If we’re going to update Jane Austen’s classic with lady hangovers, 21st century slang and house bunnies, then why not consider reworking the ending too. And who better to do this than me? Not only is this my website, but like Anne I am the middle one of three girls and the family dogsbody (don’t listen to my sisters if they challenge that narrative. To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies in the witness box during the Profumo scandal, “well they would say that, wouldn’t they”).
I am also, like William Elliott, exceedingly shallow. Though I do have a generous side, and even if I haven’t saved an actual whale as Frederick Wentworth did, I am Whale-Saviour-Adjacent, running away from charity muggers trying to get me to sign up to a monthly whale-related direct debit. I have also suffered in Lyme Regis: I didn’t fall off the Cobb but a seagull stole my son’s chips. So I feel I am well-placed to judge all aspects of Anne’s two suitors.
Both men have their good points and their bad points.
Wentworth is rich, thoughtful, handsome, and, as we know, once saved a beached whale. Unfortunately he’s rather humourless, not very good at catching, only seems to have one coat, and once gave Anne a gift of… a cowbell.
He was also never willing to fight for the woman he loved, and sometimes, dare I say it, seems rather too thoughtful. That almost-erupting volcano of emotion inside of him almost paralyses him, and I wonder if every post-wedding trip to Regency Waitrose might take three hours as he agonises over whether to buy artisanal potted shrimps or throw caution to the wind and go for a newfangled tin of larks tongues.
In his favour though he is self-made, and only needs Anne, and to buy a spare coat, for his life to be absolutely perfect.
And while Anne and Frederick don’t have the convenience of already identical surnames, they could easily merge the two. Why follow Bennifer on the Daily Mail’s Sidebar of Shame when you can obsess over the Welliotts in the Bath Circular?
But what of William Elliott, the determined heir to Walter’s estate? He too is rich, and handsome; and he will fight for any woman, as long as there’s something in it for him. Plus he always wears a top hat, useful for hiding snacks under if women’s dress designers have not, by 1820, invented pockets.
And while you just know he’d be dramatically and consistently unfaithful as soon as the marriage register was signed, I doubt once he had an heir and a spare he’d mind if Anne was up to the same thing. Furthermore, because they already share a surname, no one will need to change theirs on marriage, saving both an argument and a lot of boring paperwork.
Unlike Wentworth he has not made his fortune, and has to wait for Sir Walter to die before he can claim his estates and title. Would he ever know though? Walter’s heavy brocade coats and stiff collars could mean the baronet’s corpse remaining upright for some time, with no one ever the wiser. And if Walter died whilst looking in a mirror, or admiring one of his portraits (not unlikely, let’s face it) no one might think to give him a nudge for some years.
Additionally while his Persuasion sparring with Anne is witty and sharp, I wonder if once married he would object to the very things he liked about her before, leading to what statisticians have proved is the biggest cause of divorce in Britain: realising his wife is funnier than he is.
The winner: Captain Frederick Wentworth! Already rich, has a good job, is probably up for saving all whales if he puts his mind to it. And I’d bet he’d be happy for Anne to be the funny one (luckily)