I was debating about whether or not to do this. Part of me felt like it was too expected to go down the Jane Austen road during love stories month… and then part of me (the part of me that won, obviously) felt like the month would feel incomplete without going down that road. So, here we are. All of Jane Austen’s books are basically the best kind of love stories—they’re swoony, but they’re also about people who feel real, and also they’re pretty hilarious. Pride and Prejudice is an obvious favorite:
but I like Persuasion best. This is partly because its love story is extremely British and repressed (like another favorite of mine), partly because its humor is extremely British and tart, and partly because I just like being inside Anne Elliot’s head best of all. I think she’s the most introverted of all of Austen’s heroines, and pretty much everything that happens to her happens inside of her head. I think a lot of readers would say Captain Wentworth’s letter is the big romantic climax of this story (hence cheeseball movie scenes and putting it on stuff on Etsy and elsewhere), but my favorite part has always been this very internal scene, which I’m quoting at length for context, but pay attention to the bit at the beginning of the last paragraph:
Another minute brought another addition. The younger boy, a remarkable stout, forward child, of two years old, having got the door opened for him by some one without, made his determined appearance among them, and went straight to the sofa to see what was going on, and put in his claim to any thing good that might be giving away.
There being nothing to be eat, he could only have some play; and as his aunt would not let him tease his sick brother, he began to fasten himself upon her, as she knelt, in such a way that, busy as she was about Charles, she could not shake him off. She spoke to him, ordered, entreated, and insisted in vain. Once she did contrive to push him away, but the boy has the greater pleasure in getting upon her back again directly.
“Walter,” said she, “get down this moment. You are extremely troublesome. I am very angry with you.”
“Walter,” cried Charles Hayter, “why do you not do as you are bid? Do not you hear your aunt speak? Come to me, Walter; come to cousin Charles.”
But not a bit did Walter stir.
In another moment, however, she found herself in a state of being released from him; some one was taking him from her, though he had bent down her head so much, that his little sturdy hands were unfastened from around her neck, and he was resolutely borne away, before she knew that Captain Wentworth had done it.
Her sensations on the discovery made her perfectly speechless. She could not even thank him. She could only hang over little Charles, with most disordered feelings. His kindness in stepping forward to her relief, the manner, the silence in which it had passed, the little particulars of the circumstance, with the conviction soon forced on her by the noise he was studiously making with the child, that he meant to avoid hearing her thanks, and rather sought to testify that her conversation was the last of his wants, produced such a confusion of varying, but very painful agitation, as she could not recover from till enabled by the entrance of Mary and the Miss Musgroves, to make over her little patient with cares, and leave the room. She could not stay. It might have been an opportunity of watching the loves and jealousies of the four—they were now all together; but she could stay for none of it. It was evident that Charles Hayter was not well inclined towards Captain Wentworth. She had a strong impression of his having said, in a vext tone of voice, after Captain Wentworth’s interference, “You ought to have minded me, Walter; I told you not to tease your aunt”; and could comprehend his regretting that Captain Wentworth should do what he ought to have done himself. But neither Charles Hayter’s feelings, nor any body’s feelings, could interest her, till she had a little better arranged her own. She was ashamed of herself, quite ashamed of being so nervous, so overcome by such a trifle; but so it was, and it required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover her.
The angstiest angst that ever did angst, but in the best possible way. All those staccato phrases—you can hear her trying to catch her breath. It’s brilliant and heady and possibly just about as sexy as Anne Elliot could ever be (although I think if you told her that she would blush so hard her head would explode).