Gainsborough and Hoare in Persuadable: Chapter 8

Possible Anne!
In Persuadable, Chapter 8, Mr. Elliot meets Anne Elliot (officially). He compares her to a lady in a Gainsborough portrait while he describes Penelope Clay "as pure William Hoare—those knowledgeable gleaming eyes."

Both Gainsborough (1727-1788) and Hoare (1707-1792) were British portrait painters during the eighteenth century. Gainsborough had the more illustrious career and is slightly better known today by non-art majors for portraits like The Blue Boy. He painted many, many portraits of upper middle-class individuals and families.

He was rather like John Singer Sargent nearly a hundred years later except Gainsborough's portraits are very English and John Singer Sargent's portraits are very . . . not English.

Gainsborough promoted the ordinary, everyday life aspect of his gentry folk. Sargent did too, to an extent, but everything with Sargent is overlaid with this fantastical gloss. When I look at Gainsborough, I feel like I'm looking at Austen's neighbors. When I look at a Sargent, I am peering into a lush, ostentatious, slick world of massive privilege. Gainsborough's subjects are somewhat easier to relate to (especially since they are often accompanied by dogs). 

Portrait by Hoare
William Hoare also painted portraits of gentry. He actually settled in Bath as did Gainsborough (although Hoare was more closely linked to Bath's government). This portrait is likely the one Mr. Elliot has in mind regarding Penelope Clay.

As a homage to Austen's time period, Eugene skillfully and cleverly designed the cover for Persuadable using a Gainsborough portrait: Mr. and Mrs. William Hazlett. Now there's a couple that knows where they are going in life!

From Persuadable, Chapter 8:
[Will Elliot] entered Camden Place’s drawing room to discover an extra occupant: Cousin Anne had arrived that afternoon.

Will let his surprise show. He’d seen Anne Elliot in Lyme and admired her looks. He’d just never imagined that the woman he’d seen there could be his cousin. Her family spoke of Miss Anne so slightingly, he’d pictured an unimpressive, sparrow-like, featureless creature.

Anne Elliot was a truly beautiful woman with elegant bones, straight brows, and clear eyes. Elizabeth paled beside her.

She was also truly shy—none of Mrs. Clay’s coy pretense—and reserved in a way Elizabeth could never master. Such shyness was bred into the bones; Anne had the classic repose of a Gainsborough portrait.

Will recognized Mrs. Clay as pure William Hoare—those knowledgeable gleaming eyes.

Miss Anne saw Will’s surprise; since he wouldn’t gain anything by dissembling, he exclaimed, “But we saw each other at Lyme! We both stayed at the Three Cups Inn.”

“Yes,” she said and blushed faintly.

“Did you enjoy your time there? You were part of a large party—”

“Yes.” The blush increased, and Will rummaged through his memory for which male member of the party might have caused that blush. “I was with my sister Mary and her husband and her husband’s sisters.”

“The Musgroves. Of course!”

“Yes. And Captain Wentworth—” a quick glance towards her father—“whose sister and brother-in-law are staying at Kellynch Hall.”

“Admiral Croft is my tenant,” Sir Walter said sonorously.

“Plus some of the captain’s friends. We were a merry group.”

“And I spent my evenings alone! If only I had introduced myself! I am too careful when traveling. I learned as a youth not to be too curious or too forward, even with my own relations.” An apologetic glance at Sir Walter. “The follies of youth!”

Miss Anne looked doubtful at Will’s metaphorical breast-beating but said, “I will happily give you my opinion of the area.”

“Were you there long?”

“Our visit was ending when one of the Musgroves—Louisa Musgrove—had a bad fall.”

“Oh, yes,” Elizabeth said quickly, inserting herself into the conversation. “How is dear Louisa?”

“Much recovered.”

“Is she still at Lyme?” Will asked.

“She’ll return soon to the Musgrove’s home in Uppercross. She may be weak for several more months.”

“How dispiriting,” Sir Walter said in a tone that suggested Louisa’s condition (and momentary celebrity) was as inconvenient as it was depressing.

“Perhaps she should try the Bath waters,” Penelope Clay said, and Will shot her a look. Her tone was nearly acerbic, but Sir Walter only nodded sagely.

Turning back to Miss Anne, Will saw she had noticed her father’s acquiescence to Mrs. Clay’s participation. Miss Anne did not look pleased. No wonder the widow was so careful around this particular Elliot daughter.

He caught Penelope Clay in the hall as he prepared to leave. “Now that Elizabeth has her sister’s companionship, I suppose you’ll be leaving the family and returning home.”

“I will naturally suggest it,” she said demurely, and Will had to chuckle. Sir Walter and Elizabeth would beg her to stay. Miss Anne was clearly not deprecating enough to fulfill Elizabeth and Sir Walter’s needs. Everyone preferred a sympathetic and friendly dog on the hearth to an aloof and disinterested cat.

Until they discovered the dog was actually a hungry wolf.

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