A Well-Writen Letter

“Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter.”

Okay, so I hear you JA aficionados saying, “Hey, where did she dig up that line?” And you’re right; it is not strictly a Jane Austen quote. But it certainly could have been. She must have subscribed to this policy (as I do) because she often allowed her characters to explain themselves and express their innermost feelings in letter form. Perhaps it’s a holdover from the epistle prose that had been popular before the advent of the true novel. In one of her lesser-known works, Lady Susan, Austen used this format herself, telling the story entirely through letters exchanged by a handful of interrelated people.

The line above is actually taken from the movie The Jane Austen Book Club and is said in reference to arguably the most compelling letter composed by one of her characters: the culminating note left by Captain Wentworth for Anne Elliot near the end of Persuasion. Although they had fallen in love when they first met, Anne had been forcefully “persuaded” by her family to reject the captain’s proposal. Now, years later, they have a second chance.

“…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…”

Did I hear a collective sigh, ladies? Was there ever a more poignant plea for the ultimate consummation of long-thwarted love? I think not.

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About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
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