Study Guide

Persuasion Chapter 21

By Jane Austen

Chapter 21

  • Anne is glad that she’s going to see Mrs. Smith, as it means she won’t be seeing Mr. Elliot.
  • Not that she hates him – it’s just she has realized that Captain Wentworth is the only one for her, and so Mr. Elliot is rather a waste of time.
  • Anne tells Mrs. Smith about the concert, but Mrs. Smith is more interested in the audience than the music, and Anne was so busy looking out for Captain Wentworth that she didn’t see much else.
  • Mrs. Smith teases Anne about having eyes for only one person, and Anne blushes, thinking of Captain Wentworth and wondering how her friend could have picked up on that so quickly.
  • Anne is surprised to discover, however, that Mrs. Smith thinks that one person is Mr. Elliot.
  • In fact, Mrs. Smith wants Anne to use her influence with Mr. Elliot to do her a favor.
  • Anne explains that she’s glad to help, but that she and Mr. Elliot are really just friends.
  • Mrs. Smith doesn’t believe her, and praises Mr. Elliot as "safe" husband material, for he is not one to be "misled by others to his ruin" (21.32).
  • Anne replies that Mr. Elliot seems nice enough, but that it’s hard to feel like she knows him well, and protests that it was NOT Mr. Elliot who made the concert so enjoyable – unintentionally implying by her denial that there was someone else causing her enjoyment.
  • Anne regrets giving so much away, but realizes that the only way to convince Mrs. Smith that she is not going to marry Mr. Elliot is to persuade her that there’s a different man she wants to marry.
  • Anne asks why Mrs. Smith thinks she and Mr. Elliot were going to get hitched.
  • Mrs. Smith says that, with the family connection, it seems the obvious thing to do, and that the gossip networks have taken it as a given.
  • When Anne asks if she can still do Mrs. Smith’s Mr. Elliot-related favor, if only in a friendly way, Mrs. Smith pulls back, saying it’s nothing.
  • Curious, Anne presses Mrs. Smith for more information on Mr. Elliot, since she’s known him for so long.
  • Mrs. Smith resists at first, but eventually decides to spill everything she knows about Mr. Elliot, just in case Anne might change her mind and decide to marry him after all.
  • It’s story time! Pull up a carpet square and get comfortable, because Mrs. Smith has a lot to tell: attend the tale of Mr. Elliot, who is "black at heart, hollow and black!" (21.52).
  • Mrs. Smith’s husband and Mr. Elliot were close friends; at this time the Smiths were doing pretty well for themselves, and helped Mr. Elliot out with money when he was in a jam, which was often.
  • This was also the time when Mr. Elliot first met Sir Walter and Elizabeth, and blew them off to marry his first, low-class-but-rich wife.
  • Mrs. Smith explains why he was so rude to the Elliots: first and foremost he wanted to marry money, and Elizabeth wasn’t rich enough for him.
  • Anne learns that Mrs. Smith was the person Mr. Elliot had hinted at during the concert, the one who had told him about her prior to their meeting, as Mrs. Smith had talked a lot about Anne at that time in order to knock Elizabeth.
  • To corroborate her story, Mrs. Smith brings out a letter Mr. Elliot had written to her husband, bashing Sir Walter and Elizabeth.
  • Anne wonders why Mr. Elliot has changed his tune and is suddenly making nice with the Elliots now.
  • Mrs. Smith says that part of the reason is Anne herself – Mr. Elliot really does want to marry her.
  • Anne objects that Mr. Elliot had wormed into her family circle even before she arrived in Bath.
  • Mrs. Smith brings out reason #2, and her name is Mrs. Clay.
  • Mr. Elliot wasn’t just trying to kiss up to Anne by sharing her suspicions of Mrs. Clay, he is genuinely worried that she will marry Sir Walter and have a baby male Elliot who could cut him out of inheriting the title; now that he’s rolling in money, he’s switched gears and thinks that being Sir William would make his cash even sweeter.
  • Anne is glad that she finally knows what’s what with Mr. Elliot, since she always suspected there was more to him than he seemed.
  • All this was just a distraction, though, and Mrs. Smith returns to the main point of her story, which is how Mr. Elliot ruined her life.
  • So, once Mr. Elliot got his rich wife, he started living the lifestyle of the rich and famous, and encouraged Mr. Smith to do the same. Since Mr. Smith didn’t have Mr. Elliot’s bank account, that didn’t go so well.
  • Just as the Smiths’ debts caught up with them (if only they had hooked up with Morrissey and started a band), Mr. Smith died, leaving Mrs. Smith to deal with the money mess.
  • Mrs. Smith went to Mr. Elliot, who was supposed to be taking care of her husband’s affairs, but he refused to do anything.
  • Particularly peeving Mrs. Smith is the knowledge that wealth is in reach, if only she had some help: her husband had some property in the West Indies that could be fixed up to give her a good income, but her illness, poverty, and lack of friends in high places prevent her from reaping its riches.
  • After all this, Anne, needless to say, is amazed that her friend had started the conversation by extolling Mr. Elliot’s husbandly charms.
  • Mrs. Smith says that she thought the marriage was a done deal, and had optimistically hoped that Anne would do better than wife #1.
  • Anne feels relieved that she didn’t let Lady Russell persuade her into getting attached to Mr. Elliot, and gets Mrs. Smith’s permission to pass the dirt on Mr. Elliot on to Lady Russell.