Monday, 6 March 2017
SHOULD JANE AUSTEN'S ANNE ELLIOT HAVE REJECTED WENTWORTH?
Was the nineteen-year-old Anne Elliot right to break off her engagement to young Captain Wentworth? She seems to think (Chapter 4) she made a big mistake. But she also seems to think (Chapter 23) that she was right.
When we look closely at the facts, we may conclude that breaking off was not so very unwise. He had no money; Jane Austen says he had no 'connexions' to assist him to fast-track promotion (very common in those days), presumably not even his brother-in-law the future Admiral being able to pull strings; he seems to have wasted what money he had become possessed of ('spending freely, what had come freely'); he was a braggart; and he could be seen as 'headstrong'. Any passer-by would have considered him a dubious match for the daughter of Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall.
Wentworth made his small fortune mainly from prize money. How much might this have been? It depended on what was taken in combat. For instance, after Waterloo, the prize money is believed to have been £60,000 for the Commander-in-Chief (Wellington), with captains receiving £420, sergeants £33 and so on down to rank and file getting a mere £2..10shillings.