I am told that it is the national Father's day in Australia this weekend so I thought that it was a good opportunity to pick a quote relating to fatherhood.
I have selected a series of rather long quotes from chapter 1 of Persuasion but I think that all are necessary to capture the dynamics of the Elliot family.
“Sir Walter’s continuing in singleness requires explanation. Be it known then, that Sir Walter, like a good father, (having met with one or two private disappointments in very unreasonable applications), prided himself on remaining single for his dear daughters’ sake. For one daughter, his eldest, he would really have given up any thing, which he had not been very much tempted to do. Elizabeth had succeeded at sixteen to all that was possible of her mother's rights and consequence; and being very handsome, and very like himself, her influence had always been great, and they had gone on together most happily. His other two children were of very inferior value. Mary had acquired a little artificial importance by becoming Mrs Charles Musgrove; but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way - she was only Anne.”
“Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society.”
“Lady Elliot had been an excellent woman, sensible and amiable; whose judgement and conduct, if they might be pardoned the youthful infatuation which made her Lady Elliot, had never required indulgence afterwards.--She had humoured, or softened, or concealed his failings, and promoted his real respectability for seventeen years; and though not the very happiest being in the world herself, had found enough in her duties, her friends, and her children, to attach her to life, and make it no matter of indifference to her when she was called on to quit them.”
I think that these quotes capture insights into a series of roles within the family. I am an only child so have not had to experience some of the emotions brought to our attention in the first quoted paragraph. The last line is the most poignant for me:
"her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way - she was only Anne."
To arrive at a state where it is easier to just give in than to fight for yourself and what you believe in is truly tragic. No-one should ever be made to feel this way.
The second quote makes us aware of the vanity and self-obsession that Sir Walter possesses. More interesting is the third quote which again paints a picture of a very familiar familial set up (both then and still in present society). Lady Elliot showed bravery and above all loyalty, demonstrated in the line: "she had humoured, or softened, or concealed his failings, and promoted his real respectability for seventeen years; and though not the very happiest being in the world herself."
Sir Walter's actions and personality allowed his daughter and his wife to feel deeply unhappy. I am sad for their situation but I marvel in the inner strength that both of these women clearly have to continue regardless with their head held high, as so many women must do.
Pic: Sir Walter and his daughters