Study Guide

Persuasion Chapter 17

By Jane Austen

Chapter 17

  • Anne finds out that Mrs. Smith, who had taken Anne under her wing at school when she was lonely and homesick, is staying in Bath.
  • Mrs. Smith has had some bad luck – her husband had been foolish with money before he died, leaving her poor, and an illness has made her disabled.
  • Anne, not telling her snobbish family but with the support of Lady Russell, goes to visit Mrs. Smith at her lodgings in Westgate Buildings.
  • Anne is impressed that, despite all Mrs. Smith’s misfortune, she still manages to stay cheerful and upbeat.
  • Mrs. Smith says she has the help of her reliable landlady and her nurse, the landlady’s sister, who has helped Mrs. Smith in both giving to the poor and selling to the rich.
  • Nurse Rooke also brings Mrs. Smith all the latest gossip that she hears when her nursing job takes her into rich families.
  • Anne says that the sick chamber must produce lots of good stories of human heroism, and Mrs. Smith replies that the tales are more often of the bad side of human nature than the good.
  • Nurse Rooke’s current patient, however, is too boring to furnish even bad gossip – she is Mrs. Wallis, who turned up previously as a friend of the Elliots in Bath.
  • Anne manages to visit Mrs. Smith several times on the DL before her family finds out.
  • Anne’s recent activity comes to light when she refuses a last-minute invitation from Lady Dalrymple because she already has a date to go over to Mrs. Smith’s.
  • Sir Walter makes fun of Anne for choosing to go see a poor old sick woman rather than the high-class Dalrymples, trying to shame her into doing what he wants, but she doesn’t give in.
  • In the process Sir Walter also mocks Mrs. Smith’s common name, which makes Mrs. Clay rather uneasy, as Anne notices.
  • Later, Lady Russell tells Anne all about the party she missed, and makes sure to repeat all the good things Mr. Elliot said about Anne.
  • Lady Russell is convinced that Mr. Elliot has a thing for Anne, and highly approves of a marriage that would put Anne in her mother’s place as lady of Kellynch Hall.
  • While Anne is entranced by the idea of being Lady Elliot, not for the title but for being able to keep her home, but doesn’t entirely trust Mr. Elliot – the surface of his character seems nice enough, but Anne suspects that it might just be an act, as he seems a little too perfect.
  • Lady Russell has no such suspicions, however, and holds firm to her dream of marrying Anne off to Mr. Elliot in a year or so, once he no longer has to wear black for his first wife.