Jane Austen and the ‘father of the novel’ – Samuel Richardson

Gentle readers: Last week I reviewed Lynn Shepherd’s new Austen inspired mystery Murder at Mansfield Park. Not only is she an accomplished novelist, she is a distinguished Samuel Richardson scholar with a new book Clarissa’s Painter: Portraiture, Illustration, and Representation in the Novels of Samuel Richardson, published by the venerable Oxford University Press. Richardson was Jane Austen’s favorite novelist and I could not pass up the opportunity for Lynn to chat about his impact on her writing and the English novel. This is her generous contribution. Enjoy!

What influence did Samuel Richardson have on novels like Mansfield Park?

Jane Austen’s biographers often have to resort to guesswork and speculation about many aspects of her life, but there’s one thing we do know, and that’s who her favourite author was. According to her nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh, her knowledge of Samuel Richardson “was such as no one is likely again to acquire . . . Every circumstance narrated in Sir Charles Grandison, all that was said or done in the cedar parlour, was familiar to her; and the wedding days of [characters like] Lady L. and Lady G. were as well remembered as if they had been living friends.”

Richardson is a literary hero of mine, too, and I always think it’s sad that so few people read him nowadays. Not only because Clarissa, in particular, is one of the great masterpieces of European literature, but because it’s only by reading Richardson that you really understand the tradition Austen was writing in, and where she got some of the inspiration for her books.

So who was Samuel Richardson?

Academics and critics have been arguing for years about who wrote the first English novel. Some argue for Defoe and Robinson Crusoe, others for Fielding, but I’ve always been a firm supporter of Pamela, which Richardson published in 1740.

Pamela is a novel-in-letters, written by a young serving-maid to her parents, in which she describes her master’s attempts to seduce her. But as the subtitle (‘Virtue Rewarded’) suggests, all’s well that ends with a wedding. It sounds pretty standard stuff now, but at the time it was a publishing sensation.  There were 5 editions by the end of 1741, with an estimated 20,000 copies sold. It was also the first book to have what we would now call a ‘promotional campaign’. As a printer himself, Richardson employed all the tricks of the book-trade, including newspaper leaders and celebrity endorsement, and may even have encouraged the publication of a pamphlet that denounced the novel as pornographic, which certainly had a predictably healthy effect on sales!

But if it was Pamela that was ground-breaking, Richardson’s next novel, Clarissa, is the one that really established a new kind of prose fiction in English. This, like all Richardson’s books, is an epistolary novel, and it’s worth remembering that when Austen first put pen to paper seriously herself, she chose exactly this form – first in Lady Susan, and then in Elinor & Marianne, the first version of Sense & Sensibility. Clarissa is the story of a young woman who’s tricked away from her family by the libertine, Robert Lovelace, and eventually raped. The story evolves through two parallel correspondences – Clarissa’s with her friend Anna, and Lovelace’s with his confidant Belford. The depth and subtlety of the psychological characterisation is extraordinary, and you can see immediately why Henry Austen says his sister was such an admirer of “Richardson’s power of creating, and preserving, the consistency of his characters.” However, Clarissa is undeniably a very long read, so if you’d like a taster first, I recommend the BBC adaptation starring Sean Bean. It’s quite old now, but really worth taking a look at.

Sir Charles Grandison

The interesting point about that last quote, though, is that it’s actually about Sir Charles Grandison, Richardson’s last, longest, and least interesting book. All the same it was undeniably Austen’s favourite, and the one that had the most direct influence on her literary technique. As the critic Marilyn Butler has said, “Sir Charles Grandison contributed more than any other single book to the tradition of social comedy… which Jane Austen inherited.” Again and again, you can see Austen using characters and episodes from Richardson, and re-working them for her own purposes. If you’re interested there’s an excellent book on this whole subject by Jocelyn Harris called Jane Austen’s Art of Memory.

The parallels between Grandison and Mansfield Park, in particular, are especially interesting. Both books deal with similar themes, like marriage, education, and the relationships between parents and children, but there are also some striking similarities between many of the characters, notably the respective heroes and heroines – Fanny Price and Harriet Byron, and Edmund Bertram and Sir Charles. For example, both Fanny and Harriet are either literally or effectively orphans, who are adopted by a much richer family: as a result they both acquire two ‘sisters’ and a ‘brother’ they rapidly fall for, even though the man himself is in love with someone else entirely.

There’s no question that Austen loved Sir Charles Grandison, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t prepared to send it up gently. Isabella Tilney famously calls it an ‘amazing horrid book’, and sometime in the 1790s Jane and her niece Anna worked together to turn Richardson’s million-word novel into a ten-minute comic play for the family to perform. Though that’s rather easier than it sounds, because so little actually happens in Grandison: Sir Walter Scott recalled an old lady telling him she always chose to have that book read to her, because “should I drop asleep in course of the reading, I am sure, when I awake, I shall have lost none of the story, but shall find the party, where I left them, conversing in the cedar-parlour.”

One reason I mention this is because it’s something I always say to people who say you should never tinker with a literary classic like Austen, whether by writing sequels or pastiches, or creating new versions based on her works, like my own Murder at Mansfield Park. It’s useful to remind ourselves that Jane Austen did exactly the same thing, using Richardson both as the source text for a youthful skit, and – more seriously – as an important inspiration for her mature novels.  On that basis I think she’d be flattered that nearly 200 years after her death, so many of us still turn to her books to find inspiration for new work of our own.

Fast facts about the ‘Father of the Novel’

  • Born near Derby in 1689, Richardson was married twice and had six sons and six daughters, of whom only four girls survived.  His education was limited, but he became an extremely successful printer in London, not putting pen to paper on his own account until he was 50.
  • At the age of 13, Richardson was making money writing love-letters for young women he knew, an experience he claimed gave him his knowledge of the female heart.
  • When the villagers of Slough read of Pamela’s wedding in the newspaper they ran the church bell in celebration.
  • You can actually read Clarissa in ‘real time’, starting on January 10th, and finishing on December 18th.

They said…

“This Richardson is a strange fellow. I heartily despise him, and eagerly read him, nay, sob over his works in a most scandalous manner.” Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

“If you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment”.  Samuel Johnson

He said…

“I thought [if Pamela were] written in an easy and natural manner… [it] might possibly introduce a new species of writing, that might possibly turn young people into a course of reading different from the pomp and parade of romance-writing”

Want to find out more?

There are good basic introductions to Richardson and his novels here:

The site below is also really interesting. Richardson didn’t just publish the first English novel, but the first illustrated novel too. He took advantage of Pamela’s runaway success by issuing a lavish ’collector’s edition’ two years later (though there were pirate illustrated versions before that). Richardson went to great expense to commission his own illustrations from two of the leading book engravers of the time. It’s fascinating to see him using these images as a way of ensuring that readers only saw ‘his’ version of Pamela the demure and virtuous heroine, and not – like many of his contemporaries, including Henry Fielding – “a pert little minx, whom any man of common sense or address might have had on his own terms in a week”!

Lynn Shepherd studied English at Oxford, and later went on to do a doctorate on Samuel Richardson, which has now been published by Oxford University Press. She’s also a passionate Jane Austen fan, and has just published Murder at Mansfield Park. You can visit her website and follow her on Twitter as GhostingAusten.

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for May 2010

The Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that Jane Austen inspired books are heading our way in May, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.  

Editor’s note: This month’s selections are comprised of re-issued, re-titled and re-written selections. Shocking! Has the economic recession finally hit Austen bookland?  

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired) 

Darcy & Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley, by Linda Berdoll 

Based on sales, Linda Berdoll may be the most successful Austen sequel writer ever. Inspired by the 1995 BBC/A&E mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, her first novel Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife was published in 2004 by Sourcebooks and continues the story of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy after the conclusion of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The second book in the series Darcy & Elizabeth continues the passionate story of Jane Austen’s famous romantic couple after the birth of their twins. Both books in the series have ardent fans who adore them and others who detest them. There does not seem to be any middle ground. Obviously the yays have outweighed the nays. This reissue of Elizabeth and Darcy by Fall River Press by arrangement of Sourcebooks is a beautiful new hardcover edition printed on quality paper and expertly bound. The text is identical to the Sourcebooks edition, but you can not beat the incredible quality and price at $8.95. Why they did not begin with the first book in the series is beyond comprehension. Publisher’s description: It is several years since the felicitous union of Elizabeth Bennet and the dashing Fitzwilliam Darcy at the conclusion of Austen’s novel, and the couple are settling down to a life of domestic bliss, raising their twin infants at the Pemberley estate. All should be happy at home and hearth—but dark clouds loom on the horizon of Derbyshire. On the continent, the Napoleonic Wars are raging, and Wickham, Lydia Bennet’s despicable husband, has returned miraculously from his presumed death with vengeance in his heart toward Darcy and all whom he holds dear. Meanwhile, haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh, still stung by her nephew’s betrothal to Elizabeth, schemes scandalously to unite their families’ bloodlines. Fall River Press, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1435123908. 

The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice: A modern love story with a Jane Austen twist, by Abigail Reynolds 

Previously published in trade paperback in 2008 as Pemberley by the Sea, Sourcebooks is trotting out yet another re-issue and changing the title, cover and size to (what one assumes) appeal to a larger audience? This modern take on Pride and Prejudice was well received by Austen genre readers who found it by word of mouth and not by its unappealing first cover. Unfortunately there is no mention of the previous title in the publisher’s description and unsuspecting buyers will be miffed when they discover they already own the first edition. Publisher’s description: A modern love story with a Jane Austen twist. Marine biologist Cassie Boulton has no patience when a modern-day Mr. Darcy appears in her lab on Cape Cod. Proud, aloof Calder Westing III is the scion of a famous political family, while Cassie’s success is hard-won in spite of a shameful family history. When their budding romance is brutally thwarted, both by his family and by hers, Calder tries to set things right by rewriting the two of them in the roles of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice…but will Cassie be willing to supply the happy ending? Sourcebooks Casablanca, Mass market paperback, ISBN: 978-1402237324. 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel, adapted from the original novel by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith by Tony Lee and illustrated by Cliff Richards 

The infectious and unexplainable unmentionable P&P&Z franchise expands to a graphic novel format for art lovers and those who really do not want to read a work of world literature. Of all of the monster mash-up’s I still favor P&P&Z,  whose claim-to-fame is that it launced the mash-up genre. The graphic illustrations are, er, graphic, and should appeal to zombie fans everywhere. Publisher’s description: The New York Times Bestseller – Now An Eye-popping Graphic Novel of Manners, Morals, and Brain-eating Mayhem! It is known as “the strange plague,” and its unfortunate victims are referred to only as “unmentionables” or “dreadfuls.” All over England, the dead are rising again, and now even the daughters of Britain’s best families must devote their lives to mastering the deadly arts. Elizabeth Bennet is a fearsome warrior whose ability with a sword is matched only by her quick wit and even sharper tongue. But she faces her most formidable foe yet in the haughty, conceited, and somehow strangely attractive Mr. Darcy. As the two lovers meet in the ballroom and on the battlefield, they’ll soon learn that nothing—not even bands of ninjas, hordes of flesh-eating zombies, or disapproving aunts—can stop true love. Del Rey, Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-0345520685. 

Sense & Sensibility (Marvel Comics), adapted by Nancy Butler from the original novel by Jane Austen and illustrated by Sonny Liew. 

Last year Marvel Comics issued their version of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. It was a big hit. So now they are moving on to what they describe as Austen’s second most popular novel Sense and Sensibility. Butler did a great job pairing down P&P and converting it into comicese, but the illustrations were out of sync. Sonny Liew, who had created the five covers for the P&P version has taken over the interior illustrations as well which is a huge improvement visually. He is quite talented so the combo of Butler and Liew make a great team. As with P&P, the comics will be published in five issues and hopefully combined into a hardcover edition after. This is issue number one. Publisher’s description: Award-winning writer Nancy Butler, adapter of Marvel’s best-selling adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, returns to Marvel with another Jane Austen classic: Sense and Sensibility! Alongside incredible artist Sonny Liew (My Faith in Frankie, Wonderland), Butler brings to life the world of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, two daughters without parents or means, forced to experience hardship, romance, and heartbreak, all in the hopes of achieving love and lasting happiness. Marvel Comics, available online at www.marvel.com or your local comic shop. 

Lady of Quality/Charity Girl: Two Novels in One, by Georgette Heyer 

Another re-issue of a re-issue. Regency romance Queen Georgette Heyer is hot again thanks to Sourcebooks’ dedication and commitment to reissue her classic novels originally published between, 1929 – 1975. This re-issue of Lady of Quality and Charity Girl by Fall River Press by arrangement of Sourcebooks is a beautiful new hardcover edition printed on quality paper and expertly bound. The text is identical to the Sourcebooks’ two editions, but you can not beat the incredible quality and price for two novels at $8.95. Publisher’s description: Lady of Quality is the story of Miss Annis Wychwood, a proud and independent young woman living on her own in Bath in the early nineteenth century. Bored by the few suitors who have called on her, Annis is resigned to a future of serene solitude until adventure enters her life in the person of Miss Lucilla Carleton, an heiress seeking to escape an arranged marriage. Opportunity follows in the person of Mr. Oliver Carleton, Lucilla’s guardian. Oliver is the rudest man Annis has ever met—and the only one who has ever provoked strong feelings from her. Sparks fly from the friction between them, and neither is prepared for the romance they ignite. Charity Girl is the tale of another runaway, Miss Charity Steane, who is in flight from her aunt’s household when the Viscount Desford encounters her on the road to London. Chivalry dictates that Desford help the naïve Charity, and propriety demands that he lodge her with his dear friend Henrietta Silverdale. With Charity in the picture, Henrietta’s feelings toward Desford warm, and the Viscount soon finds himself torn between two women in a gentle comedy of manners and mishaps. Full of charm and delight, Lady of Quality and Charity Girl are two jewels in the crown of the writer regarded as the Queen of Regency romance. Fall River Press, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1435123960. 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Mansfield Park (Enriched Classics), by Jane Austen 

This interesting new Enriched Classics edition by Simon & Schuster of Austen’s dark horse Mansfield Park could lift the black veil of complexity for readers looking for additional information and notes on MP. I find these expanded editions the best for new students and veterans alike. One can always learn something new by supplemental material and see a new perspective on Austen’s novels with these annotated texts. Let’s hope it sheds some light upon the misunderstood heroine Fanny Price to subdue the discordance in the Austen community about her merits. ;-) Publisher’s description: In Mansfield Park, considered Austen’s darkest and most complex novel, the wealthy Bertram family’s social and private worlds are revealed through the eyes of Fanny Price, a poor relation residing with them. This edition includes: A concise introduction that gives the reader important background information, a chronology of the author’s life and work, a timeline of significant events that provides the book’s historical context, an outline of key themes and plot points to guide the reader’s own interpretations, a detailed explanatory notes, critical analysis and modern perspectives on the work, discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction and a list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader’s experience. Simon & Schuster Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world’s finest books to their full potential. Simon & Schuster: Mass market paperback, ISBN: 978-1439169438. 

Nonfiction 

Jane Austen and her Predecessors, by Frank W. Bradbrook 

Ok, even the venerable Cambridge University is jumping on the bandwagon and re-issuing their back list. In this well-deserved reprint of the 1966 edition, readers will be enlightened by Dr. Bradcock’s critical analysis of art and culture’s influence on Austen’s writing. This is scholarly stuff, but well worth a peek from your local library edition. Kudos to Cambridge for making the price accessible at $19.99. Publisher’s description: This is a study of influences on Jane Austen’s art and views of life. She assimilated and transformed certain writings of earlier essayists and novelists; she was herself a potent influence. Dr. Bradbrook provides the literary critic with a fresh position from which to inspect the novels. He isolates several kinds of influence that had affect on Jane, which he inspects one by one. First there are the periodical essayists, the moralists in prose and the writers of conduct books. These were sources of general reflections on moral and social behaviour: and especially interesting to Jane Austen when they touched on the position of women. Dr. Bradbrook sketches her knowledge of and taste in the drama and poetry of the eighteenth century. In the second half of the book Dr. Bradbrook analyses the influence that earlier novelists had on Jane Austen. Useful appendices reproduce some of the rarer sources. Cambridge University Press, Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-0521148252. 

Ephemera 

2011 Jane Austen Companion to Life mini wall calendar, by Sourcebooks 

I know. It’s hard to think about next year’s calendar in May – but here you have it. If you order it now you will not be stymied in January when you realize you forgot to buy your Jane Austen calendar and everyone is sold out. This mini-wall calendar was inspired by Sourcebooks’ new gift book Jane Austen Companion to Life and includes great quotes and Brock color illustrations. I have to hand it to Sourcebooks. Their designers are the best in the book biz. Publisher’s description: This title includes charming original four-color illustrations created by well-known illustrators of the time, Charles Edmund Brock and his brother, Henry Matthew Brock. Austen fans will adore this year-long celebration of Jane’s world. This is the only wall calendar on the market celebrating Jane Austen. Austen books constantly sell well, and fans are always looking for more. It is perfect as a gift or self purchase for this audience. It features original illustrations and font from Jane Austen’s handwriting. Sourcebooks, Inc., Mini-wall calendar, ISBN: 978-1402244308. 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann

In Which We Rant and Rave in Favor of Mansfield Park

Needlepoint book cover of Mansfield Park by Leigh-Anne Mullock (2009)Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park really gets a bum rap from critics and readers. Sometimes I think that I am its only advocate, campaigning to an empty room. Granted, it is not as emotionally charged as Sense and Sensibility or as light, bright and sparkly as Pride and Prejudice, but it does have an admirable heroine in gentle Fanny Price and two viper-like antagonists in Mary and Henry Crawford, that other authors just dream about creating.

I find the arguments against it are thin. Some say MP is overly moralistic, dismally dark, and the hero and heroine are wimps. (So harsh)  I say they are not reading the same novel that I am. All this remonstrance was prompted by a conversation I had today with a customer at work. As a bookseller, I recommend books all day long. Today, when I offered Mansfield Park to a young lady who loved P&P and S&S, her mom flatly said no, pronouncing that she would not like it. Inwardly, I cringed at such parental reproach. Give the kid a chance to make up her own mind. So Mansfield Park was eliminated because mom didn’t like it when she read it thirty years ago. Geesh.

So for all those parents out there that think they are doing your kids a favor, let them make there own decisions and mistakes with the classics. Just be HAPPY they want to read them.

On a more upbeat note, here are a few of my favorite quotes from Mansfield Park to remind skeptics that there are some grand one liners.

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

Do not let us be frightened from a good deed by a trifle.” Mrs. Norris, Chapter 1

Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 7

Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 7

Everybody likes to go their own way–to choose their own time and manner of devotion.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 9

Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 9

To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” Fanny Price, Chapter 9

It was a quick succession of busy nothings. The Narrator, Chapter 10

Where an opinion is general, it is usually correct.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 11

Those who have not more must be satisfied with what they have.” Mrs. Rushworth, Chapter 12

Let your conduct be the only harangue.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 15

Oh! you can do nothing but what you do already: be plagued very often, and never lose your temper.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 22

A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.” Mary Crawford, Chapter 22

A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 23

The enthusiasm of a woman’s love is even beyond the biographer’s. The Narrator, Chapter 27

I am worn out with civility,” said he. “I have been talking incessantly all night, and with nothing to say.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 28

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” Fanny Price, Chapter 42

Nobody minds having what is too good for them.” The Narrator, Chapter 48

Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can. Narrator, Chapter 48

So there!

Murder at Mansfield Park: Fanny Price Now an Outrageous Gold-digger in a new Austen Re-imaging

Mansfield Park (Barnes & Noble Classics), by Jane AustenJane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park will be next up for a literary mash-up. 

Bookseller.com reports that Beautiful Books, a London based publisher announced today that they have purchased Murder at Mansfield Park, a whodunit by Lynn Shepherd. 

Based on Jane Austen’s classic novel Mansfield Park, the murder mystery re-imagines Austen’s classic story re-casting gentle and principled heroine Fanny Price as “ambitious, scheming and relentlessly focused”, while anti-heroine Mary Crawford “suffers great indignities from her mean neighbour”

And now, a bit of self hype by the publisher. 

Simon Petherick, managing director of Beautiful Books, described the book as “fantastic” and “tremendous fun”. He added: “The really good thing about it is that linguistically, it’s very accurate, and she picks up on all the key themes that appeared in the original . . . But whereas Fanny is quite a pain in the arse in Austen’s version, Lynn’s Fanny is an outrageous gold-digger.” 

From what we can gather, this is an original manuscript and not a true mash-up inserting new bits into Jane Austen’s original text like we saw in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Calling Fanny Price a pain in the arse is a bit crude, but honestly, we are just relieved that there are no monster or alien invasions in it.

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

Two Guys Read Jane Austen, by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill – A Review

Two Guys Read Jane Austen (2008)“Jane’s got more adoring female fans than Brad Pitt, and my guess is they’re more intelligent too!” Terrence Hill 

Given the choice of reading Pride and Prejudice or watching a football game, which do you think the average all American male would choose?  If this is a no brainer, you have recognized the male/female divide of how men and women think and feel differently, and the reason why the “Two Guys”, Steve and Terry were lured by their wives into writing their new book Two Guys Read Jane Austen in the first place. 

Lifelong friends for over fifty years, these “Two Guys” are a perfect pair to chat about a subject where most men fear to tread. Both professional writers with impressive resumes, Steve Chandler is a best selling author, business coach and corporate trainer, and Terrence Hill, award winning adman, poet, short story and stage play writer,  adding clout and experience to their observations. This is their third book in the critically-acclaimed “Two Guys” series and may be their biggest challenge yet – Jane Austen, who the guys admit is a hot property and hope might garner big royalties ala best selling author John Grisham! They are of course only kidding between themselves, typical of this epistolary missive that is formatted like an e-mail in box with actual correspondence between the two authors as the read Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park together. What evolves is not only an insightful and funny male perspective of two typically female favorite classic books, but their views on Jane Austen’s impact on modern culture, and pretty much all around story swapping guy style. 

What I found most enjoyable about this book was their open attitude to read and understand Austen without prejudice. They give honest opinions of her strengths and weaknesses in her plot, characters and style, but do not bash or berate her because her themes of marriage, romance and view of her society appeal mostly to women. Instead, she has become androgynous, and enjoyed for her brilliant style, biting wit and memorable characters. Add to that the “Two Guys” special anecdotes and personal stories from their lives and modern media, and you have a hilarious and ‘Austentatious’ combination. A quick fun read, this book would be an excellent gift for any Austen fan, or Austen fan who wants to prove to their significant other that their admiration of all things Austen is not just a girl thing! 

4 out of 5 Regency stars 

Two Guys Read Jane Austen
By Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill
Trade paperback (126) pages
Robert D. Reed Publishers, Brandon, OR
ISBN: 978-1934759172 

Read my other in-depth review, Two Jane Austen Fans Review Two Guys Read Jane Austen, Part One & Part Two with my co-blogger Vic (Ms. Place) at Jane Austen Today.

The Sunday Salon Badge

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 Madness: Roundup & Conclusion: Winners Announced!

She was of course only too good for him; but as nobody minds having what is too good for them, he was very steadily earnest in the pursuit of the blessing, and it was not possible that encouragement from her should be long wanting. The Narrator on Fanny Price & Edmund Bertram, Chapter 48 

Nobody minds having what is too good for them“, reveals all my profound wonder and inestimable gratitude to all of the participants in Mansfield Park Madness, my first Austen event at Austenprose. Your response to my concept of sharing my personal journey of re-discovery of Jane Austen’s most misunderstood and much maligned novel Mansfield Park has so far surpassed my expectations, that I must owe all of its success to Jane Austen, whose incredible talent still draws a crowd after nearly two hundred years. I hope that a few new readers were inspired to read the book (Dina?), and veterans have come to appreciate the novel more deeply through the information provided, and by others personal observations and understanding. I now can proudly say, I adore Fanny Price, and I hope that others may as well! 

There were many memorable comments and questions over the course of the seventeen days. I learned much from my fellow Janeites about the novel, our dear Fanny Price, and myself. The greatest surprise post of the event (and one that was a last minute impulse) was on day eleven, Fun with Fanny & Friends: 6 word review for Mansfield Park. Your responses were so creative they deserved further recognition. Here are few of my favorites. 

Poor relative. Ha-ha romance. Maria defects. – Sibylle 

Fanny pined while Edmund whined. – Susan 

Fanny was true, through and through, – Katie Dugas 

Heroine boring; villains charming; dog hermaphrodite. – Deborah’s husband! 

Mansfield Park intriguing, challenging and fulfilling. – Dina 

Dear Miss Price, unnoticed, but nice! – Sylvia M.

 

THE PRIZE WINNERS

 

And now for the fun stuff! Here are all the winners of the 17 + prizes. Congratulations to all, and many thanks to all who participated. 

DAY 1 – (Aug 15) – Book: MP Oxford World’s ClassicsSUSAN

DAY 2 – (Aug 16) – Book: MP Oxford Illustrated EditionKIRA

DAY 3 – (Aug 17) – Movie: MP 1983 – LUTHIEN84

DAY 4 – (Aug 18) – Audio: MP Naxos Unabridged –  SYLVIA M.   

DAY 4 – (Aug 18) – Audio: MP Naxos Abridged – KATIE

DAY 5 – (Aug 19) – Ephemera: JA Journal – RAE  

DAY 6 – (Aug 20) – Movie: Metropolitan – KIRAGADE

DAY 7 – (Aug 21) – Book: MP PenguinLESLIE

DAY 8 – (Aug 22) – Book: JA Miscellany copy 1 – FATIMA

DAY 8 – (Aug 22) – Book: JA Miscellany copy 2 – KATHLEEN ANN

DAY 9 – (Aug 23) – Book: MP Barnes & Noble – KAREN in MARYLAND

DAY 10 – (Aug 24) – Movie: MP 1999 – DAE   

DAY 11 – (Aug 25) – Ephemera: JA Address Book – KATIE DUGAS

DAY 12 – (Aug 26) – Book: MP Oxford World’s ClassicsLAURA

DAY 13 – (Aug 27) – Movie: MP 2007 – CHERYL

DAY 14 – (Aug 28) – Book: MP BroadviewSIBYLLE

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Edmund Bertram’s Diary copy 1 – DINA

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Edmund Bertram’s Diary copy 2 – AMY CATHERINE

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Edmund Bertram’s Diary copy 3 – JANEEN

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Mansfield Park RevisitedFELICIA

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: The Matters at MansfieldMARY

DAY 15 – (Aug 29) – Book: Central ParkKIRA                                                      

DAY 16 – (Aug 30) – Book: MP Norton Critical EditionCOURTNEY 

Winners – Your prompt reply is appreciated. You have one week to claim your prize! Please e-mail me, (austenprose at verizon dot net) before Sunday, September 7th, 2008. If I do not receive a response by a winner by that date, I will draw another name and continue until all of the prizes have a home to mail them to. Thanks again to everyone for your great contributions. Congrats to the winners, and enjoy!

 

Mansfield Park Madness is now officially concluded!

(Fanny is waiting for you on that bench at Sotherton, until you the read the book again!) 
 

THE END

 

Mansfield Park: Jane Austen’s Collection of Opinions: Day 16 Give-away!

 

OPINIONS 

Mrs. Augusta Bramstone – owned that she thought S. & S. – and P. & P. downright nonsense, but expected to like M. P. better, & having finished the 1st vol. – flattered herself she had got through the worst. 

We have the unique pleasure of still having Jane Austen’s collection of opinions by her family and friends on her novel Mansfield Park which she assembled between 1814-1816. My favorite totally candid remark is listed above as the epigraph. Too funny! One wonders (ever so slightly) if Jane Austen’s mother started the rumor that Fanny Price is insipid, and what Mrs. Lefroy thought of Northanger Abbey three years later! Ha! Enjoy. 

“We certainly do not think it as a whole, equal to P. & P. – but  it has many & great beauties. Fanny is a delightful Character! and Aunt Norris is a great favourite of mine. The Characters are natural & well supported, & many of the Dialogues excellent. – You  need not fear the publication being considered as discreditable to the talents of it’s Author.” – F [rancis] W[illiam] A[usten] 

Not so clever as P. & P. – but  pleased with it altogether. Liked the character of Fanny. Admired the Portsmouth Scene. – Mr. K. [Edward Austen Knight] 

Edward & George [Knight]. – Not liked it near so well as P. & P. – Edward admired Fanny – George disliked her. – George interested by nobody but Mary Crawford – Edward pleased with Henry C[rawford] – Edmund objected to, as cold & formal. – Henry  C[rawford]’s going off with Mrs. R[ushworth], at such a time, when so much in love with Fanny, thought unnatural by Edward. 

Fanny Knight. – Liked it, in many parts, very much indeed, delighted with Fanny; – but   not satisfied with the end – wanting more Love between her & Edmund – & could not think it natural that Edmund should be so much attached to a woman without Principle like Mary C[rawford] – or promote Fanny’s marrying Henry. 

Anna [Lefroy] liked it better than P. & P. – but not so well as S. & S. – could not bear Fanny. – Delighted with Mrs. Norris, the scene at Portsmouth, & all the humourous parts. 

Mrs. James Austen, very much pleased. Enjoyed Mrs. Norris particularly, & the scene at Portsmouth. Thought Henry Crawford’s going off with Mrs. Rushworth very natural. 

Miss Clewes’s objections much the same as Fanny’s. 

Miss Lloyd preferred it altogether to either of the others – Delighted with Fanny. – Hated Mrs. Norris. 

My Mother – not liked it so well as P. & P. – Thought Fanny insipid. – Enjoyed Mrs. Norris. 

Cassandra – thought it quite as clever, tho’ not so brilliant, as P. & P. – Fond of Fanny. – Delighted much in Mr. Rushworth’s stupidity. 

My Eldest Brother [James Austen] – a warm admirer of it in general. – Delighted with the Portsmouth Scene. 

[James] Edward [Austen-Leigh] – Much like his Father. – Objected to Mrs. Rushworth’s Elopement as unnatural. 

Mr. B[enjamin] L[efroy] – Highly pleased with Fanny Price – & a warm admirer of the Portsmouth Scene. – Angry with Edmund for not being in love with her, & hating Mrs. Norris for teazing her. 

Miss Burdett – Did not like it so well as P. & P. 

Mrs. James Tilson – Liked it better than P. & P. 

Fanny Cage – did not much like it – not to be compared to P. & P. – nothing interesting in the Characters – Language poor. – Characters natural & well supported – Improved as it went on. 

Mr. & Mrs. Cooke – very much pleased with it – particularly with the Manner in which the Clergy are treated.  – Mr. Cooke called it “the most sensible Novel he had ever read.” – Mrs. Cooke wished for a good Matronly Character. 

Mary Cooke – quite as much pleased with it, as her Father & Mother; seemed to enter into Lady B[ertram]’s character, & enjoyed Mr. Rushworth’s folly. Admired Fanny in general; but thought she ought to have been more determined on overcoming her own feelings, when she saw Edmund’s attachment to Miss Crawford. 

Miss Burrel – admired it very much – particularly Mrs. Norris & Dr. Grant. 

Mrs. Bramstone  – much pleased with it; particularly with the character of Fanny, as being so very natural. Thought Lady Bertram like herself. – Preferred it to either of the others – but imagined that might be her want of Taste – as she does not understand Wit. 

Mrs. Augusta Bramstone – owned that she thought S. & S. – and P. & P. downright nonsense, but expected to like M. P. better, & having finished the 1st vol. – flattered herself she had got through the worst. 

The families at Deane – all pleased with it. – Mrs. Anna Harwood delighted with Mrs. Norris & the green Curtain. 

The Kintbury [Fowle] Family – very much pleased with it; – preferred it to either of the others. 

Mr. Egerton the Publisher – praised it for it’s Morality, & for being so equal a Composition. – No weak parts. 

Lady Robert Kerr wrote – “You may be assured I read every line with the greatest interest & am more delighted with it than my humble pen can express. The excellent delineation of Character, sound sense, Elegant Language & the pure morality with which it abounds, makes it a most desirable as well as useful work, & reflects the highest honour &c. &c.- Universally admired in Edinburgh, by all the wise ones. – Indeed, I have not heard a single fault given to it.” 

Miss Sharpe – “I think it excellent – & of it’s good sense & moral Tendency there can be no doubt. – Your Characters are drawn to the Life – so very, very natural & just – but as you beg me to be perfectly honest, I must confess I prefer P. & P.” 

Mrs. Carrick. – “All who think deeply & feel much will give the Preference to Mansfield Park.” 

Mr. J. Plumptre. – “I never read a novel which interested me so very much throughout, the characters are all so remarkably well kept up & so well drawn, & the plot is so well contrived that I had not an idea till the end which of the two would marry Fanny, H. C[rawford] or Edmund. Mrs. Norris amused me particularly, & Sir Thomas is very clever, & his conduct proves admirably the defects of the modern system of Education.” – Mr. J. P. made two objections, but only one of them was remembered, the want of some character more striking & interesting to the generality of Readers, than Fanny was likely to be. 

Sir James Langham & Mr. H. Sanford, – having been told that it was much inferior to P. & P. – began it expecting to dislike it, but were very soon extremely pleased with it – & I beleive, did not think it at all inferior. 

Alethea Bigg. – “I have read M. P. & heard it very much talked of, very much praised. I like it myself & think it very good indeed, but as I never say what I do not think, I will add that, although it is superior in a great many points in my opinion to the other two Works, I think it has not the Spirit of P. & P., except perhaps the Price family at Portsmouth, & they are delightful in their way.” 

Charles [Austen] – did not like it near so well as P. & P. – thought it wanted Incident. 

Mrs. Dickson. – “I have bought M. P. — but it is not equal to P. & P.” 

Mrs. Lefroy – liked it, but thought it a mere Novel. 

Mrs. Portal – admired it very much – objected cheifly to Edmund’s not being brought more forward. 

Lady Gordon wrote – “In most novels you are amused for the time with a set of Ideal People whom you never think of afterwards or whom you the least expect to meet in common life, whereas in Miss A—-‘s works, & especially in M. P. you actually live with them, you fancy yourself one of the family; & the scenes are so exactly descriptive, so perfectly natural, that there is scarcely an Incident, or conversation, or a person, that you are not inclined to imagine you have at one time or other in your Life been a witness to, borne a part in, & been acquainted with.” 

Mrs. Pole wrote, – “There is a particular satisfaction in reading all Miss A—-‘s works – they are so evidently written by a Gentlewoman – most Novellists fail & betray themselves in attempting to describe familiar scenes in high Life; some little vulgarism escapes & shews that they are not experimentally acquainted with what they describe, but here it is quite different. Everything is natural, & the situations & incidents are told in a manner which clearly evinces the Writer to belong to the Society whose Manners she so ably delineates.” Mrs. Pole also said that no Books had ever occasioned so much canvassing & doubt, & that everybody was desirous to attribute them to some of their own friends, or to some person of whom they thought highly. 

Admiral Foote – surprised that I had the power of drawing the Portsmouth-Scenes so well. 

Mrs. Creed – preferred S. & S. and P. & P. – to Mansfield Park. 

First published in Jane Austen, The Minor Works, vol. 6 of The Works of Jane Austen, ed. R.W. Chapman (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), 431-435 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 16 Give-away 

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

 

Mansfield Park: Norton Critical Edition 

W.W. Norton & Co, Inc. (1998). Novel text and extensive supplemental material edited by Claudia L. Johnson. Trade paperback, 544 pages, ISBN 978-0393967913 

Upcoming post
Mansfield Park Madness is almost over!
Day 16 – Aug 30          Last day to leave comments
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Concludes

Mansfield Park Sequels: Edmund Bertram’s Diary: Day 15 Give-away!

 THE SEQUELS
 
Since Austen-esque author Amanda Grange first gave us Darcy’s Diary, the retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective in 2005, she has been dutifully working her way through all six of Jane Austen’s heroes with her books; Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, Edmund Bertram’s Diary and the latest hardcover release, Colonel Brandon’s Diary. Each supply readers with an interesting male vantage on Jane Austen’s classic stories faithfully retold to mirror Jane Austen’s storyline, character personality and theme. It’s almost like reading Jane Austen’s novels from a parallel universe, but written in a more modern style. In this newly released paper back edition, Amanda Grange gives the hero of Mansfield Park, Edmund Bertram a sympathetic and honest treatment. If you are interested in seeing how a man thinks (as apposed to Jane Austen’s feminine view point) I would recommend giving this novel a try. Even though you may already know the storyline, revisiting one of Jane Austen’s most complex and intriguing novels is a always a treat. And if you (like me) believe in keeping the best for last, Ms. Grange is presently writing Henry Tilney’s Diary, which I am certain from my interest in Jane Austen’s delightfully charming character, will be well worth the wait! 
 

 Review highlights

 

“Once again, Amanda Grange has provided a highly entertaining retelling of a classic Jane Austen novel, as seen through the hero’s eyes. EDMUND BERTRAM’S DIARY is pure fun, with the story told in a diary format that makes the reader feel like she’s taking a peek into Edmund’s most innermost thoughts. . . I enjoyed every moment of it.” – Kay James , Romance Reader at Heart 

“Edmund Bertram’s Diary is a sympathetic portrait of a young man struggling with the difficult choices that life throws at us all.” – Austenblog 

“Grange captures the flavour and period extremely well, giving those of us who cannot get enough of this type of novel a story that is both cleverly told and enjoyable.” Red Roses for Authors Reviews 

“Amanda Grange has hit upon a winning formula and retells the familiar story with great verve.” – Historical Novels Review 

 

Further reading

  • Read an excerpt from Edmund Bertram’s Diary
  • Read an in-depth interview of Amanda Grange on AustenBlog

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 15 Give-away

 
Leave a comment by August 30th to qualify for a drawing on August 31st for one of three copies available of 
 

 
Edmund Bertam’s Diary, by Amanda Grange
 
Berkely Trade (2008). A re-telling of the novel Mansfield Park from the perspective of hero Edmund Bertram. Trade paperback, 344 pages, ISBN 978-0425223796 

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 Roundup & Conclusion

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