CamdenSense and Persuasion
“So, Anne,” says Mrs Musgrove in Persuasion, the posthumously published and most personal of Jane Austen’s novels, “‘Now that your father and sister are gone, what part of Bath do you think they will settle in?”
The answer comes nine chapters later, when Anne Elliot, the heroine of the novel, finally visits her father and sister in Camden.
“Sir Walter had taken a very good house in Camden-place, a lofty dignified situation, such as becomes a man of consequence; and both he and Elizabeth were settled there, much to their satisfaction.”
At first, Anne does not look forward to her time in Bath. “Anne entered it with a sinking heart, anticipating an imprisonment of many months, and anxiously saying to herself, ‘Oh, when shall I leave you again?’” She dreads her father and sister’s preoccupations with the small social scene in the city – “It was all Bath”, and Anne’s father particularly “placed his whole happiness on being in intimate terms in Camden-place”.
Anne is suspicious of their avowed happiness, and considers it shallow. “They had the pleasure of assuring her that Bath more than answered their expectations in every respect. Their house was undoubtedly the best in Camden-place; their drawing rooms had many decided advantages over all the others which they had neither seen nor heard of; and the superiority was not less in the style of the fitting-up, or the taste of the furniture. Everybody was wanting to visit them.”
But ultimately, Bath works out well for Anne Elliot. Not because of the bricks and mortar, or the convolution and strictures of the social scene. She moves her former fiancé Captain Wentworth deeply by her speech on love never being quite lost, and they renew their engagement after a decade’s estrangement. Both she and Captain Wentworth have devised their own paths in the world because of the strength of their characters, rather than being subject to the exigencies of society, or the persuasion of others.
“Bath could hardly contain any other two beings at once so rationally and so rapturously happy as during that evening occupied the sofa of Mrs Croft’s drawing-room in Gay Street.”