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Historical Context in Persuasion

Historical Context Examples in Persuasion:

Chapter 1

🔒 8

"to cut off some unnecessary charities..."   (Chapter 1)

This is biting satire—the first expense to be curtailed is giving to charity.  In the 19th century, private charity was a primary source of help to the poor because institutional charity was not widely available.  Giving to local charities was expected of those in Baronet Eliot's class.


"he had purchased independence by uniting himself to a rich woman of inferior birth..."   (Chapter 1)

Austen records a very common situation here: a man with a title but no money marries a woman with money but no title.  The man marries for money, the woman for a title.  


"and some apprehensions..."   (Chapter 1)

At age 29, Elizabeth will soon become less attractive as a marriage candidate.  Most women of Elizabeth's stature were married by their early 20s.


"as she travelled up to London with her father, for a few weeks' annual enjoyment of the great world...."   (Chapter 1)

In rural areas of England, the country gentry, like the Eliots, would go to London for several weeks to see and be seen.  Going to London was often the high point of the year for wealthy people like the Eliots.


"to all that was possible..."   (Chapter 1)

In the 19th century, women could bequeath certain personal property to their children, usually property that they brought to the marriage.

"and one remained a widower, the other a widow..."   (Chapter 1)

It is unusual that neither should marry. Men with property and a title were expected to marry if a suitable partner was available, and widows were vulnerable socially and economically.


"Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character..."   (Chapter 1)

In the 18th and 19th centuries, vanity was usually applied to women and pride to men. In this case, Austen is consciously using the term to draw attention to Sir Walter's focus on his looks.

"in the first year of Charles II..."   (Chapter 1)

Charles II ascended to the throne in 1660.  His father, Charles I, was executed by an act of Parliament in 1649, and what is known as the Commonwealth Interregnum (rule by Parliament) lasted until 1660.  

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