One of the greatest love letters from English literature was penned by Jane Austen at a climactic point in the love story between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. But what many a reader —aside from a die-hard Austen historian— might not know is that the Letter might never have been written, nor even used as a plot device for the story.
The original ending (which you can read in entirety here) included an errand from Admiral Croft for Captain Wentworth, sending him to consult with Anne about her rumored engagement with Mr. Elliot. Much to his own embarrassment and discomfort, Wentworth must ask Anne if she and her presumed fiancé wish to live in Kellynch after their wedding. He states, “That I should be the person commissioned on this subject is extraordinary! -- and believe me, Madam, it is no less painful.”
Once Anne vehemently denies the rumors that she is engaged to Mr. Elliot, Anne and Wentworth are able to open up to one another, declare their feelings to each other and renew their promises and hope of love and a life together. While this scene is deliciously full of conflict enough to have been included in both of the most recent adaptations of the novel, consider how much weaker a resolution it was than the re-written ending.
In the original ending, Anne and Wentworth are brought together through the pretences of another (Wentworth speaking the Admiral’s words to Anne), until they are able to overcome their communication barrier and confess their feelings outright.
In the scene with the Letter, however, the reverse is the case, leading to a joyful resolution. Wentworth and Anne, each in their own way, make the conscious decision to communicate their feelings to each other, though indirectly. Anne is conversing with Harville, discussing the difference between a man and a woman’s love for one another. She speaks from the heart, but her words are meant for Wentworth. “All the privilege I claim for my own sex… is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.”
Similarly, Wentworth sits penning an order for a frame for Benwick’s portrait, but when he hears Anne confess her feelings, he cannot remain in silence. Under the guise of completing the order, he writes to Anne, and at last opens his heart. “I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.”
Persuasion is a story of reunion. It is not a story of falling in love. It is a story of overcoming self-doubt on Anne’s side and resentment on Frederick’s side in order to pursue the love that has never left them during all the years of their separation. For this reason, the scene with the Letter proves to be the most effective conclusion. Instead of being manipulated into it by someone else, the two choose to make their pleas to each other. Both Anne’s words to Harville and the Letter ultimately allow them to see into each other’s minds and hearts in order to move forward despite the past.
Has there ever been a time when you’ve found it easier to communicate to someone in writing or some other indirect method rather than face-to-face or on the telephone? Have you ever wondered why texting is so popular nowadays as opposed to just calling and/or leaving voicemail?
To go along with her guest post, Brenna has offered up an awesome prize pack for one lucky winner!!
- 1 winner will receive a prize pack including Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion by Regina Jeffers, a signed copy of Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan, and a signed copy of the short story anthology in which Brenna's story is featured, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.
- US only
- Ends September 5th
- Must leave a comment for entry, either answering Brenna's question (above), or just leaving some love for Brenna!
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Brenna Aubrey is a contributing author to the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Her short story, “The Love Letter” is based primarily on Captain Wentworth’s letter in Persuasion. She is an aspiring author of Historical, Romance and Fantasy fiction. You can find her online at www.BrennaAubrey.net, @BrennaAubrey on Twitter.