Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Sir Walter Elliot in Jane Austen's 'Persuasion'

In Bath, Sir Walter Elliot stands in a shop counting eighty-seven plain women go by. I am sure we are all glad to hear it. As Lady Bracknell says, 'A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men ...’.

No matter what you think of Sir Walter Elliot, you have to admit he's eloquent. Consider his speech (Chapter Three) beginning 'Yes; it is in two points offensive to me....'. He speaks continuously for well over 300 words, with exposition, structured points, supportive anecdote and a conclusion incorporating a little humour (naval men should be 'knocked on the head' before they are old).

This speech, with very little adaptation, would win the 'Why I Dislike The Navy' essay competition.

Contrast this with Anne's moving (and, as it happens, final) speech: just two words ('Would I!').