Jan 072015

The Annotated Persuasion

Insights to an Introspective and Introverted Heroine

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Purchased

A new tradition of mine (that began last year) is to spend part of my holiday break reading an annotated edition of a Jane Austen novel (a terrific notion, wouldn’t you agree?) This year, I was in the mood for Persuasion, and the popular vote was for me to read and review The Annotated Persuasion by David Shapard (my first Shapard!)

Just like with my review of Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, I am focusing my review on the annotations, observations, and interpretations made by David Shapard (rather than Jane Austen’s brilliance). Here are some of the insights and understandings I learned while reading David Shapard’s annotations:

  • More About Jane Austen’s Time and World: In this edition, Mr. Shapard gives a very thorough and complete explanation to every aspect of Jane Austen’s time and world that may seem foreign to contemporary readers. Having been immersed in Jane Austen’s world for awhile now, there were a lot of elements I didn’t need explained. ๐Ÿ˜‰ However, naval positions and fortunes, social rankings and title, fortunes and retrenching โ€“ these are all aspects of Jane Austen’s world that weren’t quite as clear to me before reading Mr. Shapard’s annotations. Thanks to his explanations, I can fully appreciate the significance of Wentworth being promoted to captain and understand (as much as one can understand!) Sir Walter’s elevated view of his own social importance. In addition, I’ve always felt it was unlikely that moving to rented apartments in fashionable Camden Place was helping the Elliots lower their expenses โ€“ they moved to a city, they have to pay rent, how is this helping?!? I now know the answer. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Persuasion Isn’t Flawless: *gasp* How blasphemous, I know! In all honesty, I don’t know if I could ever look at Jane Austen’s work and find fault on my own โ€“ to me, she isย a literary genius. But Mr. Shapard, it seems has no issues with being objective and unprejudiced. He points out some errors with missing words and even some timeline inconsistencies. He also makes mention of how, since this novel was published posthumously, that some aspects of the story probably would have been revised if Jane Austen had the chance to โ€œalter and improveโ€ this manuscript at length. I never realized it before, but Mr. Shapard is right โ€“ a lot of the characters such as Sir Walter, Mrs. Clay, and Lady Russell are underdeveloped, and the Mrs. Smith/Mr. Elliot subplot does have some implausibility in it.
  • Anne Elliot Is Absolutely Not Inactive: This might have been inadvertent on Mr. Shapard’s part because in his introduction he states that Anne Elliot is โ€œpassiveโ€ and how her actions are limited to watching, waiting, reflecting, and controlling โ€œher feelings as best she can.โ€ I went into the story coming from that perspective, but what I saw, through Mr. Shapard’s annotations is that Anne does so much more than be passive โ€“ she is stimulated by and reacts to everything around her. I think Anne is active โ€“ maybe not active like Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, but active internally. She does not do nothing. She works out herย feelings and emotions, she thinks things through and strives to comprehend, she regulates and tempers her own inclinations. I don’t think of Anne as passive at all, I think she is a textbook introvert. And I think Jane Austen has a wonderful understanding of how people who are more introverted think and feel.

My one quibble for Mr. Shapard’s annotations was his repetitive reference to previous notes. Iย was not a fan of how frequently a note stated โ€œsee p. #, note #.โ€ While I understand it is helpful to see how notes related to each other, I never felt the need or desire to flip back to notes I previously read.

  • Comparing Harvard University Press and David Shapard Editions:

Persuasion AnnotatedTwo points in favor of the Shapard editions is the handheld size of the book (easy to read in any position) and how the annotations were always on the right side of the page, in a very accessible and orderly system. I also appreciated the chronology included in the back of the book that displayed the timeline for all the characters and events in the story. However, while this edition does have relevant and edifying illustrations, it is lacking the glossy pages and colored images that make the Harvard University Press editions so visually appealing and elegant.

David Shapard’s The Annotated Persuasion is a wonderfully comprehensive and illuminating tome that will bring lovers of Persuasion not only hours of entertainment, but a wealth of new understanding and appreciation for this beloved novel by Jane Austen.

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32 Comments on "The Annotated Persuasion – Jane Austen (Edited by David Shapard)"

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Abigail Bok

Thank you so much for this thorough review–especially for the comparison to the HUP editions! I still have the ancient Oxford University Press Chapman editions that I invested in when at college, and have been considering an upgrade to recent annotated editions, so this was especially helpful. I look forward to your reviews of other annotated ads.!


I think I would much rather read your ANNOTATED version of this gentleman’s work–please explain the Camden place cheaper rent! I’ve always wondered! And the Naval positions and Sir Walter’s rank…I


Well done, Meredith. Just a question. Do you think the ebook would work as well as the print version? Probably a ridiculous question, but…

Heather M
Hi Joy. I know you asked Meredith, but I thought I’d chime in anyway. I downloaded the sample of Shapard’s annotated P&P, and it was not the same at all. The print version, like Meredith said, had Austen’s text on the left page and Shapard’s notes on the the right. The ebook had Austen’s text as normal with hyperlinks to the notes that appear at the end of each chapter. So all the same information is there, but you don’t get the same side by side readability with the e-book. I didn’t care for that, so I bought the paperback… Read more »
Joy Dawn King

Thank you, Heather. This is exactly what I needed to know. I’m off to buy the print copy.


I love his work and I enjoy that it’s easier to handle than the larger annotated versions. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed your review.

Catherine Commons

The only annotated JA work I’ve read is the P&P edition by David Shapard, and thought it was excellent. I enjoy reading non-fiction books about Regency England, and would never stop reading or collecting them. However, it’s fun to have additional information right at the point one is reading about it. I find searching for something specific is not easy and sometimes cannot be found.
Like Joy above, I was wondering about the ebook annotated versions. I’ve seen them for sale, but haven’t purchased any.
Thank you, Meredith, for another great review!!!


Really nice review! I think I may need to read this! I don’t have any real experience with annotated editions and I greatly like Persuasion, even though I suspect I am missing out on about half of it by not being familiar with the background types of things. ๐Ÿ™‚

Joana Starnes

Thanks for this, Meredith! I really enjoy hints and tips into the world of her novels, there’s always something new, something we haven’t thought of, or that’s better explained in a different light.

I also liked that bit about Anne not being passive, but a textbook introvert.

I think I’ll enjoy reading this very much, thanks for the tip.

Stephanie L

I have the entire set of Mr. Shapard’s annotated Jane. I don’t miss the glossy pages and such because I’m not a real fan. LOL I want words!! I love the little descriptions of things that really make the whole of the story make sense. I could easily see Jane making improvements on Persuasion. I love mine, glad you enjoyed it!

I noticed the “incompleteness” of Persuasion the first time I read it … At the risk of sounding really morbid, you can tell where Jane died — there’s a point in the book where it just doesn’t feel as finished, the part she didn’t get to in her final revisions/etc. I’ve cut her a wee bit of slack on that count, as regards my general dislike of Anne. I know, I know … I’m horrible ๐Ÿ˜‰ haha … Glad you generally liked it — I love his annotations of P&P and S&S, and am in the process of adding the… Read more »

Thanks for the thoughtful thoughts, Meredith! Do you like Shapard’s annotation or HUP’s annotation better? If you could only have/read one, which one would you prefer?

Sophia Rose

I love your holiday reading ritual. I only own the S&S Annotated by Shapard, but still need to read it. That is interesting about the unfinished/need for a final edit quality to the story. Like you, I just accept what I saw as good Jane Austen writing. I’ll have to do a re-read.

Heather M
Great review, Meredith, and very fair to both David Shapard and Jane, I think. I love how readable this version is, as are all of his annotated editions of Austen’s works. Unlike some other coffee table editions, this is still a paperback edition you can throw in your purse and actually read comfortably. I agree that some of the annotations weren’t necessary for JA nerds, but most of them I found helpful in expanding the world Anne was living in, or helping me to think about the story in a different way. If you’re a super JA nerd (guilty!), and… Read more »

Thanks for comparing the versions. It must be really interesting the subject of naval positions because when I was reading the novel I thought I would have liked to know more about it. And I agree with you: Anne is an active person in an “inner way”. Bravo for Anne!


Thanks, Meredith, now I think I “need” another complete set of Jane Austen’s works! I haven’t bought or read any annotated editions yet but these sound really interesting. The fact that the annotations are side by side with the text makes it look like it’ll be easy to read. I hate having to flip back and forth to read annotations or notes. Scrolling up and down and clicking on links in an ebook would also drive me mad.


I loved this annotated version! So far, I only have the Harvard version of Emma, but I haven’t read it yet because it’s just so cumbersome. It’s a beautiful book though.

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