Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park really gets a bum rap from critics and readers. Sometimes I think that I am its only advocate, campaigning to an empty room. Granted, it is not as emotionally charged as Sense and Sensibility or as light, bright and sparkly as Pride and Prejudice, but it does have an admirable heroine in gentle Fanny Price and two viper-like antagonists in Mary and Henry Crawford, that other authors just dream about creating.
I find the arguments against it are thin. Some say MP is overly moralistic, dismally dark, and the hero and heroine are wimps. (So harsh) I say they are not reading the same novel that I am. All this remonstrance was prompted by a conversation I had today with a customer at work. As a bookseller, I recommend books all day long. Today, when I offered Mansfield Park to a young lady who loved P&P and S&S, her mom flatly said no, pronouncing that she would not like it. Inwardly, I cringed at such parental reproach. Give the kid a chance to make up her own mind. So Mansfield Park was eliminated because mom didn’t like it when she read it thirty years ago. Geesh.
So for all those parents out there that think they are doing your kids a favor, let them make there own decisions and mistakes with the classics. Just be HAPPY they want to read them.
On a more upbeat note, here are a few of my favorite quotes from Mansfield Park to remind skeptics that there are some grand one liners.
“But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.” The Narrator, Chapter 1
“Do not let us be frightened from a good deed by a trifle.” Mrs. Norris, Chapter 1
“Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 7
“Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 7
“Everybody likes to go their own way–to choose their own time and manner of devotion.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 9
“Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 9
“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” Fanny Price, Chapter 9
It was a quick succession of busy nothings. The Narrator, Chapter 10
“Where an opinion is general, it is usually correct.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 11
“Those who have not more must be satisfied with what they have.” Mrs. Rushworth, Chapter 12
“Let your conduct be the only harangue.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 15
“Oh! you can do nothing but what you do already: be plagued very often, and never lose your temper.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 22
“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 22
“A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 23
The enthusiasm of a woman’s love is even beyond the biographer’s. The Narrator, Chapter 27
“I am worn out with civility,” said he. “I have been talking incessantly all night, and with nothing to say.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 28
“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” Fanny Price, Chapter 42
“Nobody minds having what is too good for them.” The Narrator, Chapter 48
Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can. Narrator, Chapter 48