford. He is described as having been handsome and intelligent. When he and Anne met that year, they quickly became friends and almost as quickly fell in love.

Although their love ran deep, their connection was thwarted by Anne’s father and Lady Russell. Sir Walter never deliberately forbade the relationship between Anne and Captain Wentworth, but he went out of his way to express the reasons why Anne should not pursue it. He thought the relationship was beneath his family’s name. Lady...

(The entire section is 666 words.)

Chapter 5 Summary

The meeting between Sir Walter and the Crofts proves successful. Without any hesitation on either side, an agreement is reached and dates are set. Sir Walter even admits that Admiral Croft is the most handsome sailor he has ever met. The Elliots will begin moving out immediately and the Crofts will move in before Christmas. The Elliots plan to be settled in Bath by the next month.

Lady Russell hopes Anne will stay with her until after the holidays. She assumes Sir Walter and Elizabeth will not consult Anne in the choice of a house and, therefore, will not need Anne. But Lady Russell finds she has obligations to attend to and must be away from her home. Anne does not want to have to deal with the heat in Bath and is not...

(The entire section is 524 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

Anne finds life at Uppercross with her sister Mary and the Musgroves to be quite different from what her life had been at Kellynch. Everything from conversations and opinions to daily chores at Uppercross seem distinctive. Now that Anne has stepped out of her familiar circle and crossed into the lives of others, she sees life through a completely new perspective. She feels fortunate for the experience and wishes her father and sisters (as well as the Musgroves) could have similar experiences. But given that the occurrence is only hers, she settles in to study it and learn from it.

Staying with her sister is not hard to adjust to. Anne finds that Mary is more open to her than Elizabeth is, that Charles is friendly with...

(The entire section is 678 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

News of Captain Wentworth’s arrival at Kellynch causes a stir in the Musgrove houses. Mr. Musgrove goes immediately to Kellynch and invites the Captain and the Crofts to dinner. He comes home to announce their acceptance, though he is disappointed that they could not make it earlier than next week.

Anne is agitated by the prospects of finally reuniting with Wentworth. On the night of the dinner, one of Mary’s sons suffers a bad fall that causes him great pain. A doctor is summoned—there are no broken bones. Then Charles and Mary discuss the altered arrangements that must be made. At first, both parents offer to stay at home and miss the planned dinner with Wentworth. But after seeing how their son is improving,...

(The entire section is 673 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary

As time passes, Anne often finds herself in the company of Captain Wentworth. Although they share dinners at the Musgroves, they seldom speak to one another. In his conversations with others, though, Wentworth often makes references to the time when he and she had been in love. Anne takes these allusions to be secret insinuations that only he and she understand. For instance, he often refers to the time before he went to sea, which corresponds to the time they were together. Sometimes he interjects a phrase such as “that happened in the year six,” which was the year they were in love. Every time she hears him making these references, it stirs her emotions. She cannot imagine that he is not also affected by these memories.

...

(The entire section is 525 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary

Captain Wentworth is feeling quite at home at Kellynch with his sister and brother-in-law. Although he had not planned to stay so long, he finds living with the Crofts suitable to his present needs. With Uppercross so nearby, his stay at Kellynch is proving even more satisfactory. He is enjoying the warmth of the older Musgroves and the agreeability of the younger Musgroves, Louisa and Henrietta. The Musgroves are more than pleased to have Wentworth’s frequent company. Charles and Mary often debate which of the Musgrove sisters Wentworth might be most interested in.

Although the captain does not really have any competition in the interests of Louisa and Henrietta, there is a man who had once interested them. His name...

(The entire section is 690 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary

Charles Hayter has not visited the Musgroves for several days. This does not go unnoticed. So when the Musgrove sisters appear at Mary’s door one morning and suggest that they all take a walk, Mary is unsuspecting where the walk will take them. All that the Musgrove sisters tell Mary is that it will be a long walk. Anne suspects that the young women have defined this as a “long” walk to dissuade Mary from joining them, and she notices a bit of contempt on the sisters’ faces when Mary accepts their invitation. Although she does not feel much like a walk herself, Anne agrees to go along, hoping she will be able to defuse some of Mary’s banter, which can be annoying. As they are about to leave, Charles Musgrove and Captain...

(The entire section is 700 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary

Lady Russell returns home after taking care of obligations that have kept her away for six weeks. Anne is looking forward to returning to Kellynch—not to her old home but less than half a mile away. She will be staying with Lady Russell. She worries that this will put her closer to Captain Wentworth. She is not looking forward to constantly running into him. However, Captain Wentworth spends so much time at Uppercross with the Musgroves that, in some way, Anne is actually moving away from him. One other thing that concerns Anne is the possibility that Lady Russell and Captain Wentworth will one day meet. Neither likes the other.

Captain Wentworth has been missing from Uppercross for a few days. Word finally reaches...

(The entire section is 542 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary

In Lyme the next morning, Anne and Henrietta are the first to get up and decide to go for a walk along the beach as they wait for the others to awaken. They are soon joined by Louisa and Wentworth and the others, then they all head to breakfast together. On their way, a very elegant young man in stylish clothes, who demonstrates gentlemanly manners, steps to the side to allow them to pass. The man pays special attention to Anne and stares at her as she walks by. Anne notices this. She also sees that Wentworth reacts to this man by watching him and then by looking back at Anne to see what the young man was looking at. Anne feels as if Wentworth sees her through new eyes, and possibly he approves of her looks more than he had...

(The entire section is 728 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

The next day, Charles Musgrove arrives at Uppercross to bring the news to his family that Louisa’s condition is unchanged. The doctor says it is a good sign that her condition has not worsened. Charles also relays the news that Mrs. Harville is taking excellent care of Louisa, watching over her day and night. When Charles returns that night to Lyme to watch over his sister, he takes with him the old nursery maid who had raised the Musgrove children.

On her last day at Uppercross, Anne encourages the remaining members of the Musgrove family to travel to Lyme to be with Louisa. She informs them that their presence might help Louisa recover. While there, they might also help relieve Mrs. Harville. They can wait in Lyme...

(The entire section is 533 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

Louisa is now sitting up in bed, though she still feels weak. Her thoughts are clearer but she is very sensitive to noises and even acts of kindness to her. She requires a very stable environment. The Musgroves hoped to take her home for the Christmas holidays, but it is obvious that Louisa is not yet ready to travel.

During her stay in Lyme, Mrs. Musgrove does her best to entertain all the children. She takes the Harvilles’ children with her to the lodge where she and her family are staying. She also makes sure that the Harvilles are supplied with as many commodities from Uppercross as will make their care of Louisa as easy as possible. Then the Musgroves return home, taking with them the Harville children to...

(The entire section is 544 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary

Anne settles into her life in Bath. The house her father has acquired is roomy and distinguished. She is surprised to find that Sir Walter and Elizabeth seem pleased to have her with them. Anne quickly discovers that her presence gives them someone new to talk to about how happy they are to be in Bath. As usual, they have little interest in listening to anything Anne has to say. They are attentive only to a few details about Lyme, Uppercross, and Kellynch before they are again talking about their own experiences in Bath.

Mrs. Clay is still in residence with Sir Walter and Elizabeth. Anne finds this a little disturbing. Anne notices how pleasant Mrs. Clay acts but thinks it is all a pretense.

Young Mr. Elliot...

(The entire section is 546 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary

Anne remains unsettled with Mrs. Clay’s constant presence in the Elliot home. One morning, she overhears Mrs. Clay saying to Elizabeth and Sir Walter that perhaps it is time for her to leave, now that Anne is living there. Elizabeth assures Mrs. Clay that there is no need for her to leave, and then she confides that she truly prefers Mrs. Clay to Anne. Sir Walter also confirms that Mrs. Clay has only been with them a short time and should not be leaving so soon.

Later, when Anne is alone with her father, Sir Walter comments on Anne’s improved looks. He asks her if she is using any lotions. Anne answers in the negative; she has not been using anything. Sir Walter recommends a special cream, and he says he made the...

(The entire section is 719 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary

Anne learns that an old school friend is living in Bath. When they were in school together, Miss Hamilton had helped Anne when she was lonely at school and in mourning for her mother. She had married soon after school and became Mrs. Smith. Anne had heard that she married a wealthy man, but when they meet in Bath, Mrs. Smith is poor and sickly.

Mrs. Smith’s husband squandered all his money and died young, leaving her quite poor. Mrs. Smith also came down with rheumatic fever, which weakened her heart and left her with damage to her legs. She came to Bath in the hopes that it would restore some of her health.

Anne is delighted with Mrs. Smith’s company. Whereas someone else who might have been so...

(The entire section is 656 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary

Anne has been in Bath for more than a month. During this time, she has heard little about what has been going on at Uppercross and Lyme. She is curious about Louisa’s health, but she has an even a stronger urge to know what Wentworth is doing. Finally she receives a letter from Mary.

In her letter, Mary tells Anne that she has the most extraordinary news. Not only is Louisa better and returning to Uppercross but she will soon be receiving Captain Benwick. As it turns out, Benwick has proposed to Louisa and has written ahead to Mr. Musgrove and obtained his permission to marry his daughter.

Mary is very surprised by this turn of events. She quickly tells Anne that she was right all along. She reminds Anne...

(The entire section is 471 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary

Unbeknownst to Anne, Captain Wentworth has arrived in Bath. While Anne is out shopping one day with her sister, Mrs. Clay, and Mr. Elliot, it begins to rain. The four of them step quickly into a store to wait for the rain to stop. While Anne is standing at the window, she sees Captain Wentworth coming down the street. She makes an excuse to go check on the storm. She meets Captain Wentworth at the door. He is with a group of gentlemen and ladies. Anne and Wentworth are unable to say much to one another, but Anne notices that he is much more uneasy upon seeing her than he was at Uppercross. Anne looks as if she is about to leave, so Wentworth insists that she either take his new umbrella or allow him to call a carriage for her. Anne...

(The entire section is 578 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary

Sir Walter is out for the evening with both his daughters and Mrs. Clay. They are waiting for the arrival of Lady Dalrymple before they go into the main hall for the night’s recital. While they are waiting, Captain Wentworth walks in. He looks as if he might pass Anne with a mere bow, but he stops to talk to her once Anne calls out to him.

Wentworth comments about the time that has elapsed since they last saw one another at Lyme. They continue in conversation about the events that took place while they were both there and what has happened since then, especially the development between Louisa and Captain Benwick. Although Wentworth wishes the couple well, he does cast some doubt as to whether Benwick and Louisa will...

(The entire section is 524 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary

The next day, Anne visits the ailing Mrs. Smith. Her friend notices that Anne is in good spirits and suggests that it might have something to do with Anne’s outing to the musical performance the previous night. Anne thinks that Mrs. Smith is very observant and blushes. But as Mrs. Smith continues the discussion, Anne realizes that Mrs. Smith believes that the object of her excitement is Mr. Elliot, not Captain Wentworth.

Mrs. Smith suggests that Anne will soon be engaged to be married to Mr. Elliot. Rumors are abundant around town that this is so. When Anne attempts to deny this, Mrs. Smith thinks that she has overstepped a social boundary in her assumption. Anne insists that Mrs. Smith has not done so. Anne merely...

(The entire section is 657 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

Anne is anxious to talk with Lady Russell about what she has recently learned about Mr. Elliot. However, the next morning, Mary and Charles Musgrove surprise Sir Walter’s family. They have come to Bath with Mrs. Musgrove and Henrietta. There was shopping to do because both Henrietta and Louisa will soon be married. Louisa has been left at home with Mr. Musgrove and Captain Benwick because she is not quite fit enough to travel yet. She is not the same woman she used to be. She is not as playful or as physically active. Louisa now spends most of her days sitting around listening to Captain Benwick read poetry.

While Mary is at Sir Walter’s new home, she makes it known that her party has taken lodgings in town. Upon...

(The entire section is 523 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

Anne has not discussed with Lady Russell what she has learned about Mr. Elliot from Mrs. Smith, but she concludes that the matter must wait. She has other, more pressing, and more interesting thoughts in her head. She promised to spend the day with the Musgroves, and she hopes that Captain Wentworth will be among them.

She hurries over to the hotel where the Musgroves are staying and finds that Mrs. Croft has already arrived. Also there are Captain Harville and Captain Wentworth. Soon after her arrival, Captain Wentworth tells Captain Harville that he will write the letter they discussed if Harville will supply the writing materials, which he does. As Mrs. Musgrove is busy providing details to Mrs. Croft about the...

(The entire section is 864 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary

The author sums up the reactions to Anne’s and Wentworth’s engagement. After becoming better acquainted with Captain Wentworth, Sir Walter gives his approval of the marriage. Elizabeth is not one to demonstrate warm emotions toward her sister, and she continues to act the same, though she has no obvious objections. Mary is somewhat happy with the arrangement, though more for personal reasons than for her sister’s sake. Mary is pleased with the marriage because Anne will not outdo her in social rank. Once Charles inherits the Musgrove estate, Mary will rise in status above that of Anne. This would not have been true if Anne had wed Mr. Elliot; Mary believes Anne has made the proper decision.

Mr. Elliot is truly...

(The entire section is 514 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear