Miss Austen finished Persuasion with an enigma. Was the deceitful widow Mrs Clay so lost to all honour, decency and – yes – self-interest as to live installed in town under the capricious protection of that equal dissembler Mr Elliot? Or was the lady, as Lady Russell proclaimed her, a very dangerous companion? Was she indeed capable, with neither money nor family connexions to sustain her, of ‘wheedling and caressing’ her profligate lord into making her his wife and thus, the future Lady Elliot Without descending into the realms of vice and depravity? The authoress hopes to resolve this puzzle.
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