said he; “and who is Miss Anne Elliot to be visiting in Westgate Buildings?
– A Mrs. Smith. A widow Mrs. Smith, - and who was her husband? One of the five
thousand Mr. Smiths whose names are to be met with every where… A poor widow,
barely able to live, between thirty and forty – a mere Mrs. Smith, an every
day Mrs. Smith, of all people and names in the world, to be the chosen friend of
Miss Anne Elliot, and to be preferred by her, to her own family connections
among the nobility of England and Ireland! Mrs. Smith, such a name!” (157-58)
The expostulation of Sir Walter Elliot in response to his daughter’s declining Lady Dalrymple’s invitation in order to visit a former school friend in reduced circumstances. This demonstration of the full flow of his rhetorical and indeed intellectual powers does no more than confirm to the reader the first half of Admiral Croft’s earlier observation, that “the baronet will never set the Thames on fire”; but the other half, that “there seems no harm in him,” is disproved by the tirade’s so wounding the feelings of the otherwise self-possessed Mrs. Clay as to make it impossible for her to stay in the room. In terms of the fortunes of its auditors, it is a far more potent pronouncement than immediately appears. Well considered, it might be found to constitute a turning point in the story.
Not that there is a great deal of substance in the remark; it would have been surprising if there were. True enough, when the author wishes to attribute the status of a nobody to one of her characters, Smith is the surname she seems to fall back upon – as with Emma Woodhouse’s protégée Harriet, parlour-boarder at Mrs. Goddard’s school, and illegitimate daughter of a “respectable tradesman”. But, the matter of status apart, the name itself demonstrably signifies little, if anything. In the course of the novel, Harriet displays such qualities of simplicity, good-nature and tenderness as can cause Emma on occasion to believe Harriet her superior, and capable of attaching men of wealth and social pretension. Roused by Mr. Knightley’s attack on their friendship as an impropriety, she not only asserts that “‘such a girl as Harriet is exactly what every man delights in,’” but tells him, “‘Were you, yourself, ever to marry, she is the very woman for you’” (64). Nor, as the world goes, does her opinion greatly err. What reader of Emma would deny Harriet’s natural and touching dignity towards the close, when she confides her hopes of Knightley’s heart – or would at that point reject as a possibility what Emma, despite her every wish, cannot bring herself to do? The novel’s force and poignancy owe much to its revelation that Harriet the nobody has the capability of being a somebody.
The conclusion must be – is it not part of the truth Jane Austen is presenting to us? – that, as it is with her Christian names, so with the surnames, they are in themselves no guide to the assessment of personality, or necessarily of social standing: that, in fact, the rose given another name, or placed within a different category, will smell as sweet. And of this there is corroboration in the other Smith in the novels: the very Mrs. Smith to whom Sir Walter Elliot without knowing her is moved to take such strong objection. Despite her being through poverty and misfortune resident in the unthinkable Westgate Buildings, she shows herself in manners, mind, and disposition to be indisputably a lady, and even Anne’s superior by right of seniority and knowledge of the world.
This, if a possible doubt – and a serious one – can first be laid to rest. It concerns her deliberately withholding the knowledge of Mr. Elliot’s past unfeeling and invidious behaviour from the friend she believes all but engaged to him in his new situation and persona. When the confidence is at last bestowed, there is amongst Anne’s varied emotions so strong a puzzlement at its not having been forthcoming, and, more, at Mrs. Smith’s having “seemed to recommend and praise” Mr. Elliot in the interim, that, well-mannered as she is, she cannot withhold an exclamation of surprise. Is she not justified? Can there be anything admirable in default upon so vital an issue, and whatever might lie behind it?
the face of it, Mrs. Smith’s behavior is inconsistent. Instead of the needful
communication, Anne has been offered a series of oblique queries and surmises
all oddly indicating approval of the approaching marriage. She hopes and trusts
her dear Miss Elliot “will be very happy.” When might she speak of it as
settled: “Next week?” Why should Miss Elliot be “cruel” enough to affect
indifference to Mr. Elliot? Where would she “look for a more suitable
match,” or “expect a more gentlemanlike, agreeable man?” The change to
incommunicativeness and silence that succeeds makes all the more shocking the
vehemence of Mrs. Smith’s denunciation when it bursts forth:
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 could be perpetrated without risk
of his general character. . . . He is totally beyond the reach of any sentiment
of justice or compassion. Oh! he is black at heart, hollow and black!” (199)
It should not escape us, however, that, no sooner are these accusations out of her mouth, than Mrs. Smith is begging her startled friend to “allow for an injured woman.” In this recognition of her conduct having gone beyond decorous bounds, might we detect awareness that the position she is taking towards the person who has provoked it is likewise extreme? What, after all, are the offences she has taxed him with? We should do well to inquire, and consider whether they amount to what the poet might term “direct villainy.”
There are a number of offences. In his early years, Elliot had been guilty of a spendthrift style of living, and of an inclination also undeniable to escape from the trammelling constraints and expectations imposed by the accident of birth. His having found Sir Walter insufferable, insulting as this might seem to Anne Elliot, would elsewhere be deemed a sign of discernment and good taste. The desire to marry for money which subsequently motivated him, while naturally censurable, was one of those things which even Mrs. Smith admitted to be “too common” for outright condemnation, and which so discriminating a young woman as Elizabeth Bennet could view to be allowable in “A man in distressed circumstances,” as Elliot was then by Mrs. Smith’s account. The fact of his unkindness to his first wife, blemish though it be, Mrs. Smith is from personal knowledge in a position to explain, and excuse. All these faults, while they show Mr. Elliot to be deserving of the title homme moyen sensuel, do not mark him down as a villain.
monstrosity in his nature, if that is what it is, resides in his stern and
unpitying refusal to come to the newly widowed Mrs. Smith’s aid, after the
bankruptcy and death of the husband who had been his close friend. Estimable in
any light such conduct cannot be; but in a certain light it could be seen as
defensible. Now affluent, having, as Mrs. Smith puts it, “‘long had as much
money as he could spend, nothing to wish for on the side of avarice or
indulgence’” (206), he has with the passing of years become intent upon the
dignity destined for him in the future baronetcy. With entire propriety,
therefore, he had proceeded to drop his former acquaintance upon her
impoverishment and loss of social status: her becoming, so to speak, a mere
Smith. In acting thus he had reverted to type and class: had “given her up,”
in the common phrase, with as little thought or compunction as Lady Bertram gave
up the sister who had so “disobliged her family” as to bestow her affections
upon a Lieutenant of Marines – or as Emma would have had to give up her dear
Harriet if she had accepted Mr. Martin’s letter of proposal.
Elliot’s conduct had been deeply wounding and humiliating, deserving, perhaps, of a term like inhumanity; certainly in the estimation of Anne Elliot, face to face as she was now with grief and despair in her friend. But was she truly in any position to judge? Had she not, it might be asked, herself been guilty of inflicting real suffering, and upon much the same principle, in giving up her friend and lover, Frederick Wentworth, for the sake of “the independence which alone had been wanting”? And done so, in a daughter’s more dependent situation, through conformity with the wisdom of that age, and of its spokesman in the figure of Lady Russell? The grief occasioned had not been his alone. Anne had borne a burden of sorrow long thereafter; but, at the time, she had “had to encounter all the additional pain of opinions, on his side, totally unconvinced and unbending, and of his feeling himself ill-used by so forced a relinquishment” (28). While still of course exercising fitting restraint, might he not in his exasperation have harbored the very supposition Mrs. Smith was to entertain of another, that Anne, like Mr. Elliot was “‘without heart or conscience, a designing, wary, cold-blooded being who thinks only of [her]self’” (199)? What he did say, we are left to surmise; but to judge by what we know of his disposition, his parting comments will have been reasonably explicit; and, once having uttered them, he certainly showed no disposition to linger. When he reappears after a long interval, the affront still rankles in him.
So it is with Mrs. Smith, too; but she is sufficiently aware of her world, and has lived in it long enough, to know that, while Mr. Elliot’s behaviour was reprehensible, he did not and could not exemplify the charge she has made against him. Her knowledge is Jane Austen’s own. Readers and critics can be excused for sometimes forgetting, in the midst of being so well entertained, that in her novels she was writing not about novels but about life: where, as her fanciful Catherine Morland was brought perforce to admit, it is not a question of persons either being “as spotless as an angel” or “hav[ing] the [disposition] of a fiend,” but of their partaking of “a general . . . mixture of good and bad” (NA 200). In ordinary social intercourse, some may incur our dislike, a few perhaps justifiably our ire; but we should be unfortunate indeed to find ourselves confronted with a Montoni.
Through most of that decisive interview in her noisy parlour, however, Mr. Elliot was not Mrs. Smith’s chief concern, though having been her first. The extremity of her need had made her resolve upon a renewed application, through Anne, to the man who had once spurned her appeal for help; but the presence of this very Miss Elliot was soon to impose upon her a problem far more critical and urgent: nothing less than that of making or marring the life’s happiness of the friend she had rejoiced so unexpectedly to encounter. The engagement which she had gathered from all the indications to be about to take place, though apparently not yet a settled thing, was still very likely to happen; and she must now immediately decide whether, and by what right, she might take it upon herself to ensure that it never did.
In that ceremonious age, marriage was deemed not the product of romance, but a matter of family alliance. Within the bounds of her experience it would have been all but impossible for Mrs. Smith to have come upon a match of greater acceptability to the two immediately concerned, or to their family and acquaintances, who were from her certain information delighted at the prospect. All Anne’s disavowals notwithstanding, the betrothal seemed near; in her features glowed the radiance of a young woman deeply in love. It betokened also the funds of future happiness which, despite the reservations Mrs. Smith entertained, might well be in store for the pair. For her merely to mention them would be a work of negation: of the destruction of possibility, with consequences unknown.
In its every detail, her subsequent conduct incurs no fault. First, dismissal of the subject of her previous friendship with Mr. Elliot: “‘It is a great while since we met,’” she tells Anne(194). Next comes the hesitation, and the inconsequential remarks often indicative of profound thought, to be followed by those inferences and refined delvings as to the state of Anne’s emotions, legitimate in the circumstances, through which she hopes to arrive at a certainty. Then the composed responses to the rallying liveliness of Anne’s inquiries, the less-than-polite short answers, and, finally, the muteness to which she is driven. But not before Anne, in her embarrassment at what was being asked of her, has made clear that her feelings relate to someone else, that “‘it is not Mr. Elliot that—’” (197); and Mrs. Smith, in sensitive and mannered reaction, has instantly accepted her word, “and with all the semblance of seeing nothing beyond.”
as soon, her decision has been made, and she is talking “in her natural tone
of cordiality” (198): asking pardon, confessing her previous uncertainty as to
what to do, pleading the dislike any decent person feels “‘to be officious,
to be giving bad impressions, making mischief’” in the lives of others, and,
at last, speaking without reserve her condemnation of the man by whom she has
been wronged. The account is lengthy; by the time it is over her mood has
changed to a considerate solemnity. The last we hear from her, drawn forth by
Anne’s wonderment at her first seeming commendation of Mr. Elliot, deserves
not to be ignored:
“My dear,” was Mrs. Smith’s reply, “there was nothing else to be done. I considered your marrying him as certain, though he might not yet have made the offer, and I could no more speak the truth of him, than if he had been your husband. My heart bled for you, as I talked of happiness. And yet, he is sensible, he is agreeable, and with such a woman as you, it was not absolutely hopeless. He was very unkind to his first wife. They were wretched together. But she was too ignorant and giddy for respect, and he had never loved her. I was willing to hope that you must fare better.” (211)
For Mrs. Smith to have come through so severe and agonizing a test of friendship as this is nothing less than a triumph of good sense and good breeding. Where in the novels is there to be found a better example of sensitivity, discretion, principle, and kindness?
None would deny that the surname of Smith, which Sir Walter finds so offensively plebeian, is undistinguished: but there is another name in Persuasion which, if anything, is even more so. Not that it is borne by so many persons; but, in respect of the associations of the word, what can be commoner than Clay—the name Jane Austen accords to the widowed daughter of Sir Walter’ steward, frequent visitor at Kellynch Hall, and long-term resident in Camden Place. From these particulars a somewhat unfortunate juxtaposition might be deduced. But the lady is a rung or two up the social ladder in her father’s being a lawyer – a minor profession, at least, despite its provoking the merriment of Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst at Netherfield Hall, and the scorn of Emma Woodhouse for its representative in Highbury, the pert William Cox. In the novels’ world, Mrs. Clay might be no more than on a par with Elizabeth Bennet’s rather deplorable uncle Phillips: but she is also the equal of Elizabeth’s first love and eventual brother-in-law, George Wickham, the possessor of manners more engaging than those of Mr. Darcy, and of social powers far more considerable.
In these latter respects, Mrs. Clay on her first appearance is as impressive. Quite at her ease in the rarefied atmosphere of Kellynch, she is as ready to promote her father’s interests by extolling the virtues of a sailor tenant, as to contradict the baronet in mock remonstrance at his strictures upon the Navy, with her, “‘Nay, Sir Walter, this is being severe indeed. Have a little mercy on the poor men. We are not all born to be handsome’” (20). Clearly, a pronounced if not laudable ability is being displayed, in that this and her other challenges are at the same time instinct with flattery. Having gone through the list of occupations, with their blighting effects upon the practitioners, she turns to the situation of “‘those who are not obliged to follow any, who can live in a regular way, in the country, choosing their own hours, following their own pursuits, and living on their own property, without the torment of trying for more,’” the halcyon leisure of the privileged: and concludes with the splendid compliment, “‘it is only their lot, I say, to hold the blessings of health and good appearance to the utmost” (20-21). Could her words be other than music to the vain Sir Walter’s ears?
A lively and spirited personality is before us. It does not give evidence of the wit and brilliancy of, say, a Mary Crawford, but shows itself possessed of intellect as powerful as hers. And also, in the processes of conversation, an elegance. If to a degree the speech is an indication of the person, then in the style of the words just quoted, or in her observation that “‘even in the quieter professions, there is a toil and labour of the mind, if not of the body, which seldom leaves a man’s looks to the natural effect of time” (20), rings evidence of Mrs. Clay’s being someone worthy of note. But what greater proof can there be, than the fact of her having gained the friendship of the haughty Elizabeth Elliot, and suspicion of arousing the ardour of Sir Walter himself – who, in urging her to prolong her stay in his house, can so surprisingly yet deservedly pay tribute to her “fine mind”?
This application was the very last thing his neighbour Lady Russell would have approved. Mrs. Clay’s association with the Kellynch family was, for her, “an intimacy, which she wished to see interrupted”, a friendship “quite out of place” (15). Due allowance must be made for the “prejudices on the side of ancestry” which, Jane Austen informs us, could have the effect of narrowing her sympathies. Whether the estimate of Mrs. Clay as “a clever young woman, who understood the art of pleasing; the art of pleasing, at least, at Kellynch-hall” is that of Lady Russell or the author herself is impossible to determine (15); but in the sight of the former, the lady is “a very unequal, and in her character she believed a very dangerous companion” for Elizabeth who ought to have been “nothing to her but the object of distant civility” (16).
However, in the scope of the novel as a whole, this judgment, or the thinking which leads to it, cannot be sound: for, eight years before, Lady Russell had made a similar objection, for pretty much the same reasons, to the man Anne Elliot finally marries. Wentworth she had seen as an unequal companion in his being entirely lacking in wealth; and the very self-confidence through which he was thereafter to amass a fortune “added a dangerous character to himself” (27). In short, “She deprecated the connexion in every light” and prevailed on Anne to end it. Wrong as she has proved about him, can she now be right about Mrs. Clay?
Nevertheless, Lady Russell’s opinion is one Anne shares and maintains unyieldingly throughout. She feels “quite as keenly” as the older woman the inappropriateness of the plan for Mrs. Clay to accompany her father and sister to Bath, especially in view of Sir Walter’s susceptibility, and is moved by the threat to his family to warn Elizabeth of it; and her immediate concern upon coming to Bath is to ascertain whether he was by now in love with Mrs. Clay. She is naturally more knowledgeable than Lady Russell, and also more observant. She well knew her father’s propensity to be constantly “making severe remarks” in her absence upon Mrs. Clay’s freckles and projecting tooth and clumsy wrist: but the charm of her being “decidedly altogether well-looking” Anne still does not underestimate (34). But she has sensed an attribute far more potent, in her possessing “in an acute mind and assiduous pleasing manners, infinitely more dangerous attractions than any merely personal might have been” (34). Intellectually and socially, Mrs. Clay is a gifted being – a fact which must strongly influence the attitude Anne adopts towards her.
Is there a fear in Anne Elliot of being put in the shade? In a sense, this had already happened, long before Mrs. Clay’s advent; and long ago, also, she had “become hardened” to the state. For temperamental and other reasons, Anne was odd man out in that family – was “nobody with either father or sister: her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way” (5). She is a steady, serious character, in manner gentle and self-effacing; it is typical of her that, much as she is minded to reply upon her father’s reproof at her visits in Westgate Buildings, she says nothing.
Whenever she speaks at length, it appears that she does so by effort. She is happier and more herself in making what is best described as minimal comment, though it is not insignificant that a quiet remark from her can be unusually forceful. In contrast to Mrs. Clay’s long speeches in defence of the Navy, Anne’s mild observation that they “‘have at least an equal claim with any other set of men’” not only commands respect, but serves to direct the conversation (19). In the very different setting of the windy Cobb after Louisa’s fall, when the party are transfixed with horror, Anne’s words, again sparing, are of instant effect, for they proceed from a clear and resolute understanding. “‘A surgeon!’” precipitates action; “‘Captain Benwick, would it not be better for Captain Benwick?” a change of plan (110). When, at the Harville’s, she is obliged to affirm her willingness to stay and look after Louisa, it is done as briefly as courtesy will permit. Rather than springing from any sense of inadequacy, this reserve in Anne Elliot seems the sign of a personal integrity and assurance.
The same may be said concerning that helpfulness of disposition which is as constant in her as it is unaffected. It is not just out of duty, but evidently with pleasure that she has industriously made catalogues of the books and pictures at Kellynch, sorted out the plants to be taken or left, and gone to almost every house in the parish as a take-leave. Again, her instinct when the newly engaged Henrietta confides her anxieties about her husband’s future is a readiness “to do good” by entering interestedly into the subject, acquiescing in Henrietta’s sentiments and wishes, and adding kindly encouragement of her own. And, on her coming to stay at Kellynch Lodge, and hearing Lady Russell discoursing upon the Kellynch family’s concerns when her own thoughts were engrossed by the people at Lyme, and the friendship of the Harvilles and Captain Benwick, she consciously makes the exertion which courtesy demands, to be able “to meet Lady Russell with any thing like the appearance of equal solicitude, on topics which had by nature the first claim on her” (124). All this is simple good manners, of course, but it is also genuine good will: the two are not very dissimilar.
In the ordinary course of events, Anne Elliot’s reactions always tend to be natural and right, often even laudable. Upon visiting the Crofts at Kellynch after they have taken possession, she gives no thought to her own family’s loss: she “could but in conscience feel that they were gone who deserved not to stay” (125). The Admiral’s wayward and sometimes brusque manners do not obscure for her that “goodness of heart” in which she takes such delight; though his perplexity at the number of mirrors in her father’s room, and their declaring him “‘a rather dressy man for his time of life,’” leaves her, while amused in spite of herself, apprehensively “rather distressed for an answer” (128). The barely suppressed grief of Captain Harville, as he speaks of the sister so recently lost, is met with her suggestion, comforting though it be commonplace, “‘but in time, perhaps – we know what time does in every case of affliction’” (108). By the thought, when first she is in Westgate Buildings, of the instances of selflessness and fortitude in human nature at its noblest which must pass before those who nurse the sick, Anne is moved; and in the crippled Mrs. Smith’s cheerfulness, her power of transforming an evil into good, she reverently finds “the choicest gift of Heaven.”
sentiments, if not novel, have nothing of the pretentious about them, but are
entirely just. And the same holds true of Anne’s responses in encounters with
the opposite sex: while properly modest, they are in no way missish. Finding
herself being very directly complimented by Mr. Elliot during the interval of
the concert, she reacts blushingly with an attempt to change the conversation:
“‘For shame, for shame! – this is too much of flattery. I forget what we
are to have next,’ turning to the bill” (187).
But she will restrain neither her pleasure nor her inquiries at Charles
Musgrove’s news of Captain Benwick’s admiring her exceedingly, despite
Mary’s graceless disparagement of the idea; and from that time her head is
full of the thought of meeting or seeing him again. And why not?
It was bad enough that a Mrs. Clay should be always before her; but that a deeper hypocrite should be added to their party, seemed the destruction of every thing like peace and comfort. (215)
To be set between a Scylla and a Charybdis in the confines of a drawing room is a fate no one would envy.
Is it pure alarm at “results the most serious to his family” that would follow from her father’s marrying Mrs. Clay which causes Anne to warn Elizabeth, “who in the event of such a reverse would be so much more pitied than herself”? Or is there an admixture of fear of the disgrace which Mrs. Clay’s “low” condition would bring upon them all? There is nothing about the latter possibility in what she says to Elizabeth; but it is almost entirely in terms of rank that she is answered, inheritance as such being relegated almost to an afterthought. “‘Mrs. Clay,’” Elizabeth tells Anne with warmth, “‘never forgets who she is’” (35); more strongly than most people, “‘she reprobates all inequality of condition and rank’”; and her sentiments upon marriage are in this respect “‘particularly nice.’” The substance of the matter, though unstated in Anne’s approach, is asserted by Elizabeth, and understood by both, to be the formidable barrier of social decorum which they know to exist, and behind which, presumably, they should feel themselves secure.
Upon that bulwark, the visit Anne was to make to Mrs. Smith is nothing less than a formal assault: a clear defiance of established custom. And not without due deliberation and caution is it undertaken. From the personal viewpoint, Anne was confident of not being grossly in error. Apart from intervening misfortunes since they had last seen each other, Mrs. Smith had strong claims upon her in her present crippled state, and in that past kindness when Anne had returned to school grieving over her mother’s death, “which had considerably lessened her misery, and could never be remembered with indifference” (152). These considerations, however, were in themselves not enough: in an affair of such moment, it was needful to have recourse to an elder’s experience and principle, and Anne applied to Lady Russell. Her judgment was favourable: Anne’s youthful friendship, the then Miss Hamilton’s comfortable circumstances and her subsequently becoming the wife of a man of fortune, as well as charitable concern for an invalid, sufficiently militated against her present penniless condition for Anne to renew acquaintance with her. But Lady Russell’s preparedness to convey her “as near to Mrs. Smith’s lodgings in Westgate Buildings, as she chose to be taken” betokens the equivocal nature of the proceeding in the minds of both ladies (153). A stern critic – and what is more, a fair and impartial one – might see in it an apprehension lest the coach and its owner should be so sullied by that proximity as to be in need of the month’s ablution which Elizabeth irreverently imagined Mr. Darcy would resort to, in order that he might be cleansed from the impurities of Gracechurch Street were he once to enter it (PP 141).
But this time Lady Russell’s judgment had been sound. Once the awkwardness and emotion of the first moments have faded, Mrs. Smith is, for Anne, still as much the lady of her remembrance as Mr. Elliot is the gentleman when she first sets eyes on him. Yet she has not been without trepidation as to what change intervening years and events might have brought about in her erstwhile friend. Happily, we are informed, as the meeting progressed, Anne finds in Mrs. Smith “the good sense and agreeable manners which she had almost ventured to depend on” (153). The implication of verb and adverb conjoined surely is testimony to the existence in Anne Elliot of apprehensions regarding the enterprise she was engaged upon, not so very far removed from Sir Walter’s own. But swiftly they have been done away. It cannot be said at this point that she has crossed the Rubicon of social decorum; but she is now at least safely over one of its lesser tributaries.
For what would have been her feelings if Sir Walter had recklessly launched himself across this fateful waterway with regard to Mrs. Clay, and grandly set foot upon the opposite bank? Would they not have amounted to such dismay as afflicted Emma Woodhouse at the thought of Mr. Knightley married to Harriet Smith?
Such an elevation on her side! Such a debasement on his! - It was horrible to Emma to think how it must sink him in the general opinion, to foresee the smiles, the sneers, the merriment it would prompt at his expense; the mortification and disdain of his brother, the thousand inconveniences to himself. (413)
For any self-respecting gentleman such things would be sufficiently daunting. But for an individual as considerate of his dignity as Sir Walter Elliot, they would assume tragic proportions.
But what of the subject of “elevation,” which also exercises Miss Woodhouse’s mind? Who, let the question be asked, being in social terms a nobody, is to be seen in the novels as achieving acceptability and bliss? Addressing this question, we find ourselves embarked upon a rather barren quest. There are, for a start, very few persons so identifiable.