Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Amusing himself with himself: Sir Walter Elliot in the first clause of Jane Austen's "Persuasion"

Before the rest of the sentence lists reasons to read, the opening clause of Jane Austen's "Persuasion" begins with public information about a character's title, name, estate, and country of residence, shifts to private information, and ends with a twist: "Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage [...]." In turn, the "Baronetage" includes an entry that also begins with Sir Walter's name and estate (though not his county). This clause thus immediately establishes the emptiness of his character: a frame of public information around a private self whose only "amusement" is his public persona. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 7 April 2021)


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