Sunday, 22 July 2007

Impropriety by the Seaside. Part Two.

Although there is indecorousness at Uppercross, foolishness at Kellynch and snobbishness in Bath, the improprieties practiced by all 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 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 walk on the 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 headstrong actions leave 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 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 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. Though reconciled for a short period with the Elliots in Bath , his past life proves to be a true representation of his character, as it transpires that he has seduced Mrs Clay to get her away from Sir Walter, in order that he may prevent the baronet from marrying her and producing a son, thereby disinheriting him. With Mrs Smith’s enlightening story, the reader learns that he contributed to the financial ruin of her deceased husband and refuses, though Smith thought him a great friend, to act on her behalf that she may lift herself out of her present poverty. He is linked also with another seaside place, as it was told in Lyme that he had been in Sidmouth previous to his introduction into the narrative.

To be continued

1 comment:

jessi said...

I went to Lyme a few years ago as part of a study abroad course, and we walked on the Cobb. Between the uneven walkway and the strong gusts of wind, I found it somewhat intimidating. I almost didn't walk down the steps; they were so narrow I was afraid I would inadvertently reenact that scene from the novel.