The baronet of Kellynch and the father of Elizabeth, Mary, and Anne. Having lost his wife Lady Elizabeth thirteen years ago, Sir Walter remains a widower to this day. This fact plays a passive but important role in the novel, as Mrs. Clay ingratiates herself with the Elliots in hopes of winning Sir Walter over. The narrator states from the beginning that "vanity was the beginning and end of Sir Walter Elliot's character" (4). This vanity is both of his person (the Crofts are surprised by the number of mirrors in his room) as well as of his rank (he generally does not deign to treat those below him in rank very well). Sir Walter's vanity even influences the way he treats his own daughters. He favors Elizabeth heavily because she has inherited both her mother's good looks and her father's sense of pride. He sees a great deal of himself in her and presents her proudly as an Elliot, whereas the same cannot be said of Anne and Mary.
Lady Elizabeth Elliot
At the time of the novel's opening, Lady Elliot has been dead for thirteen years. It appears that she had been a “excellent woman” and wife, both more sensible and more amiable than her husband (4).
The eldest daughter of Sir Walter and Lady Elliot, born on June 1, 1785. Elizabeth resembles her parents closely in both looks and temperament: she is considered very beautiful and considers herself a proud Elliot. Following her mother's death thirteen years ago, she has supported Sir Walter as mistress of Kellynch Hall. As with Sir Walter, rank, consequence, propriety, and honor dominate her worldview. Although the Elliots are a respectable family, Elizabeth demonstrates her strong desire for upward mobility when the Dalrymples come to Bath. Even though the Dalrymples are at best tolerable poeple, Elizabeth appears to derive immense satisfaction from associating with them.
The second daughter of Sir Walter and Lady Elizabeth, born on August 9, 1787. As heroine of the novel, Anne's perspective is closely associated with that of the narrator's. The critic Stuart M. Tave observes that "nobody hears Anne, nobody sees her, but it is she who is ever at the center. It is through her ears, eyes, and mind that we know most of what we know and that we care for what is happening" (Tave 11). Anne's perspective is sensible, fair and enlightened. Although she is proud to be an Elliot, she places far more value on character than in rank or wealth. At home with Sir Walter and Elizabeth, therefore, her "word had no weight" (5). At Uppercross, on the other hand, everyone treats her with confidence—indeed, too much confidence. As the novel progresses, Anne demonstrates a strength of character that rivals that of, say, the courageous Captain Wentworth. In her own, gentle way, Anne is always willing to exert herself in order to help others. She draws Captain Benwick out of his melancholia and keeps Mrs. Smith company in difficult times. At crucial moments, she is always present. Although Anne sometimes intuits matters mistakenly, she is close to perfect — indeed, so much so that Jane Austen felt she was “almost too good" (Spacks x).
The youngest daughter of Sir Walter and Lady Elliot, born on November 20, 1791. Although Mary has inherited her share of the Elliot pride, she has neither Elizabeth's good looks nor Anne's fine sensibilities. In her father's mind, however, she has "acquired a little artificial importance by becoming Mrs. Charles Musgrove" (5). She lives with her husband and children at the Cottage in Uppercross — not far from the Great House, where the older Musgroves live with their children. Mary has occasional hypochondriac tendencies, perhaps due to a want of attention and a somewhat temperamental nature. She can be very agreeable when in a good mood, but the converse is also true. She thus argues frequently with Charles Musgrove and Mrs. Musgrove. Fortunately, the Musgrove family accepts her temperament with good humor.
William Walter Elliot
A cousin of Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary's. Mr. Elliot is also the heir presumptive to the Elliot estate and title. Although he was expected to marry Elizabeth, he chose instead to marry a woman with considerable wealth. For this reason, he is estranged from Sir Walter and the rest of the Elliot family for many years. While the Elliots are at Bath, Mr. Elliot pays them many visits and makes up for the past. His perfectly agreeable manners and excellent sensibilities impress everyone, including Anne and Lady Russell. Ultimately, however, he is revealed to be a “a man without heart or conscience; a designing, wary, cold-blooded being, who. . . for his own interest or ease, would be guilty of any cruelty, or any treachery, that could be perpetrated without risk of his general character” (132). At the end of the novel, he is heard to have taken Mrs. Clay "under his protection" in London (133). Much like Mrs. Clay, Mr. Elliot serves as an example of how fine manners often conceal the arrière pensée — ulterior motive — of upward mobility that so plagues the upper class.
A widow of "steady age and character, and extremely well provided for" who lives in Kellynch (4). She is one of the Elliots' most highly valued family friends and has fulfilled her role as godmother after Lady Elliot's death. Although she loves all of the Elliot girls, she is particularly fond of Anne and continues to serve as adviser and friend on a daily basis. Lady Russell's influence on Anne is a positive one, since she possesses a discerning mind and fine, understanding character. Occasionally, however, she places too much emphasis on such values as rank, family, and propriety. She plays an critical role in the plots of the novel, as it is she who advised Anne against marrying Captain Wentworth seven years ago.
A friend of the Elliot family, Mr. Shepherd is a "civil, cautious lawyer" who prefers to say only agreeable things (8). He helps the Elliots decide to leave Kellynch temporarily and is instrumental in finding an appropriate tenant (the Crofts).
A daughter of Mr. Shepherd's who has returned home after an unsuccessful marriage, bringing with her two children. She exceeds at the art of pleasing at Kellynch Hall and is thought well of by both Sir Walter and Elizabeth. Although no one describes her as beautiful — she has a projecting tooth and freckles — both Lady Russell and Anne fear that she will ingratiate herself with the Elliots to the extent that an intimacy develops with Sir Walter. Ultimately, Mrs. Clay reveals her true identity as a fortune-seeker by establishing herself "under [the] protection" of Mr. Elliot in London (166-67).
The father of Charles, Henrietta, and Louisa Musgrove, he and his wife are described as a "very good sort of people, friendly and hospitable, not much educated, and not at all elegant"(28).
The mother of Charles, Henrietta, and Louisa Musgrove, she and her husband are described as a "very good sort of people, friendly and hospitable, not much educated, and not at all elegant" (28).
Very much like his parents, he is an agreeable young man whose strength is more simplicity than elegance. He enjoys hunting and would rather spend an evening at the theater than at a party. Although he argues frequently with his wife Mary, he is still portrayed as an essentially good husband.
A young lady of nineteen, just returned from school at Exeter, she is like "thousands of other young ladies, living to be fashionable, happy, and merry" (28). Like Louisa, she has every advantage of looks and character but does not possess a highly cultivated mind. At times, she can be flippant and unsure of herself.
A year older than Henrietta, she resembles her sister in that she has just returned from school at Exeter and is like "thousands of other young ladies, living to be fashionable, happy, and merry" (28). Although it is thought initially that she will marry Captain Wentworth, fortune brings her together with Captain Benwick. This match subdues her character considerably and instills in her a newfound appreciation of poetry.
A Musgrove son who died young. According to the narrator, “the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him before he reach[ed] his twentieth year” (34). His sole importance in the narrative lies in the fact that he once served under Captain Frederick Wentworth.
The rear admiral of the white in the British navy. He is an accomplished and honorable man whom Sir Walter deems "the best-looking sailor he ha[s] ever met" and worthy of renting Kellynch Hall (22). Admiral Croft possesses a warm, unaffected, and hearty character.
The wife of Admiral Croft and sister of Edward and Frederick Wentworth. Mrs. Croft is portrayed as an extremely kind and agreeable woman.
The brother of Mrs. Croft and Captain Frederick Wentworth who formerly served as curate of Monkford, near Kellynch.
A captain and brother of Mrs. Croft's. Seven years ago, the captain was engaged to Anne. When Lady Russell persuaded Anne to break off her engagement with him because he had neither title nor fortune, the captain left for sea. After seven years, Captain Wentworth has made his fortune and returned to Kellynch a rich man. He is also good-looking, smart, sensible, and cultivated, making him the most eligible bachelor at Uppercross. The critic Stuart M. Tave also points out justly that “[Captain Wentworth] is a perceptive man, but at his first appearance in the novel he has the closed, foolish mind that only a clever man can have” (Tave 13). He has, in fact, his share of faults: he acts without enough consideration with regards to Louisa and Henrietta, and his pride prevents him from approaching Anne earlier. But such faults do not detract from his character. On the contrary, they make him more human and his ultimate reunion with Anne more satisfying.
A somewhat awkward but agreeable cousin of the Musgroves who resides at Winthrop. He is a clergyman who often visits Uppercross in hopes of winning Henrietta over. Although Mary deems his small income unworthy of Henrietta, Charles Musgrove finds him promising and states that he has liked Charles Hayter "all [his] life" (145).
The sisters of Charles Hayter who visit Uppercross on occasion for dancing and entertainment.
A good friend of Captain Wentworth and Captain Benwick. Since Captain Harville has a slightly lame leg that prevents him from exercising much, he applies his incisive mind to carpentry and other domestic activities. Although less polished than Captain Wentworth in manners, he is a perfect gentleman — open, warm, unaffected, and virtuous.
Very similar in character to her husband Captain Harville, Mrs. Harville makes up for her lack of refinement with her good will. When Louisa takes a fall at the Cobb, Mrs. Harville proves herself to be an excellent nurse and plays an instrumental role in Louisa's recovery.
Captain Harville's sister. She was engaged to Captain Benwick but died before his return from sea. Captain Wentworth describes her as a "very superior creature" (121).
Dowager Viscountes Dalrymple arrives in Bath with much pomp and circumstance. Despite her title, however, "there was no superiority of manner, accomplishment, or understanding" in her or her daughter Miss Carteret. As the narrator notes: "Lady Dalrymple had acquired the name of 'a charming woman,' because she had a smile and a civil answer for every body" (99).
Honorable Miss Cartaret, daughter of Lady Dalrymple. She is described as "so plain and awkward, that she would never have been tolerated in Camden-place but for her birth" (99).
The late Charles Smith was a man who spent his money too freely. He was an intimate friend of Mr. Elliot's and often gave him money.
A former classmate of Anne's, though three years her elder. During her school days, Mrs. Smith helped Anne through her homesickness and loneliness. After school, Mrs. Smith married and lived the life of a young woman of society. Her husband's extravagant spending, however, has left her with no money upon his death. Despite her unenviable situation, she remains largely cheerful, agreeable, and sensible. A woman with a penchant for gossip, she renews her friendship with Anne through the latter's frequent visits to her in Bath.
The sister of Mrs. Smith's landlady at Bath, she is friend of Mrs. Smith's. Mrs. Smith describes her as "shrewd, intelligent, sensible woman" who has a gift for observing human nature that is "infinitely superior to thousands of those who have only received 'the best education in the world'" (102-103).
Persuasion Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Persuasion is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
From their first meeting (or re-meeting) forth, Anne and Captain Wentworth are constantly found within the same circle. Despite their past, they say little to each other beyond what “the commonest civility required” (42). Since the party at...
"Mary is good-natured enough in many respects," said she; "but she does sometimes provoke me excessively, by her nonsense and pride--the Elliot pride. She has a great deal too much of the Elliot pride.