By Jane Austen
Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs, changed naturally into pity and contempt, as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century — and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed — this was the page at which the favourite volume always opened: “ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH-HALL. “Walter Elliot, born March 1_ 1760, married, July 15_ 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson_ Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1_ 1785; Anne, born August 9_ 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5_ 1789; Mary, born Nov. 20_ 1791.” Precisely such had the paragraph originally stood from the printer’s hands; but Sir Walter had improved it by adding, for the information of himself and his family, these words, after the date of Mary’s birth — “married, Dec. 16_ 1810, Charles, son and heir of Charles Musgrove_ Esq. of Uppercross, in the county of Somerset,” — and by inserting most accurately the day of the month on which he had lost his wife. Then followed the history and rise of the ancient and respectable family, in the usual terms: how it had been first settled in Cheshire; how mentioned in Dugdale — serving the office of High Sheriff, representing a borough in three successive parliaments, exertions of loyalty, and dignity of baronet, in the first year of Charles II., with all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married; forming altogether two handsome duodecimo pages, and concluding with the arms and motto: “Principal seat, Kellynch hall, in the county of Somerset,” and Sir Walter’s hand-writing again in this finale: “Heir presumptive, William Walter Elliot_ Esq., great grandson of the second Sir Walter.” Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did; nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society.
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