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'"WAS IT UNPARDONABLE,"' Frederick Wentworth asks Anne Elliot as they pace the gravel path, '"to think it worth my while to come? and to arrive with some degree of hope?'" That "degree of hope" increases in the course of his ten days in Bath. Although he vacillates between "returning hope or increasing despondency," Anne's "looks, or words, or actions" have gradually encouraged "better hopes," so that by the time Wentworth writes his letter to Anne in the White Hart he can declare, '"I am half hope, half agony.'"

Until the final chapters of the novel, readers--like Anne--are shielded from Wentworth's hopes. In fact, although variants of the word "hope" occur 80 times in Persuasion (28 nouns, 52 verbs), much of the novel tracks Anne's state of hopelessness, a word that occurs only once (though "hopeless" is used 6 times). On the walk toward Winthrop, Anne, once she overhears some of Louisa and Wentworth's conversation, can recall no consoling quotations: "The sweet scenes of autumn were for a while put by--unless some tender sonnet, fraught with the apt analogy of the declining year, with declining happiness, and the images of youth and hope, and spring, all gone together, blessed her memory."

Indeed, many of the hopes expressed in the novel are craven or, at best, trivial. Sir Walter "had never indulged much hope, he had now none, of ever reading [Anne's] name in any other page of his favourite work." Whining on her faded sofa, Mary "hope[s] she may be able to leave it by dinner-time." The Musgrove girls "hope we shall be in Bath in the winter." Anne's engagement to Wentworth "derange[s]" Mr. Elliot's "best hope of keeping Sir Walter single by the watchfulness which a son-in-law's rights would have given" (272). And both Mrs. Smith and Lady Russell, with different motives and different degrees of acuity, hope for Anne's marriage to Mr. Elliot. (Mrs. Smith offers that Anne's chance of domestic happiness with him would have been '"not absolutely hopeless."')

Positive hope begins to be associated with Anne in her walk with Admiral Croft. She uses the word five times in trying to ascertain Wentworth's feelings about Benwick and Louisa's engagement. '"I hope, Admiral, I hope there is nothing in the style of Captain Wentworth's letter to make you ... particularly uneasy.... I hope it may be understood to have worn out on each side equally. ... I hope his letter does not breathe the spirit of an ill-used man.... I hope there is nothing in Captain Wentworth's manner of writing to make you suppose he thinks himself ill-used."' Admiral Croft can counter only with the fact that Wentworth '"very handsomely hopes they will be happy together."' At the party in Camden-place, in the novel's penultimate chapter, Anne rejoices in her renewed connection with Wentworth, in their "moments of communication continually occurring, and always the hope of more, and always the knowledge of his being there!"

Such moments of communication were among the pleasures of JASNA's fortieth AGM--this one in Kansas City--Persuasion: 200 Years of Constancy and Hope, wonderfully organized by Julienne Gehrer. Persuasions 40 brings together essays from that meeting (more can be found in Persuasions On-Line 39.1) and a miscellany of essays on Austen's relationship with writers before, during, and after her career as well as on other aspects of her novels. Thanks to the authors, to the members of the Editorial Board (including new members Kathryn Davis, Natasha Duquette, and Sarah Raff), who read and responded at length to all submissions, to Marsha Huff, who proofread each essay twice, and to Linda Dennery, who worked on the conversion to ebook. That we--and others--continue to read and discuss Jane Austen today is itself a sign of hope.

SUSAN ALLEN FORD is Editor of Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line and Professor Emerita of English at Delta State University.
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Title Annotation:hope and hopelessness in Jane Austen's "Persuasion"
Author:Allen Ford, Susan
Publication:Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2018
Next Article:The Final Chapters of Persuasion: Austen's Passionate Revision.

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