Jane Austen's Mansfield Park

True merit

Illustration by A. Wallis Mills, Fanny & Edmund Bertram, Mansfield Park, Ch 48MERIT

With so much true merit and true love, and no want of fortune and friends, the happiness of the married cousins must appear as secure as earthly happiness can be. Equally formed for domestic life, and attached to country pleasures, their home was the home of affection and comfort; The Narrator on Rev. & Mrs. Bertram, Mansfield Park, Chapter 48

This is a pleasant beginning for Fanny and Edmund, but in my minds eye, I had not imagined country pleasures as feeding chickens! LOL, the illustrator A. Wallis Mills bucolic vision of country pleasures is entirely different than mine. I prefer a long walk in the hills, or a fine view from a vantage to barnyard chores!

I can not begrudge the couple any happiness however. Jane Austen is wrapping up the story, and these lines are almost the finish of the novel’s tidy ending. After the shocking previous chapter, with all of it’s revelation of indiscretions and sadness, any bright and happy phrase is welcome indeed. So, if Fanny and Edmund are content to feed chickens, so be it.

Here is another view on the merits of a tidy ending in  Mansfield Park  that I found enlightening from the excellent pen of fellow bloger bookchronicle, at Adventures in Reading.

I will say that the concluding chapters of Mansfield Park left me rather anxious. It has been said that Austen’s conclusions reflect an aesthetic air, but I wonder if compartmentalize is not a better word. Austen likes the tidy ending that leaves no questions asked (unless you have a case of over curiosity as myself). While the author says “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery” (679) she still manages to place all of her characters in their moralistic boxes of punishment or privilege. I did enjoy the condemnation of women being punished more severely than men when it comes to infidelity. I do not mean to imply that there is anything wrong with this ending, but after reading three novels in a row it has become somewhat… uniform and perhaps too tidy.

Hmm? Honestly, I was relieved for any structure after the tidal-wave of the previous chapter. If after 48 chapters of twisted emotions the novel ends all tied up in a neat little bow, I can live with.

*Illustration by A. Wallis Mills, “Equally … attached to country pleasures”, chapter 48, Mansfield Park, George F. Harrap & Co, London, (1908) 

4 thoughts on “True merit”

  1. As someone who prefers the inconclusive ending, Austen’s ending often leave much to be desired in my opinion. In fact, I struggle not to rapidly scan the final chapters.

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