The Cancelled Chapters of Persuasion

The Cancelled Chapters of Persuasion

brock1  I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.

Captain Frederick Wentworth of Persuasion is not my favorite Austen hero. Though rather more dashing than the others, his behavior towards Anne Elliot is peevish and hurtful. Mr. Darcy, following Elizabeth’s rejection, struggles to impress her. Mr. Knightley, even when he thinks Emma’s heart belongs to another, remains her strongest advocate. Captain Wentworth, on the other hand, distinguishes himself by flirting outrageously where his heart is unengaged, claims Anne to be altered beyond recognition (and says so in the hearing of those who are sure to repeat his hurtful words), abrock3nd when he thinks he has lost Anne forever, he stalks off in a fit of jealousy. For all this I blame him, but then comes that letter …

Captain Wentworth might be unworthy of Anne, but his declaration of love is the most intense and satisfying in all of Austen. I have a hard time maintaining my irritation with him when he expresses himself so passionately, without any reserve, and fully reveals the true extent of his internal struggles. His transgressions are the result of his deep hurt. A better man might have proceeded differently, but there is no doubt of the ferocity of his love. Though I have read this novel countless times, I still feel the intense anticipation and grow week in the knees every time I read chapter twenty: one of the greatest scenes Austen ever wrote! And I ask myself: what if that letter had never been written?

It almost wasn’t. One of the greatest insights we have into Austen’s writing process are the so-called “Cancelled Chapters” of Persuasion. It had been many years since I last read them when, last week on Facebook, one of my fellow Austen Authors posted the following:

Endings

I responded (ignore the typo, please):

Endings2

And thus a blog post was born (thanks for the inspiration Jenni!).

One of the most common criticisms I receive on my books is that they end too quickly. I know a lot of authors hear this. It is wonderful to know that my readers want more, and with each new book I try harder and harder to deliberately slow down, but it is a constant struggle. In editing, it is inevitably the last chapter or two that I change the most. I completely rewrote the ending to my second book, Second Glances, only a month before publishing. I was nervous about the change, but knowing what Austen did to Persuasion gave me courage to proceed.

Austen not only changed the sequence of events leading to her story’s conclusion, she also added an entire additional chapter, considerably slowing down the rush towards happily ever after. In the cancelled chapters, Anne meets Admiral Croft on her return from Mrs. Smith’s house, having just learned of Mr. Elliot’s perfidy. The scene does not paint the Admiral in the best light, as he bullies Anne into intruding upon his wife, abandons her to the awkward company of Captain Wentworth, and, heeding the rumors of her forthcoming engagement to Mr. Elliot, forces the love sick man to ask her if the Crofts should give up their lease on Kellynch Hall, in order to make room for the supposedly engaged couple to move in. To a woman of Anne’s sensibilities and discretion, the moment is horrifyingly awkward. Fortunately, she readily dismisses the rumors in their entirety, and the lovers are able to swiftly find themselves reunited.

brock2So much more satisfying is the final version! Our old friends from Uppercross arrive in Bath, bringing with them their own value and regard for Anne, as well as the impetus for throwing her and Wentworth back into the same society. We have that wonderful moment when Sir Walter and Elizabeth arrive at the Musgrove’s lodgings, making a big display of condescension by including the Captain in their card party invitation. We also have the supreme satisfaction of Charles Musgrove dismissing the Elliots’ mincing superiority. But most importantly we have that amazing moment when Anne and Captain Harville discuss the lasting affections of men and women while Wentworth listens, writes, and responds. The second version of the ending is immensely more sophisticated than the first. As a true fan, I still wish the story was yet longer, but thank goodness Austen made the changes she did. The letter, the stroll down the gravel walk, the shared confessions and reminiscences at the card party – the book would be a shadow of itself without all of it.

In all of Austen’s novels, the last chapter provides a rather rapid conclusion. The very first lines of these chapters often reveal her conscious haste. In Mansfield Park:

                     Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody,    not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.

And in Persuasion:

Who can be in doubt of what followed? 

As readers, we wish she had lingered longer on the happily ever afters. I even wrote a short story collection drawing out these endings, following Austen’s hints about what happened, dwelling on the “guilt and misery” as well as the romance (the Persuasion tale is now available at The Writer’s Block, if you are curious). Yet if Austen had given us everything we want and answered all of our questions, where would the Austenesque genre be? I will continue to strive to slow myself down and take the time to tell the story to completion, but I also feel pretty comfortable leaving my readers to dream up their own conclusions. As readers and writers, what do you think? Do you struggle with endings?

The entire text of Persuasion as well as the cancelled chapters are available at Molland’s Circulating Library, one of my very favorite websites and an excellent tool for the Austenesque author. It is also the source for the fabulous C.E. Brock illustrations featured above.

29 Responses to The Cancelled Chapters of Persuasion

  1. That letter is the reason Persuasion is my favorite Austen book, and Wenworth has always been in a tight race with Darcy for my perfect man. So, in his defense, I’ll have to say that Darcy had much to make up for unlike Wenworth who was the injured party at the beginning, so I think his reaction was quite natural at seeing Anne again, although a little childish I admit. Anyway, I loved learning about the cancelled chapter, I had no idea, great post!

  2. I love that as authors we CAN change our endings. In this modern world we have instant feedback from our readers, begging us for more and encouraging us along to actually feel out and create these endings.

    FOREVER (well, as soon as I read it the first time) I have always felt that Persuasion was my absolute favorite of the Jane Austen novels. However, I love Cinderella–and Persuasion is a Cinderella story. I love that he’s flawed–I love that all Jane’s men are–they say stupid things, but I love that Captain Wentworth redeems himself and finally reveals his true feelings. I don’t think I’d love the book without the letter. You need it.

    *grins* though… perhaps not. There was definitely a preference for her as soon as she hurt herself on that walk and he stopped the carriage and placed her upon it. Then I knew his secret. Even if Anne didn’t. I knew he couldn’t help himself. You must remember the man was completely scorned! for nothing else than the Eliot pride. She didn’t deserve to have such a stalwart wealthy man immediately jump back into her pocket again. No. He was desperately attempting to keep his jaded heart safe. Eeeh. Okay. I’ll stop. I could go on and on about this amazing book. So much depth and yeah… *LeSigh* I think I need to read it again.

    Also! Thank you for the shout out. Lol! For the record that ending I was speaking of did end way too fast and I was promptly schooled into finishing at least another chapter and closing up some key points I missed. 🙂 I don’t think I’ll ever learn.

  3. I have never completed Persuasion. It’s really on my list of things to do this year. But I hear so much about how wonderful he is but as someone who has only read the synopsis, listened to friends’ cries of how amazing and steadfast his love is, and then seen the adaptations I really enjoyed seeing another author point out his issues. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I read it (not saying I necessarily think Anne is so great- or was at 19), but I really thought I was a lone wolf there. That saying, I love all of Austen. I even like Edward Ferrars so I’m sure I’ll manage to like Wentworth, I just don’t think he’ll make it into my inner circle.

    But, about endings. I know exactly what you mean! I do find my openings end up getting edits a lot of times too but the rush to just end and leave things to the imagination is strong in me. And I definitely blame Austen for it. I write *Austenesque* and it’s what *she* did. And then after posting but before publication I seem to realize I need to add more things and slow it down. Here’s hoping in all my future manuscripts I can learn the art of patience enough to write it that way to start with instead of massive edits before publication.

  4. Thanks for such a lovely as well as insightful post, Alexa. I’ve watched two different versions of Persuasion, but have yet to read the book. It’s high on my TBR list.

  5. Thanks so much for the lovely post, Alexa. It’s like having a glance at Jane Austen’s own ‘Writers’ Block’ 🙂
    I’m glad she changed the chapters, it would have been dreadful for her not to have written the most romantic letter in the English language, but I loved how charged the original chapters were as well. Poor Wentworth, goaded by the well-meaning brother-in-law to speak to Anne and ask if she’s getting married or not!

    • I completely agree with your view Joana. I enjoyed the cancelled chapters but I prefer the version that Austen went with. I’m so glad she put that beautiful letter into the final version of the story.

  6. Thank you for this most interesting post, Alexa! I have long felt just as you say about Captain Wentworth as compared to Mr. Darcy, for instance. And was so interested in your comments on the rushed ending and the missing or deleted chapters in JA’s work! I will check out that website. And a further delightful coincidence, is that I am just re-reading your “And Who Can Be In Doubt of What Followed?” and will enjoy it even more now! I have loved your other books as well… especially “The Houseguest” as it gives us an extended interaction between our favorite couple!

    • Hi Carol. The Houseguest is Elizabeth’s story, not mine, but I am delighted to hear you enjoyed it! I know it is a bit confusion have an Elizabeth Adams and an Alexa Adams (and no, we are not related, but as there are at least 4 Elizabeth’s in my family, even I sometimes have a hard time remembering that). I hope you enjoy the reread of And Who Can Be In Doubt! It is one of my favorites.

  7. I think every author struggles most with the ending chapters. At least I do. I have been guilty of prolonging them a little too much, I fear, to satisfy those (like me) who want to see our lovers ‘in’ their happy circumstances after all is settled. I had no idea that Jane Austen struggled with the same things, though in hindsight I have to say ‘why not?’ It is logical that she would. Thanks for the post. It has me thinking. 🙂

  8. Thanks for the lovely incite into a writers mind. I wondered why so many books have rushed endings. I have always placed most of the blame on publishers’s restrictions. Since I am not a writer I didn’t consider the other possibilities.

    • Not having a publisher, my ending are totally dictated by my own conscience. I don’t have any insight into how it works in the traditional publishing industry, by Jane definitely was also writing at her own discretion and making the decisions that felt right to her. Who ever wants a great book to end? I have been known to get to finish the last page and turn right back to the first and start over again, because I can’t bear for the story to end.

  9. I think it’s my love of the HEA and not wanting it to end that got me into JAFF in the first place. Sharon Lathan gave me something that I had longed for and despaired of. The HEA went on for books and I LOVED it. I enjoy the what if’s and the variations but the sequels hold a special place in my heart. Persuasion has never been my favorite. Anne is wishy washy and Frederick is resentful and a touch hateful. But then that letter. I find it interesting that Jane rewrote the ending. I wonder what spurred the change? Someone else’s lovely letter or a letter she wishes she HAD gotten…

  10. Hey Alexa, I agree, his letter is the best. It puts Darcy’s way in the back seat. I’m also ignorant of the cancelled chapters so thanks for listing it here. Can’t wait to check out all your extras. Funny about the readers… as a mod on D&L I see them moaning and groaning over the angst and the process of getting to the HEA in the comment threads. Then like you say, once you start dishing out the HEA, they never want it to end. That being said, I can’t wait to see how finish up with Alison in Being Mrs. Bennet. Smiles. ~Jen Red~

    • Hi Jen. I am so sorry about abandoning Mrs. Bennet. Right when I thought I was going to pound out the rest, my dad was in a horrible car crash, and I once again lost my muse. I intend to find her next week. I feel so bad for leaving everyone hanging!

  11. Thank you for such an informative post, Alexa. I knew Jane changed her manuscripts, but never knew we could find her cancelled chapters. Thank you so much for the link. I agree that Wentworth acted in such a way that I did not like him all that much, but he certainly made up for it with that letter.

  12. What an interesting post. I didn’t realise Austen had changed the ending, thank goodness! I completely agree with your view of Wentworth – he doesn’t cover himself in glory through most of the book (though his behaviour is understandable it’s not admirable), but that letter! It’s just exquisite, and it’s terrible to think it might never have been in the book.

Your thoughts are precious!