Many thanks to Maria for inviting me to visit as part of my virtual book tour for my new novel, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen! For today’s post, Maria challenged me to devise a “top ten” list of some kind. I decided to go with my top ten personal favorite quotes from the book – excerpts I’ve never shared before. It’s a collaborative effort between Jane Austen and myself, as you will see.
The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen represents the private journal the great authoress wrote alongside the novel Persuasion, documenting the story behind the story – her real, life-long romance with a sea captain of her own. She’s reflecting back on their early days of exquisite felicity, their painful parting, and what became of their second chance years later – the events which inspired what she wrote in her final, most-poignant novel.
Jane’s relationship with her captain didn’t influence only Persuasion, though, but all her other books as well. She says…
10) All of them were either written or revised to convey the more mature understanding I afterward possessed because of knowing Captain Devereaux. His influence is everywhere apparent – to me, at least. His fingerprints and mine mingle on each page. The books are become our true offspring – his and mine together – for I could not have produced them without his help.
Because of what she says here, and since the book is written from Jane Austen’s perspective, anything in her head was fair game. Hence, lines she had written in some of her other novels found their way into the story as well.
9) Like a spider, I had carefully spun the tale’s intricate pattern. And then I neatly knit up all my loose ends, seeing to it that, unlike in real life, everybody not greatly at fault had been returned to tolerable comfort at the last.
Does at least part of that quote sound familiar? It’s derived from one of my favorite lines in Mansfield Park, which also sums up my writing philosophy: Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.
And it turns out Captain Devereaux is the original source of something she famously wrote in Northanger Abbey. Coming in at number eight, this is what he actually said:
8) “The person – lady or gentleman – who takes no pleasure in a good novel must be extraordinarily stupid. But, perhaps you will be the one who converts them, Jane, the one who converts the whole world to reading novels.”
Of course, the vast majority of the direct quotes in this novel are Persuasion based. This one tells of Anne and Captain Wentworth’s first encounter (and so also Jane and Captain Devereaux’s in their parallel story line).
7) Half the sum of attraction on either side might have been enough, for he had nothing to do and she had hardly any body to love; but the encounter of such lavish recommendations could not fail. They were gradually acquainted, and when acquainted, rapidly and deeply in love.
Then, in a blending of the opening line of Persuasion’s last chapter into several lines of my own, we have:
6) Who can doubt what will follow? A Captain Wentworth and an Anne Elliot, with the advantage of maturity of mind, consciousness of right and one independent fortune between them, cannot fail of bearing down all remaining resistance, all the want of graciousness among her friends. These will be as a minor annoyance, not worthy of their notice – the hum of a passing insect, the possibility of a shower. For the insect’s days on this earth are few, and the shower will soon be driven off by the power of the irrepressible sun.
So shall their love be, the captain and his lady: bright, never ending, a life-giving force. It will warm all those who gather round them, bless all those who wish them well, and scorch with unquenchable fire any person who dares attempt to come between them. Anne and Captain Wentworth are incandescent; they are untouchable, living on forever in a state of bliss beyond the reach of most mere mortals. This is my gift to them.
These next four are all mine, but I trust you will hear Jane Austen’s unmistakable influence even here.
5) I had the continual billing and cooing of the newlyweds – so obviously in love – to witness, whilst all the while knowing myself to be permanently divided from the only man with whom I could picture being similarly occupied.
4) I immediately perceived that [Mary] considered my chances very grim indeed. This did not trouble me overly. I intended to live or die quite independent of her opinion in the case.
3) “Writing novels is not an illness that need be recovered from. It is my work; it is what I do.”
2) [He] had been less interested in cultivating a new literary garden in her fallow mind than in reaping the already well-grown harvest in mine.
And for number one (drum roll please), how could I do better than the most beloved letter in all Austendom?
1) “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.
The original letter is included in the book at the point where Jane Austen writes it on Captain Wentworth’s behalf. But what was her inspiration for doing so? It goes back to a letter she herself received – from Captain Devereaux, of course.
It has been a pure joy and a great privilege working alongside Jane Austen as we collaborated on this book. At least that’s the way I look at it. Some of the words may be hers and some of them mine, but they all combined to tell one extraordinary tale – the story behind the story of Persuasion. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it! Afterward, I would love to hear back from you as to what your top ten lines are. I wonder, will any of them will be the same as mine?
About the Author
Shannon Winslow specializes in fiction for fans of Jane Austen. Her popular debut novel, The Darcys of Pemberley, immediately established her place in the genre, being particularly praised for the author’s authentic Austenesque style and faithfulness to the original characters. For Myself Alone (a stand-alone Austen-inspired story) followed. Then last year Return to Longbourn wrapped up Winslow's Pride and Prejudice saga, forming a trilogy when added to the original novel and her previous sequel. Now she has given us a “what if” story starring Jane Austen herself. In The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, that famous author tells her own tale of lost love, second chances, and finding her happy ending.
Her two sons grown, Ms. Winslow lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of
Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing . Mt. Rainier
Learn more at
Shannon’s website/blog (www.shannonwinslow.com). Follow her
on Twitter (as
JaneAustenSays..) and on Facebook.
About the book
For every fan who has wished Jane Austen herself might have enjoyed the romance and happy ending she so carefully crafted for all her heroines…
By Shannon Winslow
What if the tale Jane Austen told in her last, most poignant novel was actually inspired by momentous events in her own life? Did she in fact intend Persuasion to stand forever in homage to her one true love?
While creating Persuasion, Jane Austen also kept a private journal in which she recorded the story behind the story – her real-life romance with a navy captain of her own. The parallel could only go so far, however. As author of her characters’ lives, but not her own, Jane Austen made sure to fashion a second chance and happy ending for Anne and Captain Wentworth. Then, with her novel complete and her health failing, Jane prepared her simple will and resigned herself to never seeing the love of her life again. Yet fate, it seems, wasn’t quite finished with her. Nor was Captain Devereaux.
The official record says that Jane Austen died at 41, having never been married. But what if that’s only what she wanted people to believe? It’s time she, through her own private journal, revealed the rest of her story.