by Jane Austen
Persuasion Appearances Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion. (1.6)
Sir Walter's two favorite aspects of himself are rather similar: both beauty and rank are things he was born with and didn't have to work for (Gowland's face cream aside).
[Sir Walter speaks] "It cuts up a man's youth and vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old sooner than any other man. I have observed it all my life. A man is in greater danger in the navy of [...] becoming prematurely an object of disgust himself, than in any other line. [...] I shall not easily forget Admiral Baldwin. I never saw quite so wretched an example of what a sea-faring life can do; but to a degree, I know it is the same with them all: they are all knocked about, and exposed to every climate, and every weather, till they are not fit to be seen. It is a pity they are not knocked on the head at once, before they reach Admiral Baldwin's age." (3.16)
Sir Walter's ultimate beauty regime: assisted suicide when you're too old to be pretty. While he's (hopefully) exaggerating at least a little, the fact that he would joke about killing ugly people so he doesn't have to undergo the pain of looking at them is revealing of his character.
"There is hardly any personal defect," replied Anne, "which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile one to."
"I think very differently," answered Elizabeth, shortly; "an agreeable manner may set off handsome features, but can never alter plain ones. (5.15-16)
And there we have Anne vs. Elizabeth in a nutshell: one places character first, while the other says it all comes down to appearances. Both, however, agree that appearance matters in judging people, so perhaps they're not that different after all.