Thursday Three Hundred- The Change

Rose Letter

How did Edmund Bertram ever realize he was in love with Fanny Price? Austen does not tell us much:

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.

I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.

Here is my imagining of the moment Edmund realizes he loves Fanny “as a hero loves a heroine” with some inspiration from Tyler Rich’s “The Difference.”

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The Change

The sun had begun to set, and Edmund watched a group of starlings rise and fall against the pink sky. Something about how they seemed to almost fall to the ground and then climb back up pulled on his heart. He surely knew what it was like to lose your bearings and nearly plummet to your death only to rise—hopefully wiser. Knowing Fanny would understand his feelings, he turned in his seat to tell her only to remember he rode alone this day. Fanny had a headache and had stayed home.

There was a time when he would have worried about Fanny because no one at Mansfield seemed to care about her concerns save him. Now, his parents saw her value, and her sister lived with them. His aunt Norris and sisters were far away. He should have no fears that she would not be attended to, and yet he did.

The events of the past months—since the Crawfords had come into the area—had changed them all. Fanny, who once had been so reticent and relied on him so much, had resisted pressure from everyone about marrying Henry. She proved more righteous than them all when he eloped with Edmund’s already married sister, causing a scandal and bringing about her divorce. Nor could Edmund forget his own folly. He had thought he was in love with Crawford’s sister. She was everything a lady should be, everything he had been raised to desire: accomplished, beautiful, witty, and wealthy. However, nearly too late, he discerned she lacked what he most esteemed: integrity and moral fortitude.

Fanny, though, bore it all. She was quiet, but she was not blind as he was. Before the truth came out about the real nature of the Crawford siblings, Fanny had been sent to Portsmouth. Edmund believed it a harsh measure, and surely his father did not want Fanny to marry against her inclination. That could hardly make for a happy marriage. Still, Sir Thomas expected Fanny to write to them and plead to come back. She did not. She held her own.

She no longer needed him.

The thought kept Edmund awake at night. It made him toss and turn in his bed. There was a time when he would keep her waiting before their joined activities. Seeing Fanny, while something which always brought pleasure, held no urgency. Now, he could not see her enough.

Edmund had asked himself why that was. When he had last craved seeing a lady, it was because he was in love. He knew he loved Fanny. She was his cousin; his oldest and dearest friend. Only, when he thought about how his heart skipped a beat when she smiled at him and how it pounded when he wanted to please her—the way it yearned for her to be at his side even now… Well, that did not feel like the same love for his cousin he had always had.

Turning the thoughts over in his head, Edmund handed his reins to the stable boy and directed his feet to the house. Fanny kept her old room, and he was always welcome there. Soon, he would see her.

As he knocked on the door to her chamber, the realization hit him as though someone beat him over the head with the dinner gong. There was a difference between loving Fanny and being in love with her.

 

Tea Time Tattle–Could Edmund have been happy with Mary Crawford?

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

Many readers wonder when Edmund fell in love with Fanny and how he could ever have loved Mary Crawford. Still, others hone in on the fact that Austen says Mary and Edmund had married, Fanny probably would have accepted Henry Crawford. But what sort of life would Mary and Edmund have had? Perhaps it is alluded to in the comparison of Sir Thomas’ relationship with Mrs. Norris.

Early in the book, we see Mrs. Norris directing affairs at Mansfield. Lady Bertram seldom speaks, she rarely has an opinion of her own. She defers to either her husband or sister. On my first reading of Mansfield Park, I even questioned if Mrs. Norris was in love with Sir Thomas with the way she seeks his constant approval and must meddle in his affairs. It seemed beyond the common interest in a sister’s family and for one’s nieces and nephews.

Consider her advice on the topic of taking in Fanny:

“You are thinking of your sons—but do not you know that, of all things upon earth, that is the least likely to happen, brought up as they would be, always together like brothers and sisters? It is morally impossible. I never knew an instance of it. It is, in fact, the only sure way of providing against the connexion. Suppose her a pretty girl, and seen by Tom or Edmund for the first time seven years hence, and I dare say there would be mischief. The very idea of her having been suffered to grow up at a distance from us all in poverty and neglect, would be enough to make either of the dear, sweet-tempered boys in love with her. But breed her up with them from this time, and suppose her even to have the beauty of an angel, and she will never be more to either than a sister.”

In the same conversation she adds, to further ingratiate herself in Sir Thomas’ eyes and manipulate him to her opinion:

Whatever I can do, as you well know, I am always ready enough to do for the good of those I love; and, though I could never feel for this little girl the hundredth part of the regard I bear your own dear children, nor consider her, in any respect, so much my own, I should hate myself if I were capable of neglecting her.

Mrs. Norris then suggests a way of collecting Fanny that Sir Thomas found not quite respectable and he makes modifications to the plans. This is an early clue that Mrs. Norris’ way of thinking is not quite right. In the same passage we are told this

As far as walking, talking, and contriving reached, she was thoroughly benevolent, and nobody knew better how to dictate liberality to others; but her love of money was equal to her love of directing, and she knew quite as well how to save her own as to spend that of her friends.

Mary Crawford also had a love of money. Upon first meeting the Bertrams, she believes she will ensnare Tom as heir to Mansfield. After recognizing the grandeur of the estate and its worth, she fully intends to marry him.

It might do very well; she believed she should accept him;

Perhaps if he had never gone to the races, or if she had been able to accompany him, the story might have gone very differently. Instead, she is thrown into Edmunds’ company, and she’s too intelligent to miss how he is the nobler young man.

“I mean to be too rich to lament or to feel anything of the sort. A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.”

Indeed, Edmund often thinks that she loves money and London Society too much to accept a younger son. This is why their courtship takes so many months although they are nearly always together which is vastly different from most Austen stories. Just as Edmund is ready to come to the point, at last, Tom grows ill. Mary even writes to Fanny about how well-suited to the baronetcy Edmund is, and thus she begins to encourage Edmund in his suit wholeheartedly. Previously, she had gone to London to be away from him and, at the very least, bend him to her will regarding his profession and values in life.

Forgive me if I cannot describe such manipulation in a charitable light.

However, despite finding flaws in Mary, Edmund believes he can redirect them. He sees that she wants to please. She wants to be of use. She values Fanny, and nothing is dearer to his heart than her so how can Mary be bad?

We could say, how can Mrs. Norris be bad when she flatters Sir Thomas’ good sense and values good breeding the same as he does? They seem united in what they agree is the most important matters in life, even if their technique in achieving them are different. They are both devoted to the education of the young people of Mansfield.

When all is said and done, Sir Thomas bitterly regrets giving Mrs. Norris such free rein in his house.

Too late he became aware how unfavourable to the character of any young people must be the totally opposite treatment which Maria and Julia had been always experiencing at home, where the excessive indulgence and flattery of their aunt had been continually contrasted with his own severity. He saw how ill he had judged, in expecting to counteract what was wrong in Mrs. Norris by its reverse in himself; clearly saw that he had but increased the evil by teaching them to repress their spirits in his presence so as to make their real disposition unknown to him, and sending them for all their indulgences to a person who had been able to attach them only by the blindness of her affection, and the excess of her praise.

Here had been grievous mismanagement; but, bad as it was, he gradually grew to feel that it had not been the most direful mistake in his plan of education. Something must have been wanting within, or time would have worn away much of its ill effect. He feared that principle, active principle, had been wanting; that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice.

Mrs. Norris’s removal from Mansfield was the great supplementary comfort of Sir Thomas’s life. His opinion of her had been sinking from the day of his return from Antigua: in every transaction together from that period, in their daily intercourse, in business, or in chat, she had been regularly losing ground in his esteem, and convincing him that either time had done her much disservice, or that he had considerably over-rated her sense, and wonderfully borne with her manners before. He had felt her as an hourly evil, which was so much the worse, as there seemed no chance of its ceasing but with life; she seemed a part of himself that must be borne for ever.

She was regretted by no one at Mansfield. She had never been able to attach even those she loved best;

Mary Crawford, at her current age, does not have the nature of Mrs. Norris. She was not overly indulgent. She did see the goodness in Edmund and Fanny over Henry and Maria—even as she justified their affair. Still, it is through manipulation. She would often say one thing and when realizing someone was displeased with her, would come back and alter it later. She could not stand to give an opinion and hold herself to it. In this way, she conceals what she really is. She manipulates Edmund into thinking the best of her and that he has influence over her—something which is shown early in their acquaintance he desires to have in life as his siblings completely ignore his words about the play.

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However, other similarities between the women exist. Consider how Mary wants to give advice to Sir Thomas about how to handle Maria’s adultery.

“What I advise is, that your father be quiet. Do not let him injure his own cause by interference. Persuade him to let things take their course. If by any officious exertions of his, she is induced to leave Henry’s protection, there will be much less chance of his marrying her than if she remain with him. I know how he is likely to be influenced. Let Sir Thomas trust to his honour and compassion, and it may all end well; but if he get his daughter away, it will be destroying the chief hold.'”

Even at the end of their acquaintance, Edmund has this to say:

“Cruelty, do you call it? We differ there. No, hers is not a cruel nature. I do not consider her as meaning to wound my feelings. The evil lies yet deeper: in her total ignorance, unsuspiciousness of there being such feelings; in a perversion of mind which made it natural to her to treat the subject as she did. She was speaking only as she had been used to hear others speak, as she imagined everybody else would speak. Hers are not faults of temper. She would not voluntarily give unnecessary pain to any one, and though I may deceive myself, I cannot but think that for me, for my feelings, she would—Hers are faults of principle, Fanny; of blunted delicacy and a corrupted, vitiated mind. Perhaps it is best for me, since it leaves me so little to regret. Not so, however. Gladly would I submit to all the increased pain of losing her, rather than have to think of her as I do. I told her so.”

Mrs. Norris might be intentionally cruel to Fanny, but she would never have deliberately created such defects in the character of her beloved nieces and nephews. In fact, that neglect she gives to Fanny is what has made her so strong and morally resolute.

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Just as Sir Thomas has regretted giving Mrs. Norris so much influence over his children, Edmund regrets being blind to the real Mary:

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.

As Sir Thomas has finally learned to ignore the advice of Mrs. Norris, so too, has Edmund learned to ignore the pull of Mary:

“’Mr. Bertram,’ said she, with a smile; but it was a smile ill-suited to the conversation that had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming to invite in order to subdue me; at least it appeared so to me. I resisted; it was the impulse of the moment to resist, and still walked on. I have since, sometimes, for a moment, regretted that I did not go back, but I know I was right…”

Edmund would not have been happy with Mary for long. Soon, she would have become the bane of his existence. He would have been completely “taken in” as Mary calls it. For as often as he defends Mary’s way of thinking and speaking, he could not hope to permanently alter or influence it anymore than Mrs. Norris changed from twenty years of knowing Sir Thomas.

And how did Edmund come to love Fanny? I might examine that closer later, but I think it is easy to see that she is quite the opposite of Mary. Just as Sir Thomas must now value Lady Bertram’s complacency more than he had before, Edmund can see the qualities that Fanny has, and he has needed all along.

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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.

 

Austen Writes Romance- One True Pairings

Roses and gift box with bead on wooden table. Valentines day concept. Copy spaceContinuing with our study of the romances in Austen’s works, it seemed fitting to discuss the idea of true love so close to Valentine’s Day. Among Fan Fiction readers of all genres, there is the idea of a “one true pairing” meaning an unbreakable romantic coupling that may or may not exist in the story proper.

Regarding the Austen fandom, there are some couples which nearly everyone agrees must always unite: Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot are at the top of the list. I could add Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, but that’s more because there is a lack of viable alternatives presented in the story than out of overwhelming fan-love. Emma and Mr. Knightley are in a similar position. Fans would not have Emma with Mr. Elton or Frank Churchill. However, many do like Knightley but not Emma and would be content to see them both single forever. On the other hand, there is a philosophy of redeeming characters and giving them a second chance. This seems most notable in rakes like Henry Crawford and Willoughby.

I’ll be honest, it’s always seemed strange to me to disagree with the creator of the work and on a long finished project. However, I do want to examine the nature of these relationships and why so many feel some are inflexible and others in need of correction. I will review them by categories of obstacles, longevity, and relatability.

Without a doubt, the venerated favorite Austen work is Pride and Prejudice. Her main couple, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, have quite a share of obstacles to overcome. The title alone gives some indication of the conflicts afoot but there are also scheming rogues and wayward relatives. Originally published in three volumes, we see a moment of crisis in each volume. The first one ends with the departure of Darcy and Bingley from Netherfield. The reader has seen Darcy’s admiration grow, but Elizabeth remains ignorant of it. Instead, she believes Wickham and Darcy seems unworthy of her love. Whether she ends up with Wickham or not, no one sheds a tear about what might have been with the pompous Darcy. In the second volume, of course, we have Darcy’s disastrous first proposal. The third volume begins with Lydia’s elopement, and things seem darkest when Lady Catherine comes in all her haughty glory to berate Elizabeth for reportedly daring to think about accepting Darcy. Even after a proposal is accepted, there is the matter of convincing Elizabeth’s father and bearing with the displeasure of Darcy’s aunt. In the fan fiction world, we root for them over and over again while they are put in obstacles of every kind even including marriage to other partners and occasionally death! Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot are another couple who have overcome extreme odds. First, their engagement was broken. One can imagine the heartache attached to that was infinitely worse than merely separated by time and distance before their relationship bloomed. Secondly, it lasted many years and allowed feelings to harden. Lastly, both had rumored attachments to others. Comparatively, the only obstacle Marianne and Brandon have are her interest in another man. Willoughby is the one that must overcome greed, vanity, being a rake, and by the end of the book, marriage to another woman. Instead of feeling relieved that Marianne finds happiness with the steadfast Brandon, many readers are left rooting for a last minute change of scenario for Willoughby. Likewise, Fanny had loved Edmund most of her life, and she was his best friend and confidant. Their falling in love is nearly too natural. Whereas a marriage between Fanny and Henry or Edmund and Mary would require much more surmounting of obstacles.

Valentines Day - Wicker Hearts On Red Shiny Background

As Elizabeth Bennet informs her father, her attachment to Darcy is not the work of a moment but had withstood several months’ suspense. Many women have sighed over Darcy’s ardent love for Elizabeth which spans nearly the entire length of the novel. Wentworth’s letter detailing how he loved no one but Anne surely sends most female hearts pitter-pattering. While Elinor and Edward were attached for much of Sense and Sensibility and had a fair share of obstacles to overcome, one wonders at Edward’s steadfastness when he had been engaged to Lucy and seemingly so willing to follow through on it. Certainly, a case of cultural misunderstanding is to blame there as the modern reader cannot fully understand the importance of honor to a Georgian man. Readers lay a similar complaint at Edmund and Marianne’s doors. Put succinctly, we are wary of second attachments but not second chances.

Lastly, there is an issue of relatability. Darcy and Elizabeth’s tale of star-crossed lovers destined to misunderstand one another at every turn is as familiar to readers as Romeo and Juliet. If we haven’t lived it ourselves, we have read it and watched it before as it is a common romance trope. The allure of a second chance with the “one who got away” is obviously also a familiar theme, just ask lovers of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. However, the relationships between Brandon and Marianne, Edward and Elinor, and Fanny and Edmund require us to look too closely at ourselves. In each case, youth and foolishness play a part, as does vanity and insecurity. Marianne sought a man who was her mirror image to validate her own feelings on every subject. Surely, that’s very relatable but not necessarily likable. Edward attached himself off nothing more than idleness. He was in love with the idea of love. Again, something many have found themselves living but not something we enjoy living through vicariously. And how many of us have had a romantic interest in a close friend who just doesn’t see us that way? And how many of us are still holding a grudge even years later and mark it as nearly unforgivable to not see the good woman right in front of you?

Perhaps, then, reader notions of one true pairings have far more to do with their own prejudices and experiences than it does with the text and author intent. For my part, I believe Jane Austen enjoyed stirring the pot and rocking the boat. Why should only one or two types of relationships be the epitome of romantic love? Why not embrace the complexity that each one is unique?

Red Valentine Hearts Hanging in a Row

My relationship with my husband is us frequently watching something we only half pay attention to and texting each other silly memes we find online. I am typically also working while he is watching a brainless podcast of video games. We do enjoy eating out but merely for the food, not for the atmosphere. Valentine’s Day, to me, does not require roses and chocolates. For others, however, they feel most loved when the relationship is surrounded by romantic love or sizzling lust.

Just as each woman is different, so too, is each Austen heroine. Would a woman like Fanny have enjoyed a romantic relationship like Anne Elliot? I think Fanny would have rather been practically invisible to Edmund than a love he did not act on for almost a decade out of stubborn pride. I think she would find the latter harder to forgive. Obviously, that’s not the case for Anne but would she like Marianne’s relationship? She felt it hard to trust her judgment on not only Wentworth but on her cousin, Mr. Elliot. Imagine if she had been burned romantically once! She would likely never try again! On the other hand, while so many of us are willing to give Darcy a second chance to woo Elizabeth, Marianne would not have appreciated Willoughby doing the same. In short, “there are as many forms of love as there are moments in time.”

Part 1- Austen Writes Romance?

Part 2- Broken Hearts

 

Falling for Fanny- Guest post by Leenie Brown

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Okay, okay. I’ve been very bad about posting. I have been reading though! At first I thought I’d adjust to just recording my notes and general impressions by chapter but that’s not working now as sometimes I can read a few chapters in a day and then can’t read for a week, let alone take time copy and paste notes from my kindle to the computer. So, when I am finished, I will give a cold read opinion by topic. Instead, and probably infinitely more interesting and insightful, we have a guest post by Jane Austen Fan Fiction author, and long time Mansfield Park aficionado, Leenie Brown.


 

Sometimes (okay, quite often), I hear songs or read things totally unrelated to a Jane Austen novel and my brain makes a connection. I like to refer to this as seeing the world through Jane Austen-coloured glasses. :

Recently, being inspired by Rose’s notes on Mansfield Park as she reads through it, I started listening to an audiobook of the novel.   Oh, my! The narrator is fantastic.  She uses different voices for each character and adds all the right inflections and even laughingly says whatever bit of dialogue if the dialogue tag says that the statement was made with a laugh. Now, I have read Mansfield Park many times, but to hear it so presented has brought out things that I might have glossed over in my reading. It has given depth and meaning to things that I may have recognized before but had not dwelt on for any considerable amount of time.

If I were as smart as Rose or perhaps if I were not listening to the book while my hands were busy making supper or doing dishes, I should take notes on my thoughts as the story progresses.  But sadly, I have not done so, although there are some messages that have been sent saying, “Have you ever wondered or thought…” or some such comment about whatever just crossed my mind as I was listening.  And no, they are not always that pleasant.  I have strong feelings about this book ─ feelings which tend to clash with popular views, and I usually keep to myself for that reason.

I say all that to say this.  My mind has been making Mansfield Park connections lately.

One of these MP moments happened while I was reading a devotional on my YouVersion app before work on Wednesday morning.  This particular devotional, “Chosen,” was about being adopted into God’s family and living our lives as gifts back to God as expressions of our thankfulness for what He has done.  The author, Matthew West, used a few illustrations to make his point.  The following illustration is the one that caused the MP moment.

At a dinner party one night, two of my girlfriends both told the table of guests they had been adopted into families as babies. One of the adopted women turned to the other and asked, “Did you buy your parents a gift when you graduated from college?”

The other adopted woman said, “Why, yes I did. Did you?”

“Of course,” the other responded. “I was just so grateful for all they have given to me.”

“Me too,” the first agreed.

The rest of us sheepishly sat at the table, completely convicted. It had never occurred to any of us to give a thank-you gift to our parents for our education. We had all taken our family privilege for granted. Our two adopted friends had lived lives of gratitude for having been chosen.

I thought of Fanny, of course, and her situation in being taken in by her uncle.  Now, I know a lot of people do not like Fanny.  I am not one of those people (and no amount of ranting, raving, or other forms of persuasion will move me on this 😉 )

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She is not altogether too good or too perfect. She is flawed ─ very flawed.  She is timid to a fault.  She is fearful when she ought not be.  She is envious.  And she is very self-depreciating, to name but a few of her faults.  BUT, she also has her strengths.  She is tender-hearted, kind, forbearing, discerning, and, when pushed, determined to stand by her beliefs and principles.

Oh, but she is so stupid! I hear a Maria or Julia Bertram mutter under their breaths.  Sorry, but no.  She was undereducated when she arrived at Mansfield but not stupid.

He (Edmund) knew her (Fanny) to be clever, to have a quick apprehension as well as good sense, and a fondness for reading, which, properly directed, must be an education in itself. Miss Lee taught her French, and heard her read the daily portion of history; but he recommended the books which charmed her leisure hours, *he encouraged her taste, and **corrected her judgment: he made reading useful by talking to her of what she read, and heightened its attraction by judicious praise.

Austen, Jane (2012-05-16). Mansfield Park (pp. 13-14).  . Kindle Edition.

side notes: *I think he understood what she liked and encouraged her to strengthen those likes, I do not think that this was a forcing her to be something. **He did what any teacher or older male figure (such as Mr. Knightley does to Emma) would do. That was, after all, the role of man and master at that time.

I truly feel sorry for Miss Price when she is sent away from all she knows.  What she has known in her ten years of life has not been easy and pleasantness.  She has lived in a house that we see later is quite chaotic and with a mother who has very little time or care for her daughters and a father who is drunk.  And the financial circumstances were not good.  She, of course, was called upon to care for her siblings and help her mother.  She was the eldest girl.  Her next youngest sister, Susan is also treated similarly, but Susan’s personality is not the highly sensitive one that Fanny’s is, and, therefore, she copes much better than Fanny does.  To have a sensitive child in such conditions is bound to make them more closed in upon themselves.  And then to send that child away? She will feel it greatly.

It is impressed upon her as she travels with Aunt Norris that she has been given a great opportunity and need to feel gratitude ─ something on which I do not think Fanny needed to be lectured. But then, no one, save Edmund, really seems to understand her.  And her treatment at Mansfield, though not unkind intentionally, is at times less kind than it should be.  In fact, there was a moment when listening when Mrs. Norris sends her to deliver flowers and then go back to fetch the key and demands that she sit with them even though she has a headache that I was briefly reminded of Cinderella.

Now, let’s get back to the illustration that brought Fanny to mind and try to tie it up.  Fanny did feel grateful for what she had been given. She knew she owed something to her uncle.  I think it can be seen in two very specific places.

The first is when Edmund is speaking to Fanny about the Crawford’s dinner visit.  (Another side note:  I think Edmund was speaking to her to see if what he thought was wrong was wrong ─ as if he needed a second opinion and since her opinion on such things would be closest to his, she was the one to whom he spoke.  Not that it did much good as he was always explaining way why Mary’s misconduct was not so bad as it seemed.)

Here Edmund has just asked Fanny how she likes Miss Crawford and if she had noticed anything in Miss Crawford’s conversation that was not quite right.

“Oh yes! she ought not to have spoken of her uncle as she did. I was quite astonished. An uncle with whom she has been living so many years, and who, whatever his faults may be, is so very fond of her brother, treating him, they say, quite like a son. I could not have believed it!”

“I thought you would be struck. It was very wrong; very indecorous.”

“And very ungrateful, I think.”

Austen, Jane (2012-05-16). Mansfield Park (p. 44).  . Kindle Edition.

Ah, “very ungrateful” to speak poorly of an uncle who has taken you in!  Edmund did not approve of the way Miss Crawford had spoken of her uncle, but he did think that ungrateful was perhaps too strong a word and then proceeds to reason it away.  But Edmund did not see the situation from Fanny’s point of view.  He had never had to rely on the generosity of a relative in the same way that Fanny did.  And so, he could not see that speaking ill of the one providing the generosity was a sign of ingratitude like Fanny could.

 

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credit: andforgotten http://andforgotten.tumblr.com/post/45365738459

Fanny was grateful for all that she had received from her uncle, even if he did scare her.   This feeling of gratitude for her uncle can be seen in the second instance when she has refused and refused and refused Mr. Crawford’s offer of marriage.  Below is the thing that hurt her most about having refused him.  It is actually repeated twice in this section.

First…

Her heart was almost broke by such a picture of what she appeared to him; by such accusations, so heavy, so multiplied, so rising in dreadful gradation! Self-willed, obstinate, selfish, and ungrateful. He thought her all this. She had deceived his expectations; she had lost his good opinion.

And then later…

Her mind was all disorder. The past, present, future, everything was terrible. But her uncle’s anger gave her the severest pain of all. Selfish and ungrateful! to have appeared so to him! She was miserable for ever.

Austen, Jane (2012-05-16). Mansfield Park (p. 225-226). Kindle Edition.

But even her heartbreak over disappointing her uncle and appearing ungrateful were not enough for her to be persuaded from her belief, which was proven true later, that Mr. Crawford’s character was not what it should be and was, therefore, not a good choice for her.  I think when we consider the story used as an illustration in that devotional, the sorrow we read here is better understood.  Fanny may have been a lot of things, but ungrateful is not one of them.

So, before I tell you about the song that I heard on The Voice that reminded me of Henry’s character, let me take off my Jane Austen-coloured glasses. Maybe I will share that at some other time, but like I said, my views of the book, I suspect are not in line with popular opinion, and you may not wish to hear my opinion ─ especially since it is something on which Fanny and I would agree…and since she is not well-liked for he views, I might also find myself quite disliked.

How about you?  Do you ever find yourself wearing JA-coloured glasses?  If so, I would love to hear about it.


Thanks so much for visiting Leenie! I loved your insights!

If you liked Leenie’s remarks be sure to check out her blog and books available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and other vendors.

Read earlier posts in this series:

Mary, Music and Mansfield – the harp in Regency England by Beverlee Swayze

Cold Reading of Mansfield Park

 

Falling for Fanny- Guest Post

falling for fanny 4

Instead of cold-read notes this week, I’ve got a guest post! I’ve chatted on social media with Beverlee Swayze several times about Austen and life and rumor has it she is attempting her own Mansfield Park variation! When I asked if she was interested in doing a guest post she surprised and intrigued me by suggesting a post on Mary Crawford and her harp.

Lest it seem like a small part of the book, as I’m about a third through it, I postulate that Edmund was surprisingly cultured for a man who always desired to be a country clergyman and that evidence of Mary’s more cosmopolitan life and accomplishments appealed to a portion of Edmund that longed for more than the life as a second son and who has just lost a good deal of his living to his elder brother’s libertine ways. This makes me very intrigued in what Austen might have meant for her contemporary readers to understand by giving Mary Crawford such talent at such an instrument.


 

Mary, Music and Mansfield – the harp in Regency England

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to approach fiction – or any writing for that matter – without filtering the text through our own personal lens. We might read with a particular interest in fashion, or politics, or perhaps with an eye for certain plot elements or depictions of scenery or interior décor. For me, I find I’m drawn to music.

As a musicologist and musician, when I read about characters involved in music, I want to know what they are playing, or what they are hearing. Sometimes, especially in contemporary fiction, actual songs or pieces of music are mentioned, and that can often set a soundtrack going in my head, as the authors no doubt intend. In other works, usually historical or older writing, the exact nature of the music is less specific. When Lizzy Bennet is sitting at the pianoforte at Rosings and talking with the Colonel and Mr. Darcy, what is she playing? Is she battling through Mozart, or letting her fingers wander through an English country dance? What concertos does Mary play for the Bennet family and at supper between the dances at balls?

As I recently began rereading Mansfield Park, one thing that caught my fancy fairly quickly was the image of Mary Crawford and her harp. The harp, at first, is used to help delineate her character. When informed that retrieving her harp from Northampton will be difficult because all the local wagons and carts are needed for the harvest, Mary is rather astonished that something like getting in the hay should be more important than fetching her instrument.

“I was astonished to find what a piece of work was made of it! To want a horse and cart in the country seemed impossible, so I told my maid to speak for one directly; and as I cannot look out of my dressing–closet without seeing one farmyard, nor walk in the shrubbery without passing another, I thought it would be only ask and have, and was rather grieved that I could not give the advantage to all. Guess my surprise, when I found that I had been asking the most unreasonable, most impossible thing in the world; had offended all the farmers, all the labourers, all the hay in the parish! As for Dr. Grant’s bailiff, I believe I had better keep out of his way; and my brother–in–law himself, who is all kindness in general, looked rather black upon me when he found what I had been at.” (ch. 6)

Still, despite her selfishness, she manages to entrance Edmund Bertram, who expresses a great interest in hearing Miss Crawford play. Indeed, her harp seems only to increase Mary’s attractions, for as Jane Austen writes, “The harp arrived, and rather added to her beauty, wit, and good–humour.” Austen goes on to write that “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.” (ch.7)

Would not any man be enchanted by a vision such as this?

Lady with a Harp, a portrait of Eliza Ridgely, by Thomas Sulley (1818)woman with harp.jpg

Lady with a Harp, a portrait of Eliza Ridgely, by Thomas Sulley (1818)

What of the instrument itself? What type of instrument might Mary Crawford have played to so entrance Edmund? And what kind of music would she have played?

Although mainly associated today with Celtic culture, the harp had been a mainstay of English music from the Dark Ages, when bards would accompany themselves on small lap harps that they could carry with them. Such easily transported instruments would have had fewer strings and would, for the most part, only be able to play in one key. This made the instrument quite adequate for folk music, but unsuitable for the sophisticated art music of the time. Several attempts were made since the Renaissance to create harps that could play in different keys, and even change keys, within one piece of music.

One innovation was the lever harp, where the strings were attached to levers at the top, letting the performer flip them up or down to create sharps or flats, depending on how the instrument was tuned. Another fascinating development was the triple-strung harp, which had three layers of strings. The centre layer had the strings tuned to sharps and flats, strung at an angle to the outer layers. When the player needed one of these notes, he or she would reach through the outer rows of strings to pluck at the appropriate string in the middle! These harps were popular on the Continent and in Wales. In fact, the triple harp is the national instrument of Wales.

The end of the eighteenth century saw the development of the single-action pedal harp. Five pedals enabled the performer to raise the pitch of all the strings of a single note (for example, all the C-strings) by a semitone. In layman’s terms, this gave the performer the ability to play all the notes of the piano – black as well as white. This gave the harp added flexibility in playing the more complicated art music of the time, which relied heavily on modulation (moving from one key to another, which necessitated those black notes). The advantage pedal harps had over triple harps was a more consistent sound through the range of musical keys. Unlike the smaller Celtic harps, pedals harps were large instruments – easily 5 feet or more in height, and could not be easily transported.

So which of these might Mary have played? Hers was clearly a larger instrument, because she needed a wagon or some similar vehicle to bring the harp to Mansfield, and so was almost certainly not a lap harp. As a sophisticated and accomplished woman of her day, with the funds at her disposal to purchase the latest and most modern instrument, it is also unlikely that she would have a rather old-fashioned and very foreign triple harp. The music being composed for harp at the time is almost all for the new pedal harp, and so it is most likely this instrument that Jane Austen had in mind for Mary Crawford.

Here is an example of an early 19th-century English harp, manufactured by Erard. You can easily see the pedals at the rear of the base. The pillar is ornamented, and harder to see are the inlays and engravings on the soundboard. It is a beautiful instrument to look at, as well as to hear.

harp

And what did these lovely instruments sound like? If a picture is worth a thousand words, a recording is worth even more. Here is a video of a restored Regency-era harp being played by Sarah Deere-Jones, as she performs a Rondo by Johann Georg Heinrich Backofen (1768-1830): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9rNU6GuK70

Now that we know what instrument Mary was playing, what about the actual music?

Certainly folk songs and dance music would have been heard in many a music room or salon. Collections of folks airs were popular and would have been easily purchased from any music seller. Jane Austen’s own music books include a collection of Scotch and Irish airs, many of which would have been most suitable for the harp. The simple origin of these pieces would not have precluded their presence in even the finest of homes.

For example, in Emma, Jane Fairfax performs “Robin Adair”, a popular song at the time. It is a simple tune, as you can hear in this vocal performance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avx9sABbSDo), but would make a lovely base for a set of variations. Indeed, many well-known composers were commissioned by music publishers to arrange these folk songs for sophisticated audiences. Haydn and Beethoven were only two of many composers who arranged whole collections of these songs. To imagine that similar arrangements would exist for such a popular instrument as the harp is hardly a stretch of the imagination.

This collection showcases just some of Haydn’s arrangements for voice and piano trio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1S-lhZed4Y

Alongside simple folk airs and more elaborate arrangements of these melodies, there was also a substantial repertoire of music composed specifically for the harp. Some of these borrowed heavily from the folk repertoire and folk traditions. Blind Irish composer Turlough O’Carolan (1675-1740) wrote many lovely pieces for the instrument, such as this popular Concerto (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgZuF3tswFg). Mary Crawford may well have entertained Edmund and the denizens of Mansfield with such pleasant tunes.

But by no means was the harp only a folk instrument. Classical composers from across Europe wrote original art music for this lovely instrument. Mozart composed a popular concerto for flute, harp and orchestra in 1778. Another prominent composer for the harp was the Bohemian musician Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812), who lived in London from 1789-1799, and who found inspiration in some of the folk music he heard while in England. His Sonata in F for harp is nicknamed “The Lass of Richmond Hill,” for the melodic theme of the second movement. As well as playing the more accessible folk songs discussed above, Mary, as an accomplished woman of her day, would almost certainly have had the skill and musical knowledge to incorporate such classical pieces into her repertoire.

Here is a recording of the second movement (Allegretto) of that sonata. Close your eyes as you listen and imagine yourself sitting next to Edmund Bertram as he listens to the charming Mary Crawford performing by her open window.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH4FjCv1TIA


 

Beverlee is an avid reader and has been a fan of Jane Austen since the day, when she was 12 years old, that her father handed her his old copy of Emma.  She is a music historian, and her interests include such diverse areas as the music and writings of Hildegard of Bingen, early Renaissance ethnomusicology and Baroque performance practice. Once upon a time she performed in a duo comprised of viola and Celtic harp. Neither resembled Mary Crawford.


 

Thanks so much for being my guest, Beverlee, and sharing your knowledge of Regency era music! It was delightful to see and hear the instrument, which engaged more senses than reading only Austen’s words could convey to a modern audience. I will have to have you back for more guest posts! Perhaps I’ll do Emma soon!

Falling for Fanny

Happy February! It’s the month of Valentine’s Day and I could certainly count the ways I love Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice in particular, but I’m challenging myself with something new! I sometimes “cold read” for other authors. That means I give an honest, unfiltered reaction to their stories. They’re more detailed than comments or a review, in an effort for the author to know how the story feels to readers. I am one piece of many and do not try to change the plot. I’ve started and stopped Mansfield Park many times but am challenging myself to finish it in this month. Along the way, I’m keeping notes.

falling for fanny 4

Let’s see. What do I already know about Mansfield Park? I’ve seen the 1999 and the 2007 adaptations. I know there’s debate about which is better. Everyone thinks universal truths are reserved for P&P, but I’ve found readers are much more adamant about Mansfield Park. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Fanny was a self-righteous know it all. Or it’s a truth that she’s too good for Edmund. It’s true that Mary is a tramp and Edmund stupid enough to fall for her. One of my best friends says Mary is very like Elizabeth Bennet and either Austen was fonder of Mary Crawford than people think, or less fond of our dear Lizzy. I’ve never heard of a more debated Austen novel! People either love it or hate it but are never ambivalent.

As I wade into the trenches, I welcome you to read along with me and/or add your own comments and opinions about my observations.

I’m hoping to host some guest posts this month as well! More on those when I’ve got dates!

Well, here I am, hoping to Fall for Fanny just like Edmund does. Or is it Henry who does? Or maybe the story is she falls for herself!


 

Chapter One

“Mrs. Norris was sorry to say that the little girl’s staying with them, at least as things then were, was quite out of the question.”

If after so many years of knowing her, he didn’t guess this was her plan than it really shows how little attention he pays to others.

“I should wish to see them very good friends, and would, on no account, authorise my girls the smallest degree of arrogance towards their relation; but still they cannot be equals. Their rank, fortune, rights, and expectations will always be different.”

Sir Thomas sounds nice when talking about not treating Fanny differently. Judging from the distinctions of the time, it seems he has very good intentions. I wonder which is worse. It seems difficult to keep those distinctions without arrogance. On the other hand, without arrogance it seems a straightforward fact of life, which must be terribly depressing and oppressing to live.

Final thoughts on the chapter: I think it says a lot about Fanny that we haven’t met her yet and instead have a decent handle on the people ho will be raising her.

Chapter Three

“You have robbed Edmund for ten, twenty, thirty years, perhaps for life, of more than half the income which ought to be his.”

Everyone wants to talk about how bad women had it, but men were seldom any freer. I shall now turn in my feminist card.

Tom listened with some shame and some sorrow; but escaping as quickly as possible, could soon with cheerful selfishness reflect, firstly, that he had not been half so much in debt as some of his friends; secondly that his father had made a most tiresome piece of work of it; and, thirdly, that the future incumbent, whoever he might be, would, in all probability, die very soon.

I feel like Tom’s back story of what would drive him to partake of this lifestyle and get into such debt would be more interesting than all this Fanny stuff. I’m trying, Jane. I’m trying. Also, he could be great friends with Mrs. Bennet.

In the fullness of his belief that such a thing must be, he mentioned its probability to his wife; and the first time of the subject’s occurring to her again happening to be when Fanny was present, she calmly observed to her, “So, Fanny, you are going to leave us, and live with my sister. How shall you like it?”

Wow. They’re so insensitive! This is an addition, as I’ve read further along and came back to this note. Lady Bertram seems ready enough to give up Fanny when she’s 15 but several years later can’t do without her for an afternoon so she can go to Sotherton.

“Never, my dear; but you are sure of a comfortable home. It can make very little difference to you, whether you are in one house or the other.”

Darn it Jane! Quit intriguing me with back stories of other people. What would make the Ward sisters feel this way about each other? For they must feel it about themselves for it to never occur to them that others would feel differently.

“I can never be important to anyone.”

“What is to prevent you?”

“Everything. My situation, my foolishness and awkwardness.”

“As to your foolishness and awkwardness, my dear Fanny, believe me, you never have a shadow of either, but in using the words so improperly.”

Is this true, or just his perception? If true, I think it’s interesting. Many people feel insecure but instead give off different vibes. If it’s just his perception then that’s a mark in his favor for wearing love goggles.

“Ah! cousin, when I remember how much I used to dread riding, what terrors it gave me to hear it talked of as likely to do me good (oh! how I have trembled at my uncle’s opening his lips if horses were talked of), and then think of the kind pains you took to reason and persuade me out of my fears, and convince me that I should like it after a little while, and feel how right you proved to be, I am inclined to hope you may always prophesy as well.”

Interesting. It seems like Fanny has always been cajoled into accepting things which her natural instincts reject, which if she were richer and in a better position in Society she could indulge more.

Chapter Four

Lady Bertram did not go into public with her daughters. She was too indolent even to accept a mother’s gratification in witnessing their success and enjoyment at the expense of any personal trouble, and the charge was made over to her sister, who desired nothing better than a post of such honorable representation, and very thoroughly relished the means it afforded her of mixing in society without having horses to hire.

Ah, and here Lady Betram is Mr. Bennet.

When he returned, to understand how Fanny was situated, and perceived its ill effects, there seemed with him but one thing to be done; and that “Fanny must have a horse” was the resolute declaration with which he opposed whatever could be urged by the supineness of his mother, or the economy of his aunt, to make it appear unimportant.

Resolute is good. (Said in a “Murdered by pirates is good” tone).

pride and prejudice kid

He had three horses of his own, but not one that would carry a woman. Two of them were hunters; the third, a useful road-horse: this third he resolved to exchange for one that his cousin might ride;

Aww, so sweet. I haven’t met Mary Crawford yet but I’m pretty sure I hate her.

Sir Thomas’s sending away his son seemed to her so like a parent’s care, under the influence of a foreboding of evil to himself, that she could not help feeling dreadful presentiments; and as the long evenings of autumn came on, was so terribly haunted by these ideas in the sad solitariness of her cottage, as to be obliged to take daily refuge in the dining-room of the Park.

Dude. Is Mrs. Norris in love with Sir Thomas? She cares so much more about him than anyone else in the book. She can’t worry just about money, because Tom would inherit and yet she’s not chiding him for his actions etc. and nothing is mentioned of her actually getting extra money from the Bertrams.

It was some months before Sir Thomas’s consent could be received; but, in the meanwhile, as no one felt a doubt of his most cordial pleasure in the connexion, the intercourse of the two families was carried on without restraint, and no other attempt made at secrecy than Mrs. Norris talking of it everywhere as a matter not to be talked of at present.

Snort!

He could allow his sister to be the best judge of her own happiness, but he was not pleased that her happiness should centre in a large income;

I love a man that is both sensible and also allows people to have their own opinions.

Nor could he refrain from often saying to himself, in Mr. Rushworths’ comapny- “If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.”

Wow. Quite the thing to say. And notice that others tried to cajole him into accepting this marriage and yet it’s perfectly acceptable for him to have a differing opinion when they likely would not tolerate the same from Fanny.

They were young people of fortune. The son had a good estate in Norfolk, the daughter twenty thousand pounds.

I’m hearing Caroline Bingley music.

Matrimony was her object, provided she could marry well: and having seen Mr. Betram in town, she knew that objection could no more be made to his person than to his situation in life. While she treated it as a joke, therefore, she did not forget to think of it seriously.

And now I’m reminded of Lizzy Bennet and her jokes.

I have three very particular friends who have been all dying for him in their turn; and the pains which they, their mothers (very clever women), as well as my dear aunt and myself, have taken to reason, coax, or trick him into marrying, is inconceivable!

 

Ok, maybe not Lizzy-like.

Chapter Five

Miss Crawford’s beauty did her no disservice with the Miss Bertrams. They were too handsome themselves to dislike any woman for being so too,

Ha. I’m not sure I’ve seen that much these days but then few people are inheriting 20,000 pounds.

“So I should suppose. She has the advantage in every feature, and I prefer her countenance; but I like Julia best; Miss Betram is certainly the handsomest, and I have found her the most agreeable, but I shall always like Julia best, because you order me.”

Ick. The charm. Also dropping of the Miss.

“But Miss Betram does not care three straws for him; that is your opinion of your intimate friend. do not subscribe to it. I am sure Miss Betram is very much attached to Mr. Rushworth. I could see it in her eyes, when he was mentioned. I think too well of Miss Betram to suppose she could ever give her hand without her heart.”

**must not fall for the sarcastic rogue** **must not fall for the sarcastic rogue**

“Look where I will, I see that it is so; and I feel that it must be so, when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect most from others, and are least honest themselves.

This is pretty true even for contemporary marriages.

“The error is plain enough,” said the less courteous Edmund; “such girls are ill brought up. They are given wrong notions from the beginning. they are always acting upon motives of vanity, and there is no more real modesty in their behaviour before they appear in public than afterwards.”

Oooh, I like him.

Chapter Six

“No,  Idaresay, nor if he were to be gone a twelvemonth, would you ever write to him, nor he to you, if it could be helped. the occasion would never be foreseen. What strange creatures brothers are!”

Ok, she’s getting on my nerves.

“When they are at a distance from all their family,” said Fanny, colouring for William’s sake,” they can write long letters.”

Fanny has a very strong sense of justice.

“Of Rears and Vices I saw enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.”

No, I still don’t take that to mean a sodomy joke. I think she’s calling them wicked (her uncle was) or asses, which according to the online etymology dictionary was a new use for the word rear, showing up in print circa 1796. They had different slang for sodomy. As much as writers can coin things (and Jane did) it doesn’t help to coin it if no one knows what you mean. Edmund feels grave but he isn’t upset as he would be by a crude sexual joke when he gets upset about other little things Mary does. So at the very least we’d have to say that Mary’s audience doesn’t get her joke if that’s how it’s meant. I think it’s more likely that Edmund is annoyed that Mary is still casting aspersions on men in the navy and bringing up her uncle in a bad light.

“I dare say Mr. Crawford would take my two nieces and me in his barouche, and Edmund can go on horseback, you know, sister, and Fanny will stay home with you.”

Lady Bertram made no objection; and every one concerned in the going was forward in expressing their ready concurrence, excepting Edmund, who heard it all and said nothing.

Grrr. Displeased with you, Edmund.

Chapter Seven

“It is her countenance that is so attractive. She has a wonderful play of feature!”

Mary’s face is like an actress.

“I do not censure her opinions; but there certainly is impropriety in making them public.”

I really, really like you, Edmund.

“She made me almost laugh; but I cannot rate so very highly the love or good-nature of a brother who will not give himself the trouble of writing anything worth reading to his sisters, when they are separated.”

Haha. You wouldn’t like Charles Bingley!

“And what right had she to suppose that you would not write long letters when you were absent?”

“The right of a lively mind, Fanny, seizing whatever may contribute to its own amusement or that of others; perfectly allowable, when untinctured by ill-humour or roughness; and there is not a shadow of either in the countenance or manner of Miss Crawford: nothing sharp, or loud, or coarse.”

I’m not sure I like such Lizzy-like words said about Mary.

Edmund was at the Parsonage every day, to be indulged with his favorite instrument: one morning secured and invtation for the next; for the lady could not be unwilling to have a listener and every thing was soon in a fair train.

This is the difference between Elizabeth Bennet and Mary Crawford. The things Austen leaves unsaid.

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 foilage of summer, was enough to catch any man’s heart.

No, just the young and less experienced in the world.

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;

Well, he’s no Darcy. But lasting a full week must be better than some, like Bingley.

to the credit of the lady it may be added that, without his being a man of the world or an elder brother, without any of the arts of flattery or the gaieties of small talk, he began to be agreeable to her. She felt it to be so, though she had not foreseen and could hardly understand it; for he was not pleasant by the common rule: he talked no nonsense; he paid no compliments; his opinions were unbending, his attentions tranquil and simple. There was a charm, perhaps, in his sincerity, his steadiness, his integrity, which Miss Crawford might be equal to feel, though not equal to discuss with herself.

The Admiral might be awful, but I suspect it was those very traits who attracted Mrs. Crawford. Mary talked about being taken in. Well, if you could value sincerity over charm it wouldn’t happen, you stupid woman!

“No part of it fatigues me but getting off this horse, I assure you,” said she as she sprang down with his help; “I am very strong. Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like.”

The sort of impulse control Fanny always has.

“I do not want her at all for myself,” said he; “but whenever you are next inclined to stay at home, I think Miss Crawford would be glad to have her a longer time–the whole morning, in short.”

 

Not liking you, Edmund.

Chapter Eight

“You can have no reason, I imagine, madam,” said he, addressing his mother, “for wishing Fanny not to be of the party, but as it relates to yourself, to your own comfort. If you could do without her, you would not wish to keep her at home?”

“To be sure not, but I cannot do without her.”

“You can, if I stay at home with you, as I mean to do.”

So sweet of Edmund. It seems like he quickly learns his lessons.

Chapter Nine

Miss Crawford’s countenance, as Julia spoke, might have amused a disinterested observer. She looked almost aghast under the new idea she was now receiving. Fanny pitied her. “How distressed she will be at what she said just now,” passed across her mind.

 

It’s so kind of Fanny to pity Mary.

Miss Crawford, rallying her spirits, and recovering her complexion, replied only, “If I had known this before I would have spoken of the cloth with more respect,” and turned the subject.

But it wouldn’t be her true thoughts.

“You really are fit for something better. Come, do change your mind. It is not too late. Go into the law.”

Oh, so she wants her independence but no one else must have it. She knows best.

Chapter Ten

My thoughts upon Maria scrambling through the fence with Crawford and Edmund and Mary walking off together: This seems like some kind of parable. The fence is to protect and the authority is off fetching the key. Unruly impatience, selfishness and conceit send them in a dangerous path while left unattended by adults. Fanny keeps being abandoned and yet she does not follow. She has her own principles.

Thoughts thus far

I think this is the most intricate of Austen’s plots and I’m only 23% into it. I’m really glad that I finally got past the second chapter! It does move slower and is less light and twinkling than any of the others. Something I noticed that this book lacks is a market town or trip to a city. Emma felt stifled at Highbury but the Bertrams do nothing but sit with Mrs. Norris and now the Grants and Crawfords.

Fanny- I would wish she had more scenes but I think right now Austen is showing a lot about Fanny by how little attention she gets from anyone. I think reading the opening chapters as a mother has really helped. I could see that young Fanny was just very upset at leaving her family and shy, scared to make mistakes. She needed encouragement. I always saw it but as a mother, it pulls on my heart much more. I think it’s also clear that while she’s improved in a lot of ways, she still has a lot of timidity and a very deep feeling of duty and gratitude. She’s also younger and less socially mature than Austen’s other heroines. Catherine Morland is around the same age and definitely very naive about the world, but otherwise seems more sure of herself. Catherine’s the eldest daughter and had been in the company of others whereas Fanny is kept home with Lady Bertram most of the time. Obviously the Crawfords are turning the family on it’s heel and it will be interesting to see what happens with Fanny if she gets a bit of attention from them.

Edmund- I do see that he can be wishy-washy.  I think right now he considers Fanny his cousin, nearly his sister, and his duty to protect. I don’t know that he considers her really an equal or an adult. He’s a young man and has been told his way in life and now even that is put in hazard by his older brother who lives rather unrestrained while Edmund is taking care of the family during his father’s continued absence. He’s also still quite young- around the age Edward Ferrars was when he entered his imprudent engagement with Lucy. Mary is everything fresh, fun and seemingly uncomplicated. I have a feeling I’m really going to dislike his increasing attention toward Mary, not because I immediately think he should have feelings for Fanny instead, but because it seems like a betrayal of his own principles. Right now he’s couching it all in ideas of being gentlemanly and a good host, but it’s selfishness.

Mary Crawford- I may hate her more than any other Austen female because she’s also the easiest to like. On the surface she’s charming and even when she’s doing something inappropriate it’s with a softness. It does remind me of Elizabeth Bennet. But she is also very cynical and almost deceitful underneath it all. She has not made any pretension that marriage should be for love or companionship. She has more scruples than it seems Maria has about marriage, but they’re still not of the best sort. She wishes to be entertained by a man who can keep good company. It doesn’t appear she needs his respect or he needs hers. Again, I wonder about her back story.

Henry Crawford- So far, I think he’s a guy I wouldn’t mind talking to. I don’t think I’d like to spend constant time with him. In the last chapter I read, he seems to be emerging as a true cad. Inspiring feelings of jealousy in the Bertram sisters, encouraging Maria to slip away instead of wait for her intended and just as oblivious of Fanny as anyone else and all without true intent. It was all just second nature to him. He never seems to have a reason to consider anyone else. I’ll see how it goes, but I think I will have a hard time buying his supposed desire to redeem himself, just as Fanny does (if the movies are right).

Bertram siblings- I truly wonder how Sir Thomas didn’t think he had gone astray in his parenting with Tom and didn’t wonder about his daughters. I think Maria being mostly kept at Mansfield is very problematic. She now feels it is a duty to marry and without degradation, so she has a limited pool to look at. There’s little true attachment and nothing has ever had to test her character to build resolution and strength of will. Julia isn’t a total dimwit and is easygoing, but perhaps too easygoing.

Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram- It’s tempting to absolve Sir Thomas of the storm that’s brewing since he’s away but he was the father. Even though they were left to governesses and the boys to school, if you believe a certain kind of instruction is important you’re going to ensure it happens. We know he does take things like that into consideration, like making Fanny learn to ride. He seems to think character development would just happen incidentally. Lady Bertram I think would be better off without Mrs. Norris. I’m not sure she’s entirely indolent and doesn’t care to exert herself or she’s just so totally under her sister’s thumb and found it easier to let Mrs. Norris deal with nearly everything. The sisters have an interesting dynamic.

Mrs. Norris- I kind of feel like she was a less pretty and less rich Mary Crawford in her youth. On the surface she says things that can appease most people but there’s something fundamentally flawed in her feelings for others and she’s always self-serving. And you have to wonder how happy she can be feeling like that. Mary would do well to take note.


 

Whew! That was a lot for one post! I kept meaning to post all week in little nuggets but didn’t get my computer back until Tuesday and then it had to update to Windows 10 etc. I’m going to try to post 3-4 times a week this month and I will have to read a few chapters a day to get done by March 1st.

I hope you’ll stick around and chime in too! What do you think of Mansfield Park? Too preachy? Too dull? Interesting? I want your thoughts!