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 sensation, 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 that never failed - this was the page on which the favourite volume was always opened:
'ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH HALL.
'Walter Elliot, born March 8, 1760, married July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died in 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov 5, 1789; Mary, born Nov. 20, 1791.'
Precisely such had the paragraph originally stood from the printer's hands; but Sir Walter had improved it by adding, for the information of himself and his family, these words, after the date of Mary's birth - 'married, Dec 16, 1810, Charles, son and heir of Charles Musgrove, Esq. of Uppercross, in the county of Somerset,' - and by inserting most accurately the day of the month on which he had lost his wife.
Then followed the history and rise of the ancient and respected family, in the usual terms: how it had first settled in Cheshire; how mentioned in Dugdale - serving the office of High Sheriff, representing a borough in three successive parliaments, exertions of loyalty, and dignity of baronet, in the first year of Charles II, with all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married; forming altogether two handsome duodecimo pages, and concluding with the arms and motto: 'Principle seat, Kellynch Hall, in the county of Somerset,' and Sir Walter's hand-writing again in the finale:
'Heir presumptive, William Walter Elliot, Esq., great grandson of the second Sir Walter.'
Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did; nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.
Wow - Think much of yourself, Sir Walter? Can you hear the wit and sarcasm in Jane's words? I'd love to hear your thoughts of the beginning of Persuasion.