Mansfield Park Revelation: I am Fanny Price! Are You?

Newby Hall, Yorkshire

In Defense of Fanny Price

Even after the conclusion of Mansfield Park Madness, I am still ruminating over the novel and the characters. In order to put them to rest, I must get one thing off my chest! My journey to understand the novel has lead me to several insights and one profound truth. 

At the end of chapter 46 when Fanny Price, her sister Susan and cousin Edmund Bertram are returning by carriage to Mansfield Park, Jane Austen gives us a beautiful description of the countryside from Fanny’s perspective. 

Fanny had been everywhere awake to the difference of the country since February; but when they entered the Park her perceptions and her pleasures were of the keenest sort. It was three months, full three months, since her quitting it, and the change was from winter to summer. Her eye fell everywhere on lawns and plantations of the freshest green; and the trees, though not fully clothed, were in that delightful state when farther beauty is known to be at hand, and when, while much is actually given to the sight, more yet remains for the imagination. Her enjoyment, however, was for herself alone. Edmund could not share it. She looked at him, but he was leaning back, sunk in a deeper gloom than ever, and with eyes closed, as if the view of cheerfulness oppressed him, and the lovely scenes of home must be shut out. 

At that exact moment in my re-reading of Mansfield Park, I had a startling epiphany — a Catherine Earnshaw moment (the heroine of Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, — when she ruminates over all of hero Heathcliff’s faults, and then proclaims exuberantly, “I am Heathcliff“, relieved to finally understand herself and know her destiny). I too had my enlightening moment, discovering through Fanny’s eyes as she observes her environment, the people around her, and her feelings that — “I am Fanny Price!” 

Sylvestra Le Touzel as Fanny Price (1983)

Ok, I heard that collective “ick” over cyber-space. I know — no one wants to be like a heroine that others think so ill of, who is accused of being meek, bland, insipid, passive and, –gulp– a prig!  Heavy faults indeed, which I admit not wanting to be associated with either. However, are these faults fairly applied? Is Fanny Price really as intolerable as some accuse her of being?

Carolyn Farina as Audrey Roguet (Fanny Price), Metropolitan (1990)

Honestly, up until that moment in the novel my impression of Fanny Price had been influenced by the general opinion that she is Jane Austen’s meek and unexciting anti-heroine spawning disparity of opinion to the point of igniting “Fanny Wars” among her advocates and nay-sayers in the Jane Austen community. Amused and baffled by all the controversy, here, here, and here, I had just taken it all in, waiting for my chance to discover the truth, trying to stay objective and unaffected until I could make my own decision. 

Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price (1999)

By Chapter 46, I had been impressed with her sincerity, her kindness and her principles in the face of so much human folly surrounding her at Mansfield Park and at Portsmouth. When her mentor and only friend Edmund attempts to convince her to marry Henry Crawford, her reaction is so profound, so firm, so principled, so honorable that I am amazed that others can discredit her. Who indeed could find fault with such a lovely and virtuous woman who knows herself so acutely that she alone understands what will give her a  happy and fulfilling life? Are money and social position more important than principles and love? She thinks not, and I sense that is also the point Jane Austen wants us to discover and question.

Billie Piper as Fanny Price (2007) 

So, in defense of Fanny Price I present “The Fanny List“, representing some of her amiable qualities that she exhibits in the novel. 

Loyalty, honor, sincerity, attentiveness, virtuous, inquisitiveness, bookishness, quietness, reserved, modesty, kindness, consideration, perception, patience, understanding, and morality  

You might think that this is an impressive list of atributes for a heroine, let alone a real person. Please do not misunderstand me when I say “I am Fanny Price”! I proclaim only an affinity to her, not an exact replica. I can only aspire to attain such an exaulted position!

Further-more, when we analyze all of Jane Austen’s seven heroine’s; Elinor & Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse, Anne Elliot, and Catherine Morland,  they all exhibit many of the characteristics on this list. They are personal qualities that society values, and that many aspire to. In my opinion, in a head-to-head throw-down, Fanny Price beats them all, hands down!

Recently, I took an online quiz created by Kali at the Emma Adaptations website which asked “Which Jane Austen heroine are you?” Surprisingly, my result was tabulated as Elizabeth Bennet! Even though I admire the witty and sparkling heroine of Pride and Prejudice, I was astounded that I subliminally thought that our personalities were alike; quite the contrary! On further reflection, we all might admire and aspire to be Lizzy Bennet, — but in reality — we are Fanny Price. Not such a bad thing after all, — in my humble estimation!

*Header photo of the grounds of Newby Hall, Yorkshire where the movie Mansfield Park (2007) was filmed.

Mansfield Park Madness: Roundup & Conclusion: Winners Announced!

She was of course only too good for him; but as nobody minds having what is too good for them, he was very steadily earnest in the pursuit of the blessing, and it was not possible that encouragement from her should be long wanting. The Narrator on Fanny Price & Edmund Bertram, Chapter 48 

Nobody minds having what is too good for them“, reveals all my profound wonder and inestimable gratitude to all of the participants in Mansfield Park Madness, my first Austen event at Austenprose. Your response to my concept of sharing my personal journey of re-discovery of Jane Austen’s most misunderstood and much maligned novel Mansfield Park has so far surpassed my expectations, that I must owe all of its success to Jane Austen, whose incredible talent still draws a crowd after nearly two hundred years. I hope that a few new readers were inspired to read the book (Dina?), and veterans have come to appreciate the novel more deeply through the information provided, and by others personal observations and understanding. I now can proudly say, I adore Fanny Price, and I hope that others may as well! 

There were many memorable comments and questions over the course of the seventeen days. I learned much from my fellow Janeites about the novel, our dear Fanny Price, and myself. The greatest surprise post of the event (and one that was a last minute impulse) was on day eleven, Fun with Fanny & Friends: 6 word review for Mansfield Park. Your responses were so creative they deserved further recognition. Here are few of my favorites. 

Poor relative. Ha-ha romance. Maria defects. – Sibylle 

Fanny pined while Edmund whined. – Susan 

Fanny was true, through and through, – Katie Dugas 

Heroine boring; villains charming; dog hermaphrodite. – Deborah’s husband! 

Mansfield Park intriguing, challenging and fulfilling. – Dina 

Dear Miss Price, unnoticed, but nice! – Sylvia M.

 

THE PRIZE WINNERS

 

And now for the fun stuff! Here are all the winners of the 17 + prizes. Congratulations to all, and many thanks to all who participated. 

DAY 1 – (Aug 15) – Book: MP Oxford World’s ClassicsSUSAN

DAY 2 – (Aug 16) – Book: MP Oxford Illustrated EditionKIRA

DAY 3 – (Aug 17) – Movie: MP 1983 – LUTHIEN84

DAY 4 – (Aug 18) – Audio: MP Naxos Unabridged –  SYLVIA M.   

DAY 4 – (Aug 18) – Audio: MP Naxos Abridged – KATIE

DAY 5 – (Aug 19) – Ephemera: JA Journal – RAE  

DAY 6 – (Aug 20) – Movie: Metropolitan – KIRAGADE

DAY 7 – (Aug 21) – Book: MP PenguinLESLIE

DAY 8 – (Aug 22) – Book: JA Miscellany copy 1 – FATIMA

DAY 8 – (Aug 22) – Book: JA Miscellany copy 2 – KATHLEEN ANN

DAY 9 – (Aug 23) – Book: MP Barnes & Noble – KAREN in MARYLAND

DAY 10 – (Aug 24) – Movie: MP 1999 – DAE   

DAY 11 – (Aug 25) – Ephemera: JA Address Book – KATIE DUGAS

DAY 12 – (Aug 26) – Book: MP Oxford World’s ClassicsLAURA

DAY 13 – (Aug 27) – Movie: MP 2007 – CHERYL

DAY 14 – (Aug 28) – Book: MP BroadviewSIBYLLE

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Edmund Bertram’s Diary copy 1 – DINA

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Edmund Bertram’s Diary copy 2 – AMY CATHERINE

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Edmund Bertram’s Diary copy 3 – JANEEN

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Mansfield Park RevisitedFELICIA

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: The Matters at MansfieldMARY

DAY 15 - (Aug 29) – Book: Central ParkKIRA                                                      

DAY 16 – (Aug 30) – Book: MP Norton Critical EditionCOURTNEY 

Winners – Your prompt reply is appreciated. You have one week to claim your prize! Please e-mail me, (austenprose at verizon dot net) before Sunday, September 7th, 2008. If I do not receive a response by a winner by that date, I will draw another name and continue until all of the prizes have a home to mail them to. Thanks again to everyone for your great contributions. Congrats to the winners, and enjoy!

 

Mansfield Park Madness is now officially concluded!

(Fanny is waiting for you on that bench at Sotherton, until you the read the book again!) 
 

THE END

 

Mansfield Park: Jane Austen’s Collection of Opinions: Day 16 Give-away!

 

OPINIONS 

Mrs. Augusta Bramstone – owned that she thought S. & S. – and P. & P. downright nonsense, but expected to like M. P. better, & having finished the 1st vol. – flattered herself she had got through the worst. 

We have the unique pleasure of still having Jane Austen’s collection of opinions by her family and friends on her novel Mansfield Park which she assembled between 1814-1816. My favorite totally candid remark is listed above as the epigraph. Too funny! One wonders (ever so slightly) if Jane Austen’s mother started the rumor that Fanny Price is insipid, and what Mrs. Lefroy thought of Northanger Abbey three years later! Ha! Enjoy. 

“We certainly do not think it as a whole, equal to P. & P. – but  it has many & great beauties. Fanny is a delightful Character! and Aunt Norris is a great favourite of mine. The Characters are natural & well supported, & many of the Dialogues excellent. – You  need not fear the publication being considered as discreditable to the talents of it’s Author.” - F [rancis] W[illiam] A[usten] 

Not so clever as P. & P. – but  pleased with it altogether. Liked the character of Fanny. Admired the Portsmouth Scene. – Mr. K. [Edward Austen Knight] 

Edward & George [Knight]. – Not liked it near so well as P. & P. – Edward admired Fanny – George disliked her. – George interested by nobody but Mary Crawford – Edward pleased with Henry C[rawford] – Edmund objected to, as cold & formal. – Henry  C[rawford]’s going off with Mrs. R[ushworth], at such a time, when so much in love with Fanny, thought unnatural by Edward. 

Fanny Knight. – Liked it, in many parts, very much indeed, delighted with Fanny; – but   not satisfied with the end – wanting more Love between her & Edmund – & could not think it natural that Edmund should be so much attached to a woman without Principle like Mary C[rawford] – or promote Fanny’s marrying Henry. 

Anna [Lefroy] liked it better than P. & P. – but not so well as S. & S. – could not bear Fanny. – Delighted with Mrs. Norris, the scene at Portsmouth, & all the humourous parts. 

Mrs. James Austen, very much pleased. Enjoyed Mrs. Norris particularly, & the scene at Portsmouth. Thought Henry Crawford’s going off with Mrs. Rushworth very natural. 

Miss Clewes’s objections much the same as Fanny’s. 

Miss Lloyd preferred it altogether to either of the others – Delighted with Fanny. – Hated Mrs. Norris. 

My Mother – not liked it so well as P. & P. – Thought Fanny insipid. – Enjoyed Mrs. Norris. 

Cassandra – thought it quite as clever, tho’ not so brilliant, as P. & P. – Fond of Fanny. – Delighted much in Mr. Rushworth’s stupidity. 

My Eldest Brother [James Austen] – a warm admirer of it in general. – Delighted with the Portsmouth Scene. 

[James] Edward [Austen-Leigh] – Much like his Father. – Objected to Mrs. Rushworth’s Elopement as unnatural. 

Mr. B[enjamin] L[efroy] – Highly pleased with Fanny Price – & a warm admirer of the Portsmouth Scene. – Angry with Edmund for not being in love with her, & hating Mrs. Norris for teazing her. 

Miss Burdett – Did not like it so well as P. & P. 

Mrs. James Tilson – Liked it better than P. & P. 

Fanny Cage – did not much like it – not to be compared to P. & P. – nothing interesting in the Characters – Language poor. – Characters natural & well supported – Improved as it went on. 

Mr. & Mrs. Cooke – very much pleased with it – particularly with the Manner in which the Clergy are treated.  – Mr. Cooke called it “the most sensible Novel he had ever read.” – Mrs. Cooke wished for a good Matronly Character. 

Mary Cooke – quite as much pleased with it, as her Father & Mother; seemed to enter into Lady B[ertram]’s character, & enjoyed Mr. Rushworth’s folly. Admired Fanny in general; but thought she ought to have been more determined on overcoming her own feelings, when she saw Edmund’s attachment to Miss Crawford. 

Miss Burrel – admired it very much – particularly Mrs. Norris & Dr. Grant. 

Mrs. Bramstone  – much pleased with it; particularly with the character of Fanny, as being so very natural. Thought Lady Bertram like herself. – Preferred it to either of the others – but imagined that might be her want of Taste – as she does not understand Wit. 

Mrs. Augusta Bramstone – owned that she thought S. & S. – and P. & P. downright nonsense, but expected to like M. P. better, & having finished the 1st vol. – flattered herself she had got through the worst. 

The families at Deane – all pleased with it. – Mrs. Anna Harwood delighted with Mrs. Norris & the green Curtain. 

The Kintbury [Fowle] Family – very much pleased with it; – preferred it to either of the others. 

Mr. Egerton the Publisher – praised it for it’s Morality, & for being so equal a Composition. – No weak parts. 

Lady Robert Kerr wrote – “You may be assured I read every line with the greatest interest & am more delighted with it than my humble pen can express. The excellent delineation of Character, sound sense, Elegant Language & the pure morality with which it abounds, makes it a most desirable as well as useful work, & reflects the highest honour &c. &c.- Universally admired in Edinburgh, by all the wise ones. – Indeed, I have not heard a single fault given to it.” 

Miss Sharpe – “I think it excellent – & of it’s good sense & moral Tendency there can be no doubt. – Your Characters are drawn to the Life – so very, very natural & just – but as you beg me to be perfectly honest, I must confess I prefer P. & P.” 

Mrs. Carrick. – “All who think deeply & feel much will give the Preference to Mansfield Park.” 

Mr. J. Plumptre. – “I never read a novel which interested me so very much throughout, the characters are all so remarkably well kept up & so well drawn, & the plot is so well contrived that I had not an idea till the end which of the two would marry Fanny, H. C[rawford] or Edmund. Mrs. Norris amused me particularly, & Sir Thomas is very clever, & his conduct proves admirably the defects of the modern system of Education.” – Mr. J. P. made two objections, but only one of them was remembered, the want of some character more striking & interesting to the generality of Readers, than Fanny was likely to be. 

Sir James Langham & Mr. H. Sanford, – having been told that it was much inferior to P. & P. – began it expecting to dislike it, but were very soon extremely pleased with it – & I beleive, did not think it at all inferior. 

Alethea Bigg. – “I have read M. P. & heard it very much talked of, very much praised. I like it myself & think it very good indeed, but as I never say what I do not think, I will add that, although it is superior in a great many points in my opinion to the other two Works, I think it has not the Spirit of P. & P., except perhaps the Price family at Portsmouth, & they are delightful in their way.” 

Charles [Austen] – did not like it near so well as P. & P. – thought it wanted Incident. 

Mrs. Dickson. – “I have bought M. P. — but it is not equal to P. & P.” 

Mrs. Lefroy – liked it, but thought it a mere Novel. 

Mrs. Portal – admired it very much – objected cheifly to Edmund’s not being brought more forward. 

Lady Gordon wrote – “In most novels you are amused for the time with a set of Ideal People whom you never think of afterwards or whom you the least expect to meet in common life, whereas in Miss A—-‘s works, & especially in M. P. you actually live with them, you fancy yourself one of the family; & the scenes are so exactly descriptive, so perfectly natural, that there is scarcely an Incident, or conversation, or a person, that you are not inclined to imagine you have at one time or other in your Life been a witness to, borne a part in, & been acquainted with.” 

Mrs. Pole wrote, – “There is a particular satisfaction in reading all Miss A—-‘s works – they are so evidently written by a Gentlewoman – most Novellists fail & betray themselves in attempting to describe familiar scenes in high Life; some little vulgarism escapes & shews that they are not experimentally acquainted with what they describe, but here it is quite different. Everything is natural, & the situations & incidents are told in a manner which clearly evinces the Writer to belong to the Society whose Manners she so ably delineates.” Mrs. Pole also said that no Books had ever occasioned so much canvassing & doubt, & that everybody was desirous to attribute them to some of their own friends, or to some person of whom they thought highly. 

Admiral Foote – surprised that I had the power of drawing the Portsmouth-Scenes so well. 

Mrs. Creed – preferred S. & S. and P. & P. – to Mansfield Park. 

First published in Jane Austen, The Minor Works, vol. 6 of The Works of Jane Austen, ed. R.W. Chapman (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), 431-435 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 16 Give-away 

Leave a comment by August 30th. to qualify for the drawing on August 31st. for one copy of

 

Mansfield Park: Norton Critical Edition 

W.W. Norton & Co, Inc. (1998). Novel text and extensive supplemental material edited by Claudia L. Johnson. Trade paperback, 544 pages, ISBN 978-0393967913 

Upcoming post
Mansfield Park Madness is almost over!
Day 16 – Aug 30          Last day to leave comments
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Concludes

Mansfield Park Sequels: Edmund Bertram’s Diary: Day 15 Give-away!

 THE SEQUELS
 
Since Austen-esque author Amanda Grange first gave us Darcy’s Diary, the retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective in 2005, she has been dutifully working her way through all six of Jane Austen’s heroes with her books; Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, Edmund Bertram’s Diary and the latest hardcover release, Colonel Brandon’s Diary. Each supply readers with an interesting male vantage on Jane Austen’s classic stories faithfully retold to mirror Jane Austen’s storyline, character personality and theme. It’s almost like reading Jane Austen’s novels from a parallel universe, but written in a more modern style. In this newly released paper back edition, Amanda Grange gives the hero of Mansfield Park, Edmund Bertram a sympathetic and honest treatment. If you are interested in seeing how a man thinks (as apposed to Jane Austen’s feminine view point) I would recommend giving this novel a try. Even though you may already know the storyline, revisiting one of Jane Austen’s most complex and intriguing novels is a always a treat. And if you (like me) believe in keeping the best for last, Ms. Grange is presently writing Henry Tilney’s Diary, which I am certain from my interest in Jane Austen’s delightfully charming character, will be well worth the wait! 
 

 Review highlights

 

“Once again, Amanda Grange has provided a highly entertaining retelling of a classic Jane Austen novel, as seen through the hero’s eyes. EDMUND BERTRAM’S DIARY is pure fun, with the story told in a diary format that makes the reader feel like she’s taking a peek into Edmund’s most innermost thoughts. . . I enjoyed every moment of it.” – Kay James , Romance Reader at Heart 

“Edmund Bertram’s Diary is a sympathetic portrait of a young man struggling with the difficult choices that life throws at us all.” – Austenblog 

“Grange captures the flavour and period extremely well, giving those of us who cannot get enough of this type of novel a story that is both cleverly told and enjoyable.” Red Roses for Authors Reviews 

“Amanda Grange has hit upon a winning formula and retells the familiar story with great verve.” – Historical Novels Review 

 

Further reading

  • Read an excerpt from Edmund Bertram’s Diary
  • Read an in-depth interview of Amanda Grange on AustenBlog

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 15 Give-away

 
Leave a comment by August 30th to qualify for a drawing on August 31st for one of three copies available of 
 

 
Edmund Bertam’s Diary, by Amanda Grange
 
Berkely Trade (2008). A re-telling of the novel Mansfield Park from the perspective of hero Edmund Bertram. Trade paperback, 344 pages, ISBN 978-0425223796 

Upcoming posts
Only two days left to qualify for the many great give-aways
Winners announced August 31st
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Roundup & Conclusion

Mansfield Park Sequels: Mansfield Park Revisited: Is Fanny Price a Funny Girl? Day 15 Give-away!

THE SEQUELS

A recent review at the venerable on-line periodical Publisher’s Weekly of the re-issue of Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken gave me quite a good chuckle. It’s amazing how a small typo can change the whole direction of a book! It appears on first glance that this reviewer thinks that Jane Austen’s heroine from Mansfield Park is one in the same as Broadway legend Fanny Brice! 

Now, our dear Fanny Price has been called many things; insipid, weak and other unmentionables which have lead to a few heated Janeite debates on Austen-L and elsewhere online, but this is a first. We knew that Mansfield Park was full of theatricals and references to the stage, but if my memory serves, Fanny refused to act in play Lovers’ Vows in the novel, so if she has had a change of heart and I have missed Fanny’s singing, dancing and comedic talents on Broadway, it is quite an oversight! Oh what merriment this typo created! 

Mansfield Park Revisited

Joan Aiken. Sourcebooks, $14.95 paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-4022-1289-5 

Author and scholar Aiken (1924-2004), known for her Jane Austen continuations, has imagined a sequel to Mansfield Park that’ll satisfy some Austen fans while enraging others. Heroine Fanny Brice has married her cousin Edmund Bertram and decamped for the family’s Caribbean plantation, leaving her younger sister, Susan, behind to serve as Lady Bertram’s companion at Mansfield Park. Less timid than her sister, but dismissed just the same by her finer relatives, Susan soon encounters the Crawfords, Henry and Mary, a diverting but amoral brother-and-sister pair who had nearly undone the proud Bertram family. Aiken’s sympathetic vision of the Crawfords’ fate, after their seduction of Fanny and her cousins, may strike a false note for Austen purists, but Aiken ably reproduces the author’s traditional plot twists and social comedy, if not her fluid prose or biting satire. (Oct.) 

Mansfield Park Revisited is being reissued by Sourcebooks on October 1, 2008, and quite possibly Joan Aiken’s sequel to Mansfield Park does contain the character of Fanny Brice, the Broadway and Radio legend, who hoofs her way to the Bertram’s Caribbean plantation to sing and dance and entertain the locals. But I doubt it!  

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 15 Give-away

Leave a comment by August 30th to qualify for a drawing on August 31st for one copy of 

 

Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment, by Joan Aiken

(On sale Octber 1, 2008) Sourcebooks Landmark (2008). Re-issue. Sequel to the novel Mansfield Park in which Fanny’s sister Susan’s story is revealed. Trade paperback, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1402212895 

Upcoming posts!
Only two days left to qualify for the many great give-aways!
Winners announced August 31st.
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Conclusion

Mansfield Park Sequels: The Matters at Mansfield: Day 15 Give-away

THE SEQUELS 

What happens when you mix the classic novelist Jane Austen with mystery writer Anne Perry? Author Carrie Bebris’s delightfully funny and fresh Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery Series. Avid readers of Ms. Bebris will be happy to learn that the fourth book in the series, The Matters at Mansfield: Or the Crawford Affair will be available on September 2nd. for their continued amusement and delight. 

In the previous novels in this series; Pride and Prescience: Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged, Suspense and Sensibility or, First Impressions Revisited, and North By Northanger, or The Shades of Pemberley, we follow Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy after their marriage as they visit their friends from the different Jane Austen novels and sleuth out murder and mystery throughout Regency England. I have not been able to acquire an advance copy of this novel to comment on it thoroughly, and it is a bit too soon for reviews to be about online, but here are some excellent reviews on the author’s previous title North by Northanger (which won the Daphne du Maurier Award in 2007) to give you an idea of her style and renown. 

“Bebris provides another feast for Janeites in . . . this well-told tale.” Publishers Weekly 

“Bebris captures Austen’s style and the Regency period perfectly, drawing her characters with a sure hand.” Library Journal 

“A new Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery is always cause for celebration in this household —  and the latest adventure featuring the amatuer sleuths is well up to Carrie Bebris’ usual high standard. . . . A terrific read: I devoured it in a single sitting.” Jane Austen’s Regency World 

“An utter delight . . . every aspect is pitch-perfect.” — Romantic Times Book Club (Top Pick) 

“The writing is crisp, dryly humorous, and consistent with Austen’s style. This book is the best of the three mysteries so far. It is tightly and credibly constructed down to the last detail, heavy on danger and intrigue, historically accurate, and engaging.” VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) 

Further reading 

  • Review of The Matters at Mansfield: or The Crawford Affair at Publishers Weekly
  • Author Carrie Bebris’s website
  • Read an excerpt of The Matters at Mansfield: or The Crawford Affair 

Mansfield Park Madness – Day 15 Give-away

Matters at Mansfield: or The Crawford Affair 

Part of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, by Carrie Bebris. Pride and Prejudice’s characters of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy going sleuthing in this detective mystery spinoff. Hardcover, 288 page, ISBN 978-0765318473 

Upcoming posts 
Only two days left to qualify for the many great give-aways
Winners announced August 31
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Roundup & Conclusion

Mansfield Park Sequels: Central Park: Day 15 Give-away

THE SEQUELS 

In this third book in “The Jane Austen Series” from author Debra White Smith, the story of Jane Austen’s early 19th-century novel Mansfield Park is retold in contemporary New York city with the famous public Central Park as its axis. Prolific author White Smith has had great success with her series of retellings of Jane Austen’s major novels which include First Impression, Reason and Romance, Central Park, Northpointe Chalet, Amanda, and Possibilities (in book series order). Her Christian influenced writing style appeals to many readers and Jane Austen fans that are looking for an entertaining light romance with amusing plots. Experienced readers of Austen might also enjoy discovering and identifying all of Smith White’s contemporary characters and plot lines from Austen’s novels, or might suggest this series of books to a novice Austen reader to motivate them to in turn read Austen and find the similarities between the each of the books. 

Review highights for Debra White Smith 

“Her characters are delightful and the resolutions satisfying.” Jill Elizabeth Nelson, Romantic Times 

“Still, Debra White Smith’s stories-Possibilities is the sixth and presumably the last in her Austen series-have a certain sweet appeal, and the world that she creates is consistent in its detail, whether or not one would care to live in it. Not every ardent Janeite will like these tales, but they may well bring new Converts to the Fold, so to speak, if one of her readers decides to try out the real thing.” Alison T., AustenBlog 

“I enjoy Jane Austen and feel that Debra White Smith does an excellent job portraying each character from Jane Austen into a present-day character, for example, in Central Park each character faces the same overall issues that they do in Mansfield Park. I have enjoyed the Austen Series and would recommend it to readers.” Bible Knowledge Bookstore customer comment 

Further reading 

  • An interview of Debra White Smith on Focus on Fiction 
  • Debra White Smith’s website 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 15 Give-away 

Leave a comment by August 30th. to qualify for a drawing on August 31st. for one copy of

 Central Park: An Austen Series Book 3

By Debra White Smith. Harvest House Publishers (2005). Contemporary re-telling of the novel Mansfield Park set in New York. Trade paperback, 348 pages, ISBN 978-0736908733 

Upcoming posts 
Only two days left to qualify for the many great give-aways
Winners announced August 31
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Roundup & Conclusion

Mansfield Park Chapters 41-48: Summation, Musings & Discussion; Day 14 Give-away!

THE NOVEL

Good sense, like hers, will always act when really called upon; and she found that she had been able to name him to her mother, and recall her remembrance of the name, as that of “William’s friend,” though she could not previously have believed herself capable of uttering a syllable at such a moment. The consciousness of his being known there only as William’s friend was some support. Having introduced him, however, and being all reseated, the terrors that occurred of what this visit might lead to were overpowering, and she fancied herself on the point of fainting away. The Narrator, Chapter 41 

Quick Synopsis 

Henry visits Fanny in Portsmouth and attempts to show her that he has mended his selfish ways, showing concern for his tenants and her health. He asks her for business advice and she responds, “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be”. A chatty letter from Mary Crawford confirms that she only values money and connections. Fanny borrows books from the circulating library so she and Susan can study together. Edmund writes to only talk about Mary, and mentions that he saw Maria and Henry together at a party in town.  Tom is seriously ill. Three months pass and Fanny longs to be home.  Mary writes quizzing Fanny about the extent of Tom’s illness. If he dies, their will be a better man to inherit Mansfield. Mary writes again, warning Fanny of a rumor about Henry. What does it mean? The newspaper reveals that Henry and Maria have run off together. Scandal! Edmund writes to reveal that Julia and Mr. Yates have eloped. She and Susan are summoned immediately to Mansfield. Everyone there is in a sour mood. Aunt Norris blames Fanny for Henry’s actions. No sign of the couple. Tom improves and will live. Edmund has a falling out with Mary and is done with her. Henry will not marry Maria, so in support of her favorite niece, Mrs. Norris leaves Mansfield to live with her. Edmund realizes he is in love with Fanny and they marry to live in Mansfield parsonage. Sir Thomas finally has the daughter he longed for. The end! 

Musings 

I am continually struck by what good sense Fanny has in the face of pressure and adversity. She often acts as everyone ought, the moral compass of principled decorum. Her visit to Portsmouth is quite an eye opener for the reader and the heroine. Jane Austen does not write about poverty often, but she certainly has the knack for it. I am in no doubt of the shabby condition of the household, the coarseness of her father with his ‘oaths’ and drinking, the unruly ragamuffin siblings, and the indifference of her mother to it all. Sir Thomas may have sent her there to see what a small income means, but I laughed out loud at our dear Fanny’s expense when I read this passage! 

After being nursed up at Mansfield, it was too late in the day to be hardened at Portsmouth; and though Sir Thomas, had he known all, might have thought his niece in the most promising way of being starved, both mind and body, into a much juster value for Mr. Crawford’s good company and good fortune, he would probably have feared to push his experiment farther, lest she might die under the cure. The Narrator, Chapter 42 

Too true! To torment her further, Henry Crawford arrives and is so civil and genteel, reminding her of her cousins and the more refined life that she has come to appreciate at Mansfield Park. When he begins to tell her of his concern for his tenants, I am a bit suspicious. Austen really starts to lay on the sympathy for Henry to confuse her, and us. Will he truly be reformed by his love of Fanny? He alone seems to be aware of how abominably her cousins treat her at Mansfield, even more so from a distance, as they have forgotten her in Portsmouth and do not write. He sees the change in her health and knows that she must walk and take the air to maintain it. It all starts to add up in Fanny’s mind.

And, if in little things, must it not be so in great? So anxious for her health and comfort, so very feeling as he now expressed himself, and really seemed, might not it be fairly supposed that he would not much longer persevere in a suit so distressing to her? The Narrator, Chapter 42

The story quickly turns to be all about Mary Crawford and her continued hope to mold Edmund into the rich and prominent man she craves. Through a series of letters Fanny is kept informed of the dealings of her cousins. It is her lifeline, and she anxiously awaits word as the news in each letter brings new anxieties and concerns. Foremost on her mind is Edmund and Mary’s relationship. Will he propose?  But he is silent and only Mary, who Fanny would rather not correspond with at all writes boasting of her society friend’s approval of him. Mary only values material things; a house in town, parties and praise from society and Fanny is disgusted by it. Mary is being influenced by her environment and friends!

Yet there was no saying what Miss Crawford might not ask. The prospect for her cousin grew worse and worse. The woman who could speak of him, and speak only of his appearance! What an unworthy attachment! To be deriving support from the commendations of Mrs. Fraser! She who had known him intimately half a year! Fanny was ashamed of her. The Narrator, Chapter 43

The long letter that Fanny has been anticipating finally arrives from Edmund. He does see Mary’s faults and her fixation on the values that he has questioned from the very first. She is even more corrupted by her friends and the changes he sees in her from the influence of Mrs. Fraser a cold-hearted, vain woman who married for convenience has altered Mary for the worse. He sees the differences between what she wants (money) and what he can offer more acutely. Still conflicted he shares an important observation with Fanny.

“I cannot give her up, Fanny. She is the only woman in the world whom I could ever think of as a wife. If I did not believe that she had some regard for me, of course I should not say this, but I do believe it. I am convinced that she is not without a decided preference.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 44

Fanny, with her gentle and patient manner exclaims to herself that he should Fix, commit, condemn yourself “. Bravo! She has had enough vacillation, and wants relief from the prolonged agony of not knowing. When Lady Bertram writes to alert Fanny that Tom is gravely ill, I though that they might send for her, but no. She must continue in her exile with her family, away from all whom she really cares about. Fanny is further appalled when Mary writes to quiz her for information on the extent of Tom’s illness. Material girl that Mary is, Edmund now becomes an even better catch should he become the heir to a Baronet if his brother dies.

She (Fanny) was more inclined to hope than fear for her cousin (Tom), except when she thought of Miss Crawford; but Miss Crawford gave her the idea of being the child of good luck, and to her selfishness and vanity it would be good luck to have Edmund the only son. The Narrator, Chapter 45

The next few chapters of the novel swiftly move to the climax and conclusion packed with so much action and drama that the pages just fly by for me. Fanny will receive two letters that change the entire course of her family and her life. The first letter hastily written and brief, is from Mary warning Fanny of a rumor about Henry. She is puzzled. What does it mean? To learn the whole story by chance is a clever twist by Austen when Fanny’s father discovers the scandalous tidbit in the gossip section of the London newspaper. Henry and Maria have run away together, and the couple’s whereabouts are unknown. Astonishing!

“but so many fine ladies were going to the devil nowadays that way, that there was no answering for anybody.” Mr. Price, Chapter 46

That Austen should give the simple and unrefined Mr. Price the delivery of such an insightful line is hysterical and very effective. Fanny’s reaction is a telling sign of her good nature, always wanting to believe the best of everyone and everything. She does not want to acknowledge it, but pieces the facts together from Mary’s letter and changes her mind. The second letter from Edmund confirms her fears and adds to others in his news that Julia and Mr. Yates have scandalized the family further and eloped to Scotland. Sir Thomas has requested that she return home immediately, and Edmund will arrive tomorrow to fetch her and Susan. Incredible! She has been released from her exile, but has she been forgiven? Edmund and Fanny have a joyful reunion “My Fanny, my only sister; my only comfort now!”, and she sees that Edmund is in low spirits and very quiet. She is very glad to quickly be on their way home!

How her heart swelled with joy and gratitude as she passed the barriers of Portsmouth, and how Susan’s face wore its broadest smiles, may be easily conceived. The Narrator, Chapter 46

How will the rest of the family be when she arrives after a three month absence and under such distressing conditions? Sour and sullen. Amazingly, Mrs. Norris is in the worst state having taken her favorite niece Maria’s impropriety personally since she had recommended the match. She shifts the blame very quickly though, now censuring Fanny for the couple’s wild behavior. If she had accepted Henry’s proposal he would have not looked elsewhere for amusements. Edmund is quiet and distant for some time until he finally confides in Fanny, relaying his final conversation with Mary Crawford and her downfall in his eyes.

“but the manner in which she spoke of the crime itself, giving it every reproach but the right; considering its ill consequences only as they were to be braved or overborne by a defiance of decency and impudence in wrong; and last of all, and above all, recommending to us a compliance, a compromise, an acquiescence in the continuance of the sin, on the chance of a marriage which, thinking as I now thought of her brother, should rather be prevented than sought; all this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past. That, perhaps, it was best for me; I had less to regret in sacrificing a friendship, feelings, hopes which must, at any rate, have been torn from me now. And yet, that I must and would confess that, could I have restored her to what she had appeared to me before, I would infinitely prefer any increase of the pain of parting, for the sake of carrying with me the right of tenderness and esteem.’ Edmund Bertram, chapter 47 

The final blow in his view against her character and good judgment will be in her seeing the fault not in the deed itself, but that they were not clever enough to hide it and continue clandestinely. Her desire for Henry and Maria to marry and for his family to overlook the ‘sin’ and accept them back is more than he can abide. He now sees that he has never understood her before, and been deluded into overlooking her true nature. Again, Austen allows us to see people’s foibles through adversity, when our true principles are tested. Mary’s final decline in Edmund’s esteem is a great example of this. He is now done with her forever. His fears that he shall never meet another woman so fine again soon change. 

Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love. The Narrator, Chapter 48 

So this is the extent of the romance for Fanny and Edmund? I do admit to feeling a bit cheated, given only a few short passages on the last page, but in looking back on their relationship throughout the novel it had been foreshadowed long ago by Austen through their friendship and mutual regard for each other. Is she slyly telling us that men and women can not be friends. That their is always more in any man – woman realtionship? Sadly, there is no proposal and acceptance scene. Drat! However, just like Edmund I also came to think of their being a couple as a natural thing, and not a reaction to his rejection of Mary. Austen wraps up the novel in a neat package very quickly.

Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest. The Narrator, Chapter 48

Those who have erred and behaved badly get their just deserts, hurrah! Henry will not marry Maria and she leaves him to live with Mrs. Norris, who “it may be reasonably supposed that their tempers became their mutual punishment“, Julia and Mr. Yates are eventually accepted back into the fold (after Sir Thomas comes to understand the extent of his wealth), Dr. Grant is promoted to Westminster and moves to London, dies from a fit of apoplexy from eating three rich dinners in one week, Mary lives with her widowed sister in London unable to find again such a fine man among the dandies in London, and Henry regrets the loss of Fanny forever, and ever! Sir Thomas, the one person who had also acted badly throughout the novel changes – now sees the error of his ways through the neglect of his daughter’s education – and is happy that he has found the daughter that he had always wanted in Fanny. Edmund succeeds to the living of Mansfield, and they live happily ever after in the shadow of Mansfield Park. 

On that event they removed to Mansfield; and the Parsonage there, which, under each of its two former owners, Fanny had never been able to approach but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm, soon grew as dear to her heart, and as thoroughly perfect in her eyes, as everything else within the view and patronage of Mansfield Park had long been. The Narrator, Chapter 48 

THE END 

Further reading 

Online text complements of Molland’s Circulating Library

Cast of characters

Chapter 41-48 summary

Chapter 41-48 quotes and quips 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 14 Give-away 

Leave a comment to by August 30 qualify for the free drawing on August 31 for one copy of.

 

Mansfield Park: Broadview Literary Texts Series

Broadview Press (2001). Novel text and introduction and notes by June Sturrock. Trade paperback, 528 pages, ISBN 978-1551110981 

Upcoming posts

Day 15 – Aug 29          MP: Sequels, Spinoff’s and Retellings
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: The Scoop! What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Roundup & Conclusion