A novel by J. Austen, written 1815–16, published posthumously 1818.
Sir Walter Elliot, a spendthrift baronet and widower, with a swollen sense of his social importance and personal elegance, is obliged to retrench and let his seat, Kellynch Hall. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, haughty and unmarried, is now 29; the second, Anne, who is pretty, intelligent, and amiable, had some years before been engaged to a young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but had been persuaded by her trusted friend Lady Russell to break off the engagement, because of his lack of fortune and a misunderstanding of his easy nature. The breach had brought great unhappiness to Anne, and caused indignation in Wentworth. When the story opens Anne is 27, and the bloom of her youth is gone. Captain Wentworth, who has had a successful career and is now prosperous, is thrown again into Anne's society by the letting of Kellynch to Admiral and Mrs Croft, his sister and brother‐in‐law. Sir Walter's youngest daughter, Mary, is married to Charles Musgrove, the heir of a neighbouring landowner. Wentworth is attracted by Charles's sisters, Louisa and Henrietta, and in time becomes involved with Louisa. During a visit of the party to Lyme Regis, Louisa, being ‘jumped down’ from the Cobb by Wentworth, falls and is badly injured. Wentworth's partial responsibility for the accident makes him feel an increased obligation to Louisa at the very time that his feelings are being drawn back to Anne. However, during her convalescence Louisa becomes engaged to Captain Benwick, another naval officer, and Wentworth is free to proceed with his courtship. He goes to Bath, where Sir Walter is now established with his two elder daughters and Elizabeth's companion, Mrs Clay, an artful woman with matrimonial designs on Sir Walter. There Wentworth finds another suitor for Anne's hand, her cousin William Elliot, the heir to the Kellynch estate, who is also indulging in an intrigue with Mrs Clay, in order to detach her from Sir Walter, Anne has remained unshaken in her love for Wentworth and moreover learns about the duplicity of William Elliot. Accidentally made aware of Anne's constancy, Wentworth renews his offer of marriage and is accepted.
In this, Jane Austen's last completed work, satire and ridicule take a milder form, and the tone is more grave and tender.