Where early young women take walks by West Cliff Drive before breakfast (with their dogs). Where there are many many coffee shops to shelter from the rain, see, and be seen in. Where Admiral Croft’s arm really would be helpful in fending off undesirable acquaintances-to-be. And where sensible young women are indeed fine for their own pleasure alone.
Today’s post over at Jane Austen’s World reminds me that, even before Anne and Wentworth come around, Persuasion already has a ridiculously happy couple, and that I love them dearly. And not even in a moony, melancholy, hopeful way! With Admiral Croft and his cheerfully hardcore wife Sophy, it’s all fun and games (and a good dose of common sense)—and a literary mirror for our star semi-naval couple.
I love the Crofts—good-hearted and capable folks with a zest for life and a healthy sense of humor. More than anybody else in Persuasion, Anne’s future in-laws are people I’d like to meet at a party, run into at the Farmer’s Market, and/or join on vacation (ostensibly sponsored by Lonely Planet…or, um, the U.S. Navy). Luckily—inspiringly!—I see modern-day Crofts all around—middle-aged (-plus) couples embracing life together as an adventure, either figuratively or literally. Need some Crofts in your life? Try REI. Or your local wilderness experience—not among the young and the stylishly decked out, but among the people who know what they’re doing. Look for people with ruddy cheeks and vintage gear, and you’ll know you’ve hit Croft jackpot.
To be fair, though—Jane would want us to be fair—the Crofts aren’t just there to offer a bracing breath of fresh air. They serve a very specific purpose in the novel: they’re the alterna-Wentworths. They’re what Anne and the Captain might have been if Anne hadn’t turned him down the first time, if instead of pining and fading away, she’d followed him off across the seas and become (basically) a pirate’s wife. They’ve lived their adventure; their relationship is full of the intimacy and humor that come with being together through thick and thin, and not just in the milieu of the Regency middle class. It’s strange to think of calm, forbearing Anne flying by the seat of her pants, but her younger self might just have ended up living True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle-style (minus the murder, obv.) if she’d taken Wentworth up on his offer—and how different things would have been! Imagine: Anne Wentworth, adventurer and pirate-novel heroine!
On the other hand, if the Wentworths had lived out their Croft-life the first time, we wouldn’t have our melancholy masterpiece. And who wants that?