Mansfield Park: Mary Crawford – that peculiarly becoming temptress with a harp

Lady with a harp, Eliza Ridgely, by Thomas Sully (1818)The harp arrived, and rather added to her beauty, wit, and good-humour; for she played with the greatest obligingness, with an expression and taste which were peculiarly becoming, and there was something clever to be said at the close of every air. Edmund was at the Parsonage every day, to be indulged with his favourite instrument: one morning secured an invitation for the next; for the lady could not be unwilling to have a listener, and every thing was soon in a fair train. 

A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man’s heart. The season, the scene, the air, were all favourable to tenderness and sentiment. Mrs. Grant and her tambour frame were not without their use: it was all in harmony; and as everything will turn to account when love is once set going, even the sandwich tray, and Dr. Grant doing the honours of it, were worth looking at. Without studying the business, however, or knowing what he was about, Edmund was beginning, at the end of a week of such intercourse, to be a good deal in love. The Narrator, Mansfield Park, Chapter 7 

We hear Mary Crawford lament over her wayward harp on rout from London for several pages. It has finally arrived in Northampton, but stalled there for ten days with no cart available to hire for transport during the harvest. This London girl can not comprehend the inconvenient pace of the country. Her haranguing should have been a foreshadowing to Edmund Bertram of her selfish disposition. Instead, he encouragingly tells her that it is his “favourite instrument,” and hopes to be soon allowed to hear her. One wonders at his sincerity since we know from Fanny’s ignorance of ever hearing one before that no harp exists at Mansfield Park. When Mary does finally play for him, it is like a siren song, and within a week, he was good deal in love! 

Wow! What an easy conquest. I’m not sure if this is a complement to her playing, or her skill at the alluring arts. Either way, it is no compliment to his superior judgment. It will take a better woman to straighten out his head so he can discern appearances from reality. Sadly, some men never learn this one! ;-)

flourish4

Mansfield Park (2007) Movie: Musings & Discussion: Day 13 Give-away!

 

MOVIES

Interestingly, it has been exactly seven months since this adaptation of Mansfield Park aired on PBS during The Complete Jane Austen series last January. I wish that I could say that time has made my heart grow fonder, but a recent re-viewing has not changed my feelings in any respect to my original review, and I am still greatly disappointed in it. It fails as a true adaptation to Jane Austen’s masterpiece for many reasons which I and others have previously pointed out, but I think that I could have overlooked all of its blunders if the screen writer Maggie Wadey had allowed our heroine Fanny Price to have the moral fortitude and principles that Jane Austen had endowed to her in the first place! This Fanny Price is more a flighty Kitty Bennet, ready to follow than act as the moral compass for us to measure the behavior of the rest of characters against, which I believe was Austen’s intension.  

There are some who like this film and there are elements that I enjoyed and appreciated myself. The cast was excellent with one exception. Here are a few images to highlight their performances. 

Fanny Price (Billie Piper) and Edmund Bertram (Blake Ritson) enjoying a ride and discussion on the grounds of Mansfield Park. Piper flopped as Fanny given nothing to work with, and Ritson was not quite staid and moralistic enough, though he was nice eye candy, looking rather like a young Rod Stewart! 

Mary Crawford (Hayley Atwell) was duly devious and alluring and shined in the role. When she was not on screen, I was waiting for her return! Henry Crawford (Joseph Beattie) is a talented actor who I recently enjoyed in Brideshead Revisted, but I wanted him to be stronger and more slippery than the director Iain McDonald would allow. 

Maria Bertram (Michele Ryan) was the ultimate knock-out sultry siren! What man could resist such beauty and charm? Mr. Rushworth (Rory Kinnear) seems to be always portrayed by large slightly pudgy men who are a bit clueless! On this account, the director selected the ideal match to Austen’s intension and Kinnear plays Rushworth perfectly. Julia Bertram (Katherine Steadman) being the second fiddle to her sister Maria is thankless role in the movie and the book. Steadman was, well second fiddle. 

Sir Thomas arrives home from Antigua unexpectedly to discover his children in the throws of a theatrical. The looks on their faces tells all. This part, they got right. 

 

Fanny Price (Billie Piper) in one of her happier moments. Fanny is not given much dialogue with any substance unfortunately.  Piper gives her lots of perk though! 

Mary Crawford (Hayley Atwell) looking at Edmund with impudence and authority. She will make any man who dares to love her tow the line. 

Lady Bertram (Jemma Redgrave) regally lounges on the settee with Pug (Holly). Though not stated in the novel, I often wonder if Lady Bertram is ill or under the influence (as some actors have seemed to portray her). This Lady Bertram actually has opinions and notices her children! 

Henry Crawford (Joseph Beattie) attempts to convince Fanny Price (Billie Piper) to marry him. I never quite felt his intensity and determination as I did in the novel. Austen is so persistent in his pursuit, that at one point, I actually thought that Fanny was wavering and would succumb. This Fanny is not as appalled and repulsed as she should be. 

Edmund Bertram (Blake Ritson) at the exact moment he realizes that Mary Crawford is a fake and rejects her. Ritson is at his best in this scene. 

Fanny and Edmund finally discover that they love each other, all because of the color purple. Go figure! 

Further reading and viewing 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 13 Give-away!

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

Mansfield Park (2007)

Adapted by Maggie Wadey, directed by Ian B. MacDonald, an ITV & WGBH production, 92 minutes. Staring Billie Piper as Fanny Price, Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram and Hayley Atwell as Mary Crawford. 

Upcoming posts
Day 14 – Aug 28          MP novel discussion chapter 41-48
Day 15 – Aug 29          MP: Sequels, Spinoff’s and Retellings
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Roundup & Conclusion

Mansfield Park Chapters 33-40: Summation, Musings & Discussion: Day 12 Give-away!

THE NOVEL

He was in love, very much in love; and it was a love which, operating on an active, sanguine spirit, of more warmth than delicacy, made her affection appear of greater consequence because it was withheld, and determined him to have the glory, as well as the felicity, of forcing her to love him. The Narrator on Henry Crawford, Chapter 33 

Quick Synopsis 

Henry persists in his quest for Fanny’s hand. Sir Thomas solicits Edmunds help, who attempts to discern what Fanny’s doubts are. He insists it was Henry’s abrupt delivery. She tells him she can not love a man of such unprincipled character. Everyone at Mansfield and the parsonage know of Henry’s proposal and in their own way try to chisel away at Fanny’s resolve. William visits on leave. Sir Thomas sees an opportunity for Fanny to see the difference that a good income can bring, and sends her home to her impoverished family in Portsmouth. Anxious to be with people who love her, the household, her parents and her siblings are a shock, and the complete opposite of her tranquil, ordered, and quiet home at Mansfield Park. Sister Susan shows some interest in improving herself and gives Fanny some hope. Edmund is more in love with Mary than ever, visiting her in London. Fanny dreads the post, fearful of what news it will bring. 

Musings 

After Fanny’s rejection of Henry’s offer of marriage, I am amazed at what lengths everyone takes to change her indifference to him. No one honors her decision and proceed to create excuses why she declined. Sir Thomas encourages Henry to continue his pursuit, which he does relentlessly, even though she shows him no encouragement at all. Having always won a ladies heart, he is both invigorated by her rejection and certain he will succeed. (conceited lout) Sir Thomas increases the pressure by telling his wife Lady Bertram and her sister Mrs. Norris of Henry’s proposal. They have opposite reactions; Lady Bertram thinks it an honor to her family to attract such a wealthy and handsome suitor, and Mrs. Norris takes it as an insult to her niece Julia who they all wanted Henry to marry from the beginning. 

Angry she (Mrs. Norris) was: bitterly angry; but she was more angry with Fanny for having received such an offer than for refusing it. It was an injury and affront to Julia, who ought to have been Mr. Crawford’s choice; and, independently of that, she disliked Fanny, because she had neglected her; and she would have grudged such an elevation to one whom she had been always trying to depress. The Narrator, Chapter 33 

I has stunned and disappointed in Edmund’s part in the interrogations, working away at his friend Fanny on behalf of his father. His actions hurt her the most since he was her mentor and only friend at Mansfield Park up until Mary Crawford corrupted him. All of his conversation now is tainted by her influence. When Edmund insists that he knows the truth of the rejection based on her surprise alone, I am angry at his arrogance and appalled that he suggests she should now let Henry succeed, and show everyone that she is the “perfect model of a woman which I have always believed you born for” Outrageous attitude from any friend, let alone a minister of the church. Where have his principles gone? I admire Fanny’s tenacity. She knows her mind and her own temperament. She explains that she and Henry are too different in nature to be happy together and does not waver from her position. Edmund, more than anyone in her circle should honor her wish to marry for love alone since his heart is also strongly inclined to the same desire, even though he has struggled against the unsuitability of his attachment to Mary Crawford for almost the entire novel! 

On his (Edmund) side the inclination was stronger, on hers less equivocal. His objections, the scruples of his integrity, seemed all done away, nobody could tell how; and the doubts and hesitations of her ambition were equally got over-and equally without apparent reason. It could only be imputed to increasing attachment. His good and her bad feelings yielded to love, and such love must unite them. The Narrator, Chapter 37 

The final wedge in an attempt to break Fanny’s spirit is Sir Thomas’ banishment of her to Portsmouth. His private plan is to let her see the difference that a good income can mean to her comfort, and motivate her to accept Henry Crawford with all his gentility and wealth. At first she sees it as a refuge from the pressures at Mansfield, and a benefit to be with family who truly love her, but after being reunited she soon discovers the disparity of the two households. Her parents, her siblings and their impoverished lifestyle are a quite a shock to a young lady who has become accustomed to living in the home of a Baronet. The noise, squalor and the indifference of her parents to her cruelly remind her of the peace, tranquility and order at her home, Mansfield Park. William departs for sea, and with no friend left in the world to support her, she is truly alone. Fearful of the pending news from London of Edmund and Mary’s engagement she waits for the other shoe to drop. Even under these adverse circumstances, our heroine is still optimistic. 

Fanny soon became more disposed to admire the natural light of the mind which could so early distinguish justly, than to censure severely the faults of conduct to which it led. The Narrator, Chapter 40 

With so much romantic turmoil in these last eight chapters, I am more than a bit uneasy with the uncertainty. Austen is building to a climax and I am all anticipation. We shall see if everyone ends up with who they love, or don’t know they love, and who gets their comeuppance. I have never known her to cheat us out of a wedding or two at the end, or a bit of moralizing for those unruly characters who stirred up the plot. One can never be certain though until the curtain falls on this theatrical.   

Further reading 

Online text complements of Molland’s Circulating Library

Cast of characters

Chapter 33-40 summary

Chapter 33-40 quotes and quips 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 12 Give-away 

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

Mansfield Park: Oxford World’s Classics

Oxford University Press (2008). Revised edition. Novel text and introduction and notes by Jane Stabler. Trade paperback, 418 pages, ISBN 978-0199535538 

Upcoming posts
Day 13 – Aug 27          MP 2007 movie discussion
Day 14 – Aug 28          MP novel discussion chapter 41-48
Day 15 – Aug 29          MP: Sequels, Spinoff’s and Retellings
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: The Scoop! What People Are Saying

Mansfield Park (1999) Movie: Musing & Discussion: Day 10 Give-away!

 

MOVIES

Take a controversial classic novel, mix in a liberal filmmaker’s re-interpretation, add in slavery, lesbianism and incest and presto! you have Mansfield Park (1999), writer-director Patricia Rozema’s provocative adaptation of Jane Austen complex novel. I don’t think that I am exaggerating when I estimate that Janeites find this one a bit puzzling. So did critics. It has spawned a rash of conversation since it premiered in 1999. Just Google it and you get 28,000 hits! The reviews where mixed and run hot or cold; no gray area anywhere for this film. Here are a few of the choice opinions.

 Mansfield Park manor house

“Stifled and tedious adaptation of an Austen classic strips the heroine of her usual power of perception and tongue.” CinemaSense 

“Rozema’s point is that Mansfield Park, and the amorous escapades of its wealthy inhabitants, are founded on and sustained by this debased form of exploitation. This is certainly an intriguing opening-out of the novel, but in doing so the film appropriates the moral high ground in a way that further distances it from the delicacy and ambiguity of Austen’s insights.” Andy Richards, BFI 

“what the film represents is the marketing of a new ‘Jane Austen’ to a post-feminist audience now receptive to its reinvention of the novel” John Wiltshire, Recreating Jane Austen (2001) 

“In the hands of a less talented filmmaker, this extensive tinkering and modernizing might seem irritating and pretentious. But in peering beneath Austen’s genteel surfaces and scraping away the Hollywood gloss that traditionally accrues to screen adaptations of Austen, Ms. Rozema has made a film whose satiric bite is sharper than that of the usual high-toned romantic costume drama.” Stephen Holden, New York Times 

“By breaking the seal, Rozema has freed costume drama from the shackles of tradition, exposing its naked flesh. The window that Thompson unsnibbed has been flung wide. Fresh air tastes good.” Angus Wolfe Murray, Eye for Film 

“an audacious and perceptive cinematic evocation of Jane Austen’s distinctively sharp yet forgiving vision” Claudia L. Johnson, Austen scholar

Fanny Price (Frances O’Connor) & Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller) riding together 

When Rozema was originally offered the opportunity to direct Mansfield Park she declined stating the script was boring and the heroine annoying. She then proceeded to re-write the script by perking up Fanny Price, adding a political and sexual subtext that Jane Austen would never have broached, and fixing the broken storyline (in her opinion) by working in Jane Austen’s juvenilia stories and personal letters. The results are a thought provoking jumble of reinvention and dalliance that had never been attempted with a Jane Austen adaptation before.

 A bored Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola), and a flirtatious Maria Bertram
(Victoira Hamilton) & Mr. Rushworth (Hugh Bonneville)

Austen’s novel seriously contemplates the controversial 19th-century theme of ‘improvement’ of the estate and social values. Writer-director Rozema has overtly taken it yet a step further renovating and expanding the plot and characters so much so that subtly sardonic Jane Austen might have been a bit alarmed at the liberties.

Edmund Bertram & Fanny Price discuss the Ball

Our heroine Fanny Price, energetically portrayed by Frances O’Connor, has morphed from the shy and oppressed glorified servant into an exuberant outspoken aspiring writer – what Rozema visualizes Jane Austen had been! Oh my! Fanny’s mentor, friend and love interest Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller) is now a romantic, more a Byronic hero that the Bronte’s would have approved of than a pious and clueless minister in training.

Henry Crawford visits Fanny Price in Portsmouth 

The Crawford siblings (Embeth Davidtz & Alessandro Nivola) are as wicked as ever, which suits Rozema’s purpose totally as they are pushed further with lesbianism and seduction. The greatest liberty is taken in the slave trade subtext as we are shown graphic illustrations of the atrocities of slavery that the character Tom Bertram (James Purefoy) witnessed at his father Sir Thomas’ (Harold Pinter) plantation in Antigua. Even though slavery is only alluded to in the novel, this stab brings Rozema’s vision of the injustice of ill-gotten-gains sharply to view. Other notable British actors playing out this theatrical are; Lindsay Duncan (Lady Bertram/Mrs. Price), Victoria Hamilton (Maria Bertram), Hugh Bonneville (Mr. Rushworth) and Justine Waddell (Julia Bertram).

 Henry & Mary Crawford entertain their new spouses
who look more intriged with each other!

If taken as a whole this film does work on the level of art for film making’s sake. Visually it is stunning, the costumes fabulous and the music joyful. I do find it fascinating that people are still debating its merits after almost ten years. If anything, it has stimulated thought and closer reflection on what Jane Austen is about, and how she is interpreted. As a Janeite, I find watching it so distracting. If readers of the novel want to yell at Fanny Price for being so passive, then in turn I want to yell at Rozema’s Fanny for being SO vivacious. This is not Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, but it is a worthy amusement all-the-same.

A happy ending for Fanny & Edmund 

Further reading & viewing 

“It could have turned out differently, I suppose. But it didn’t.” Fanny Price
 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 10 Give-away

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

 

Mansfield Park (1999)

Written and directed by Patricia Rozema. Major motion picture, 112 minutes. Staring Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price, Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund Bertram and Embeth Davidtz as Mary Crawford 

Upcoming posts
Day 11 – Aug 25          MP Fun with Fanny & Friends
Day 12 – Aug 26          MP novel discussion chapters 33-40
Day 13 – Aug 27          MP 2007 movie discussion
Day 14 – Aug 28          MP novel discussion chapter 41-48

Mansfield Park Chapters 25-32: Summation, Musings & Discussion: Day 9 Give-away!

THE NOVEL

Fanny’s last feeling in the visit was disappointment: for the shawl which Edmund was quietly taking from the servant to bring and put round her shoulders was seized by Mr. Crawford’s quicker hand, and she was obliged to be indebted to his more prominent attention. The Narrator, Chapter 25 

Quick Synopsis 

Sir Thomas notices that Henry is paying particular attention to Fanny as they dine at the parsonage. Henry visits Thornton Lacey, Edmund’s pending parish, and would like to improve the parsonage and live there himself. This talk reminds Mary of Edmund’s looming ordination. Sir Thomas will host a ball in Fanny and William’s honor at Mansfield. Fanny receives two gifts of chains for her amber cross. Which one should she wear? Fanny realizes that Edmund is seriously in love with Mary. Mary tells Edmund that she does not dance with clergymen in a last attempt to dissuade him from his profession. Fanny thinks “in spite of everything, that a ball was indeed delightful.” William departs for London with Henry. Henry returns informing Fanny that William has been promoted to lieutenant by his hand through his uncle the Admiral. She is delighted, until he proposes marriage. She will not accept, even though Sir Thomas drills and badgers her for reasons, condemning her as “Self-willed, obstinate, selfish, and ungrateful”.  Fanny is wretched and miserable and made to speak to Henry one last time. 

Musings 

Everyone notices Fanny at last! She has matured into a beautiful young woman and is being invited to visit the parsonage and dine, much to the amazement of her aunt’s who can only wonder why anyone would want Fanny, and lecture her on her manners and deportment. On reflection, it is really Mrs. Norris’ repeated putdowns that established her lowly position in the Mansfield household. If Lady Bertram’s passive indifference had been only the reverse, Fanny’s life and outlook could have been so much different. By nature she was a shy child, but a positive environment could have drawn her out. Mary Crawford seems to be her complete opposite in temperament and attitudes. I was struck by this telling quote. 

“There, I will stake my last like a woman of spirit. No cold prudence for me. I am not born to sit still and do nothing. If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 25 

And she is playing her game to win Edmund’s heart and persuade him to change his profession like a master. It seems in every one of their meeting, she is working away at his resolve in pursuit of her goal. He is charmed by her spell, blind to her faults, and ready to forgive her by rationalizing her indecorous behavior by blaming her upbringing. One wonders what kind of minister he will make if he does not read personalities or see human failings so easily? The one question that he deliberates over and over is, does she love him enough to give up her essentials to happiness, – money and freedom. He doubts it, but continues in his delusion all-the-same. I can not think of two people so far apart on principles and life goals than Mary and Edmund. Today, they would definitely fail one of those compatibility tests that young couples take before they marry! My heart went out to Fanny though when she truly understands how much in love with Mary he is. 

He was gone as he spoke; and Fanny remained to tranquillise herself as she could. She was one of his two dearest- that must support her. But the other: the first! She had never heard him speak so openly before, and though it told her no more than what she had long perceived, it was a stab, for it told of his own convictions and views. They were decided. He would marry Miss Crawford. The Narrator, Chapter 27 

My greatest surprise is in Henry Crawford! Has the callous cad found principles and virtues from his nearness to Fanny? If so, she may deserve sainthood! Ha! He has undergone such a material change from rogue to gallant savior with his attentions, manner and proclamations of his honorable intensions to Fanny, that I am all amazement. 

“I care neither what they say nor what they feel. They will now see what sort of woman it is that can attach me, that can attach a man of sense. I wish the discovery may do them any good. And they will now see their cousin treated as she ought to be, and I wish they may be heartily ashamed of their own abominable neglect and unkindness. They will be angry,” Henry Crawford, Chapter 30 

His timing with his offer of marriage to Fanny is off though, and blew my slight softening to him. Helping Fanny’s brother William to obtain a promotion was a sly manipulation to win her gratitude which she graciously bestowed. Never-the-less, how little he truly knows the woman that he wants to marry, judging her against other women of his acquaintance such as Julia and Maria who would have succumbed to his ploy and accepted him without hesitation. Our Fanny Price has principles and can not be bought or badgered by her uncle into submission. Bravo Fanny! 

Further reading 

Online text complements of Molland’s Circulating Library
Cast of characters
Chapter 25-32 summary
Chapter 25-32 quotes and quips 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 9 Give-away 

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

Mansfield Park: Barnes & Noble Classics

Barnes & Noble (2005). Revised edition. Novel text and introduction and notes by Amanda Claybaugh. Hardcover, 427 pages, ISBN 978-1593083564 

Upcoming posts
Day 10 – Aug 24          MP 1999 movie discussion
Day 11 – Aug 25          MP Oxford book review
Day 12 – Aug 26          MP novel discussion chapters 33-40
Day 13 – Aug 27          MP 2007 movie discussion

Mansfield Park Chapters 9-16: Summation, Musings & Discussion: Day 5 Give-away!

THE NOVEL

“You need not hurry when the object is only to prevent my saying a bon mot, for there is not the least wit in my nature. I am a very matter-of-fact, plain-spoken being, and may blunder on the borders of a repartee for half an hour together without striking it out.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 9 

Quick Synopsis

The party arrives at Mr. Rushworth’s estate of Sotherton Court to tour the grounds. Mary continues to deride Edmund on his choice of profession proclaiming that clergymen are nothing. Fanny is tired and deposited on a bench outside a locked garden gate where she observes the coming and going of different couples and individuals all in pursuit of one another. Back at Mansfield, Sir Thomas will return from Antigua in November which will set Maria’s wedding date. Mary continues to criticize the clergy not weakening Edmund’s infatuation of her. Tom returns from Antigua determined to stage a theatrical at Mansfield. Edmund is against it and will not act. Which play shall they do? It will be Lovers’ Vows. Bickering over the casting divides Julia and Maria. Fanny pressured and shamed into acting, strongly declines to participate in something that Sir Thomas would not approve. Edmund motivated by the possibility of someone outside of the family group being recruited to act opposite Mary caves, and will act after all. Fanny is surprised and shocked at his reversal. 

Musings 

Now that we have been introduced to the main cast of characters, the stage was been set to Jane Austen’s preference of “three or four families in a country village” with the Bertram clan, the Crawford siblings and the lone wolf Fanny Price holding the flag of decorum and virtue among so much vice, the real fun begins. The scenes at Sotherton Court offer an opportunity for Mary Crawford to express some very strong opinions against religion and the clergy. When she discovers that Edmund will take orders, she feigns contrition for speaking so strongly without knowledge, (for about a moment), and then picks up her protest again. 

“Do you think the church itself never chosen, then?” 

“Never is a black word. But yes, in the never of conversation, which means not very often, I do think it. For what is to be done in the church? Men love to distinguish themselves, and in either of the other lines distinction may be gained, but not in the church. A clergyman is nothing.” Edmund Bertram & Mary Crawford, Chapter 9 

Austen is really using Mary Crawford as a foil against social decorum and religious stricture. Her sideways, and sometimes direct attacks against the church and people who worship are strongly against tradition, even today, so they must have been quite provocative in 1814. So far, if you follow Fanny’s reactions to her, you can see the trail of clues that Austen is leaving. Edmund is becoming more ‘blinded by love’ as the story progresses. 

The locked gate scene at Sotherton parkland is one of my favorites of the first volume of the novel. After Fanny is deposited on a bench near a locked iron gate, she is witness to the coming and going of couples and individuals all seeking others, only to miss them and be disappointed. Austen is using all of her comedic genius to play off the flirtations and romances developing. Fanny is again shown as the solid point of reference as all the others interact foolishly. It will be interesting to look back on this scene at the conclusion of the novel and see if there is any foreshadowing afoot. 

When Tom Bertram returns from Antigua ahead of his father for the hunting season, I am immediately on alert. This is trouble. When he proposes that his siblings and the Crawford’s produce a theatrical for their personal amusement, the plot opens up to all sorts of possibilities of conflicts between decorum and egos. What transpires is almost a mini Shakespearean play within the novel, of characters acting in a play that mirrors their own behavior; – pitting siblings against each other, erupting an array of emotions resulting in jealousy, fear and anger. Their quarreling over selection of the play and the casting of the roles is tiresome, and seems to go on too long, but that is Austen’s point. She pushes her characters and the reader to the point of exhaustion.  

“Family squabbling is the greatest evil of all, and we had better do anything than be altogether by the ears.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 13 

Setting up the characters in an adversarial position reveals much of their true nature. As in life, when characters are placed under pressure, we see what they are really made of. Edmund, in his father’s absence first opposes the play based on decorum. Should ladies act? What will people think? Tom, being the ungovernable son that he is, sees no harm. He is all about instant gratification. His two sisters are all for it because they can play out their competition for Henry Crawford’s affection. Mary Crawford is pulled into the scheme showing no personal concern as a lady. She always does what she chooses and is an advocate for letting others do the same. As Lady Bertram doses on the sofa ambivalent to her children’s antics, Aunt Norris who is usually the kill-joy of all pleasure and expense surprisingly does not oppose her nephew either. Fanny sits by, quietly watching in shock until pressed into service to act. She declines, standing with Edmund against the plan, even after a shameful railing by her Aunt Norris that sends her into anxiety and self doubt. 

“What a piece of work here is about nothing: I am quite ashamed of you, Fanny, to make such a difficulty of obliging your cousins in a trifle of this sort-so kind as they are to you! Take the part with a good grace, and let us hear no more of the matter, I entreat.” Mrs. Norris, Chapter 15 

The biggest shock for me (and also Fanny) was Edmund’s reversal for weak reasons. After vehemently opposing the play, he acquiesces based on his concern for Mary Crawford! Oh how gallantly he goes out on his unprincipled limb to save her the discomfort of acting with a stranger outside the family circle. (I smell a besotted sod here) He rationalizes all this to the only person who is on his side, Fanny, who is shocked and puzzled, and then begins to doubt her own decision since her mentor Edmund has changed his colors. After deep reflection, I think she has the better handle on all the nonsense. 

Things should take their course; she cared not how it ended. Her cousins might attack, but could hardly tease her. She was beyond their reach; and if at last obliged to yield-no matter-it was all misery now. The Narrator, Chapter 16 

Further reading 

Online text complements of Molland’s Circulating Library
Cast of characters
Chapter 9-16 summary
Chapter 9-16 quotes and quips
 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 5 Give-away

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

Jane Austen Journal

By Potter Style. Paperback lined journal with the image of Regency lady and quote “We have a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be” from Mansfield Park. 160 pages, ISBN 978-0307352392 

Upcoming posts
Day 6 – Aug 20            Metropolitan movie discussion
Day 7 – Aug 21            MP novel discussion chapters 17-24
Day 8 – Aug 22            MP great quotes and quips
Day 9 – Aug 23            MP novel discussion chapters 25-32

Mansfield Park Madness @ Austenprose Preview

Mansfield Park Madness Banner

Mansfield Park Madness at Austenprose August 15-31 

Seventeen days of seventeen great give-aways

and Fanny too!

 

Welcome Janeites and classic literature fans. I am pleased to announce that Austenprose will be hosting a seventeen day event in celebration and re-discovery of Jane Austen’s most complex and often misunderstood novel Mansfield Park. Please join us on our daily journey of discovery as we investigate and discuss the text, movie adaptations and sequels. Here are a few highlights of what will be featured.  

Mansfield Park, Oxford Illustrated Edition (1988)

Mansfield Park Book Editions 

Current versions of the text in print published by Broadview Press (2001), Norton Critical Edition (1998), Oxford World’s Classics (2008) and Oxford Illustrated Editon (1988), Cambridge University Press (2005), Penguin Classics (2003) and Barnes & Noble Classics (2005) book editions, and the Naxos unabridged audio version (2007).  

Mansfield Park Movie (1999)

Mansfield Park Movie Adaptations 

1983: staring Sylvestra Le Trouzel and Nicholas Farrell
1999: staring Frances O’Conner and Johnny Lee Miller
2007: staring Billie Piper and Blake Ritson
Metropolitan 1990: written and directed by Whit Stillman, staring Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman 

Cover of Edmund Bertrams Diary (2008)

Mansfield Park Book Sequels 

Edmund Bertram’s Diary, by Amanda Grange
Mansfield Park Revisited, by Joan Aiken
The Matters at Mansfield: or The Crawford Affair, by Carrie Bebris  
Central Park, Debra W. Smith 

17 Great Give-aways

Don’t miss your chance to win a free copy of the 17 items that are featured over the 17 day event. Many of the novel editions, all of the movies, and all of the sequels discussed will be offered in drawings from comments left between August 15-30. Winners announced on August 31. 

Please join us –  because gentle Fanny has requested your attendance and does not want to be viewed as insipid any longer!

Cheers, Laurel Ann 

Upcoming posts
Day 1 – Aug 15            MP Madness introduction
Day 2 – Aug 16            MP novel discussion chapters 1-8
Day 3 – Aug 17            MP 1983 movie review and discussion
Day 4 – Aug 18            MP Naxos (Juliet Stevenson) audio review 

Beautiful Mansfield Park Madness banner by the handsome, clever and rich in heart Kali Pappas at Strangegirl Designs