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! ;-)

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Mansfield Park: Why does Fanny Price Rankle Our Ire?

Illustration by Hugh Thomson, Mansfield Park, Macmillion & Co, London (1897)When her two dances with him were over, her inclination and strength for more were pretty well at an end; and Sir Thomas, having seen her walk rather than dance down the shortening set, breathless, and with her hand at her side, gave his orders for her sitting down entirely. From that time Mr. Crawford sat down likewise. 

“Poor Fanny!” cried William, coming for a moment to visit her, and working away his partner’s fan as if for life, “how soon she is knocked up! Why, the sport is but just begun. I hope we shall keep it up these two hours. How can you be tired so soon?” 

“So soon! my good friend,” said Sir Thomas, producing his watch with all necessary caution; “it is three o’clock, and your sister is not used to these sort of hours.” 

“Well, then, Fanny, you shall not get up to-morrow before I go. Sleep as long as you can, and never mind me.” 

“Oh! William.” 

“What! Did she think of being up before you set off?” 

“Oh! yes, sir,” cried Fanny, rising eagerly from her seat to be nearer her uncle; “I must get up and breakfast with him. It will be the last time, you know; the last morning.” 

“You had better not. He is to have breakfasted and be gone by half-past nine. Mr. Crawford, I think you call for him at half-past nine?” 

Fanny was too urgent, however, and had too many tears in her eyes for denial; and it ended in a gracious “Well, well!” which was permission. 

“Yes, half-past nine,” said Crawford to William as the latter was leaving them, “and I shall be punctual, for there will be no kind sister to get up for me.” And in a lower tone to Fanny, “I shall have only a desolate house to hurry from. Your brother will find my ideas of time and his own very different to-morrow.” 

William Price, Fanny Price, Sir Thomas Bertram & Henry Crawford, Mansfield Park, Chapter 28 

Of all of Jane Austen heroine’s Fanny Price is more sharply criticized for her character flaws than any other. Lizzy Bennet may be quick to judge, Emma Woodhouse think too highly of herself or Marianne Dashwood over romanticize, but Fanny’s timidity and insecurity garner more objections than any other failing. Why? I have a pet theory that involves her lack of confidence. It causes people around her and the reader to disconnect and dismiss her. Weak Fanny; — we must pity and mollycoddle her. In the quote above, her brother William exclaims “Poor Fanny” when he sees her “knocked up” (tired) after dancing at the ball. She says nothing in her own defense allowing Sir Thomas to speak for her. Now, Lizzy Bennet or Emma Woodhouse would never permit anyone else to answer for them without having the last word. Instead, Fanny is silent and forced to tears of frustration and pain before Sir Thomas will consent to her wishes. This view of Fanny always acquiescing to others runs throughout the novel. As readers it is difficult to see a heroine bantered about and not defend herself. Why Austen chose this type of retreating personality in opposition her pervious strong heroines was long been debated. In the end, Austen redeems our ill opinion of her weaknesses when Fanny turns out to be the strongest character in the novel. A nice twist that some seem to overlook, wanting instead to remember that it took over 473 pages of rankling our ire to get there. 

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

Cover of Mansfield Park Revisited, by Joan Aiken (2008)When a book written twenty five years ago is reissued as confidently as Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by a publisher who specializes in Jane Austen sequels, you hope that it is laudable. Of all of the past sequels to select, (and there are more than a few), why choose one based on Jane Austen’s least popular novel Mansfield Park? What has the new author created to make this sequel worthy of resurrection?

Published in 1814, Mansfield Park was Jane Austen’s third novel and even though I adore it, it has more than its share of nay sayers. There are several reasons why it is a disappointment (to some), but primary objections fall to its heroine Fanny Price, who some feel is weak and insipid and not at all like Austen’s other popular heroine’s. Author Joan Aiken’s solution in her continuation of Mansfield Park is to resume the story four years after the conclusion and to remove Fanny Price almost entirely from the novel by packing her and her husband Edmund Bertram off to Antigua in the first chapter. Fanny’s younger sister Susan Price has been brought to the forefront, stepping into Fanny’s previous role as poor relation elevated to companion to Lady Bertram now a widow after Sir Thomas Bertram’s unexpected death while attending to his business in the West Indies. Susan has matured into an attractive and bright young woman similar to her older sister, but with a lot more spunk, which will please Fanny opponents. Susan holds her own against her cousins the new Sir Thomas Bertram who often thinks she over steps her position and his sister Julia, now the Honorable Mrs. Yates who resides in the neighborhood and upon Susan’s back, objecting to her every move. We are also reintroduced to other characters from the original novel: cousin Maria Bertram the scandalous divorcee, Mary Crawford estranged from her feckless fop of a husband and now gravely ill, and her brother Henry Crawford still a bachelor having never found anyone as worthy as his last love, Fanny Price. Aiken also adds a delightful array of new secondary characters to the mix supplying interest and humor.

Mansfield Park Revisited (1984)A quick read at 201 pages, Aiken moves the story briskly along with a series of challenging events and resolutions that keep the reader engaged, but sadly never resting to discover personalities or relationships in greater detail. At the conclusion I felt more than a bit deprived of a good love story as Susan comes to the conclusion whom she truly loves on the last few pages. This style not only mirrors Jane Austen’s approach with her hero and heroine’s romance in Mansfield Park, but amplifies one of the main objections to the original novel. Despite this flaw, Aiken is by far one of the most talented writers to attempt an Austen sequel and Mansfield Park Revisited truly worthy of resurrection. She has respectfully continued Austen’s story by expanding her characters, adapting the language for the modern reader, accurately including the social mantle and believably turning our concerns for the two main antagonists Mary and Henry Crawford at the end of Mansfield Park into sympathies, which given their principles and past bad behavior is quite an accomplishment. Packing Austen’s heroine Fanny Price off to another country might seem extreme, but it is sure to please the Fanny bashers and allowed Aiken to develop her own heroine Susan who has enough spirit and resolve for the both of them.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment
By Joan Aiken
Trade paperback (201) pages
Sourcebooks Landmark, Naperville, IL (2008)
ISBN: 978-1402212895

Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2009, Austenprose.com

The Jane Austen Survey 2008 Results are Posted at JASNA

Illustration of Jane Austen by Amanda DuffyAnatomy of a Janeite

For those Janeites who participated in the The Jane Austen Survey 2008 created and compiled by Jeanne Kiefer last January, you might be very interested to read the results which have been posted in her report, Anatomy of a Janeite, Selected Results from The Jane Austen Survey 2008 on the Jane Austen Society of North America website. 

It is fascinating reading to know what makes a Janeite tick. I must confess to more than a few non-surprises and a big disappointment. 

My favorite new fact is this. 

Three-quarters of respondents reported that their interest in Jane Austen had a more-than-moderate impact on their lives – 44% chose the highest level, a “strong” impact. Quite an amazing achievement for a spinster who penned a handful of romantic novels 200 years ago! 

Wow! ¾ of the 4,500 participants report that Jane Austen has a more-than-moderate impact on their lives. 

My un-favorite old fact is this. 

Voted least-favorite heroine was Fanny Price (35%). 

Oh dear. More fuel for Fanny bashing I fear. Oh well. Like I said in a previous post, we may all aspire to be Elizabeth Bennet, but in reality, we are Fanny Price. Not such a bad thing really, in my book at least. 

You can read the full report of The Jane Austen Survey 2008 at the JASNA website. What are your surprises and disappointments? Are you an eccentric or average Janeite? Tell all.

Take the Anatomy of a Janeite Quiz based on the survey here.  

Illustration by Amanda Duffy

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 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 (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

Oxford World’s Classics: Mansfield Park – Our Diptych Review

“Me!” cried Fanny…”Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act any thing if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act.” Fanny Price, Chapter 15 

Gentle readers, Please join us for the third in a series of six diptych reviews of the revised editions of Jane Austen’s six major novels and three minor works that were released this summer by Oxford World’s Classics. Austenprose editor Laurel Ann is honored to be joined by Austen scholar Prof. Ellen Moody, who will be adding her professional insights to complement my everyman’s view.

 

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

Oxford World’s Classics Rev. Edition (2008)

 

Laurel Ann’s review

In a popularity poll of Jane Austen’s six major novels, Mansfield Park may come close to the bottom, but what a distinction that is in comparison to the rest of classic literature! Even though many find fault with its hero and heroine, its love story (or more accurately the lack of one), its dark subtext of abuse, neglect and oppression, and its overly moralistic tone, it is still Jane Austen; with her beautiful language, witty social observations and intriguing plot lines. Given the overruling benefits, I can still place it in my top ten all-time favorite classic books. 

Considering the difficulty that some readers have understanding Mansfield Park, the added benefit of good supplemental material is an even more important consideration in purchasing the novel. Recently I evaluated several editions of the novel currently in print which you can view here. For readers seeking a medium level of supplemental material, one solid candidate is the new reissue of Oxford World’s Classics (2008) which offers a useful combination of topics to expand on the text, place it in context to when it was written, and an insightful introduction by Jane Stabler, a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Dundee, Scotland and Lord Byron scholar. 

Understanding all the important nuances and inner-meanings in Mansfield Park can be akin to ‘visiting Pemberley’, the extensive estate of the wealthy Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s more famous novel Pride and Prejudice. One is intrigued by its renown but hard pressed to take it all in on short acquaintance. The greatest benefit of the Oxford World’s Classics edition to the reader who seeks clarification is Jan Stabler’s thirty page introduction which is thoughtfully broken down into six sub categories by theme; The Politics of Home, Actors and Audiences, The Drama of Conscience, Stagecraft and Psychology, Possession, Restoration and Rebellion, and Disorder and Dynamism. Written at a level accessible to the novice and veteran alike, I particularly appreciate this type of thematic format when I am seeking an answer or explanation on one subject and do not have the time to wade through the entire essay at that moment. Her concluding lines seemed to sum up my recent feelings on the novel. 

The brisk restoration of order at Mansfield Park and healing of the breach between parent and child is underwritten by the same doubt that lingers around the last scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear: ‘Is this the promis’d end? (v. iii 262). Recreating the urge to defy parental authority while teaching us to sit still, and pitting unruly energy against patient submission to the rule of law, Mansfield Park is an enthralling performance of the competitive forces which governed early nineteenth-century politics, society and art.” 

For me, Mansfield Park is about Jane Austen teaching this unruly child to sit still and enjoy the performance! With patience, I have come to cherish Fanny Price, the most virtuous and under-rated heroine in classic literature! Re-reading the novel and supplemental material was well worth the extra effort, expanding my appreciation of Austen’s skills as a story teller and the understanding of the social workings in rural Regency England. I am never disappointed in her delivery of great quips such as 

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 

Also included in this edition are four appendixes; the first two on Rank and Social Status and Dancing which are included in all six of the Oxford World’s Classics Jane Austen editions and have been previously reviewed, followed by; Lovers’ Vows (the theatrical that the young people attempt to produce in the novel), and Austen and the Navy which helps the reader understand Jane Austen’s connection to the Royal Navy through her brothers James and Francis and its influence on her writing. The extensive Explanatory Notes to the text help place the novel in context for the modern reader while offering helpful and insightful nuggets of Regency information. 

Mansfield Park may have the dubious distinction of being Jane Austen’s most challenging novel, but I have come to appreciate her characters and plot by better understanding of the subtext through supplemental material and further re-readings of the novel. It is now one of my favorite Austen novels. Readers who hesitate to read Mansfield Park because of the ‘bad rap’ that it has received over the years are reminded of heroine Fanny Price’s excellent observation to the unprincipled character Henry Crawford, “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be“. The Oxford World’s Classics Mansfield Park is certainly a fine edition to help you discover your own better inner-guide to the novel!

Rating: 4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Please join us for the next review of Emma in September

Read my previous reviews in the Oxford World’s Classics – Jane Austen Collection

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Oxford World’s Classics
Oxford University Press, Rev. Ed. (2008)
Trade paperback, 480 pages, ISBN-13: 9780199535538
James Kinsley, editor 

Supplemental Material
Jane Stabler: Introduction and Explanatory Notes
Vivien Jones: Select Bibliography, Chronology and Appendixes
Biography of Jane Austen
Note on the Text
Textural Notes

 

Prof. Ellen Moody’s review 

“The World as a “take-in”:  the latest Oxford _Mansfield Park_

 

Tom Townsend (Edward Clements, the Edmund character) regaling Audrey Rouget (Carolyn Farina, the Fanny Price character) with Trilling’s commentary; she is not thrilled. [1] (1990 _Metropolitan_, free adaptation of _MP_)

Many covers of _Mansfield Park_ feature a grand ancient house seen in
the distance (even though Austen tells us it was modern) 

As Laurel says, here we are for a third go at a series of diptych reviews. This time our topic is _Mansfield Park_, a book which has become controversial first as utterly dislikable — boring, distasteful, and worse yet, a grave moral comedy; and then as radical — subversive, a book intended to expose the viciousness and ruthless exploitation upon which the comfort of the powerful and rich depends, indeed the most profound and far reaching, the richest of Austen’s books, not a mere love story, which element in the book often nowadays scarcely gets a look-in by some critics.  This singling out of the book as particularly “difficult” and needing especially diligent defense begins in 1944 when the first of the 20th century texts about Austen written by non-academic ordinary women readers, popular novelists themselves, Sheila Kaye-Smith and G. B. Stern’s _Speaking of Jane Austen_ hit the until then overwhelmingly male-dominated mostly high-minded criticism-land of Jane Austen (Mark Twain’s resentful venom and Rudyard Kipling’s ironies are rarities).  You see, as Edmund Wilson then (in reaction) condescended to explain, it seems “there is something wrong with _Mansfield Park_ and [Kaye-Smith and Stern] have a great deal to say it.”  Edmund Wilson’s “Long Talk about Austen” informed the world, among others, the today still supremely prestigious Vladmir Nabokov, that Jane Austen must be included in courses of great authors; the story goes Nabokov bristled, at which Wilson huffed, so Nabokov swallowed hard and reluctantly put _Mansfield Park_ in his syllabus[2]. 

The iconic scene of all the _MP_ movies:  Fanny (Sylvestre Le Tousel) writing, this case her beloved brother William; in all three costumed dramas, but especially this first (1983 BBC) she is the (unusal female) narrator of much of the story through subjective retrospective scenes.  Here we see her in her “nest of comforts,” her attic (as yet unheated). 

Here (1999 Miramax) she will when grown up (Francis O’Connor) will write stories (sometimes for her beloved sister Susan, Sophia Myles), but the function is occasionally the same, if the mood, upbeat comedy and directed at someone near her, like Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller) despite the gothicized surroundings, has been altered. 

Hitherto I have confined myself to complementing Laurel’s reviews with contextualization in the form of brief surveys of recent editions of the novels, covers and illustrations, film adapations available, and secondary issues about the book as a book, for “Ours is a competitive business, sir:” the latest Oxford _Sense and Sensibility, the problem of which text to choose (1811 or 1813); for A novel many novel-readers feel called upon to read: on the latest Oxford _Pride & Prejudice_, some sense of a series of book and movie events which have led to the book’s having become since the second half of the 20th century a transcendent best-seller (beginning with her nephew’s 1870 memoir, and including the usefulness of the book’s archetypal strong romance for movies, careers in and outside classrooms, and the heritage industry).  

I will again offer some description of other recent editions, and talk about the problem of which text to chose (we again have two texts printed in Austen’s lifetime, 1814 and 1816), and end on the movies, one of which is in my judgement a masterpiece of filmic art, the 1983 BBC _Mansfield Park_, one of the best film adaptations of an Austen book, and there have been many[3]. The difference will be this time I will discuss the book’s content directly with the aim of doing as many have done before me (I’ll quote them) explaining why there seems to be such disquiet to the point we are told (by Kingsley Amis, be it noted a misogynist in his fiction) _Mansfield Park_ is not the real Jane Austen, is utterly uncharacteristic, a product of imposed self-denying “revulsion physical and particular,” this Marvin Mudrick’s response partly to her heroine who stands for a type whom all right-minded people avoid and whose pious hypocrisy (aggressive-passiveness if you prefer) they see through in life and fiction[4]. continue reading

 

Fanny at the moment when Tom (Christopher Villiers) has suddenly called upon her to take a part (from the other side of the room, where he is busy suiting his convenience) and then insists: as she becomes the center of a scene she is intensely distressed (Edmund, Nicholas Farrell, and Mary, Jackie Smith-Wood, sit behind her) as

fn1.  Audrey Rouget, _Metropolitan_, in Whit Stillman’s _Barcelona/Metropolitan_ (London & Boston: Faber, 1994):192-93.  She is discussing Lionel Trilling’s essay (see my discussion of this and other essays on _MP_ below). 

fn2.  See (and read if you haven’t as yet) the fascinating Sheila Kaye-Smith and G.B. Stern’s _Speaking of Jane Austen_ (New York: Harper, 1994), published n England as _Talking of Jane Austen_; Edmund Wilson, “A Long Talk About Jane Austen,” _Classics and Commercials: a literary chronicle of the forties_ (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy, 1951):196-203; and the overpraised “Jane Austen: Mansfield Park,” in Vladmir Nabokov, _Lectures on Literature_, ed. Fredson Bowers (New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980):9-60. Nabokov analyzes the design and themes of the incidents at Sotherton and the play-acting, but the description of Austen’s novles as “delicate patterns, with her collection of eggshells in cotton wool,” in comparison say to the rich wide world (“tawny port“) of Dickens reveals the masculinist disdain of Austen:  he writes: “Personally I dislike porcelian and the minor arts … Let us not forget there are people who have devoted to Jane all their lives, their ivy-clad lives …” and so on and so forth (p. 63). 

fn3. For me undoubted masterpieces of filmic art which seriously engage with Austen’s texts are the of the apparently faithful adaptations: 1972 BBC _Emma_, 1979 BBC _P&P_, the 1983 BBC _MP_, the 1995 BBC/WBGH _P&P_, 1995 Miramax _S&S_ and 1995 BBC _Persuasion_ (95 was a great year), _ and the commentaries the 2007 _Persuasion_ and 2008 _S&S_.  Of the free adaptations another _MP_ film stands high, Whit Stillmans’ independent 1990 _Metropolitan_, the Tamil 2000 _I have Found it_ (_S&S_), Victor Nunez’s independent 1993 _Ruby in Paradise_ (_NA_) and the 2006 Warner _Lake House_ (_Persuasion_) seem the best in the serious vein, the Amy Heckerling’s 1996 Paramount _Clueless_ (_Emma_ and 2001 Columbia Tristar _Bridget Jones Diary_ (_P&P_) in the comic.   I also find of real interets the 1987 BBC _NA_, 2007 BBC/WBGH _NA_ , and the much-maligned (lie the book), 2007 ITV _MP

fn4. Kingsley Amis, “What Became of Jane Austen,” _Jane Austen: A Collection of Critical Essays_, ed. Ian Watt (NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963):141-43; Marvin Mudrick, _Jane Austen: irony as defense and discovery_ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952); 155-80. 

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: Fun with Fanny and Friends: Day 11 Give-away!

Here’s a little humor to brighten your Monday morning Janeites! 

Can you describe your life in six words or less? That was the question that Smith Magazine asked their online readers in 2006. What developed was an amazing array of comic, tragic and poignant mini life stories that are now available in the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. 

Originally inspired by an incident in writer Ernest Hemmingway’s life, he was challenged to write a story in six words or less. He responsed 

‘For Sale: baby shoes, never worn,’ 

proving that the imagination can run with half dozen words creating a whole life story. This amazing collection of a “thousand glimpses of humanity-six words at a time.” is both contagious and addictive. Here are a few of my favorites 

Read romances. Met a man. Disappointed! 

Girlfriend is pregnant, my husband said. 

Most successful accomplishments based on spite. 

No wife. No kids. No problems. 

Aging late bloomer yearns for do-over. 

Wasn’t born a redhead; fixed that. 

Still lost on road less traveled. 

The Mansfield Park Six Word Review Challenge 

This creative and clever concept can be applied to almost anything we have an opinion on. So, the challenge that I am putting forward today is for Janeites to write a six word review of Mansfield Park, Jane Austen’s oft maligned and misunderstood novel! 

You can write about anything in the plot or characters that inspires you; humorous, tragic or snarky. I have written a few of my own to start you off. The most striking, funny or poignant reviews will be selected and announced in the Mansfield Park Madness roundup and deconstruction on August 31. Good luck! 

Be kind, because Fanny did mind. 

Resistance is futile. Surrender Fanny! 

The grey pony died. Fanny survived. 

Fanny Price. What becomes insipid most. 

What happens in Mansfield Park? 

Edmund Bertram sermonized. Henry Crawford womanized! 

Fanny Bashers conference in East room. 

Fanny Price? Wasn’t she on Broadway? 

Pug. Fanny Price’s Fairy Dogmother. 

Did Jane Austen write Mansfield Park? 

Poor Fanny. Rich cousins. Integrity wins. 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 11 Give-away!

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

 

Jane Austen Address book, by Potter Style

Paperback, with alphabetical tabs. Image of Regency lady and Jane Austen portrait on the front. 120 pages, ISBN: 978-0307352385 

Upcoming posts
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
Day 15 – Aug 29          MP: Sequels, Spinoff’s and Retellings

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