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Price, whom he had been originally intending to flirt with for his own amusement. She, however, objects to his principles; being not satisfied with religious belief and practice in herself, and careless about them in her husband. In this respect she presents a useful example to a good many modern females, whose apparent regard for religion in themselves, and indifference about it in their partners for life, make one sometimes inclined to think that they hold the opposite extreme to the Turk's opinion, and believe men to have no souls. Her uncle, Sir Thomas, however, who sees nothing of her objection, is displeased at her refusal; and thinking that she may not sufficiently prize the comforts of wealth to which she has been so long accustomed, without the aid of contrast, encourages her paying a visit to her father, a Captain Price, of the marines, settled with a large family at Portsmouth. She goes, accompanied by her favourite brother William, with all the fond recollections, and bright anticipations, of a visit after eight years' absence. With a candour very rare in a novelist, Miss Austen describes the remedy as producing its effect. After she has spent a month in the noise, privations, and vulgarities of home, Mr Crawford pays her a visit of a couple of days; after he was gone,
“Fanny was out of spirits all the rest of the day. Though tolerably secure of not seeing Mr Crawford again, she could not help being low. It was parting with somebody of the nature of a friend; and though in one light glad to have him gone, it seemed as if she was now deserted by every body; it was a sort of renewed separation from Mansfield; and she could not think of his returning to town, and being frequently with Mary and Edmund, without feelings so near akin to envy, as made her hate herself for having them. “Her dejection had no abatement from any thing passing around her; a friend or two of her father's, as always happened if he was not with them, spent the long, long evening there; and from six o'clock to half past nine, there was little intermission of noise or grog. She was very low. The wonderful improvement which she still fancied in Mr Crawford, was the nearest to administering comfort of any thing within the current of her thoughts. Not considering in how different a circle she had been just seeing him, nor how much might be owing to contrast, she was quite persuaded of his being astonishingly more gentle, and regardful of others, than formerly. And if in little things, must it not be so in great 2 So anxious for her health and comfort, so very feeling as he now expressed himself, and really seemed, might not it be fairly supposed, that he would not much longer persevere in a suit so distressing to her ?”—Vol. iii. pp. 224, 225.
Fanny is, however, armed against Mr Crawford by a stronger feeling than even her disapprobation; by a vehement attachment to Edmund. The silence in which this passion is cherished — the slender hopes and enjoyments by which it is fed—the restlessness and jealousy with which it fills a mind naturally active, contented and unsuspicious—the manner in which it tinges every event and every reflection, are painted with a vividness and a detail of which we can scarcely conceive any one but a female, and we should almost add, a female writing from recollection, capable.
To say the truth, we suspect one of Miss Austen's great merits in our eyes to be, the insight she gives us into the peculiarities of female character. Authoresses can scarcely ever forget the esprit de corps—can scarcely ever forget that they are authoresses. They seem to feel a sympathetic
shudder at exposing naked a female mind. Elles se peignent en buste, and leave the mysteries of womanhood to be described by some interloping male, like Richardson or Marivaux, who is turned out before he has seen half the rites, and is forced to spin from his own conjectures the rest. Now from this fault Miss Austen is free. Her heroines are what one knows women must be, though one never can get them to acknowledge it. As liable to “fall in love first,” as anxious to attract the attention of agreeable men, as much taken with a striking manner, or a handsome face, as unequally gifted with constancy and firmness, as liable to have their affections biassed by convenience or fashion, as we, on our part, will admit men to be. As some illustration of what we mean, we refer our readers to the conversation between Miss Crawford and Fanny, vol. iii. p. 102. Fanny's meeting with her father, p. 199, her reflections after reading Edmund's letter, 246, her happiness (good, and heroine though she be) in the midst of the misery of all her friends, when she finds that Edmund has decidedly broken with her rival; feelings, all of them, which, under the influence of strong passion, must alloy the purest mind, but with which scarcely any authoress but Miss Austen would have ventured to temper the etherial materials of a heroine. But we must proceed to the publication of which the title is prefixed to this article. It contains, it seems, the earliest and the latest productions of the author; the first of them having been purchased, we are told, many years back by a bookseller, who, for some reason unexplained, thought proper to alter his mind and withhold it. We do not much applaud his taste; for though it is decidedly inferior to her other works, having less plot, and what there is, less artificially wrought up, and also less exquisite nicety of moral painting; yet the same kind of excellences which characterise the other novels may be perceived in this, in a degree which would have been highly creditable to most other writers of the same school, and which would have entitled the author to considerable praise, had she written nothing better. We already begin to fear that we have indulged too much in extracts, and we must save some room for Persuasion, or we could not resist giving a specimen of John Thorpe, with his horse that cannot go less than ten miles an hour, his refusal to drive his sister “ because she has such thick ankles,” and his sober consumption of five pints of port a-day ; altogether the best portrait of a species, which, though almost extinct, cannot yet be quite classed among the Palaeotheria, the Bang-up Oxonian. Miss Thorpe, the jilt of middling life, is, in her way, quite as good, though she has not the advantage of being the representative of a rare or a diminishing species. We fear few of our readers, however they may admire the naïveté, will admit the truth of poor John Morland's postscript, “I can never expect to know such another woman.” The latter of these novels, however, Persuasion, which is more strictly to be considered as a posthumous work, possesses that superiority which might be expected from the more mature age at which it was written, and is second, we think, to none of the former ones, if not superior to all. In the humorous delineation of character it does not abound quite so much as some of the others, though it has great merit even on that score; but it has more of that tender and yet elevated kind of interest which is aimed at by the generality of novels, and in pursuit of which they seldom fail of running into romantic extravagance: on the whole, it is one of the most elegant fictions of common life we ever remember to have met with. Sir Walter Elliot, a silly and conceited baronet, has three daughters, the eldest two, unmarried, and the third, Mary, the wife of a neighbouring gentleman, Mr Charles Musgrove, heir to a considerable fortune, and living in a genteel cottage in the neighbourhood of the Great House which he is hereafter to inherit. The second daughter, Anne, who is the heroine, and the only one of the family possessed of good sense (a quality which Miss Austen is as sparing of in her novels, as we fear her great mistress, Nature, has been in real life), when on a visit to her sister, is, by that sort of instinct which generally points out to all parties the person on whose judgment and temper they may rely, appealed to in all the little family differences which arise, and which are described with infinite spirit and detail. The following touch reminds us, in its minute fidelity to nature, of some of the happiest strokes