Persuasion

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Anne’s friend and mentor, Lady Russell served as a maternal figure after her best friend Lady Elliot, Anne’s real mother, passed away. Lady Russell is a good-hearted and sensible woman, though she possesses her own prejudices in favor of the aristocratic class that she herself comes from. She advises Anne to break off her engagement with Captain Wentworth, who she believes is below Anne.

Lady Russell Quotes in Persuasion

The Persuasion quotes below are all either spoken by Lady Russell or refer to Lady Russell. 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

Anne Elliot, with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen; involve herself at nineteen in an engagement with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connexions to secure even his farther rise in that profession; would be, indeed, a throwing away, which [Lady Russell] grieved to think of! . . . It must not be, if by any fair interference of friendship, any representations from one who had almost a mother’s love, and mother’s rights, it would be prevented.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Lady Russell
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Austen describes how Lady Russell, the close friend of Anne's late mother, endeavors to break off a possible marriage between Anne and her lover, Captain Wentworth. Wentworth was a likable, talented man, but he was also relatively poor, and didn't have a reliable career track--therefore, he wasn't a suitable match for Anne. Lady Russell loves Anne, but she thinks of herself as a businesswoman, one could say: her goal is to ensure the survival of Anne's family name and reputation, and to ensure that Anne is provided for over the course of her entire life. Wentworth, with his low income and uncertain future, can't give Anne what she deserves.

Austen gives us a great example of "free indirect discourse" in this passage. Austen is writing in the third person, but she's clearly writing from the point of view of one of the characters, namely Lady Russell (you can almost hear her voice, offering excuses for breaking off the engagement). The effect of this free indirect discourse is to give us a window into Lady Russell's mind: we see that she's a sincere character who genuinely loves and is looking out for Anne, even if she's perhaps a little too reliant on the myths of aristocratic superiority--and if her role of motherly "persuasion" ultimately ends up hurting Anne.

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Anne, at seven and twenty, thought very differently from what she had been made to think at nineteen.—She did not blame Lady Russell, she did not blame herself for having been guided by her; but she felt that were any young person, in similar circumstances, to apply to her for counsel, they would never receive any of such certain immediate wretchedness, such uncertain future good. . . . She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older—the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Lady Russell
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Austen describes the supposed "unnaturalness" of the chronology of Anne's concept of love. Anne wanted to get married to a handsome, likable man when she was only 19 years old, but because Lady Russell persuaded her to break off the engagement, the result of the interrupted courtship is that Anne learned the hard rules of marriage early on, and is only now learning about love and romance. As a teenager, she saw the economic rules that governed marriage--only now is she coming to feel truly romantic on account of her loneliness.

The passage is interesting because it suggests a central problem that the novel will have to correct: there's a basic disagreement between the characters' notions of love and their notions of what is practical. Furthermore, the passage might suggest that in this society, it really is important to understand finance and the "hard rules" before falling in love--most people fall in love too early and then have to wise up about money and real estate (particularly women, who in Austen's world have few other options of making money or rising in class). Anne, on the other hand, wised up early--but now that the groundwork has been laid, she is learning to focus on romance.

Chapter 23 Quotes

I was right in submitting to her, and that if I had done otherwise, I should have suffered more in continuing the engagement than I did even in giving it up, because I should have suffered in my conscience. I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach myself with; and if I mistake not, a strong sense of duty is no bad part of a woman’s portion.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot (speaker), Lady Russell
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

Anne continues to talk with Captain Wentworth about her decision to beak off their engagement years ago. While Anne has gone through a lot of sadness in the years following her decision, she now seems not to regret her decision anymore; she took the advice of a good mentor, Lady Russell, and she's now happy she did.

The point of the passage seems to be that Anne was right to wait so many years for Wentworth, and to allow herself to be persuaded by her trusted friends. The years between her first and second engagements have strengthened Anne's character and strengthened her love for Wentworth, and the same is true of Wentworth. The moral, one could say, is that being completely headstrong and impulsive is just as bad as being completely obedient to other people; in Anne's character, we see the compromise between duty and freedom, persuasion and independence--Anne is a mature young woman, but her independence doesn't compel her to ignore others' advice; she marries Wentworth now because it's the practical and the romantic thing to do.

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Lady Russell Character Timeline in Persuasion

The timeline below shows where the character Lady Russell appears in Persuasion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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After Lady Elliot’s passing, her intimate friend and advisor Lady Russell helped Sir Walter to raise his daughters. Elizabeth is beautiful and vain, her father’s favorite;... (full context)
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...and the dignity it entitles them to. Mr. Shepherd, the family agent and lawyer, and Lady Russell are called on for their advice. (full context)
Chapter 2
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Mr. Shepherd and Lady Russell draft plans for cutting back on expenditure. Lady Russell shares Sir Walter’s aristocratic sensibilities but... (full context)
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Lady Russell heartily approves this relocation. Although Anne dislikes Bath, Lady Russell feels that it will be... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Anne and Captain Wentworth planned to marry, but Sir Walter and Lady Russell considered the alliance very degrading and Captain Wentworth reckless. Lady Russell strongly opposed the match,... (full context)
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...society to distract her, although time has eased her suffering. Although she does not blame Lady Russell for her advice, she regrets her decision; time has justified Captain Wentworth’s hopes for the... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Lady Russell is displeased that Mrs. Clay plans to travel to Bath with Sir Walter and Elizabeth;... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...the affair, learning that Anne refused Charles, which his parents attributed to the influence of Lady Russell . When the group reassembles, Henrietta has brought Charles Hayter with her. (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... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...after persuading the entire Musgrove family to visit Louisa at Lyme, she decides to visit Lady Russell in Kellynch. (full context)
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...feelings; it has been a place of some reconciliation and friendship, but also renewed grief. Lady Russell receives Anne with some anxiety, but is delighted to find her improved in plumpness and... (full context)
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Lady Russell and Anne call on Mrs. Croft. Though Anne is pained to have her home occupied... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...admiration for Anne; he is convinced that Captain Benwick will soon be visiting Kellynch, intriguing Lady Russell , although Mary peevishly disagrees. Whether from shyness or lack of interest, however, Captain Benwick... (full context)
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...Elliot is also at Bath. He has been seeking to renew relations between their families. Lady Russell and Anne are both curious and desire to see him. (full context)
Chapter 16
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...increasing Anne’s concern about the development of an attachment between her father and Mrs. Clay. Lady Russell continues to find Sir Walter and Elizabeth’s favoritism towards Mrs. Clay over Anne provoking and... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Lady Russell later reports to Anne that Mr. Elliot displayed the highest regard for her during dinner.... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...own part, Anne cannot understand Captain Wentworth’s feelings—whether he suffers over Louisa. The next day, Lady Russell pretends not to see Captain Wentworth passing opposite the street to them. Anne is weary... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Anne shudders to think that Lady Russell might have persuaded her into marrying Mr. Elliot. She now believes him to be heartless... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...benevolence. She tells Captain Wentworth that, after reflection, she has no regrets in submitting to Lady Russell ’s advice—even though the advice may have been poor. She concludes that she behaved rightly,... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...daughter of a “foolish, spendthrift baronet.” Sir Walter and Elizabeth are reconciled to the marriage. Lady Russell is forced to admit her error of judgment regarding both Mr. Elliot and Captain Wentworth,... (full context)
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...and family to offer Captain Wentworth in marriage, he warmly attaches himself to her friends Lady Russell and Mrs. Smith. He aids Mrs. Smith in getting some of her husband’s money back,... (full context)