by Jane Austen
Persuasion Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Whether former feelings were to be renewed must be brought to the proof; former times must undoubtedly be brought to the recollection of each; they could not but be reverted to; the year of their engagement could not but be named by him, in the little narratives or descriptions which conversation called forth. His profession qualified him, his disposition lead him, to talk; and "That was in the year six;" "That happened before I went to sea in the year six," occurred in the course of the first evening they spent together: and though his voice did not falter, and though she had no reason to suppose his eye wandering towards her while he spoke, Anne felt the utter impossibility, from her knowledge of his mind, that he could be unvisited by remembrance any more than herself. There must be the same immediate association of thought, though she was very far from conceiving it to be of equal pain. (8.2)
That reference to "equal pain" sneakily slipped in at the end suggests that Anne doesn't always read Wentworth's feelings correctly – his emotions are stronger than he lets on, even to Anne's close observation.
Yes; he had done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it, that she owed it to his perception of her fatigue, and his resolution to give her rest. She was very much affected by the view of his disposition towards her, which all these things made apparent. This little circumstance seemed the completion of all that had gone before. She understood him. He could not forgive her, but he could not be unfeeling. Though condemning her for the past, and considering it with high and unjust resentment, though perfectly careless of her, and though becoming attached to another, still he could not see her suffer, without the desire of giving her relief. It was a remainder of former sentiment; it was an impulse of pure, though unacknowledged friendship; it was a proof of his own warm and amiable heart, which she could not contemplate without emotions so compounded of pleasure and pain, that she knew not which prevailed. (10.42)
After the previous passage where Anne doesn't see that Wentworth also has painful memories, her interpretation of his feelings here can't be entirely trusted – it's only her opinion, after all. Why is Anne so sure that she's reading Wentworth correctly? Why does she narrate his feelings to herself in such detail?
Though they had now been acquainted a month, she could not be satisfied that she really knew his character. [...] He certainly knew what was right, nor could she fix on any one article of moral duty evidently transgressed; but yet she would have been afraid to answer for his conduct. She distrusted the past, if not the present. [...] there had been a period of his life (and probably not a short one) when he had been, at least, careless in all serious matters; and, though he might now think very differently, who could answer for the true sentiments of a clever, cautious man, grown old enough to appreciate a fair character? How could it ever be ascertained that his mind was truly cleansed? (17.26)
Anne's concern here is less that Mr. Elliot is going to revert to his old bad ways, but that his past reveals something essential and unchangeable about his character – and even more, that she can never be sure that what he currently appears to be is what he'll still be in ten or twenty years.