Saturday, July 30, 2011

Characters Who Are Caricatures: Sir Walter Elliot

Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.
                                                                     Persuasion chapter 1
Sir Walter is a good example of what a baronet and father - and any man - should not be.  He is very extravagant; when he finds he has to economise, he moves away because he cannot bear to have less  servants, etc. in his house.  When he puts his old home up to rent, he will only give it to someone 'as a great favour' and talks of not allowing the renters into his gardens.  

His favourite child is his eldest daughter Elizabeth, because she is most like him.  He cares very little for Anne and Mary, but Mary had gained 'a little artificial importance' in his eyes by getting married.  When Anne returns to Sir Walter and Elizabeth, he is not glad to see her again, the only 'advantage' is that there will be 'a fourth' at dinner.   
Jane Austen described Sir Walter and Elizabeth as having 'heartless elegance.'  When Anne was nineteen, he was one of the ones who kept her from marrying Captain Wentworth.  That meant many years unhappiness for both of them, but an advantage to us, because if Anne and Frederick had married right away, there would have been no Persuasion



Rachel and Sarah said...

I'm loving all these posts, Georgiana! :) So thoughtful and true. Keep up the fantastic work!

Miss Laurie said...

Sir Walter is indeed a caricature, a caricature of what extremes a man who feels "privledged" and is ruled by his vanity can go. It is very surprising that he had not hitherto sunk even lower in debt than he had done at the beginning of 'Persuasion'. Yet I do really like the character of Sir Walter, he did not forbid Anne to marry Captain Wentworth, nor is he particularly unloving to her and Mary. I think he is one of those men who isn't capable of loving very much, and he's probably continuing on what he was taught as a child. He was told that he was priveledged and taught to live and act in that privledged way. And he hasn't much natural good-sense (it's only thanks to her mother that Anne has a good deal of good-sense, but even Lady Elliot sounds more like Elizabeth than like Anne). This is a very interesting subject. I enjoy the humor of Sir Walter's character, especially the scene with Admiral Croft and Sir Walter's quantity of mirrors!

~Miss Laurie
Old-Fashioned Charm

P.S. It's rather strange by the word verification I have to type in is "Corin" and actor Corin Redgrave is my favorite Sir Walter from Persuasion 1995! :)