Persuasion: Volume I - Chapter 11,12

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Summary, Chapter XI, pages 91-99

Anne has been at Uppercross Cottage for two months and is preparing to join Lady Russell at her home, which is near Kellynch. Anne is satisfied that she will not see much of Wentworth there, nor will he be likely to meet with Lady Russell and renew the animosity they share.

Before she leaves, Captain Wentworth comes to Uppercross reporting on a recent visit he made to Captain Harville and his family at Lyme. The Musgroves immediately plan an excursion to Lyme, and Anne is included. The party leaves early one morning, arrives in Lyme to secure rooms for the night, and walk upon the beach and upon the Cobb, the harbor wall. Captain Wentworth leaves the party to visit the Harvilles, who live in a small house nearby, and soon he rejoins his party with Captain Harville, Mrs. Harville, and another officer visiting them, Captain Benwick. Captain Benwick was engaged to Fanny Harville, Captain Harville’s sister, but Fanny died before Benwick could return from the war and marry her. Benwick is still mourning his fiancé and is a sad, reserved man. Anne thinks to herself that there is still hope for Benwick to recover and love again, but not for her. Anne also realizes that Benwick and the Harvilles “‘would have been all my friends,’” if she had married Wentworth, and she tries to keep herself from feeling sad in this knowledge.

The party goes to the Harville house, which is very small, but Anne notes that the Harvilles have made it cozy and attractive. Captain Harville has especially made his friend Benwick a place to read and work with wood, even to mend fishnets. After the party leaves the Harvilles, Louisa gushes to Anne about how upright and friendly and worthy of respect naval men are.

In the evening, when the Harvilles join the party at the inn for the evening, Anne finds herself placed near Benwick. Anne’s gentleness soon overcomes his shyness, and the two talk animatedly about poetry. Anne recommends that he also read more prose, for she detects that he dwells too much on melancholy subjects. Later, Anne reflects that she has counseled Benwick to avoid low spirits, although she herself struggles to avoid them.


The Harvilles, like the Crofts, present yet another example to Anne of a naval marriage that is based on love and that succeeds. The Harvilles are not as wealthy as the Crofts, however, and so they demonstrate how comfortable a naval couple can be on a small income—despite Lady Russell’s opinion that a lack of money would tear a marriage apart.

In Benwick, Anne encounters someone who appreciates her gentle, modest character and who has suffered in love as she has.

Summary, Chapter XII, pages 99-114

Early the next morning, Anne and Henrietta stroll on the beach. The air is so refreshing that Henrietta launched into a speech about how Dr. Shirley (for whom Charles Hayter serves as curate) needs to move to Lyme and let Charles take over his parish duties at Uppercross. Anne smiles to herself at Henrietta’s poorly disguised plans for her future husband and home. Soon the two of them are joined by Louisa and Captain Wentworth.

As the group ascends some stairs from the beach, Anne—whose cheeks are becomingly colored by the sea air and whose eyes are bright—catches the attention of a young man coming down the steps. His look is so admiring that even Anne is aware of it. Captain Wentworth, too, notices the man’s interest in Anne and looks at her himself with a glance “which seemed to say: ‘That man is struck with you,--and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again.’”

Anne passes the same gentleman on the stairs at the inn later that morning. He again shows an interest in her, and in their short encounter Anne surmises that he is about thirty years old, of good manners, and in mourning for someone. She thinks she might like to know more about him. The gentleman attracts great attention when, during the party’s breakfast at the inn, he and his servant prepare to leave in a carriage. Curious, Captain Wentworth asks a servant of the inn who the man is, and they all learn that he is none other than William Elliot. Mary immediately declares that he is “their” Mr. Elliot and that they should have been introduced. Anne quietly reminds her that Mr. Elliot shunned their family and they are not on good enough terms to have been introduced to him.

After breakfast, the party is joined by Benwick and Mr. and Mrs. Harville, and they set off for a last walk before the party departs Lyme. Anne walks and talks with Benwick; Captain Harville finds a chance to tell her what good her company does Benwick.

Before the party ends its walk, Louisa insists on walking along the Cobb one last time. While the other ladies do not like the high wind and walk lower on the Cobb, Louisa “must be jumped down [the steps] by Captain Wentworth. In all their walks, he had had to jump her from stiles; the sensation was delightful to her.” Captain Wentworth cautions that the steps are too high and the pavement below too hard for her, but she ignores his warnings and jumps again, before Wentworth is ready to catch her. Louisa thus falls “on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless!”

Captain Wentworth gathers the unconscious Louisa in his arms; Mary screams that Louisa is dead and clutches Charles; Henrietta faints and is caught by Captain Benwick and Anne. When Wentworth cries for help, Anne is the only one with sense to act. She produced smelling salts and orders Captain Benwick to assist Wentworth. Charles, disentangled from Mary, helps to lift Louisa, too, freeing Wentworth, who is moaning about Louisa’s parents. Anne brings him to his senses by calling for a surgeon to be fetched, and he immediately begins to run in search of one. Anne, however, reminds him that Benwick knows the town and should go instead. Wentworth agrees, and off Benwick goes. Everyone else looks to Anne for help. She declares that Louisa must be gotten indoors, to the inn.

The Harvilles insist that Louisa be brought to their house, where Mrs. Harville, a trained nurse, can see to her. The surgeon appears and pronounces that Louisa has hurt her head but should recover in time. Anne notices how shaken, but relieved Wentworth is at this news. Arrangements for getting home are discussed. Anne overhears Wentworth telling Charles that Anne must stay behind to help with Louisa because “‘no one [is] so proper, so capable as Anne!’” Anne tells him she will gladly do so, but Mary protests that she, as the sister-in-law to Louisa, should remain behind with Charles. “Anne was nothing to Louisa, while she was her sister, and had the best right to stay in Henrietta’s stead! Why was she not to be as useful as Anne!”

When Wentworth argues with Charles about sending Anne away, Anne convinces herself that “she was valued [by him] only as she could be useful to Louisa.” When, on the journey home, he turns all his attention to Henrietta, Anne feels that is right. She means nothing to him. When he cries to Henrietta that he regrets not being firmer and preventing Louisa, “‘so eager and so resolute! Dear, sweet Louisa’” from doing what he knew to be dangerous, Anne cannot help but wonder “whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as to universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character’ and whether it might not strike him, that, like all other qualities of the mind, it should have its proportions and limits.”

Once they arrive at Uppercross, Wentworth breaks the news of Louisa’s accident to her parents, and then he returns to Lyme. Anne is left behind to wonder what will take place now.


Louisa Musgrove’s accident proves that not all bravery is true bravery; sometimes it’s just foolish, self-centered bravado. Wentworth has made clear to her that he wants a woman who is strong and knows her mind, so Louisa overdoes these qualities so that she is sure he sees them in her. In contrast, Anne’s calm, quick-thinking behavior at the accident proves that strength of character does not have to involve physical exploits and daring; true strength of character requires a strong, clear head in times of crisis. Anne’s ability to keep her head during a crisis echoes the calm, but firm way Mrs. Croft handled Admiral Croft’s treacherous driving.

Anne’s value is changing. Mr. Elliot’s admiration of her has shown her that she is not the wall flower she has purposely become. His admiration has also perhaps rekindled Wentworth’s interest in Anne, although after Louisa’s accident, Anne is not so sure of this. His use of the words “useful” and “capable” to describe her hardly indicate that he is once again attracted to her. Anne assumes that he loves Louisa now; all thought of Anne Elliot is gone for him.

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