Persuasion HTML version

Chapter 2
Mr. Shepherd, a civil, cautious lawyer, who, whatever might be his hold or his
views on Sir Walter, would rather have the disagreeable prompted by anybody
else, excused himself from offering the slightest hint, and only begged leave to
recommend an implicit reference to the excellent judgment of Lady Russell, from
whose known good sense he fully expected to have just such resolute measures
advised as he meant to see finally adopted.
Lady Russell was most anxiously zealous on the subject, and gave it much
serious consideration. She was a woman rather of sound than of quick abilities,
whose difficulties in coming to any decision in this instance were great, from the
opposition of two leading principles. She was of strict integrity herself, with a
delicate sense of honour; but she was as desirous of saving Sir Walter's feelings,
as solicitous for the credit of the family, as aristocratic in her ideas of what was
due to them, as anybody of sense and honesty could well be. She was a
benevolent, charitable, good woman, and capable of strong attachments, most
correct in her conduct, strict in her notions of decorum, and with manners that
were held a standard of good-breeding. She had a cultivated mind, and was,
generally speaking, rational and consistent; but she had prejudices on the side of
ancestry; she had a value for rank and consequence, which blinded her a little to
the faults of those who possessed them. Herself the widow of only a knight, she
gave the dignity of a baronet all its due; and Sir Walter, independent of his claims
as an old acquaintance, an attentive neighbour, an obliging landlord, the
husband of her very dear friend, the father of Anne and her sisters, was, as being
Sir Walter, in her apprehension, entitled to a great deal of compassion and
consideration under his present difficulties.
They must retrench; that did not admit of a doubt. But she was very anxious to
have it done with the least possible pain to him and Elizabeth. She drew up plans
of economy, she made exact calculations, and she did what nobody else thought
of doing: she consulted Anne, who never seemed considered by the others as
having any interest in the question. She consulted, and in a degree was
influenced by her in marking out the scheme of retrenchment which was at last
submitted to Sir Walter. Every emendation of Anne's had been on the side of
honesty against importance. She wanted more vigorous measures, a more
complete reformation, a quicker release from debt, a much higher tone of
indifference for everything but justice and equity.
"If we can persuade your father to all this," said Lady Russell, looking over her
paper, "much may be done. If he will adopt these regulations, in seven years he
will be clear; and I hope we may be able to convince him and Elizabeth, that
Kellynch Hall has a respectability in itself which cannot be affected by these
reductions; and that the true dignity of Sir Walter Elliot will be very far from
lessened in the eyes of sensible people, by acting like a man of principle. What
will he be doing, in fact, but what very many of our first families have done, or
ought to do? There will be nothing singular in his case; and it is singularity which
often makes the worst part of our suffering, as it always does of our conduct. I
have great hope of prevailing. We must be serious and decided; for after all, the