Three Ward sisters marry; Maria to wealthy Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park in the County of Northampton, Miss Ward to a clergyman Rev. Mr. Norris of Mansfield, and Frances to a lieutenant Price of the marines, without education or fortune. Thirty years have passed and the Price household is suffering from the strain of nine children on a reduced income of disabled seaman who is prone to drink. Mrs. Norris suggests an act of charity and proposes that one of the Price daughters come to live at Mansfield Park. After some debate, Sir Thomas agrees.
Fanny Price age ten arrives and meets her young cousins. The girls Julia age twelve, Maria age thirteen think her inferior and ignorant. Edmund is her only friend and helps her write a letter to her brother William. Gradually, Fanny’s spirits improve though she is still shy, and constantly put in her place by her Aunt Norris. The years pass. William, Fanny’s brother is her only contact with her family and goes to sea. Edmund is her unfailing friend and mentor, but he also leaves for Eton, and then Oxford.
Fanny is now fifteen. Her Aunt Norris’ husband the Rev. dies. The living of Mansfield intended for Edmund when he is ordained must be passed to a Dr. Grant because older brother Tom is in debt beyond his father’s ready cash. Now that Aunt Norris is a widow, Sir Thomas suggests that Fanny live with her. Fanny is inwardly mortified! Aunt Norris feigns poverty. Fanny stays and is relieved. Sir Thomas and son Tom leave to attend to their troubling estate in Antigua.
With Sir Thomas and Tom away, Edmund is the man of the house. Lady Bertram is amazed she does not miss them and is content on the sofa while her daughters go husband hunting with Mrs. Norris’ in her place. As her cousins become the belles of the neighbourhood, Fanny is left out of the festivities and stays at home to attend to Lady Bertram’s needs.
The old grey pony dies, and Fanny has no one to ride. Edmund is appalled and trades one of his three horses for a suitable ladies mount for Fanny. Tom returns from Antigua. Maria meets Mr. Rushworth a man of large fortune and feels that beyond his great estates and house in town that it is her duty to marry and accepts his offer. All but Edmund are happy and see no fault.
Fanny is now 18. Mr. and Miss Crawford arrive in Mansfield and join their sister Mrs. Grant at the parsonage. They are sophisticated young people of good fortune. Mrs. Grant immediately starts matchmaking for them and thinks that Miss Crawford’s twenty thousand pound dowry will suit Tom Bertram a Baronet’s son quite well and that Henry Crawford would suit Miss Bertram.
The Crawford’s meet the Bertram’s and all are equally delighted. Since Maria is already engaged, Julia has claimed Henry and is ready to fall in love with him. Henry and his sister Mary discuss the “manoeuvring business” of marriage with Mrs. Grant and are disillusioned with it. Despite her misgivings on marriage, Miss Crawford has her sights set on the eldest and most financially eligible Bertram son Tom, but he leaves to attend horse races. Mary questions Edmund if Fanny is ‘out’ or not, and concludes she is not ‘out’.
With Tom Bertram gone, Miss Crawford shifts her attentions elsewhere. Mr. Rushworth arrives motivated to improve his estate at Sotherton. Aunt Norris and Dr. Grant debate the charms of a Moor Park apricot! Sotherton improvements are discussed further and removing the avenue is proposed which alarms Fanny who quotes Cowper, ‘Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.’ She expresses a desire to see the avenue before it is cut down. Miss Crawford’s harp is in transit from London, but delayed by the want of a cart in the country during harvest. Edmund is taken aback by some of Mary Crawford’s wild speeches about her uncle the Admiral. Mrs. Grant brags about the improvements that her brother Henry Crawford made to his estate Everingham, and Julia Bertram suggests he advise Mr. Rushworth with his plans for Sotherton. Mrs. Norris sees her niece’s anxieties in Henry Crawford being separated from them and suggests that they should all go to Sotherton, except for Fanny who must attend to Lady Bertram, and it is agreed to make an excursion of it.
Edmund and Fanny discuss Mary Crawford and find her beautiful but very indecorous, and lacking restraint with her speech against her uncle the Admiral. Fanny blames her behavior on Mary’s upbringing. Edmund easily agrees, and thinks her present living situation with a Reverend will improve her. Mary’s harp arrives. Edmund visits daily and her charms and beauty are heightened in his eyes and after a week he is in love. Fanny is concerned that he no longer sees her faults. Edmund teaches Mary Crawford to ride, so Fanny’s horse is appropriated and she must share the mount. Mary keeps Fanny waiting for her turn longer than arranged. Fanny feels miffed. Everyone celebrates Mary’s horsemanship and longer rides are proposed in showing her the countryside for several days. Fanny is left out and gets no exercise. Edmund and Julia are invited to dine at the parsonage. Maria is excluded because of fiancé Mr. Rushworth’s pending arrival. Maria is vexed. Fanny is fatigued from cutting roses in the sun and running two errands to Aunt Norris’ house in the heat. Aunt Norris blames Fanny for being out of shape from no exercise lately. Edmund is vexed at his aunt and mother for using her so ill, but angry at himself for forgetting his cousin. Fanny chastises herself for “struggling against discontent and envy for some days past.” Everyone is miffed.
Mr. Rushworth and his mother arrive for a visit. Much to Mrs. Norris, Maria and Julia’s delight the trip to Sotherton is revived. Mrs. Rushworth entreats Lady Bertram to join the party, but is nay sayed by Mrs. Norris. She also asks if Fanny could be spared from her Aunt’s attendance. No! The number of the party and the carriage arrangements are debated. Henry’s barouche is the preferred conveyance. Edmund offers to stay behind and let Fanny go. No! Mrs. Grant steps forward and offers her services to Lady Bertram. Fanny will go after all. Aunt Norris is vexed. Fanny is pleased and grateful to her cousin. The party departs for Sotherton and the scenery is beautiful. Julia is especially pleased to sit next to Henry on the barouche box. Maria is jealous.
© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose