Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion)
Captain Frederick Wentworth is a fictional character in the novel Persuasion written by Jane Austen. He is the prototype of the new gentlemen in the 19th century: a self-made man who makes his fortune by hard work rather than inheritance.
Eight years before the novel opens, Captain Frederick Wentworth travelled to Somerset after being made commander in consequence of the British naval action off St. Domingo. He was not immediately sent back to sea, but went to stay with his brother (their parents were deceased). He and Anne fell in love and got engaged. Later, Anne broke off the engagement on the advice of her godmother, Lady Russell, who saw him as an unsuitable choice due to his lack of fortune and connections, as well as his enrollment in a dangerous profession. Disappointed and resentful, Captain Wentworth left the country.
After eight years Captain Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars, successful, and with a prize money of 25,000 pounds. Anne's conditions have also changed as her father, a spendthrift baronet, has to lease his country house, Kellynch Hall, to Admiral and Mrs. Croft (Wentworth's sister and brother in-law) and move to Bath to pay his debts. Anne currently is residing with her sister, Mary Musgrove, at Uppercross.
But Captain Wentworth, who has not forgiven Anne, tries to attach himself to the charming Louisa Musgrove, whom he admires for her determination.
Captain Wentworth ignores Anne and is apparently uninterested in renewing their acquaintance. Anne, pained, realizes that Frederick will never acknowledge her as a friend. However, a trip to Lyme with the Musgrove family to meet Captains Harville and Benwick changes everything. There Louisa meets with an accident; Anne's immediate help and level-headed behaviour makes Wentworth realize his folly of losing Anne and attaching himself to a wild, heedless girl.
He soon realizes the madness of his pride and his love for Anne is restored. However, due to his attentions towards Louisa, the whole Musgrove family, Anne, Captain Harville, and Captain Benwick expect a union between him and Louisa.
To rid himself of this unwanted attachment Frederick leaves Lyme and goes to Plymouth and then to Shropshire to his brother. There he comes to know that Captain Benwick has proposed to Louisa. Safe and independent he goes to Bath to win Anne back, but has a new competitor in Mr. Elliot, the inheritor of Kellynch Hall. After a series of misunderstandings, he overhears Captain Harville and Anne talk about the relative faithfulness of men and women. Deeply moved by Anne's words he writes her a letter, they reconcile and renew their love and engagement. In the end they marry and live a happy and blissful life. Nothing remains to blight their happiness other than a future war.
Captain Frederick Wentworth is the prototype of the 'new gentleman.' Maintaining the good manners, consideration, and sensitivity of the older type, Wentworth adds the qualities of gallantry, independence, and bravery that come with being a well- respected Naval officer. He has made his own fortune through hard work and good sense, in direct contrast to Sir Walter who has only wasted the money that came to him through his title. Without land or high birth, Captain Wentworth is not the traditional match for a woman of Anne Eliot's position. But in true Austenian fashion, his fine personal qualities are enough to surmount the divide which separates his social position from that of Anne.
In the novel, Captain Wentworth's character develops, eventually overcoming his resentment at being once refused, in order to make another ardent overture to his chosen bride. This development is sign of a promising future for their relationship. Like Admiral Croft, who allows his wife to drive the carriage alongside him and to help him steer, Captain Wentworth will defer to Anne throughout their marriage. Austen envisions this kind of equal partnership as the ideal marriage.
Margaret Wilson sees Wentworth as combining the dynamic character of Austen's earlier diversionary men and the steadfast qualities needed in a husband.
Wentworth's Love letter
The love letter written by Captain Wentworth is notable:
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."
The letter comes near the end of the novel, leading Anne and Frederick renew their love.The letter, however, was not included in the cancelled chapters of Persuasion.
Depictions in film and television
- 1960: Paul Daneman, BBC series Persuasion (1960 series)
- 1971: Bryan Marshall, BBC series Persuasion (1971 series)
- 1995: Ciarán Hinds, made-for-television Persuasion (1995 film)
- 2007: Rupert Penry-Jones, ITV1 Persuasion (2007 film)
1. SparkNotes: Persuasion: Analysis of Major Characters