“Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed. This was the page at which the favourite volume always opened:
‘ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH HALL.'”
I am rereading this book twice this weekend in order to prepare for teaching it starting this week. This opening line or opening moment is still my favorite among the Jane Austen novels, and reminds me so much of the dad in The Pursuit of Love being obsessed with the one and only book he’s ever read, White Fang. Here, Sir Walter Elliot is obsessed with reading the book of names, and especially his name in his family history, tying him so cleanly to the land and estate. Austen might have had an inkling of the coming tide in turning this into a moment of drama for the book, or it might have simply been an ironic version of things, or an on the nose tease. Regardless, this is not Sir Walter’s final word on books, all others being problems, when he states of Mr Benwick that the books he’s read seem to not have done too much damage to him because he thinks from time to time as well.
I still find this to be near a perfect book with deep affection and tenderness when Anne finally gets the letter from Captain Frederick. I still think they’re a little too hard on cousin William.