Persuasion

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The cousin of Anne Elliot and Sir Walter’s heir, Mr. Elliot is a duplicitous and charming gentleman. After making his fortune from his first marriage, he seeks the baronetcy that he previously scorned by marrying Anne. Although he makes himself agreeable to everyone and is admired by Anne herself, she rightly suspects his past—one that involves considerable greed, callousness, and even cruelty.

Mr. William Elliot Quotes in Persuasion

The Persuasion quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. William Elliot or refer to Mr. William Elliot. 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 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.

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Chapter 15 Quotes

[Mr. Elliot] was quite as good-looking as he had appeared at Lyme, his countenance improved by speaking, and his manners were so exactly what they ought to be, so polished, so easy, so particularly agreeable, that she could compare them in excellence to only one person’s manners. . . . There could be no doubt of his being a sensible man. Ten minutes were enough to certify that. His tone, his expressions, his choice of subject, his knowing where to stop—it was all the operation of a sensible, discerning mind.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Mr. William Elliot
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anne gets to know Mr. Elliot a little better--but only a little. Mr. Elliot has come to Bath to visit Anne's family, and although Anne can't decide why he would do such a thing, Anne's family seems sure that he's going to try to marry Anne. Mr. Elliot seems like an excellent suitor for Anne; he's wealthy, successful, and handsome, as well as polite and courteous in tone.

Anne bases her assessment of Elliot's character on a ten-minute interaction with him, however, suggesting that her assessment might not be very accurate at all. Clearly, she's so dazzled by the appearance of properness and likability that she takes Mr. Elliot for granted without investigating any further. Anne seems so desperate for romance that she's willing to marry the first halfway-decent man who comes along, even if she doesn't know him well yet. Anne has made the mistake of being too cautious before, but now she seems to be veering too far in the other direction, throwing all caution to the wind.

Chapter 16 Quotes

My idea of good company, Mr Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot (speaker), Mr. William Elliot
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Elliot and Anne are getting to know each other better, though Anne still seems to think that Mr. Elliot might be more interested in her sister, Elizabeth. Mr. Elliot asks Anne how she defines good company, and to his surprise Anne disagrees with statements he's made before, claiming that "good company" consists of people who talk about intelligent subjects, rather than blabbing about the importance of social rank and genealogy. Anne, pretty clearly, is directing her criticism at people like her father, who talk about aristocracy and nothing else. Mr. Elliot seems to believe that aristocracy is an important subject, but he also seems to respect Anne for expressing her own opinion instead of blindly agreeing with him.

At this point in the text, Mr. Elliot and Anne seem to have a good relationship; though Elliot is old-fashioned and pretentious in many ways, he at least allows Anne to mature as a thinker, expressing her own ideas and opinions. One reason that Anne seems like a surprisingly modern protagonist is that she distrusts the cult of the aristocracy; like most modern readers (presumably), she doesn't place a lot of stock in one's ancestry--it's more important to be talented, pleasant, or interesting than it is to have the right parents.

Good company requires only birth, education and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice. Birth and good manners are essential; but a little learning is by no means a dangerous thing in good company, on the contrary, it will do very well. . . . Will it not be wiser to accept the society of these good ladies in Laura-place, and enjoy all the advantages of the connexion as far as possible? You may depend upon it, that they will move in the first set in Bath this winter, and as rank is rank, your being known to be related to them will have its use in fixing your family (our family let me say) in that degree of consideration which we must all wish for.

Related Characters: Mr. William Elliot (speaker)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, Mr. Elliot gives us a glimpse of his real intentions. Mr. Elliot has been arguing playfully with Anne about the importance of education and intelligence in "good company." Where Anne insists that the only qualifications for good company are intelligence and knowledge, Mr. Elliot insists that good company requires pedigree and "birth"--in other words, the best company is always aristocratic (a stimulating conversation with a group of commoners wouldn't really be good company by Elliot's definition). Elliot seems to admit that intelligence is worth something, but it's also clear that he places more stock in birth, meaning that he's not so different from Anne's father, Sir Walter. Elliot's investment in the aristocracy is clear, insofar as he steers the conversation toward social climbing. Elliot suggests that Anne's family association with the aristocracy (and, assuming Mr. Elliot marries into Anne's family, his association) will help them rise in society and gain the proper "degree of consideration."

In retrospect, it's possible to see that Mr. Elliot is actually obsessed with title: he wants to marry Anne (or Elizabeth) because he wants a title for himself. He's only pretending to care about intelligence and good conversation because he wants to impress Anne and con her into accepting his marriage proposal.

Chapter 17 Quotes

Mr. Elliot was rational, discreet, polished—but he was not open. There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. Her early impressions were incurable . . . She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped. Mr. Elliot was too generally agreeable.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Mr. William Elliot
Page Number: 118-119
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn that Mr. Elliot really is trying to marry Anne, not her sister, Elizabeth. Mr. Elliot is a charming, highly agreeable man, but there's something untrustworthy about him: he's so clean that he has to be dirty. Previously, Anne has been charmed by Mr. Elliot's easy manner and witty observations, but now she's beginning to wonder if he might be hiding something from her and her family. It's as if Mr. Elliot wears a mask of cheerfulness and respectability, beneath which one would find his true feelings (or actions).

Previously, Anne thought of Mr. Elliot as charming and likable--but what has changed in Anne's assessment of Mr. Elliot? In no small part, Anne is having second thoughts about Mr. Elliot because she's just seen her old friend Mrs. Smith. Interacting with Mrs. Smith, who stands outside the great "game" of courtship, politeness, and properness, helps Anne see how fake and insincere the game really is; as a result, she has an easier time seeing through Mr. Elliot's suave behavior.

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Mr. William Elliot Character Timeline in Persuasion

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. William Elliot appears in Persuasion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Marriage Theme Icon
...and received none.” Several years ago, he and Elizabeth harbored hopes of her marriage to Mr. William Elliot , the heir presumptive; however, Mr. Elliot scorned the inheritance of the baronetcy and chose... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...inquires as to his identity, and it turns out that he is none other than Mr. Elliot —their rich cousin and Sir Walter’s heir, whose first wife has passed away. Mary laments... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...joining her sister and father in Bath, but learns from Elizabeth the intriguing news that Mr. Elliot is also at Bath. He has been seeking to renew relations between their families. Lady... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Sir Walter and Elizabeth are delighted with Mr. Elliot . Mr. Elliot has explained away all his prior behavior as misunderstanding, and taken considerable... (full context)
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...Elizabeth’s sake. Mrs. Clay and Elizabeth believe him to be interested, and Anne reflects that Mr. Elliot may not have been aware of her character flaws; he seemed a sensible man at... (full context)
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Just then, Mr. Elliot visits. Anne is shyly amused and pleased to find him as admiring of her as... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...Walter and Elizabeth’s favoritism towards Mrs. Clay over Anne provoking and improper. However, she finds Mr. Elliot utterly delightful, endowed with good understanding, propriety, and warmth. Anne realizes that she and her... (full context)
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Despite their regard for each other, Anne and Mr. Elliot do not always agree. When Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret, their estranged noble cousins, arrive... (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. He finds her a most extraordinary young... (full context)
Chapter 19
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One day, Anne goes out with Elizabeth, Mrs. Clay, and Mr. Elliot . Because of rain, it is decided that Elizabeth and Mrs. Clay will take a... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Mr. Elliot seats himself beside her and flirts with her, informing her that his admiration for her... (full context)
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...one point, she manages to move towards Captain Wentworth and start up a conversation, but Mr. Elliot pursues her and entreats her to aid him with a translation of some Italian. She... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Anne visits Mrs. Smith, reflecting along the way on Mr. Elliot ’s attentions with gratitude and regret. She feels that Captain Wentworth will have her love... (full context)
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After some hesitation, Mrs. Smith shocks Anne by excoriating Mr. Elliot as a cold-blooded and selfish scoundrel. She recounts her history with him: he was once... (full context)
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After acquiring his wealth through marriage, Mr. Elliot encouraged Mr. Smith into a life of luxury that financially ruined him. Upon Mr. Smith’s... (full context)
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Time has taught Mr. Elliot to value his inheritance; now that he is rich, he seeks the baronetcy. Once he... (full context)
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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 and cold, his behavior to her friend... (full context)
Chapter 22
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When Mr. Elliot visits in the evening and solicits Anne’s attention, she finds that her new information renders... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...immediately in the hopes of winning her back. He was held back by jealousy of Mr. Elliot , whom he believed all her friends and family wished her to marry; Anne gently... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...to the marriage. Lady Russell is forced to admit her error of judgment regarding both Mr. Elliot and Captain Wentworth, and as she earnestly desires Anne’s happiness as her own daughter, she... (full context)
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Mr. Elliot is dismayed and shocked; he departs Bath, mortifying Elizabeth once again, who has yet to... (full context)