Wellington and Wentworth, an Uncanny Resemblance ~ Guest Post with Sophia Meredith + a Giveaway

Wellington and Wentworth, an Uncanny Resemblance ~ Guest Post with Sophia Meredith + a Giveaway

Will You Be Persuaded?

Wellington & Wentworth an Uncanny Resemblance

First off, I’m a bit gleeful to have been offered a guest post on Austen Authors. This group is full of women whose work I have enjoyed for many years and even some I now count as friends in this land of Jane we all inhabit. Now, without further ado, onto our topic for today!

8.-1st-Duke-portrait-by-Phillips-1I recently acquired the two volume “definitive” biography of the Duke of Wellington by Elizabeth Longford. Sadly, they are out of print! But I highly recommend you dig up these books, her work is a marvelous resource for those of us desiring a deeper understanding of the Regency period. I was interested to learn that the duke’s relationship with Catherine Pakenham, whom he married in 1806, has a great deal in common with that of Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot, one of my favorite Austen novels, Persuasion. That novel was written a decade later at a time when the the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley—fresh from his glorious victory at Waterloo—was at the height of his fame and popularity. It seems plausible that it is more than mere coincidence. After all, the famous commander’s relationship was well known in society, much like our tabloid understanding of celebrities today. Let us explore the parallels between Persuasion and a real world love story which seem too obvious to ignore.

Much like Anne Elliot, “with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind,” Kitty Pakenham, the daughter of the 2nd Baron Longford, was considered a lovely, vivacious girl, and quite popular in Dublin society. She was also considered bookish and apparently this was part of her great attraction to Arthur Wellesley.

prsbrockwc19Wellesley is described as a man very much in the mold of Captain Wentworth, and furthermore, his and Pakenham’s early courtship—when Arthur was at loose ends unable to secure a post—bears a striking resemblance to that of Jane’s description of Wentworth’s and Anne’s: He was, at that time, a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy; and Anne an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste, and feeling. Half the sum of attraction, on either side, might have been enough, for he had nothing to do, and she had hardly anybody to love; but the encounter of such lavish recommendations could not fail.”

Both young ladies fell in love with handsome, ambitious, and talented young officers. But the gentleman’s proposals of marriage were rebuffed, not by the girl’s parents—Kitty’s brother had that particular honor, and Anne was influenced against the match by her godmother, Lady Russell. Wellesley, although well-connected, was a younger son of an impoverished, Irish aristocratic family. He himself was quite poor at the time of his courtship and unable to support a wife. Nor, ironically, did his future seem to hold much promise in the Longford family’s estimation. When they decided against him, Wellesley wrote a letter to Kitty assuring her that if anything occurred to alter their decision, My mind will still remain the same.” As Longford reminds her reader’s modern sensibilities, “To an honorable man those seven words would be binding.”

Austen reflects this sentiment in Wentworth’s near miss with Louisa Musgrove when he describes his anguish to Anne: “I was no longer at my own disposal. I was hers in honor if she wished it. I had been unguarded. I had not thought seriously on this subject before.” In 1822, long after Jane Austen’s death, Wellington echoes the same dismal fate bequeathed by his imprudent younger self when, in a letter to his friend, he writes: I married her because they asked me to do it & I did not know myself…I thought I should never care for anybody again…In short, I was a fool.”

Over the next decade, Wellesley’s star was on the rise, as is our fictional hero Wentworth, whom Austen describes thusly: “All his sanguine expectations, all his confidence had been justified. His genius and ardor had seemed to foresee and to command his prosperous path. He had, very soon after their engagement ceased, got employ: and all that he had told her would follow, had taken place. He had distinguished himself…” The character description offered up here bears a strong resemblance to young Wellesley upon departing for India where he, too, makes his mark.

Over the same span of years, each of our young ladies’ health and looks fail her. For each, the cause is considered the failed relationship they had suffered and repined. Austen says of Anne Elliot, “her bloom had vanished early,” and now she is, “faded and thin.” Similarly, The Hon. Mrs. Calvert wrote of Kitty Pakenham, “She is now very thin and withered (I believe pining in his absence helped to make her more so).” Imagine the pain fictional Anne felt to hear Wentworth’s opinion of her after their eight year separation his words that she is, so altered he should not have known you again,” are reported to her by an insensitive friend. (As an aside, does this remarkably rude comment remind you of another favorite Austen hero?) Similarly, Wellington—who was not to see Kitty prior to joining her at the alter twelve years after their parting—whispered in shock to his brother, “She has grown ugly, by Jove!”

Sadly, the future does not hold the same Happily Ever After for Arthur Wellesley that Jane Austen gives her own creations. No, he knew almost immediately that his marriage was a mistake; he did not love his wife and their relationship shows strain almost from its commencement. There were others however, who appropriated Kitty and Arthur’s love story to suit themselves. To authoress Maria Edgeworth, considered the “Irish Jane Austen,” and a close friend of Kitty’s, their real-life romance was “…one of those rare tales of real life in which the romance is far superior to…fiction.” Another one who imbued the tale with her own romantic ideal was Queen Charlotte, who said to the new bride during her presentation, “I’m happy to see you at my court, so bright an example of constancy. If any body in this world deserves to be happy, you do.” Perhaps Jane Austen was another lady whose sanguine pen rewrote what might have been and is rarely so.

I have always thought Persuasion to be the most personal of Austen’s novels. It is the story of a mature, unmarried lady, unattractive, submissive, and without prospects. In her family, Anne Elliot is shuffled around, shown little respect, under-valued, and imposed upon; her life and opportunities circumscribed by her unmarried status. Timid little Anne, a shadow of her former self, lives with an agony of regret and resignation, so much so, that when Wentworth reenters her life she behaves as a chaperone for his romantic involvement with a member of her own extended family.

Persuasion was Austen’s final manuscript, written when her health was failing, and it is said she was not as fastidious in its final revisions as her other novels. Perhaps more of the author’s emotional life leaks through the pages she leaves us. The novel’s themes seem well suited to this period of Jane’s life. With her health in very serious decline, it is easy to imagine her coming to terms with her mortality and perhaps reviewing her decisions and their effect on the course of her life. Foremost among those choices was to remain with her sister in shared spinsterhood rather than to marry. Surely, there were indignities to suffer even in the best of families–hers were warm, supportive, and close-knit–and among the kindest circle of friends. One may regret the road not taken or simply wonder what lay beyond the turning. When one is a writer, there is the possibility of living countless lives through the pen. Perhaps in Persuasion, Jane Austen wrote an alternate ending of her own life as well as the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

mdc1500x2400-1GIVEAWAY: What do you think of Austen’s Persuasion or the relationship between Arthur and Kitty? Leave a comment below to be entered for the giveaway of my forthcoming book, Miss Darcy’s Companion. which will go on pre-order shortly and is planned for release in August 2016. The Giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Tuesday, August 9, 2016.

Visit Sophia’s website at www.sophiameredith.com to sign-up for her newsletter and to read extended excerpts of pre-release novels, buy personalized print editions of her books, and become instantly eligible for future giveaways and other treats.

oom1500x2400-1bom1500x2400-1About Sophia Meredith: The successful debut novel, “On Oakham Mount,” gave the author, and the author’s bemused yet supportive husband the confidence to pursue a full-time career as a writer. She has released the first of her continuations of that novel, “Beyond Oakham Mount,” Sophia plans to release “The Marquess Meets His Match,” the first book in her Regency historical, “Meets His Match,” series in 2016. This will be followed by the second “Beyond Oakham Mount” novella and the first of her modern “Bennet Chronicles” novels set in her hometown, San Francisco.

Purchase Links: 

On Oakham Mount

Beyond Oakham Mount

Learn MORE of: 

Miss Darcy’s Companion



55 Responses to Wellington and Wentworth, an Uncanny Resemblance ~ Guest Post with Sophia Meredith + a Giveaway

  1. Melancholy read about past romances ended due to family and/or fortune. Thank you for sharing about Wellesley and Kitty. Please enter me in the drawing. I did enjoy the first book and intend to get to the second on….you know how the shortage of time causes our pile of TBR books to reach higher and higher.

  2. Thanks for such a fascinating post Sophia. I do like Persuasion but P&P is my favourite. I would love to win a copy of your new book. I was lucky enough to win On Oakham Mount which I thoroughly enjoyed (although when I went to reread it I found it had disappeared from my kindle, no idea how but at least I did get to read it once so thank you).

  3. Very interesting post! The similarities are striking! I love Persuasion. I’m a sucker for second chances.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    • Aren’t they? I’ll bet someone could explore even further the true life relationships between these people (even if Jane Austen wasn’t personally connected to Maria Edgeworth and the Duke (who were quite closely connected), there must have been a lot of “celebrity” gossip – or as they called it the “on dit”

  4. Can’t imagine marrying someone after all that time without getting to know them again. Persuasion is one of my favourite Austen novels. I like that Wentworth and Anne get a second chance to appreciate each other.

    • It’s really a shame that they are not distributed in e-book (you can find it on Open Library, but I’m not fond of the Adobe reading app and you only get it for 2 weeks. It’s a hassle. Reading the paper books reminds me how spoiled I am with my Kindle! I also think it’s really a travesty that these older books, though not yet out of copyright do not get a second chance in the e-book market.

  5. Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel. I just love Anne. She is a lovely heroine and the quiet love she has for Frederick is beautiful. I really love the part where they get together again. Didn’t know a lot about Wellesley and the comparisons are uncanny. Best of luck with the new book.

    • Thanks, I’ll have to let Regina know that I’ve pushed back the date until September 🙁 I wish this summer had gone more as planned, but the final product is too important to meet an aggressive deadline. Hopefully, when I get a few more books under my belt, I can time the process better!

  6. Very, very interesting article. I learned so much from it that I didn’t realize. And congratulations on your upcoming book. Thanks for a chance to win it.

  7. Persuasion is my second favorite Austen. Wonderful post. I loved On Oakham Mount. Congratulations on your upcoming release.

    • Yes, mine too! I suppose I enjoy it more the older I get. The idea of second chances, but also coming to terms with the paths we did not take is something that as a young person I couldn’t relate to.

  8. Persuasion is my Austen favorite. And we all know Jane used the characters of the day as her guide in her writings.

    • Really? I actually wasn’t aware that Jane did that! I’ve studied Jane’s writing style, but not an in depth look at how she chose her themes. I suppose the other stories used less “storied” characters. I’d love to hear more on this topic! Waiting for your guest post now!

  9. Hello Sophia!! First and foremost I welcome you to Austen Authors with sincere appreciation. It is our honor to have you with us as our guest today. Thank you for sharing your time, and considerable knowledge with us. 🙂

    This blog is heart-wrenching! Both sentimental and sweet, and tragically sad. I knew little of Wellington’s personal life. What a shame he did not find great love as did our dear Wentworth. I really enjoyed exploring the connections between the two “characters”, as well as the speculative insights into Austen’s heart as she wrote Persuasion. Always so many new depths to dive into when it comes to Austen!

    Thanks again, and best wishes for super sales and success! Don’t be a stranger. 🙂 Cheers, Sharon

    • Thank you, Sharon! It was a pleasure to write this blog. I was so struck by the story that my fingers were just itching to hit the keyboard. Of course, I don’t know Jane Austen’s emotional life, so I am totally projecting my own ideas. I’m sure others know her life better than I and can tell me if my ideas have merit.

      As for Wellington, it is interesting to me that some people have suggested that his greatness lay in his never settling into a happy domestic life–isn’t that so opposite how we hear of women always helping their husband’s careers? I suppose for all those women, there are those whose husband’s lose ambition when they are happily married.

  10. I really like Persuasion, it is a lovely story. I think Anne’s behaviour and temperament is extremely well portrayed and Frederick loves her deeply but it is normal that he was hurt. TOgether with Pride and prejudixe, it is my favourite book by JA.

    Whenever you come to London, I highly recommend you to go to Apsley House, the house of the Duke of Wellington. It is worth it to visit it even if you have to pay the entrance, it includes a audioguide that I enjoyed immensely!

    Thank you for doing the giveaway!

    • I’ll let you in on a little secret…I have discussed organizing a Jane Austen/JAFF bicycle tour of England with a good friend of mine, so we’ll have to add this to our itinerary! Not sure when I’ll get this thing off the ground, life has a way of changing my schedule without my permission, but it would be fun for a bunch of readers and writers to do a tour like this (and since it will be van supported, a few of those who don’t want to ride can come along, too!

  11. I remember reading the biography of the Duke of Wellington, and it is an excellent book. I had never thought of the connection between the Wellington and Wentworth, but it makes perfect sense after reading the blog. Thank you for this connection.Persuasion, however, does have a much better HEA. Thank you for the giveaway.

  12. Thanks for this fascinating post which interested me greatly. Thanks for this giveaway. Best wishes on the release of your captivating book.

    • Thanks! Good luck winning the giveaway–though I have to let Regina know, the release will be delayed until next month! Quality is too important, and I’d rather people be disappointed that I missed a deadline than in the final product!

  13. wow. Can you imagine having to marry someone you dated 12 years ago without having seen that person since? ewww. Truth is stranger than fiction in this case. Thank you for the information and the giveaway.

    • I know, right! Of course, I’m a little mad that Wellesley immediately focused on her faded looks. However, as the book progresses, she seems to have become rather needy and bland. Perhaps he could have regained his previous feelings if she’d retained that interesting and vivacious spirit.

  14. This was a very educational article. I knew of the Duke of Wellington and his victory at the battle of Waterloo, but that was all. Thanks for the chance to win your new book.

  15. Definitely fascinating! Thanks for sharing. I certainly did not know any of this. At the beginning, when you said that there was so much in common between the two relationships, I expected to continue reading about their joyful reunion. How sad that that didn’t happen. I wonder what Kitty thought of their marriage and relationship?

    • To be honest, I’m still reading (slowly) the book, but I do know the marriage was a real failure. Unfortunately, there have been too many distractions and a book in paper format are not conducive to finishing this two volume set and I’m not sure how much of her perspective it will have.

  16. I love Persuasion and enjoyed reading this brief background from history. I certainly can see the parallels, though
    our Jane gave her characters their happily-ever-after. Good luck with your
    newest book and thank you for the giveaway!

    • Yes, that’s why we like romances, the HEA is much more dependable than real life. It is a bit hard for me to think about Anne and Wentworth in quite the same way, but he knows her and comes to love her again. Wellington had the misfortune to meet his bride again at their wedding!

  17. Wow! I cannot imagine that Wellesley did not see his bride until the wedding. Perhaps the family did that on purpose as they knew she was not what she had been. This seems so cruel. With the whole of society watching them, there was no way out. The sense of honor was a powerful persuasion [no pun intended] during that time. Best wishes on your launch.

    • Well, Kitty was very adamant about him meeting her again and he was the one that put it off, so I don’t think it was from her side. I think your second idea, that he felt honor bound and probably couldn’t imagine the great change in the woman he left behind caused him to forego a meeting. That said, it is pretty low for her bridegroom to call her ugly at her own wedding!

  18. I remember when I first read Persuasion I was a little less than 3/4ths of the way done and ended up staying up till I think 5 am finishing it. I could not put it down and I had school in the morning. It has to be my 2nd favorite Austen book (p&p will always be my favorite). I can’t find it right now but if I remember correctly Jane had originally planned to end Persuasion differently and changed it to the ending we all know that to long before her death. I’m almost positive I read the other version when I checked it out from the library all those years ago but I can’t figure out which one it might be from the online catalog.

    • That sounds so interesting! I’d love to know what that other ending might be. Perhaps it forwards my notion that the history of Wellington is very much an inspiration for Persuasion!

  19. Wow! I didn’t know anything about Wellesley’s wife, though I knew he had mistresses. The parallels between Persuasion and Wellesley’s relationship with Kitty Pakenham before their marriage are obvious. I’m surprised early publications didn’t elicit comments about the similarities– or perhaps they did? Interesting stuff! Thanks, Sophia!

    • Yes! It would be so interesting to know what her contemporaries thought of the book – or even Wellington himself! I haven’t read a lot of scholars about Persuasion. Perhaps I should have looked into what the pros have to say about my theory!

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