This depth is presented to the reader in the frightening conclusion that the world of a book is smaller than the real world.
If reading is a way in which the characters in previous Austen novels come to know the world around them, order their principles, and gain sound advice, Persuasion adds a new level of urgency to this familiar problem of epistemology by telling us that the world is far more vast than any self-contained world of principals, moral convictions, history, or beautiful emotions comprised within the pages of a book.
Mourning the death of his fiancée Fanny Harville, Benwick turns to reading, especially reading romantic poetry, as the best possible expression of his own grief.
The “various lines which imaged a broken heart or a mind destroyed by wretchedness” are reflections of his sorrow (85).
Jane Austen’s Persuasion is, in many ways, a book about the influence of literature and reading on the actual events of life.
For most of the characters that populate this novel, what they read and how they read it conveys a message about their own perception of life—their conception of past and present, as well as their relationship between reading and emotional experience.
Woolf’s quotation helps to explain why Persuasion no longer espouses the didacticism of Austen’s earlier novels.
With the French Revolution in 1789 and the Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the century, the social, political, and moral order of Europe was undergoing a gradual, yet cataclysmic shift, and Austen, writing a few years after the beginning of these events was able to examine this shift retrospectively and comment on it.
From the very beginning of the novel, the narrator cues the reader to the prevalent theme of books and their readers.
Our own reading experience in Persuasion commences with Sir Walter Elliot pouring over the pages of his favorite book—the Baronetage—a book that gives him “occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one” (9).