A Soirée with Lady Susan: The Postal Service in 18th Century Britain: Letters and the Penny-Post

The old General Post Office in Lombard Street, London

This correspondence, by a meeting between some of the parties, and a separation between the others, could not, to the great detriment of the Post Office revenue, be continued any longer. The Narrator, The Conclusion, Lady Susan

The Postal Service in 18th Century Britain: Letters and the Penny-Post 

At Jane Austen’s World

As the characters in Jane Austen’s epistolary novella Lady Susan send each other a flurry of letters, I was curious how they got to their destinations and how long it would take to send a letter from the Vernon’s residence at Churchill 30 miles to London. Vic (Ms Place) of Jane Austen’s World blog can always answer all my historical questions, and has kindly written about the Postal Service in Britain as a three part series:  1) Letters and the Penny-Post, 2) Post Roads and Post Boys, and 3) John Palmer and the Royal Mail Coach. 

You can enjoy the first segement, The Postal Service in 18th Century Britain: Letters and the Penny-Post, and the next two will follow shortly. Thanks Vic for keeping us so well informed about all things Georgian & Regency. 

Part 2 – The Postal Service in 18th Century Britain: Post Roads and Post-Boys

Lady Susan AvatarUpcoming event posts
Day 12 – Sep 12      LS Group Read – Letters 34-41 & Concl.
Day 13 – Sep 13      LS Book Review
Day 14 – Sep 14      LS Wrap-up & Giveaway winners

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

Emma: Mr. Knightley’s Proposal – Marriage or Merger?

Illustration by Willian C. Cooke, Emma, J. M. Dent & Co (1892)“And now, let me talk to you of something else. I have another person’s interest at present so much at heart, that I cannot think any longer about Frank Churchill. Ever since I left you this morning, Emma, my mind has been hard at work on one subject.”  

The subject followed; it was in plain, unaffected, gentleman-like English such as Mr. Knightley used even to the woman he was in love with, how to be able to ask her to marry him, without attacking the happiness of her father. Emma’s answer was ready at the first word. “While her dear father lived, any change of condition must be impossible for her. She could never quit him.” Part only of this answer, however, was admitted. The impossibility of her quitting her father, Mr. Knightley felt as strongly as herself; but the inadmissibility of any other change, he could not agree to. He had been thinking it over most deeply, most intently; he had at first hoped to induce Mr. Woodhouse to remove with her to Donwell; he had wanted to believe it feasible, but his knowledge of Mr. Woodhouse would not suffer him to deceive himself long; and now he confessed his persuasion, that such a transplantation would be a risk of her father’s comfort, perhaps even of his life, which must not be hazarded. Mr. Woodhouse taken from Hartfield! No, he felt that it ought not to be attempted. But the plan which had arisen on the sacrifice of this, he trusted his dearest Emma would not find in any respect objectionable; it was, that he should be received at Hartfield; that so long as her father’s happiness — in other words his life — required Hartfield to continue her home, it should be his likewise.  

Of their all removing to Donwell, Emma had already had her own passing thoughts. Like him, she had tried the scheme and rejected it; but such an alternative as this had not occurred to her. She was sensible of all the affection it evinced. She felt that, in quitting Donwell, he must be sacrificing a great deal of independence of hours and habits; that in living constantly with her father, and in no house of his own, there would be much, very much, to be borne with. She promised to think of it, and advised him to think of it more; but he was fully convinced, that no reflection could alter his wishes or his opinion on the subject. He had given it, he could assure her, very long and calm consideration; he had been walking away from William Larkins the whole morning, to have his thoughts to himself. Mr. Knightley & Emma Woodhouse, Chapter 51 

I have always been disappointed in Mr. Knightley’s marriage proposal to our heroine Emma Woodhouse. If you are not paying close attention, you might miss it altogether! No long speech declaring his esteem, admiration and love. No “will you be mine dearest, loveliest Emma?” No ardent realization that they are destined to be together. No jubilant acceptance by her. Nothing! And Emma is also at fault. She is as much about the business transaction as Knightley, concerned more about her father’s reaction and comforts, Mr. Knightley’s estate manager Mr. Larkins being inconvenienced by Mr. Knightey’s absence if they should live at Hartfield, and finally Harriet’s reaction to the news. This is more business merger negotiations than the final romantic reward for the build up by Jane Austen over the last 448 pages of the novel. For me, it is the biggest weakness in the plot to an otherwise brilliant story. If Austen had given us a romantic and moving marriage proposal, Emma might be more favorably accepted. I know that sounds shallow, but there your have it from this hopeless romantic.     

* Illustration by William C. Cooke, “Mr. Knightley’s proposal”, Emma, The Novels of Jane Austen, J. M. Dent & Co, London (1892)

flourish 5

Northanger Abbey Chapters 1-3: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 2 Giveaway

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. The Narrator, Chapter 1 

Quick Synopsis

Catherine Morland the unlikely heroine lives a pretty average life with no mitigating factors to promote it. Her father is a financially secure clergyman, her mother well tempered and still alive after the birth of ten children. She is not a remarkable student and prefers cricket to dolls. At fifteen she improved greatly, much to her parent’s approval. Between fifteen and seventeen she reads books to influence a heroine in the making. Regrettably, there are no interesting suitors in the neighborhood. Friends of the family Mr. and Mrs. Allen invite Catherine to Bath. “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” They arrive at Bath and proceed to shop for frocks and finery, visit the pump-room and prepare for a ball at the Upper Rooms where they know no one and have an uneventful evening. A second attempt proves more successful at the Lower Rooms when Catherine is introduced by the Master of Ceremonies to Mr. Tilney. They dance, have tea and he chides her about journal writing. The ball concludes and Catherine is inclined to continue the acquaintance.

Musings

While reading the first few paragraphs of chapter one, I am struck by the narrator’s use of language while introducing the main character Catherine Morland. Much of what we are told of her personality is described in an opposite analogy; no one would suspect her of being heroine, her father is not poor, rich or lock up his daughters, her mother did not die at her birth, the family has little right to be called pretty, she had neither a bad heart nor a bad temper, was seldom stubborn, scarcely ever quarrelsome, she is an unremarkable student and on and on. This style is psychologically unsettling, and I think that is Jane Austen’s goal. I feel like this a wind up for the big pitch that Austen will deliver in the future. Much to Catherine’s disappointment, everything is as it seems. Her life is average and unexceptional and that will not do for a young lady who thinks her life should be more eventful.

But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way…if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad. The Narrator, Chapter 1

And so Catherine’s adventure begins as she travels uneventfully to Bath with Mr. and Mrs. Allen secretly hoping for the excitement of being robbed or an over-turn to feed her active imagination. She could not be in more capable hands as Mrs. Allen, “one of that numerous class of females, whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them.”, (Ouch. Austen really knows how to categorize people without delay), it appears is admirably suited to chaperone a young lady into society because she really has her priorities straight. She loves to shop!

Dress was her passion. She had a most harmless delight in being fine; and our heroine’s entree into life could not take place till after three or four days had been spent in learning what was mostly worn, and her chaperone was provided with a dress of the newest fashion. The Narrator, Chapter 2

Oh darn. New clothes and a make-over! Finally the new frocks and finery are finished and Catherine is dressed and ready for her entrance into society hoping to pass uncensored at the Upper Rooms. They arrive. The rooms are packed and the crush intense. By unwearied diligence they work their way through the crowd and the ball is a fine sight. Catherine longs to dance, but she and Mrs. Allen are not acquainted with anyone in the room. Amazingly, not much can be done about it because in Regency times, one did not just walk up to someone and ask them to dance before they had been properly introduced. So Catherine’s first official outing into society is a bust, and all that can be said on the matter is that they wished they had known someone – anyone! A bit of a disappointment for a heroine in the making, but her luck would soon change as they make a second attempt.

They made their appearance in the Lower Rooms; and here fortune was more favourable to our heroine. The master of the ceremonies introduced to her a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; his name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. His address was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck. The Narrator, Chapter 3

Yum. Henry Tilney has entered the building and Catherine’s adventure is about to begin. They dance and have tea and he inquires about her experience in Bath, taking it as far as teasing her about writing it all down in her journal.

“Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.” Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. “I see what you think of me,” said he gravely – “I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.” 

“My journal!” 

“Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings – plain black shoes – appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.” Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, Chapter 3

This introduction to Henry Tilney is quite an eye popper. Confident and assured he is immediately quite the charmer, and in Regency times this may have been viewed as a bit too forward. Of course young and inexperienced Catherine does not quite know the difference, so he may play with her a bit more boldly than a seasoned Miss who might put him in his place. She is flattered by his attention and the ball concludes. Catherine is inclined to continue the acquaintance and thinks of him as she gets ready for bed. The narrator warns the reader that if a young lady was to dream about Mr. Tilney that it is improper, since a gentleman should dream about a lady first. Ha!

Further reading

  • Read the online text of Northanger Abbey complements of Molland’s
  • Read the Group reading schedule

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 2 Giveaway

 

Penguin Classics Northanger Abbey (2003)

By Jane Austen, introduction and notes by Marilyn Butler

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of the Penguin Classics Northanger Abbey (Shipping to US residents only)

Upcoming event posts
Day 03 – Oct 6             Guest Blog Amanda Grange
Day 04 – Oct 7             Group Read NA Chapters 4-7
Day 05 – Oct 8             NA movies – Diana Birchall
Day 06 – Oct 9             Group Read NA Chapters 8-10

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Darcys and the Bingleys, by Marsha Altman – A Review

Now they had come to it, the moment he dreaded. “We are to marry in nearly two days -“

“It has not escaped my notice, I assure you.”

“- and I find myself in need of some . . .  advice.”  Mr. Bingley & Mr. Darcy, The Darcys & the Bingleys 

And so gentle readers, begins the premise of the latest sequel to Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, entitled The Darcys and The Bingleys. In this debut novel by Marsha Altman the story is centered on the friendship of Charles Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy, elevating Mr. Bingley to co-protagonist with his future brother-in-law. We are immediately reconnected to the original story as Charles Bingley, that amiably good natured friend of the commanding Mr. Darcy ruminates over their approaching marriages to the Bennet sisters, Jane and Elizabeth. Endearingly true to character, Mr. Bingley is not quite sure of himself or how to resolve a pressing matter. After much deliberation he determines that his closest friend Mr. Darcy is the best man to approach on the delicate subject of martial relations and entreats his advice. Mr. Darcy responds by presenting him with a wedding gift; — ‘the book’– an illustrated and transcribed ancient Indian text of the Kama Sutra. 

Not only is Charles Bingley concerned about his wedding night performance, his future bride Jane Bennet is in turn confused and alarmed after the obligatory mother-daughter chat on wifely duties that her mother unloads on her and sister Elizabeth the day before the wedding. Luckily their aunt Mrs. Gardiner was also present to smooth the waters so-to-speak, but even cool and clever Elizabeth is befuddled by the vagueness of the information and asks her fiancé, Mr. Darcy for reassurance. 

As the invited guests arrive for the wedding, we are re-acquainted with many familiar characters from Pride and Prejudice; Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Rev. Mr. Collins and wife Charlotte, Mr. & Mrs. Bennet and their daughters Kitty and Mary, Lydia Wickham, Anne de Borough who has escaped from Rosings and the clutches of her mother Lady Catherine, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Georgiana Darcy, Mr. & Mrs. Hurst, Caroline Bingley, and one uninvited guest, George Wickham who is unceremoniously pitched out the second floor window of Netherfield Park and into a manure pile by Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. The men folk then proceed to throw a stag party, and Mr. Darcy has a bit too much to drink. 

We are also privy to a snipet of the back story on the friendship of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy many years before “Netherfield Park is let at last” when Pride and Prejudice begins, enlightening us further on their personalities and relationships. Bingley and Darcy became fast friends at Cambridge University after Bingley rescued him from a scandalous situation after their introduction at a faculty soirée. A nineteen-year old Mr. Darcy was deep in his cups, seduced by a disreputable young lady and found in another student’s dorm room incoherent and disheveled. With Bingley’s help, the matter was swiftly smoothed over, but since it was so unlike his friend’s usual reserved manner, he continues to chide him about it whenever he needs to privately put the grand Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in his place. 

At the conclusion of the wedding ceremony and dinner, the Darcy’s and the Bingley’s depart for there respective townhouses in London, and hopefully on to connubial bliss. Like Mr. Darcy’s new bride Elizabeth, we see a more relaxed and casual husband after the ceremony. This Darcy makes jokes with his new wife. 

“I shall do my best to be an upstanding gentleman, ignoring your presence almost entirely in company, and never endeavour to gaze upon you or whisper private jokes in your ear at parties_ “

Her response was to kiss him. Well, to kiss him and to climb on top of him, the ultimate assertion of authority. “That is not what I prefer, Mr. Darcy.”

“Then we are in agreement. I will treat you with great love and compassion in front of guests and as a wanton wench in the bedchamber.”

To this, she could not find a reason to raise dispute. 

On the other martial front, the sun rose on the Bingley household and Jane exclaims, “I do not believe that I have ever been so happy.” Charles Bingley credits the book and then shows it to Jane. 

Six months have passed and Jane and Elizabeth are both with child and expecting at the same time. In appreciation for his friend’s considerable favour of the wedding gift, Bingley sends Darcy a new book that he has tracked down and imported from India, the Ananga Ranga, another sex manual. The ongoing competition between the two friends continues to the point of their placing bets on whose home will be used for their wives confinements, and who will be first to deliver a child. Bingley wins the £5. 

The second half of the novel involves Charles Bingley’s sister Caroline, who as you will remember in Pride and Prejudice tries her hardest to attract Mr. Darcy, but he does not give her a moment’s thought in the romance arena. She is a caustic and abrasive character in Austen’s novel, and gets much of the plum biting dialogue. In this treatment she is more sympathetically portrayed, and many of the faults and foibles in her personality are smoothed out and explained. When the two friends Darcy and Bingley are called into action to check out a prospective beau of Caroline’s, the ongoing comedy continues and the story ends just like Austen with a wedding. 

Recently, author Marsha Altman was interviewed on the Risky Regencies blog by fellow Austen-esque author Janet Mullany, who asked her how she felt about taking on Jane Austen? 

I’m trying to have fun with her characters. As to whether she would mine, Miss Austen has posthumously endured her nephew and extended family publishing all of her unfinished writing and personal letters for profit, numerous sequels and adaptations, books analyzing her personal life, and even movies about her starring actresses wearing heavy lipstick. So, if she’s been spinning in her grave, she’s probably tired by now and may well have gotten over it. That or she understands imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, if that phrase existed in the Regency period. 

Fun is the operative word here, and if one reads this book within the context of expecting a light, frothy, humorously diverting comedy written in a contemporary style based on Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice, you will not be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are expecting a Regency novel whose language, plot, character development and historical reference are similar to Austen’s, this may not be for you. 

Ms. Altman states that imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. I do not think that imitation was her intention here, and Miss Austen may have to take a few more spins at Winchester Cathedral.

Rating: 2½ out of 5 Regency Stars

The Darcys & The Bingleys: Pride and Prejudice Continues
by Marsha Altman
Sourcebooks, Inc.
Trade paperback, 415 pages
ISBN 978-1402213489

Further reading

Pemberley Shades: Pride and Prejudice Continues, by D. A. Bonavia-Hunt – A Review

Pemberley Shades by D. A. Bonavia-Hunt (2008)It is with great pleasure that I learned that the classic Pride and Prejudice sequel, Pemberley Shades by Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt, would be re-issued in September by Sourcebooks. Originally published in 1949, it was the second Jane Austen sequel ever to be written and not easily available for purchase unless you were lucky enough to find a small boutique publisher’s edition or a second-hand copy offered at outrageous prices for a first edition. Having existed as the ultimate mysterious and allusive Austen sequel for many years, the wait is now over and the enjoyment can begin. However, what the heck are Pemberley Shades?

My educated hunch is that it refers to his passage in Pride and Prejudice when Lady Catherine de Bourgh is interrogating the heroine Elizabeth Bennet in chapter 56.

“Heaven and earth — of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” 

As a novice reader I didn’t quite understand Lady Catherine’s reference to the shades of Pemberley. In ancient Roman times, shades were referred to as dead relatives. Lady Catherine’s use of the word refers to Mr. Darcy’s illustrious ancestors whose memory would be tainted by the association with the Bennet family who were recently humiliated by the infamous elopement of its youngest daughter Lydia. Taken in context, author D.A. Bonavia-Hunt knew exactly what Austen was implying and used it as a clever play on words for the title of her novel. And what a perfect match it is to the tone of her book which has an underlying thread of hidden life stories, family honor and dis-honor throughout.

Pemberley Shades is true to Austen’s style in that it begins with a significant life change and ends with a marriage. It has been four years since Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy married and their pastoral life at Pemberley with their young son Richard is close to perfect until the death of the parish minister sets a course of peculiar events into play that recall a plot in one of the Gothic novels so popular during Austen’s life.

“Who could have foretold that Dr, Robinson, who had done nothing of note in all his lifetime should, by the common and natural act of dying, set in motion a train of events so strange, so startling, so far removed from probability, as to emulate the riotous fancies of a disordered mind?”

Eager to fill the vacancy, Darcy advertises for the position of Rector of Pemberley determined to find a better man to lead the parish. Among the many applicants is one from his wife’s cousin (yes the odious one himself) Rev. Mr. Collins, anxious for a new situation away from Hunsford since he has fallen out with his benefactress Lady Catherine de Bourgh. “I fear to mention that I have lost that unqualified approbation with which your aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, was wont to distinguish me.” Lady Catherine believes that he had a hand in promoting the marriage of his cousin Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Knowing that a life of sermons by Mr. Collins would be Purgatory, Mr. Darcy is pressed for a reason to put him off and invites applicant Rev. Mr. Steven Acworth who is also the brother of school friend to Pemberley for an extended stay to see if it is a good match. Mr. Acworth is recently widowed and according to his brother deeply affected by the loss. It does not take long for everyone including Mrs. Darcy to doubt his suitability for the position. His behavior is perplexing. One moment he is all charm and affability, the next dark and morose. This disturbs Elizabeth and Darcy who conclude that he would not suit as Rector, but are compelled to keep him on as a house guest as a favor to his brother.

The majority of the plot line revolves around Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s younger sister age 20, single and residing at Pemberley. Now a proficient musician on the pianoforte, Elizabeth and Darcy are concerned that her intensity verges on eccentricity, making her dreamy and unsocial. They think it is time she should marry. Three suitors are interested; Rev. Mr. Mortimer the second son of a local gentry who are in financial decline for several generations, Major Francis Wakeford age 32, a wounded war veteran and cousin to Mr. Darcy with no bright prospects of wealth or position, and the creepy Rev. Mr. Acworth who shares a passion for music with Georgiana and a mysterious hold over her. Not a very promising selection for the heiress of Pemberley with a £30,000 dowry. Or so it appears.

Many of the characters from Jane Austen’s novel make their summer visit to Pemberley Manor; Charles and Jane Bingley and their two young daughters, Mr. Bennet sans Mrs. Bennet (with little explanation, but does she deserve one?), Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and daughter Anne (quite a surprise which is thoughtfully explained), and Kitty Bennet who adds a bit of theatrical drama and energy to the palatial manor! New characters are included that blend in so seamlessly that it is a logical transition into this sequel. Ms. Bonavia-Hunt has full comand of Jane Austen’s style and knowledge of the plot and her characters. The letter that Mr. Collins writes to Darcy in application for the position of Rector is priceless. I never forget that this is not a Jane Austen novel, but her use of early 19th-century language and style is effortless and engaging.

The plot has many turns and surprises, shadowed by a lingering mystery which keeps one on edge and turning the next page to discover a resolution. I now understand why this novel holds such a special place in the Jane Austen sequel cannon. It is amazing to acknowledge that it was written close to sixty years ago before Jane Austen became a Hollywood star or pop cult icon. Ms. Bonavia-Hunt was writing for a genre that would not come to fruition for another fifty years and that is an incredible achievement. It is sad that we know so little about her or her motivations to write Pemberley Shades, but her legacy to us has withheld and will endure. In comparison to today’s plethora of Austen sequels about, it reigns in my estimation as one of the best ever written.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley Shades: a Lightly Gothic Tale of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy
by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt
Sourcebooks, Inc.
Trade paperback, 368 pages
ISBN: 9781402214387

Further Reading 

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

Pride and Prejudice: “What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?”

During the course of my merry internet travels, I happened upon this beautiful portrait of a young Regency woman and immediately thought of Miss Georgiana, the younger sister of Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The peaceful countenance and the shy repose is so gentle and demure, recalling the young Miss Darcy as she is eventually revealed in the novel. The portrait is of Kitty Packe, (nee Hort) painted by Sir William Beechey (1753-1839) circa 1818-1821. She married Charles William Packe of Prestwold Hall, Leicestershire in 1823. The painting now resides at the Oklahoma City Art Museum, though according to their website is unfortunately not on view. It is disturbing to think of Miss Georgian tucked away in some storeroom, not worthy of being on view to the public! This painting deserves a prominent position in a grand room in an English manor house. It saddens me to think that England’s national treasures are sold away from their heritage, and then not displayed. Well, now on to happier thoughts. 

And what sort of girl is Miss Darcy really like? The character of Georgiana Darcy is a bit of a mystery to the heroine of Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet, and the reader. From the very first volume of the novel Elizabeth hears reports of Miss Georgiana from various sources, favorable and otherwise depending who is telling the tale. When Elizabeth is staying at the Bingley’s residence of Netherfield Park during her sister Jane’s illness, we first learn in chapter eight of Miss Georgiana as she is mentioned in conversation with Mr. Darcy by Caroline Bingley and we given our first hints at her physical description. 

“Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?” said Miss Bingley; “will she be as tall as I am?”  

“I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s height, or rather taller.”  

“How I long to see her again! I never met with anybody who delighted me so much. Such a countenance, such manners! and so extremely accomplished for her age! Her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite.” 

This favorable description, mind you, is from a source that Elizabeth finds influenced by a desire to please Mr. Darcy rather than praise its subject. Later we hear a completely different story when Mr. Wickham describes Georgiana to Elizabeth in chapter 16. 

“What sort of a girl is Miss Darcy?” He shook his head. “I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother — very, very proud. As a child, she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and I understand, highly accomplished. Since her father’s death, her home has been London, where a lady lives with her, and superintends her education.” 

Disparity of opinion is a theme that runs throughout the novel. Elizabeth is given two accounts of one event or person from two different sources. Which one will she believe? Is Miss Darcy as extremely accomplished as Miss Bingley touts her to be, or is she the very, very proud and forgetful childhood friend that Wickham wishes Elizabeth to find fault with, — as he does? 

So Miss Darcy remains in Elizabeth’s mind as proud and arrogant as her brother until a surprising dialogue with the Pemberley housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds in chapter 43, who shows Elizabeth a very different side to Mr. Darcy and his sister.  

“And is Miss Darcy as handsome as her brother?” said Mr. Gardiner.  

“Oh! yes — the handsomest young lady that ever was seen; and so accomplished! She plays and sings all day long. In the next room is a new instrument just come down for her — a present from my master; she comes here to-morrow with him.”  

Another opinion is presented that Georgiana is accomplished. Well, Elizabeth has heard this all before, holding her doubts in suspense for a bit longer until she has the pleasure of being introduced to Georgiana by her brother at the Inn at Lambton in chapter 44. She can now judge for herself and know the value of the two diverse opinions that she has been presented. 

Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Elizabeth; and, though little more than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance womanly and graceful. She was less handsome than her brother; but there was sense and good-humour in her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle. Elizabeth, who had expected to find in her as acute and unembarrassed an observer as ever Mr. Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning such different feelings. The Narrator, Chapter 44 

As Austen turns the table of belief and disbelief for our heroine one more time, part of the mystery surrounding the true nature of Miss Georgiana is dispelled. Elizabeth who has been making judgments on people throughout the novel based on others accounts and opinions is now faced with the truth in her own eyes, and believes it. Georgina is not an acute and unembarrassed observer (proud and arrogant) as she supposed. Much to her (and our) astonishment, it is quite the contrary.

Further reading

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 

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Mansfield Park Chapters 41-48: Summation, Musings & Discussion; Day 14 Give-away!

THE NOVEL

Good sense, like hers, will always act when really called upon; and she found that she had been able to name him to her mother, and recall her remembrance of the name, as that of “William’s friend,” though she could not previously have believed herself capable of uttering a syllable at such a moment. The consciousness of his being known there only as William’s friend was some support. Having introduced him, however, and being all reseated, the terrors that occurred of what this visit might lead to were overpowering, and she fancied herself on the point of fainting away. The Narrator, Chapter 41 

Quick Synopsis 

Henry visits Fanny in Portsmouth and attempts to show her that he has mended his selfish ways, showing concern for his tenants and her health. He asks her for business advice and she responds, “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be”. A chatty letter from Mary Crawford confirms that she only values money and connections. Fanny borrows books from the circulating library so she and Susan can study together. Edmund writes to only talk about Mary, and mentions that he saw Maria and Henry together at a party in town.  Tom is seriously ill. Three months pass and Fanny longs to be home.  Mary writes quizzing Fanny about the extent of Tom’s illness. If he dies, their will be a better man to inherit Mansfield. Mary writes again, warning Fanny of a rumor about Henry. What does it mean? The newspaper reveals that Henry and Maria have run off together. Scandal! Edmund writes to reveal that Julia and Mr. Yates have eloped. She and Susan are summoned immediately to Mansfield. Everyone there is in a sour mood. Aunt Norris blames Fanny for Henry’s actions. No sign of the couple. Tom improves and will live. Edmund has a falling out with Mary and is done with her. Henry will not marry Maria, so in support of her favorite niece, Mrs. Norris leaves Mansfield to live with her. Edmund realizes he is in love with Fanny and they marry to live in Mansfield parsonage. Sir Thomas finally has the daughter he longed for. The end! 

Musings 

I am continually struck by what good sense Fanny has in the face of pressure and adversity. She often acts as everyone ought, the moral compass of principled decorum. Her visit to Portsmouth is quite an eye opener for the reader and the heroine. Jane Austen does not write about poverty often, but she certainly has the knack for it. I am in no doubt of the shabby condition of the household, the coarseness of her father with his ‘oaths’ and drinking, the unruly ragamuffin siblings, and the indifference of her mother to it all. Sir Thomas may have sent her there to see what a small income means, but I laughed out loud at our dear Fanny’s expense when I read this passage! 

After being nursed up at Mansfield, it was too late in the day to be hardened at Portsmouth; and though Sir Thomas, had he known all, might have thought his niece in the most promising way of being starved, both mind and body, into a much juster value for Mr. Crawford’s good company and good fortune, he would probably have feared to push his experiment farther, lest she might die under the cure. The Narrator, Chapter 42 

Too true! To torment her further, Henry Crawford arrives and is so civil and genteel, reminding her of her cousins and the more refined life that she has come to appreciate at Mansfield Park. When he begins to tell her of his concern for his tenants, I am a bit suspicious. Austen really starts to lay on the sympathy for Henry to confuse her, and us. Will he truly be reformed by his love of Fanny? He alone seems to be aware of how abominably her cousins treat her at Mansfield, even more so from a distance, as they have forgotten her in Portsmouth and do not write. He sees the change in her health and knows that she must walk and take the air to maintain it. It all starts to add up in Fanny’s mind.

And, if in little things, must it not be so in great? So anxious for her health and comfort, so very feeling as he now expressed himself, and really seemed, might not it be fairly supposed that he would not much longer persevere in a suit so distressing to her? The Narrator, Chapter 42

The story quickly turns to be all about Mary Crawford and her continued hope to mold Edmund into the rich and prominent man she craves. Through a series of letters Fanny is kept informed of the dealings of her cousins. It is her lifeline, and she anxiously awaits word as the news in each letter brings new anxieties and concerns. Foremost on her mind is Edmund and Mary’s relationship. Will he propose?  But he is silent and only Mary, who Fanny would rather not correspond with at all writes boasting of her society friend’s approval of him. Mary only values material things; a house in town, parties and praise from society and Fanny is disgusted by it. Mary is being influenced by her environment and friends!

Yet there was no saying what Miss Crawford might not ask. The prospect for her cousin grew worse and worse. The woman who could speak of him, and speak only of his appearance! What an unworthy attachment! To be deriving support from the commendations of Mrs. Fraser! She who had known him intimately half a year! Fanny was ashamed of her. The Narrator, Chapter 43

The long letter that Fanny has been anticipating finally arrives from Edmund. He does see Mary’s faults and her fixation on the values that he has questioned from the very first. She is even more corrupted by her friends and the changes he sees in her from the influence of Mrs. Fraser a cold-hearted, vain woman who married for convenience has altered Mary for the worse. He sees the differences between what she wants (money) and what he can offer more acutely. Still conflicted he shares an important observation with Fanny.

“I cannot give her up, Fanny. She is the only woman in the world whom I could ever think of as a wife. If I did not believe that she had some regard for me, of course I should not say this, but I do believe it. I am convinced that she is not without a decided preference.” Edmund Bertram, Chapter 44

Fanny, with her gentle and patient manner exclaims to herself that he should Fix, commit, condemn yourself “. Bravo! She has had enough vacillation, and wants relief from the prolonged agony of not knowing. When Lady Bertram writes to alert Fanny that Tom is gravely ill, I though that they might send for her, but no. She must continue in her exile with her family, away from all whom she really cares about. Fanny is further appalled when Mary writes to quiz her for information on the extent of Tom’s illness. Material girl that Mary is, Edmund now becomes an even better catch should he become the heir to a Baronet if his brother dies.

She (Fanny) was more inclined to hope than fear for her cousin (Tom), except when she thought of Miss Crawford; but Miss Crawford gave her the idea of being the child of good luck, and to her selfishness and vanity it would be good luck to have Edmund the only son. The Narrator, Chapter 45

The next few chapters of the novel swiftly move to the climax and conclusion packed with so much action and drama that the pages just fly by for me. Fanny will receive two letters that change the entire course of her family and her life. The first letter hastily written and brief, is from Mary warning Fanny of a rumor about Henry. She is puzzled. What does it mean? To learn the whole story by chance is a clever twist by Austen when Fanny’s father discovers the scandalous tidbit in the gossip section of the London newspaper. Henry and Maria have run away together, and the couple’s whereabouts are unknown. Astonishing!

“but so many fine ladies were going to the devil nowadays that way, that there was no answering for anybody.” Mr. Price, Chapter 46

That Austen should give the simple and unrefined Mr. Price the delivery of such an insightful line is hysterical and very effective. Fanny’s reaction is a telling sign of her good nature, always wanting to believe the best of everyone and everything. She does not want to acknowledge it, but pieces the facts together from Mary’s letter and changes her mind. The second letter from Edmund confirms her fears and adds to others in his news that Julia and Mr. Yates have scandalized the family further and eloped to Scotland. Sir Thomas has requested that she return home immediately, and Edmund will arrive tomorrow to fetch her and Susan. Incredible! She has been released from her exile, but has she been forgiven? Edmund and Fanny have a joyful reunion “My Fanny, my only sister; my only comfort now!”, and she sees that Edmund is in low spirits and very quiet. She is very glad to quickly be on their way home!

How her heart swelled with joy and gratitude as she passed the barriers of Portsmouth, and how Susan’s face wore its broadest smiles, may be easily conceived. The Narrator, Chapter 46

How will the rest of the family be when she arrives after a three month absence and under such distressing conditions? Sour and sullen. Amazingly, Mrs. Norris is in the worst state having taken her favorite niece Maria’s impropriety personally since she had recommended the match. She shifts the blame very quickly though, now censuring Fanny for the couple’s wild behavior. If she had accepted Henry’s proposal he would have not looked elsewhere for amusements. Edmund is quiet and distant for some time until he finally confides in Fanny, relaying his final conversation with Mary Crawford and her downfall in his eyes.

“but the manner in which she spoke of the crime itself, giving it every reproach but the right; considering its ill consequences only as they were to be braved or overborne by a defiance of decency and impudence in wrong; and last of all, and above all, recommending to us a compliance, a compromise, an acquiescence in the continuance of the sin, on the chance of a marriage which, thinking as I now thought of her brother, should rather be prevented than sought; all this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past. That, perhaps, it was best for me; I had less to regret in sacrificing a friendship, feelings, hopes which must, at any rate, have been torn from me now. And yet, that I must and would confess that, could I have restored her to what she had appeared to me before, I would infinitely prefer any increase of the pain of parting, for the sake of carrying with me the right of tenderness and esteem.’ Edmund Bertram, chapter 47 

The final blow in his view against her character and good judgment will be in her seeing the fault not in the deed itself, but that they were not clever enough to hide it and continue clandestinely. Her desire for Henry and Maria to marry and for his family to overlook the ‘sin’ and accept them back is more than he can abide. He now sees that he has never understood her before, and been deluded into overlooking her true nature. Again, Austen allows us to see people’s foibles through adversity, when our true principles are tested. Mary’s final decline in Edmund’s esteem is a great example of this. He is now done with her forever. His fears that he shall never meet another woman so fine again soon change. 

Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love. The Narrator, Chapter 48 

So this is the extent of the romance for Fanny and Edmund? I do admit to feeling a bit cheated, given only a few short passages on the last page, but in looking back on their relationship throughout the novel it had been foreshadowed long ago by Austen through their friendship and mutual regard for each other. Is she slyly telling us that men and women can not be friends. That their is always more in any man – woman realtionship? Sadly, there is no proposal and acceptance scene. Drat! However, just like Edmund I also came to think of their being a couple as a natural thing, and not a reaction to his rejection of Mary. Austen wraps up the novel in a neat package very quickly.

Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest. The Narrator, Chapter 48

Those who have erred and behaved badly get their just deserts, hurrah! Henry will not marry Maria and she leaves him to live with Mrs. Norris, who “it may be reasonably supposed that their tempers became their mutual punishment“, Julia and Mr. Yates are eventually accepted back into the fold (after Sir Thomas comes to understand the extent of his wealth), Dr. Grant is promoted to Westminster and moves to London, dies from a fit of apoplexy from eating three rich dinners in one week, Mary lives with her widowed sister in London unable to find again such a fine man among the dandies in London, and Henry regrets the loss of Fanny forever, and ever! Sir Thomas, the one person who had also acted badly throughout the novel changes – now sees the error of his ways through the neglect of his daughter’s education – and is happy that he has found the daughter that he had always wanted in Fanny. Edmund succeeds to the living of Mansfield, and they live happily ever after in the shadow of Mansfield Park. 

On that event they removed to Mansfield; and the Parsonage there, which, under each of its two former owners, Fanny had never been able to approach but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm, soon grew as dear to her heart, and as thoroughly perfect in her eyes, as everything else within the view and patronage of Mansfield Park had long been. The Narrator, Chapter 48 

THE END 

Further reading 

Online text complements of Molland’s Circulating Library

Cast of characters

Chapter 41-48 summary

Chapter 41-48 quotes and quips 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 14 Give-away 

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

 

Mansfield Park: Broadview Literary Texts Series

Broadview Press (2001). Novel text and introduction and notes by June Sturrock. Trade paperback, 528 pages, ISBN 978-1551110981 

Upcoming posts

Day 15 – Aug 29          MP: Sequels, Spinoff’s and Retellings
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: The Scoop! What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Roundup & Conclusion

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

THE NOVEL

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

Quick Synopsis 

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

Musings 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading 

Online text complements of Molland’s Circulating Library

Cast of characters

Chapter 33-40 summary

Chapter 33-40 quotes and quips 

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 12 Give-away 

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

Mansfield Park: Oxford World’s Classics

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

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