The closest bonds within Austen’s canon tended to be between sisters rather than friends. Getting close to outsiders has distinctly mixed results with friendships between the female characters often foundering due to fights over the men. Jane is treated horribly by the Bingley sisters, Charlotte Lucas tramples over seeming childhood friends in pursuit of a man she barely even likes and despite all the fancy speeches, Isabella Thorpe chucks out Catherine like day-old pizza when she decides she can do better than Catherine’s brother. The message is consistent; friends can and will let you down but sisters are for life. In such a socially cutthroat world, who then are the characters who are worth befriending?
While there may not be a great deal of competition, I think that Anne Elliot is still a safe choice. I dithered briefly when I remembered Eleanor Tilney in Northanger Abbey who faced down her father’s disapproval to make sure that Catherine had enough money to get home but she remains a fairly insipid character. With Anne, I’m on steadier ground. Unlike Emma Woodhouse, she isn’t looking for a sycophant. She has been friends with Mrs Smith for years and sticks with her even though that lady brings no social cache. When there are ‘cooler’ people available (the Dalrymples), Anne even refuses to go hang out with them instead because it would involve cancelling on Mrs Smith. On a personal level, I find getting messed around and stood up by friends to be incredibly rude so it’s nice to clear early on in our hypothetical friendship that Anne has no truck with those kind of shenanigans either. More than that though, Anne is also a tolerant and forgiving friend. Lady Russell may have steered her wrong all those years ago but even after her marriage, Anne remains fond of her and keeps up the connection. She’s also level-headed in a crisis as the incident at Lyme demonstrates. Anne Elliot is the clear choice in this category and if she ever wants to meet for coffee, she is more than free to drop me a message 😀
For the rest of my Austen in August Fan Challenge – see here