Austen, Jane "Persuasion" - 1817
The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club
This was the third book I read with this blog and joined the challenge to read and discuss Jane Austen's novels with a view of the mothers in the stories.
The first two novels we discussed were "Pride & Prejudice" and "Mansfield Park", I had already reviewed both novels earlier.
If you have not read this novel, I refer you to that more general review because this one will contain spoilers.
As in the other novels, we have different kind of mothers again, real mothers who do a good or a less good job and women who take the place of mothers. I want to talk a little about every one of them.
We have a large and very different variety of mothers in "Persuasion", almost any type. This is not only my favourite Jane Austen novel but probably also the best one to discuss mothers.
Mothers: Mrs. Musgrove sen., Mrs. Charles Musgrove, Mrs. Harville, Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple, Mrs. Penelope Clay
Mothers not present: Lady Elizabeth Elliot
Non-Mothers: Lady Russell, Mrs. Sophia Croft
Mothers not mentioned: Mrs. Elliot (mother of William Walter Elliot, Esq)
Mrs. Charles Musgrove sen.
I always think of Mrs. Musgrove as the ultimate mum in "Persuasion". None of the other mothers cares as much for their children as Mrs. Musgrove does. She is down to earth and liked by everyone. She wants what's best for her children, not necessarily what makes them richest, just that they will be happy. The perfect mother.
Mrs. Charles Musgrove jr. née Mary Elliot
Now Mary Musgrove, née Elliot. The "née Elliot" part is a very big part of her name and her character. It is something she never lets for get anyone. She is the mother who will tell you when her kids did their first steps, when they said their first word, made their first craft, not because she really cares for her children but because her children just have to be better than yours. We all know the type, the reason your child has to dance at playgroup all the time just because this mother insists that's best for any child, only because her child likes it best. Why she married a man beneath her rank is a secret only she might know. She doesn't care for her children, rather goes out and meets complete strangers than looking after a sick child and always finds a way to push her children onto other people. Not my most favourite character in the whole book but certainly one of the worst mothers of them all.
We don't hear as much about Mrs. Harville as about the other mothers but we can see that she is perfect. She "makes do" with whatever she has, is kind and hospitable, caring and loving. She takes care of Louisa when she is injured and it is no question that she invites a whole group of people into her small house for dinner, even though she doesn't have enough space. She is the person you would like for a friend.
Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple
Another character who is not very prominent in the book but is made very important by some mainly because of her title. We don't see much about her as a mother, only that she brings her own daughter to Bath where she resides over all the relatives and other visitors who regard her as important enough to fawn over her.
Mrs. Penelope Clay
Mrs. Clay. Best friend of Elizabeth Elliot. She leaves her two children alone for month and goes to Bath with the object of her desire, Sir Walter Elliot and thus becomes the ultimate gold-digger. What more proof is there needed to say she must be the worst mother in the novel, even worse than Mary Musgrove, although I am sure she would do the same if she were in that situation.
Lady Elizabeth Elliot, née Stevenson deceased, mother of Elizabeth, Anne and Mary Elliot, wife of. Sir Walter Elliot
We don't know too much about Lady Elliot, only that she was a "sensible woman with sound judgment and understanding" We hear that there had been moderation and economy in the house when she was alive. And we understand that she is was a lot like Anne who loved her very much. Therefore, we can only conclude that she must have been a mother who tried to do as much for her children as she could.
Lady Russell, a neighbour of the Elliots and a good friend of the late Lady Elliot, is perhaps the greatest mother figure in the lives of the Elliot girls. She tries to steer them into the kind of position they "deserve in society" and gives "advice" as much as she can.
Is she a good mother to the girls? Probably a better one than Sir Walter but certainly not someone who has the best interest of the girls in her mind, just that they have a good position, not necessarily that they are happy.
Mrs. Sophia Croft
I really like Mrs. Croft, sister to Captain Frederick Wentworth, wife to Admiral Croft who rents Sir Walter's estate. She doesn't take any nonsense, neither from a man or a woman and has her own mind. She is a good influence to anyone she meets. It's a pity she doesn't have children, she would have been an excellent mother but I can see she will be a great adviser for Anne, as well.
Mrs. Elliot (mother of William Walter Elliot, Esq.)
We don't really learn anything about the young Mr. Elliot, so we can only speculate. I can see a similar father as Sir Walter, someone who is very impressed by rank and a mother who has nothing to say in the house. She might have loved Mr. Elliot or she might not but she certainly didn't manage to raise him into a good young man.
I think the main reason why I like "Persuasion" best is that the heroine is already a little older than those in the other Austen novels, they are more settled and, as in Anne's case, are more grown up women than the other heroines (even Elizabeth Bennett). I really like Anne. But there are also some other characters I quite liked, Mrs. Musgrove, Mrs. Harville and Mrs. Croft, for example.
In any case, if you haven't read "Persuasion", you definitely should. It's worth it.
Other Jane Austen novels I have read with regard to Motherhood:
"Emma" - 1816
"Mansfield Park" - 1814
"Northanger Abbey" - 1818
"Persuasion" - 1817
"Pride & Prejudice" - 1813
"Sense & Sensibility" - 1811
Find a link to all my Jane Austen reviews here.