Title page of the original 1818 edition
Persuasion is the story of a second chance of lost love. Anne Elliot is the second daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, a proud and foolish baronet. Sir Walter Elliot is a widower with no son, so his land will go to a cousin, William Elliot. Eight years before the story begins, Anne had been engaged to a young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. However, her mother's friend Lady Russell persuaded her to break off the engagement because he had no fortune. Sadly, she had done so, and Wentworth had angrily left her. Austen writes: "She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older–the natural sequel (following) of an unnatural beginning." Later, Cassandra Austen wrote beside it in her copy of Persuasion, "Dear, dear Jane! This deserves to be written in letters of gold." Eight years later, her younger sister Mary has married a neighbor, Charles Musgrove. Anne is growing older, her family does not care about her, and she greatly regrets breaking off the engagement.
Sir Walter is forced to stop spending so much money. Therefore, he decides to let his house to Admiral Croft and move to Bath for a while. Anne goes to stay with Mary. Anne discovers that Mrs. Croft, Admiral Croft's wife, is Captain Wentworth's sister. He is introduced to the Musgrove family. He has made much money, and is now a very desirable husband. When he and Anne meet, Anne feels deeply unhappy. He does not seem to care any more about her. He with the two Musgrove sisters. Most people think that he will marry one of them.
They all go to visit Lyme Regis, where Wentworth's friend Captain Harville is staying. Captain Harville had been mourning for his sister, who died young, and comforting Captain Benwick, who had been engaged to marry her. In Lyme, Louisa Musgrove falls from the Cobb while playing with Captain Wentworth on the steps and is seriously injured. Captain Wentworth feels very guilty, and realizes everyone thinks he will marry her if she becomes well again.
Anne joins her father and sister in Bath. They are both being flattered by a widow, Mrs. Clay, the daughter of their family lawyer. William Elliot joins the family. Lady Russell encourages his attentions to Anne, but Anne feels unsure about him. Suddenly, news comes that Louisa is better, and that she and Benwick are engaged.
Wentworth appears in Bath, and becomes jealous of Mr. Elliot. Wentworth believes that Anne and Mr. Elliot are engaged to be married. However, Anne did not answer Mr. Elliot's marriage proposal. She later learns from an old friend, Mrs. Smith, that Mr. Elliot is a bad person. Mr. Elliot is afraid that Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay will have a son, who would then inherit Sir Walter's land. Mr. Elliot wants to marry Anne because he is attracted to her, but also make Mrs. Clay his mistress. Anne is shocked by this news.
Anne and Captain Harville talk about love, and whether women or men love for a longer time. After hearing them talk about this, Wentworth writes a letter to Anne. He tells Anne that he still loves her, and asks her to marry him again. She joyously says yes.
- "Persuasion (novel by Austen) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". britannica.com. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
- Austen, Jane (1998). Persuasion. 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England: Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-143968-6.
- Tomalin, Claire. Jane Austen: A Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. ISBN 0-679-44628-1.