Persuasion

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Captain Frederick Wentworth Character Analysis

The love interest of Anne Elliot, Captain Wentworth is a passionate, confident, and good-hearted naval officer who makes his own fortune and rank through the Navy. Though he is initially indignant and angry with what he perceives to be Anne’s “weak will” and “ill-usage” of him in breaking off their engagement, he comes to appreciate her careful consideration of duty and recognize the error of his stubborn pride in separating them. His view of what the most important virtues in a woman are change throughout the novel, as he first prizes firmness of character above all else and later realizes the virtue of flexibility and conscientiousness.

Captain Frederick Wentworth Quotes in Persuasion

The Persuasion quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Frederick Wentworth or refer to Captain Frederick Wentworth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Status and Social Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Persuasion published in 1997.
Chapter 4 Quotes

More than seven years were gone since this little history of sorrowful interest had reached its close, and time had softened down much, perhaps nearly all of peculiar attachment to him,--but she had been too dependent on time alone; no aid had been given in change of place . . . or in any novelty or enlargement of society.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Austen summarizes the significance of Anne's failed engagement to Captain Wentworth: over the seven years that have passed since Lady Russell broke off all possibility of their getting married, Anne has grown rather despondent. When she met Wentworth, she was a young, energetic woman--now, because she's been stuck in the same place surrounded by the same people, she feels dull and tired. She's mostly gotten over Wentworth, but nobody else has come along to propose to her, and so she's beginning to despair that she'll never find a husband.

The passage is a sad reminder of the limited options available to women during Austen's lifetime. Anne is clearly a bright and intelligent woman, but her current purpose in life is to get married to a talented, wealthy man, perpetuating her family's genealogy and assuring that she'll be provided for as she grows older. As a result, Anne is imprisoned in the same place, forced to watch as her sister gets married and her own beauty fades. As ever with Austen, it's not clear what, exactly, Austen would do to help Anne if she could, but there's still an undeniable sadness that hangs over this passage, suggesting that Austen sees the injustice of Anne's situation, and of all English women's situations.

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Chapter 7 Quotes

O; the years which had destroyed [Anne’s] youth and bloom had only given [Captain Wentworth] a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessoning his personal advantages. . . . It was now his object to marry. He was rich, and being turned on shore, fully intended to settle as soon as he could be properly tempted; actually looing round, ready to fall in love with all the speed which a clear head and quick taste could allow.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

When Captan Wentworth and Anne reunite, the difference between their lives over the past few years couldn't be clearer. Anne has felt herself to grow less beautiful and vivacious, while Captain Wentworth has only become handsomer and more energetic. The gender double standard here is clear: Anne is a woman, and therefore has to remain with her family, growing old and lonely (and, presumably, less attractive), while Wentworth is a man, meaning that he gets to pursue a career and travel around the world.

There's also an amusing feature of this passage--the fact that Austen makes it clear that Wentworth wants to fall in love as soon as he can manage to. It's odd to imagine someone planning to fall in love, but the fact that Wentworth plans to do so reinforces the businesslike, regular nature of romance and courtship in Austen's society. Wentworth is of age, newly wealthy, and he has some downtime: therefore he must marry someone.

Captain Wentworth had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill; deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Austen plays with the differences between free indirect discourse and third person narration to create a genuine ambiguity around Captain Wentworth's personality. Wentworth, we're told, has returned to Anne's life behaving coldly and distantly: he seems not to forgive her for breaking off the engagement. In Wentworth's mind, it would seem, Anne has proven herself unworthy of him because of how easily she relented to Lady Russell's persuasion--she chose to please others rather than follow her heart.

Some ambiguity then arises over whether the passage is Anne's impression of what Wentworth must be thinking, or whether it's Austen's description of what the Captain is thinking. it's genuinely difficult to tell: Austen uses both free indirect discourse and regular third-person narration, and therefore it's unclear whether or not we should "trust" the passage. The ambiguity in Wentworth's character in crucial to the plot of the novel: in essence, we'll spend the next 200 pages deciding whether or not to trust this quotation--is the Captain really angry with and disappointed in Anne, or is he still in love with her, or both?

Chapter 8 Quotes

Once so much to each other! Now nothing! . . . With the exception of Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who seemed particularly attached and happy, (Anne could allow no other exception even among the married couples) there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Austen allows the distance that's grown between Anne and the Captain to truly sink in. As always, it's hard to tell if what we're reading is the "truth," or if it's only Anne's personal impression of the truth. Anne seems to believe that when she and Wentworth were younger, they were as close as two human beings could be: they shared all the same dreams and secrets. Now that the engagement has long been broken off and the Captain is angry with Anne, they're cold and distant with one another.

The passage is a deft example of the phenomenon Austen described in a previous quote: Anne has learned the "hard rules" of marriage early on, and it's only now that she's learning about love. One wonders if Anne loved Wentworth as much when she was 19 as she does now--her loneliness and isolation have made her desire the Captain all the more strongly, and she wishes that he could forgive her for ending the engagement so unexpectedly.

Chapter 10 Quotes

It is the worst evil of too yielding and indecisive a character, that no influence over it can be depended on. . . . Let those who would be happy be firm.—Here is a nut. To exemplify,—a beautiful glossy nut, which blessed with original strength, has outlived all the storms of autumn. Not a puncture, not a weak spot any where.

Related Characters: Captain Frederick Wentworth (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anne overhears Captain Wentworth talking to Louisa about the importance of resolution and firmness of opinion. Wentworth, a Navy man through and through, believes that Henrietta should commit to her potential suitor, Charles Hayter, more decisively. He compares a good, firm human being to a strong nut: like the nut, a firm person can't be "cracked" or whittled down, and therefore survives over the years.

Wentworth's analogy tells us a lot about his character and his relationship to Anne. Wentworth can't understand how somebody could promise to get engaged to a man and then break off the engagement suddenly; thus, he can't forgive Anne for ending their engagement because of the "persuasion" of another. While Wentworth frames his decision in terms of decisiveness and firmness, his male bias is also clear. Wentworth has a lot more freedom than his female contemporaries, and therefore it's easier for him to commit to one thing; he has nobody else to please, no second opinions to consult, and far fewer economic and social boundaries to consider. Anne, on the other hand, simply can't be firm with anyone: too many other people control her destiny. It's Wentworth's failure to understand the realities of women's lives that makes him unable to forgive Anne.

Yes—he had done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it, that she owed it to his perception of her fatigue, and his resolution to giver her rest. . . . It was a remainder of former sentiment; it was an impulse pure, though unacknowledged friendship; it was proof of his own warm and amiable heart, which she could not contemplate without emotions so compounded with pleasure and pain, that she knew not which prevailed.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Captain Wentworth is passing by Anne in a carriage, and he generously offers to give Anne a lift, recognizing that Anne looks tired from walking. Anne is flattered by Wentworth's offer: she interprets it to mean that Wentworth still has some feelings for her, even if he hides them beneath a facade of coldness and sternness. Austen doesn't tell us if Anne is right or wrong (on the surface of things, it seems that Wentworth just does the right thing; just because he offers Anne a ride doesn't mean that he's still in love with her). Wentworth's behavior in this passage is ambiguous, then, suggesting that he may or may not still love Anne; as the novel goes on, Austen throws out more and more overt hints of about his real feelings, creating a suspenseful mood.

Chapter 12 Quotes

It was evident that the gentleman admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance,—a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, “That man is struck with you,—and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again.”

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth, Mr. William Elliot
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anne lays eyes on the handsome William Elliot, her potential suitor. Yet because Captain Wentworth is also in the vicinity, he seems to give Anne a look that shows that he's still attracted to her.

The passage is curious because it suggests, very subtly, that Captain Wentworth's feelings for Anne are reignited because she now has another suitor; it's as if he's only interested in Anne when he can't have her. The famous French philosopher Rene Girard has a saying for such a dynamic: "there is always a third person in the room"--in other words, people are more attracted to one another whenever there's a competition for love. Wentworth seems to desire Anne in part because William Elliot also desires her. In such a way, Austen sets in motion the events of the second half of the book: Wentworth and Elliot compete for Anne's affections, forcing Anne to make a difficult choice.

Anne wondered whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character; and whether it might not strike him, that, like all other qualities of the mind, it should have its proportions and limits. She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel, that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness, as a very resolute character.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Louisa Musgrove tries to jump from the high stairs into Captain Wentworth's arms; Wentworth naturally drops her, and Louisa injures her head. The incident seems to be a metaphor for the dangers of "hardness," the virtue that Captain Wentworth has previously extolled. It is Louisa's determined nature that impels her to jumps to Wentworth's arms, and it is the literal hardness of the floor that injures her.

As Anne sees it, the incident should prove to Wentworth that being determined and hard are often overrated virtues. Sometimes, it's better to be cautious and indecisive: indecisiveness can be a powerful survival mechanism. By the same logic, Anne seems to be hoping that Captain Wentworth will see why she broke off the engagement; why, sometimes, it's important for a woman to be cautious and indecisive because of her own best interests--in this society, women don't have as much freedom to be firm and decisive as men do.

Chapter 23 Quotes

There [Anne and Captain Wentowrth] returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Wentworth affirms his love for Anne; he admits that he's loved her all along, even after she broke off their engagement. Wentworth and Anne, having acknowledged that they love each other, find themselves transported to the past; they rediscover their former feelings for each other. Moreover, Austen suggests that Anne and Wentworth are actually more in love now than they were years before.

Austen's purpose in the rest of Chapter 23, as we'll see, is largely to show that Anne and Wentworth were right to wait before getting married: breaking off the engagement the first time around wasn't a mistake, just as it isn't a mistake for them to get married now. It's as if Anne and Wentworth's feelings for one another have matured over the years, resulting in a love that's stronger for having already withstood the test of time. Unlike most marriages in Austen's lifetime, Anne and Wentworth's marriage is already rooted in genuine, powerful love: the fact that Anne and Wentworth have continued to love each other over so many years virtually proves that they'll continue to love each other for the rest of their lives.

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Captain Frederick Wentworth Character Timeline in Persuasion

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Frederick Wentworth appears in Persuasion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
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Captain Frederick Wentworth , Mr. Wentworth’s brother, is the subject of Anne’s anticipation; he lived in Monkford in... (full context)
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Anne and Captain Wentworth planned to marry, but Sir Walter and Lady Russell considered the alliance very degrading and... (full context)
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...does not blame Lady Russell for her advice, she regrets her decision; time has justified Captain Wentworth ’s hopes for the future, as he has by now attained a handsome future and... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...Croft has an amiable and easy manner. To her excitement and anxiety, Anne learns that Captain Wentworth will soon be visiting. (full context)
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Mrs. Musgrove is unsettled by the mention of Captain Wentworth . Her son Dick, a troublesome and stupid youth, was sent to work in the... (full context)
Chapter 7
Captain Wentworth arrives to stay with his sister, Mrs. Croft, at Kellynch Hall. Mr. Musgrove returns from... (full context)
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Anne feels very anxious about seeing Captain Wentworth again after so many years. However, the day he visits their reunion is delayed; as... (full context)
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...have to stay at home to care for the boy and miss out on meeting Captain Wentworth . Anne offers to stay at home with the boy herself, and Mary delightedly departs. (full context)
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Anne wonders about Captain Wentworth ’s feelings are for her after all these years, believing him to be either unwilling... (full context)
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Captain Wentworth calls on Mary the following morning, before leaving to hunt with Charles. He briefly acknowledges... (full context)
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Captain Wentworth , for his part, has not forgiven Anne; he was deeply attached to her, and... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Captain Wentworth and Anne see each other frequently at dinners and other meetings, as they are now... (full context)
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Henrietta and Louisa eagerly question Captain Wentworth about the Navy. Mrs. Musgrove grieves at this reminder of her son, and Captain Wentworth... (full context)
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...the piano, her eyes occasionally tearing with emotion. Everyone is having a delightful time, and Captain Wentworth is in the highest of spirits. He is the center of attention, and all the... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Captain Wentworth pays regular visits to the Musgroves at Uppercross. It is clear he is a favorite... (full context)
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...Henrietta so long as it makes her happy. Mary, however, wants to see Henrietta and Captain Wentworth paired off, as she considers the Hayters a degrading alliance. (full context)
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One morning, Captain Wentworth inadvertently finds himself alone with Anne and the little invalid child while looking for Henrietta... (full context)
Chapter 10
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After further observation, Anne believes that Captain Wentworth is in love with neither Henrietta nor Louisa. They are more infatuated with him; though... (full context)
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...as well with the intention of tempering the situation. They run into Charles Musgrove and Captain Wentworth and set out together. Captain Wentworth and Louisa flirt gaily; at one point, she exclaims... (full context)
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...Henrietta will visit the Hayters. The others wait and wander in the woods. Louisa and Captain Wentworth separate from the group. Mary cannot be satisfied with sitting still, as she is convinced... (full context)
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Anne overhears Louisa telling Captain Wentworth that she encouraged Henrietta to visit Charles Hayter, though Henrietta would have turned back after... (full context)
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As they walk away, Louisa tells Captain Wentworth that she wishes her brother had married Anne instead of the snobbish Mary. He inquires... (full context)
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On their way back, they run into Admiral and Mrs. Croft in their carriage. Captain Wentworth arranges for them to give Anne a lift, displaying a touching and gallant sensitivity to... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Just as Anne anticipates visiting Lady Russell, Captain Wentworth returns from a visit with friends at Lyme with warm reports of the seaside town.... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...amiably discuss the local affairs and the health benefits of the seaside. They run into Captain Wentworth and Louisa, who are also taking a stroll. As they head back for breakfast, they... (full context)
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At the inn, Anne discovers that the admiring gentleman is also staying at their inn. Captain Wentworth inquires as to his identity, and it turns out that he is none other than... (full context)
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...rejuvenating his widower friend. Louisa is determined to leap from a set of stairs into Captain Wentworth ’s arms. Despite his concern about the hardness of the pavement, she insists on doing... (full context)
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...that Louisa will stay with the Harvilles to recover under the care of Anne, and Captain Wentworth , Henrietta, and Mary will report the accident to the Musgroves. However, Mary objects that... (full context)
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Captain Wentworth is deeply grieved and blames himself for giving way to Louisa’s foolish determination. Anne wonders... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...the events that have recently absorbed the Musgroves. Anne informs her about the attachment between Captain Wentworth and Louisa. (full context)
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...regard for the Crofts. They discuss the accident at Lyme, and the Crofts report that Captain Wentworth has praised her helpfulness in all of it. Admiral Croft kindly invites Anne to make... (full context)
Chapter 14
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The Musgroves return to Uppercross, restoring the house to its familial cheer. Henrietta and Captain Wentworth remain at Lyme to nurse Louisa, who is rapidly improving and is expected home soon.... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...recovered from mourning. Anne is pleased for them and feels joy at the prospect of Captain Wentworth “unshackled and free.” (full context)
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...friendly conversation. They discuss the engagement between Louisa and Benwick; Anne delicately inquires as to Captain Wentworth ’s feelings on the matter, and Admiral Croft relates that Captain Wentworth appears perfectly satisfied... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...Lady Dalrymple while Anne walks back with Mr. Elliot. As they wait in a store, Captain Wentworth arrives with another group; for the first time, he seems more flustered than Anne in... (full context)
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For her own part, Anne cannot understand Captain Wentworth ’s feelings—whether he suffers over Louisa. The next day, Lady Russell pretends not to see... (full context)
Chapter 20
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At the concert, Captain Wentworth greets Anne and the two speak. To Anne’s gratification, Sir Walter and Elizabeth acknowledge their... (full context)
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Anne experiences some dismay at these hints, but she is mainly preoccupied with Captain Wentworth and the desire to see him again. However, he remains distant for the rest of... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...reflecting along the way on Mr. Elliot’s attentions with gratitude and regret. She feels that Captain Wentworth will have her love forever. She happily recounts the previous evening to an attentive Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...Mr. Elliot. Anne remarks that she would much prefer the play over the party, which Captain Wentworth overhears. Sir Walter and Elizabeth arrive to extend their invitation to the Musgroves and Captain... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...confined with their feelings, whereas men have their profession, pursuits, and business to distract them. Captain Wentworth , writing a letter nearby, drops his quill and startles them; Anne wonders whether he... (full context)
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Captain Harville and Captain Wentworth depart to mail his letter. However, Captain Wentworth returns a moment later to hastily slip... (full context)
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...others fret that she is unwell, and Charles insists on walking her home. They encounter Captain Wentworth on the road, and he replaces Charles at Anne’s side. The two of them take... (full context)
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Despite his determination to forget Anne, Captain Wentworth has loved her all along. Though he flirted with Louisa out of angry pride, the... (full context)
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Captain Wentworth recounts the ecstasy and agony of seeing Anne at Bath, where he went immediately in... (full context)
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...of events. That evening at the party, she glows with joy and benevolence. She tells Captain Wentworth that, after reflection, she has no regrets in submitting to Lady Russell’s advice—even though the... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...determination of young couples to marry against all odds with the advantages of Anne and Captain Wentworth , who possess maturity of mind, consciousness of right, and independence of fortune. Now that... (full context)
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...regrets that she has few connections of real merit in friends and family to offer Captain Wentworth in marriage, he warmly attaches himself to her friends Lady Russell and Mrs. Smith. He... (full context)
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Anne and Captain Wentworth enjoy a happy marriage; her tenderness is met in his affection. She delights in being... (full context)