Is this Your Lizzie Bennet?

Portrait of Mrs. Walter Learmouth, by Sir Henry Raeburn (ca 1800)This beautiful oil portrait circa 1800 of a lady (Mrs. Walter Learmouth?) is attributed to Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. (Scottish, 1756-1823). He is one of my favorite artists of the Georgian and Regency era, producing powerful, stark and realistic paintings of his subjects. This portrait of Mrs. Learmouth in a white dress against a dramatic stormy sky and shadowy landscape frames the uncertainty of her expression. She is neither smiling nor frowning, leaving the viewer to interpret her personality and mood. She looks pensive to me, but her slight knowing smile and piercing dark eyes reminded author Deirdre Le Faye of Jane Austen’s most famous fine eyed heroine Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Le Faye uses this portrait as an example of what she feels matches Jane Austen’s description of Elizabeth Bennet in her book Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels (2006). 

With her slender figure and dark hair, and the amused gleam in her eyes, she agrees perfectly with Jane Austen’s image of Elizabeth Bennet. pp 186

Of Elizabeth we only gradually learn that she is very pretty, with a figure that is ‘light and pleasing’, and that her face is ‘rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes’. pp 186 

It is interesting to match Austen’s description of Elizabeth with another artists painting. A bit of a gambit really since Austen so cleverly did not describe her heroine’s physical attributes in detail, leaving the reader to visualize ‘their’ Lizzy Bennet in their minds eye. Is this your Lizzy Bennet? I have another vision of my personal Lizzy – more cheerful and exuberant – younger, and with large eyes. This portrait is a stunner, but seems more the Regency Mona Lisa, than the witty, spirited and sparkling Lizzy that I love. 

The portrait of Mr. Walter Learmouth recently sold at Christie’s New York on16 June 2009 for $9,375. It seems like quite a bargain for a Raeburn. Honestly, however did the owner part with it? I hope that the new owners will make it available to the public in some way. She is too lovely to hide away. Lizzy Bennet – or not!

Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels, by Deirdre Le Faye (2006)Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels, by Deirdre Le Faye is essential reading for students of literature and Austen enthusiasts. “Meticulously researched overview of the period, from foreign affairs, fashion, and social ranks to transportation, candle etiquette, and sanitation practices. She goes on to consider each novel individually, explaining in detail its action, its setting, the reaction of the public and critics, and Austen’s own feelings about the book.” Available in softcover (2006) ISBN: 9780711222786

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 Chapters 1-8: Summation, Musings & Discussion: Day 2 Give-away

Illustration by H.M. Brock, Mansfield Park Ch 2 (1898)

THE NOVEL

Do not let us be frightened from a good deed by a trifle. Give a girl an education, and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without farther expense to anybody.” Mrs. Norris, Chapter 1

Quick Synopsis

Ten year old poor relation Fanny Price arrives at Mansfield Park and meets her cousins the Bertrams. Spoiled sisters Maria and Julia think her ignorant and stupid. Sad and sacred, her only friend is cousin Edmund who helps her write a letter to brother William. Five years pass. Sir Thomas Bertram and eldest son Tom leave for Antigua. Maria and Julia husband hunt with Aunt Norris. Fanny left out. Maria engaged to Mr. Rushworth. Mary and Henry Crawford arrive and meet their neighbors. Maria and Julia keen on Henry. Mary keen on Tom. Fanny and Edmund think Mary indecorous. Mary’s harp arrives, bewitching Edmund who falls in love with Mary. All the young people travel to Mr. Rushworth’s estate of Sotherton.   

Musings 

Jane Austen sets the tone of the novel immediately with Mrs. Norris’ passive-aggressive surly voice. It is effectively comical and annoying at the same time. She seems to run the Bertram family while her sister lounges on the sofa with her dog pug. I loved this description of Lady Bertram. 

To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience, guided in everything important by Sir Thomas, and in smaller concerns by her sister. The Narrator, Chapter 4 

I think that Austen is introducing a theme here of negligent parenting with possibilities for great material. Lady Bertram’s two spoiled and snarky daughters Maria and Julia are certainly the evidence of it. Their brother Tom the eldest son seems to be also ungovernable by their father Sir Thomas, gambling and drinking with little regret. Only second son Edmund seems to have his head on straight, though I fear he has over compensated for his lax upbringing and taken the high road too firmly with his moralizing and starchy attitudes. With an outlook like this, one can only imagine his frustration in living in a household of such cretins and understand his desire to be a minister to save unruly souls. 

When we are introduced to newcomers to the neighborhood siblings Mary and Henry Crawford, I was amazed at how well their cutting remarks and superior attitude fit in with the Bertram clan. It is no wonder that the introductions go so well. I was amused that their sister Mrs. Grant immediately suggests possible mates for her single brother and sister. Shades of an Emma Woodhouse; – who may only be a gleam in Austen’s eye while writing this. Their discussion on marriage in chapters four and five is a great introduction to their personalities, and sets the stage for future romantic machinations. Here are two favorite quotes by Henry and Mary that really reveal what is coming. 

“I am of a cautious temper, and unwilling to risk my happiness in a hurry. Nobody can think more highly of the matrimonial state than myself I consider the blessing of a wife as most justly described in those discreet lines of the poet-‘Heaven’s last best gift.'” Henry Crawford, Chapter 4 

Of course, he is being totally sarcastic and poking fun at marriage and women after his sister Mary derides his past performance with ladies to their sister Mrs. Grant. 

“In marriage…there is not one in a hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry. Look where I will, I see that it is so; and I feel that it must be so, when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect most from others, and are least honest themselves.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 5 

Mary Crawford is much more frank about it. Like Elizabeth Bennet she decidedly expresses her opinions, but unlike Jane Austen’s other strong female character from Pride and Prejudice she does so without much censure and is often moralistically off center. I like that dangerous laissez-faire, wildly over confident quality about her. She definitely gets the sharp witty dialogue that Austen is so famous for. It is like watching a train wreck and makes for a great story. 

But what of our heroine Fanny Price? At this point she has had little to say or do. Cleverly, I think that is Austen’s point. Being the poor relation and a charity case in a resplendent household is a tenuous position. We see her pitiful situation, how terribly she is treated by her cousins, and feel her pain. It is uncomfortable and we are angered by it. The over-eager reader may miss the subtly of her character and not understand why she is in the background so much. It is a bit perplexing but I am confident that Austen has her reasons that will unfold as the plot develops. 

Questions 

  1. Why is Mrs. Norris not given a first name? Is this a telescopic insight by Jane Austen by way of a slight?
  2. Fanny Price does not act like Jane Austen’s other heroines. Nor does Mary Crawford. Is Austen being ambiguous?
  3. Why do you think that Austen has set up such a caustic cast of characters? What are the benefits and downfalls to this approach? 

Further reading 

Online text complements of Molland’s Circulating Library
Cast of characters
Chapter 1-8 summary
Chapter 1-8 quotes and quips

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 2 Give-away

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

The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume III: Mansfield Park

Oxford University Press, USA (1988). Third edition. This hardcover volume has been the preferred edition by many since its publication in 1923. It includes an unabridged novel text and extensive supplemental material. Nice compact, but could use a make-over!

Upcoming posts
Day 3 – Aug 17            MP 1983 movie discussion
Day 4 – Aug 18            MP Naxos (Juliet Stevenson) audio
Day 5 – Aug 19            MP novel discussion chapters 9-16
Day 6 – Aug 20            Metropolitan movie discussion

Mansfield Park Madness Introduction: Day 1 Give-away

WELCOME

Depend upon it, you see but half. You see the evil, but you do not see the consolation. There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.” Mrs. Grant, Mansfield Park Chapter 5  

Recently when a good friend who knows I blog about Jane Austen asked my opinion of Mansfield Park – I hesitated – dug deep – and honestly answered, not much! She was shocked. So was I!   

 Up until that point, much of what I knew about Jane Austen’s reputably most complex and mysterious novel I learned during a speed read for a college lit course, sideways chatter and postings on the MP board at The Republic of Pemberley and watching two movie adaptations; the 1999 Patricia Rozema adventure when it was released in the theaters, and the recent BBC 2007 adaptation presented by Masterpiece Classic this past January.  Embarrassingly, not much of a foundation for an Austen enthusiast, and after contrite reflection, I knew that I had not honestly given Mansfield Park a fair shake, and needed to. 

So gentle readers, here it is, all laid out at your feet (or more literally in pixels on your computer screens) over the next seventeen days, my personal journey into Mansfield Park Madness, along with 17 days of great free item give-aways. Enjoy! 

Cheers, Laurel Ann

Mansfield Park Madness: DAY 1 Give-away

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

Oxford World’s Classics Edition of Mansfield Park 

Oxford University Press (2008). The new revised edition includes a full unabridged text, an introduction by Jane Stabler and loads of great supplemental material. A nice compact medium sized edition with informative and helpful appendixes, notes, bio and chronology on the author. 

Mansfield Park Madness IconUpcoming posts
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 Audiobooks (Juliet Stevenson) 
Day 5 – Aug 19:     MP novel discussion chapters 9-16
 

Jane Austen’s Lydia Bennet: Her Life Credo

Image of a bonnet from Ackermann\'s Repository, (1817)“Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.” Lydia Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 39 

Lydia Bennet is the youngest of the five Bennet sisters being but fifteen, but by her impulsive and unguarded manner she is the most commanding of the lot, and she knows it! Jane Austen gently gives clues to the reader to the impending peril she imposes on her family through her willful actions. My first impression of Lydia was that she was a time bomb of misery and dissipation just ticking away. 

As the novel progresses, her actions become more outrageous to the detriment of the family reputation when she elopes, and then does not marry. After her patched up marriage to George Wickham, she returns to her family home at Longborne and receives mixed reactions from her family. Totally oblivious to what all the fuss is about, she saw no fault in her behavior. This passage from chapter 51 is a great clue to the nature of her feelings on her actions. 

Continue reading

Breaking News: Tornado Tom Lefroy Hits Austenland

Image of miniature portrait of Tom Lefroy, (1798)“At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy … My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea” Jane Austen Letter to Cassandra Austen, 16 January 1796, The Letters of Jane Austen

My Dear Miss Austen,  

Our tears flow too dear Jane. A tornado has hit the gentle shores of your Austenland, and it’s not a pretty sight. We would be remiss if we did not mention that they are at it again; – the ladies and gentleman of the press; – yes – they are claiming that your youthful flirtation with Tom Lefroy inspired you to create your character Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice! Sigh. 

It appears that the day has not yet come on which the press is to flirt thier last with Tom Lefroy. Just when we thought that the brouhaha created by last year’s wobbly bio-pic of your youth, Becoming Jane, had settled down a bit, the present owners of a miniature portrait of your ‘puppy love’ Mr. Lefroy have offered it for sale at the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair, June 12th to 18th, in London. The online news agencies have been aflutter with the news my dear Jane, and I fear the gossip is less than kind. 

  • THE real-life inspiration for TV sexbomb Mr Darcy has been revealed – as a skinny GEEK, The Sun
  • Austen’s Real-life Mr. Darcy a Frail Wimp, NineMSN
  • Jane Austen’s real Mr. Darcy had Girlish Looks, The Telegraph 
  • The Real Mr. Darcy is no Colin Firth, UPI Entertainment News

Some poor misguide souls have even gone so far as to claim that Mr. Lefroy looks like a “skinny geek“, “a pale wimp“, “limp lettuce“, “and a wispy-haired girlie, who looks so delicate that he might even weigh less than Elizabeth Bennet.”

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Jane Austen’s Dearest Friendship with Miss Sharp Still Resonates Today

You would have held the memory of your friend Jane too in tender regret I am sure. – But the Providence of God has restored me – & may I be more fit to appear before him when I am summoned, than I sh’d have been now! – Sick or Well, beleive me ever your attached friend. J. Austen Letter to Anne Sharp, 22 May 1817

Image of three volumes first edition of Emma, presented to Ann SharpJaneites with deep pockets and warm hearts will be winging their way to London for the June 24th auction of a first edition of Emma being offered at Bonham’s Auction House. The rare three volume presentation copy of Jane Austen’s fourth and final novel to be published in her lifetime was a gift from the authoress to Anne Sharp, a dear friend and previous governess to her brother Edward Austen Knight’s daughter Fanny at Godmersham, Kent.

Bonham’s online catalogue description contains some interesting facts.

Jane Austen was allocated twelve presentation copies by the publisher John Murray. Of these, nine were sent to family members (including Jane herself), one to the librarian of the Prince Regent (to whom the work was dedicated), and one to Countess Morley, these last under obligation from the publisher. The present copy is the only one given to a personal friend, testament to the strength of Jane’s feelings for Anne.

First editions of Jane Austen’s novels can garner healthy prices. A November 2007 article in Antiquarian Books listed a recent sale of a three volume set of Sense and Sensibility by Bloomsbury Auctions in New York for $48,000.00. (1) Because the ‘Anne Sharp’ edition of Emma has unique provenance, and no known presentation copies of Emma have ever hit the market before, Bonham’s is anticipating a sale price between £50,000 to £70,000. This could be quite a windfall for its present UK owner who had the volumes shelved in their family library for three generations without a clue as to how their ancestors acquired them. One wonders what else they have loitering about, and why they chose this moment to dispose of them!

Illustration of Godmersham Park, Kent, England

Godmersham Park, Kent, home of the Edward Austen Knight family circa 1804

Anne Sharp served as governess to Fanny Knight (1793-1882) Jane Austen’s niece, at Godmersham from 1804 to 1806, resigning for health reasons. (2) She is mentioned fondly several times in Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra and in this wonderful passage from Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen.  Continue reading