William Elliot is a character in Persuasion. He is a distant cousin of Sir Walter Elliot's and is the great grandson of the second Sir Walter. He is heir presumptive of the baronetcy and the family seat, Kellynch Hall. Sir Walter invited him to Kellynch in order to push him to his eldest daughter and favorite, Elizabeth. He was aloof and later they heard he had married an heiress of inferior birth. Mrs. William Elliot later died and he kept her fortune.
William ignored Sir Walter's open arms at first, and didn't wish to marry Elizabeth. He instead married an heiress, becoming wildly wealthy. She later died, leaving him with a fortune. It was revealed that he had married her solely for her money and that he held his distant cousins in cold contempt. He knew Mrs. Smith at that time, and talked with her often, learning about the Elliots, namely Anne. She tried to convince him that Anne was different from her sister, and better.
William was spotted by his cousins Mary Musgrove and Anne Elliot when they were staying at Lyme. He had ridden off quickly, although he looked fashionable and wealthy. Later, he visited Sir Walter in Bath, lamenting the lost years and attributing it to misapprehension. Sir Walter and Elizabeth were very taken with him. Mrs. Clay, Elizabeth's friend, tried to encourage her in the direction of a romance with him. All of his actions confused Anne, since William seemed to be wealthier than her father at this point. She was mainly confused about why William would want to reconcile after all this time, but wrote it off thinking that perhaps there had been an interest between William and Elizabeth.
William became good friends with the Elliots, and made them the cream of Bath society. He stayed in the Marlborough Buildings, housing that is extremely fashionable and luxurious. He introduced the Elliots to many people, including Colonel and Mrs. Wallis. Upon meeting Anne, he made himself exceedingly agreeable. He shared her dislike of Mrs. Clay, whom they both thought as an upstart with designs on Sir Walter. He also encouraged the Elliots—namely Anne as Sir Walter and Elizabeth need no encouragement—to get to know Lady Dalrymple and her daughter, as the connection would only further their rise into Bath society.
Pursuit of AnneEdit
William had heard about Anne from a prior acquaintance, later revealed to be Mrs. Smith, and began to have designs on her. He was talking about his affection for her at a concert hosted by Lady Dalrymple. Anne was taken aback and uncomfortable about his attentions, because she didn't think of him in a romantic way. Her old love, Frederick Wentworth, heard that William intended to propose marriage to Anne, and had to leave the concert in a hurry.
Traits and characteristicsEdit
- "He was quite as good looking as he appeared at Lyme, his countenance improved by speaking, and his manners were so exactly what they ought to be, so polished, so easy, so particularly agreeable, that she could compare them in excellence to only one person's manners. They were not the same, but they were, perhaps, equally good."
- —Narration about Mr. William Elliot
After an initially rocky start, William endeared himself to the Elliots. Like Sir Walter and Elizabeth, he valued rank and prestige. He also valued good conversation, education, and well-informed people, thus endearing himself to Anne Elliot and Lady Russell. Anne thought him to be their most agreeable acquaintance in Bath.
- "Mr. Elliot is a man without heart or conscience; a designing, wary, cold-blooded being, who thinks only of himself; who, for his own interest or ease, would be guilty of any cruelty, or any treachery, that would be perpetrated without risk of his general character. He has no feeling for others. Those whom he has been the chief cause of leading into ruin, he can neglect and desert without the smallest compunction. He is totally beyond the reach of any sentiment or compassion. Oh! He is black at heart, hollow and black!"
- —Mrs. Smith describing Mr. Elliot's character to Anne Elliot, her friend
According to Mrs. Smith, William married solely for money, and only upon making sure his bride had a large dowry. He also was blatantly disrespectful about Anne's family, and even said he would sell the baronetcy for 50 pounds.