Elizabeth Elliot is a character in Persuasion. She is the eldest daughter of Sir Walter Elliot and the late Lady Elliot. She was born on June 1st, in 1785. She is the elder sister of Anne Elliot and Mary Musgrove and sister in law to Charles Musgrove.
Her mother died when Elizabeth was 16 years old, leaving Sir Walter to his vices in overspending. Her father was a haughty, and proud man who lacked frugality. When Lady Elliot was alive, she had dulled her husband's less favorable traits.
Sir Walter clearly expected Elizabeth to marry well, since his youngest daughter Mary didn't and his other daughter Anne was his least favorite. Sir Walter had plans to marry her to his heir presumptive, William Elliot, whom he invited to Kellynch Hall. William put off coming over and over again, and finally they heard that he had married a wealthy heiress and would not be visiting. Elizabeth and Sir Walter were very angry.
Because her mother died so young, Elizabeth was left to be mistress of Kellynch for her father. At 29 years of age, she was becoming a spinster, which did not sit well with her, even though she was very beautiful. She did not do well at curbing her father's overspending, which got the estate into a bit of trouble in 1814.
Mr. Shepherd, her father's lawyer; and Lady Russell suggested that they leave Kellynch for a few months in order to help with the debts. Her father objected at first to the idea of renters living at Kellynch, but it was soon decided that there was no way around it. Sir Walter and Elizabeth decided to go to Bath instead of London. She invited Mrs. Clay along with her, which angered Lady Russell, who thought that Mrs. Clay, who was not even a gentlewoman, was being treated with more gentility than Elizabeth's own sister, Anne.
Stay in Bath
Sir Walter and Elizabeth rented a luxurious home on Camden-place, a very swanky part of Bath. Mrs. Clay stayed with them for all those months. They had a very surprising visit from William Elliot, their estranged cousin. He wormed his way back into their good graces, and they became very good friends. Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay believed that William fancied Elizabeth and pushed the connection. Anne joined them in their house later, but Elizabeth and the others were very focused on what was going on in Bath. They talked a lot of Mr. Elliot.
Elizabeth and her father were extremely excited to learn of the arrival of Lady Dalrymple, a dowager viscountess. The Elliots can claim a familial connection to her and her daughter, and they were wondering how to go about doing that. Upon the dowager viscountess's arrival, they immediately called at her rented home on Laura-place, another fashionable residential area. Elizabeth and her father were excited and impressed with their new acquaintances; Anne was not. Elizabeth and Sir Walter continued to visit the Dalrymples on Laura-place nearly every day. They criticized Anne when they heard that she had visited her old friend as opposed to coming with them to pursue an acquaintance with a peeress. Elizabeth very snobbily asked what Lady Russell thought about that. Anne wanted to point out that their relationship with Mrs. Clay was hardly different, but didn't out of respect for her father.
Elizabeth is described as being very handsome and attractive. She is the most beautiful of the Elliot sisters.
Personality and traits
She possesses what the Musgroves have dubbed the "Elliot pride", which is described as classist arrogance. Due to this, she only sees people of like or greater class as being worth her time and acquaintance. She is very snobby.
She did, however, befriend a woman who was not a gentlewoman, Mrs. Clay, much to Lady Russell's dismay. If Elizabeth knew that Mrs. Clay had designs on her father, she would not have been that welcoming, but only Anne and William Elliot guessed. She is somewhat hypocritical. She looks down on Anne for visiting her old friend, Mrs. Smith, even though she has befriended and taken in Mrs. Clay, who is also not a gentlewoman and is of no consequence, very like Mrs. Smith herself.
She was not content with her life at first. She was jealous of her youngest sister for marrying before her, even though she was not jealous about the groom.
Notes and references
- Persuasion, Chapter 1
- Persuasion Chapter 1 "Three girls, the two eldest sixteen and fourteen, was an awful legacy for a mother to bequeath..."
- Persuasion Chapter 1 "...though she was at this present time, (the summer of 1814,)..."
- Elizabeth was born in 1785 and she is 29; 29 years after 1785 is 1814, the "present time" of the novel
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 15
- This means that the viscountess's husband is dead and she has not remarried. It also means that the new viscount has a wife, usurping the viscountess title. If the new viscount did not have a wife, she would be known as the Viscountess Dalrymple, as opposed to the dowager Viscountess Dalrymple.
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17