Impropriety by the Seaside II
July 23, 2007 § 1 Comment
While there is indecorousness at Uppercross, foolishness at Kellynch Hall and snobbishness in Bath, the improprieties practiced by almost every character in the first half of Persuasion are capped by the dangerous and interesting events of the novel taking place by the seaside, at Lyme. The careless intimacy between Captain Wentworth and Louisa Musgrove proceeds rapidly at Uppercross and in her child-like admiration of him ‘he had had to jump her from the stiles’ in all of their country walks. In a fervor for the navy and by proxy, the sea, the Miss Musgroves fuel a trip for the Uppercross young people to Lyme, where Wentworth’s closest friends, the Harvilles and Captain Benwick, are quartered. On a farewell walk on the famed Lyme Cobb there are some perilous stairs to be got down and as ‘the sensation was delightful to her’; Louisa is jumped down them by Captain Wentworth. Undoubtedly the sensation of being held in the captain’s hands was more delightful than jumping from heights. Headstrong and infatuated, Louisa insists on jumping again, from higher and with too little notice, and she falls unconscious and concussed onto the pavement. Louisa’s perversely headstrong flight leaves her barely conscious for weeks at Lyme and though she recovers, her near fatal fall alters her temperament, her former boisterousness gone and a quiet, nervous, sober girl emerges from the drama.
On the same trip to Lyme our heroine Anne Elliot twice briefly encounters a gentleman the party later learns to be Mr Elliot, the heir to Kellynch Hall and Anne’s cousin. His past failure to properly attend the Elliot family, his marriage to a low woman and his disparaging remarks about Sir Walter and Miss Elizabeth Elliot had caused a breech between the baronet and his heir. Despite the subsequent reconciliation and intimate acquaintance with the Elliots in Bath, his past life proves to have been a true representation of his character. With the addition to the narrative of Anne’s former schoolfellow Mrs Smith and her enlightening stories of her past, the reader learns that Mr Elliot had led a dissipated, thoughtless life, and had contributed to the financial ruin of Mrs Smith’s deceased husband. Though Smith had rated him a very great friend, Elliot had repeatedly refused to act on his widow’s behalf that she may lift herself out of her present poverty.
Shortly after the real Mr Elliot is unveiled tho Anne and the reader, it transpires that he has seduced and left Bath with Elizabeth’s companion Mrs Clay to get her away from Sir Walter, that he may prevent the baronet from marrying her and producing a son, thereby disinheriting him.
It was told in Lyme that Elliot had traveled from Sidmouth previous to his introduction into the narrative at Lyme and his subsequent appearance in Bath, quite the watering place trail of impropriety.
To be continued