In Jane Austen's Persuasion, when Anne Elliot is getting a ride with Mrs. and Admiral Croft, she makes this observation about the Crofts' way of driving, and that is may represent a more general aspect of their life:

'Very good humoured, unaffected girls, indeed,' said Mrs. Croft, in a tone of calmer praise, such as made Anne suspect that her keener powers might not consider either of them as quite worthy of her brother; 'and a very respectable family. One could not be connected with better people. My dear Admiral, that post; we shall certainly take that post.'
But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart; and Anne, with some amusement at their style of driving, which she imagined no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs, found herself safely deposited by them at the Cottage.
Persuasion, chapter 10

What is Anne referring to with this observation about this "...representation of the general guidance of their affairs"? Are there other examples of Admiral Croft nearly leading them to disaster but Mrs. Croft correcting course? Or that Admiral Croft thinks he's the one steering, but it's actually Mrs. Croft making sure things stay on track (especially since Anne refers to Mrs. Croft as "keener")?

What is the "general guidance of their affairs" that is being represented by this style of driving?

1 Answer 1


The question is correct about the meaning of Anne’s observation: that is, she imagines that Mrs Croft is in the habit of unobtrusively steering her husband out of harm’s way, or more generally in her preferred direction. There are only a handful of other clues as to Mrs Croft’s “general guidance of their affairs”, but having been given the hint quoted in the question, we do not need detailed explanations. First, the courtship of the Crofts:

“How many days was it, my dear [said Admiral Croft], between the first time of my seeing you and our sitting down together in our lodgings at North Yarmouth?”

“We had better not talk about it, my dear,” replied Mrs Croft, pleasantly; “for if Miss Elliot were to hear how soon we came to an understanding, she would never be persuaded that we could be happy together. I had known you by character, however, long before.”

Jane Austen (1817). Persuasion, chapter 10. Project Gutenberg.

Second, how Mrs Croft persuaded her husband to take her to sea with him:

“The only time I ever really suffered in body or mind [said Mrs Croft], the only time that I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral (Captain Croft then) was in the North Seas. I lived in perpetual fright at that time, and had all manner of imaginary complaints from not knowing what to do with myself, or when I should hear from him next; but as long as we could be together, nothing ever ailed me, and I never met with the smallest inconvenience.”

Chapter 8.

Third, Anne’s conversation with Admiral Croft in Bath:

When they were got a little farther, Anne ventured to press again for what he [Admiral Croft] had to communicate. She hoped when clear of Milsom Street to have her curiosity gratified; but she was still obliged to wait, for the Admiral had made up his mind not to begin till they had gained the greater space and quiet of Belmont; and as she was not really Mrs Croft, she must let him have his own way.

Chapter 18.

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