Mansfield Monday– Frozen Fanny

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I type this up as I am bundled in my thick fleece robe and socks to warm my feet. I consider the investment of fingerless gloves for writing. Are we experiencing a cold snap in Tidewater, Virginia? No. My husband has cranked up the air conditioning. Sigh. Women’s winter, am I right?

 

Would it surprise you to learn that Fanny Price would sit in a room with no fire and only added a shawl to her clothing?

Many readers have this image of Fanny freezing her bum off. I’ve been told more than once that Fanny’s lack of fire in her bedroom is proof of the abuse they believe she suffered. I believe this image is owed to the 1999 film production, which I generally like but all film productions have their problems. Sir Thomas comes into Fanny’s room to tell her about Henry’s proposal and is astonished to find she has no fire.

I suppose, sister, you will put the child in the little white attic, near the old nurseries. It will be much the best place for her, so near Miss Lee, and not far from the girls, and close by the housemaids, who could either of them help to dress her, you know, and take care of her clothes, for I suppose you would not think it fair to expect Ellis to wait on her as well as the others.


The little white attic, which had continued her sleeping-room ever since her first entering the family, proving incompetent to suggest any reply, she had recourse, as soon as she was dressed, to another apartment more spacious and more meet for walking about in and thinking, and of which she had now for some time been almost equally mistress. It had been their school-room.

Fanny’s bedchamber was in the attic, near where the female servants stayed. It’s also mentioned as not being too far from “the girls,” meaning Maria and Julia. Later, she is given what is essentially a private sitting room in what was the old school room for the girls. It’s not explicitly stated but it sounds like Maria and Julia have their own sitting areas. However, nothing is mentioned of them spending much time in them, and it was generally only a habit in the morning. We are told Fanny leaves her chamber and goes to this other room in the morning. However, no fire is allowed to be lit. Yet, Fanny sits in it most days.

How dare they?!

Hold your horses. There is much to consider.

The East room, as it had been called ever since Maria Bertram was sixteen, was now considered Fanny’s, almost as decidedly as the white attic: the smallness of the one making the use of the other so evidently reasonable that the Miss Bertrams, with every superiority in their own apartments which their own sense of superiority could demand, were entirely approving it; and Mrs. Norris, having stipulated for there never being a fire in it on Fanny’s account, was tolerably resigned to her having the use of what nobody else wanted, though the terms in which she sometimes spoke of the indulgence seemed to imply that it was the best room in the house.

The aspect was so favourable that even without a fire it was habitable in many an early spring and late autumn morning to such a willing mind as Fanny’s; and while there was a gleam of sunshine she hoped not to be driven from it entirely, even when winter came.

The room was most dear to her, and she would not have changed its furniture for the handsomest in the house,

One, when Sir Thomas talks with Fanny, she is content with only a shawl. I’m wearing more and thicker layers at this point than it sounds like Fanny is. Granted, I think this was probably a warm wool shawl. They were actually quite expensive. Perhaps, it was a hand me down from Maria or Julia although nothing else is said of her having to wear their cast offs. If it were so cold, she would need more layers, might wear a spencer, pelisse, or coat as well. I surely have in my house. In the passage below, Sir Thomas acknowledges that a fire in her bedchamber would be impossible.

stopping short as he entered, said, with much surprise, “Why have you no fire to-day?” There was snow on the ground, and she was sitting in a shawl. She hesitated.

“I am not cold, sir: I never sit here long at this time of year.”

“But you have a fire in general?”

“No, sir.”

“How comes this about? Here must be some mistake. I understood that you had the use of this room by way of making you perfectly comfortable. In your bedchamber I know you cannot have a fire. Here is some great misapprehension which must be rectified. It is highly unfit for you to sit, be it only half an hour a day, without a fire. You are not strong. You are chilly. Your aunt cannot be aware of this.”

“I understand,” cried her uncle, recollecting himself, and not wanting to hear more: “I understand. Your aunt Norris has always been an advocate, and very judiciously, for young people’s being brought up without unnecessary indulgences; but there should be moderation in everything. She is also very hardy herself, which of course will influence her in her opinion of the wants of others. And on another account, too, I can perfectly comprehend. I know what her sentiments have always been. The principle was good in itself, but it may have been, and I believe has been, carried too far in your case.

 

Next, Sir Thomas is shocked only because of Fanny’s general health. He even acknowledges that Mrs. Norris had good intentions and that it’s regular for young people to not have fires, but that Fanny needs one. It’s conceivable, then, that even his daughters didn’t have fires all the time. They probably would have if they mentioned they were cold, though, and Fanny is too grateful to ask for more. Maria and Julia, in contrast, are selfish. Additionally, if Sir Thomas is so concerned about her having a fire, why not offer her a new bedchamber? Clearly whatever she deals with at night (no fire) is not so unusual. What’s strange to him is that she sits without one for any time during the day.

Why would Mrs. Norris not want an extra room in the house to be heated? In the book, it’s very plain that she’s miserly. She congratulates herself constantly on “economy.” Simply put, heating was costly and Fanny could sit somewhere else. The very poor could not even afford coal or wood. They used leftover (and probably rotten) vegetables. Chances are Fanny’s family home in Portsmouth was considerably colder than her experience at Mansfield.

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Let us also consider heating in the era. Fires do not last forever. One must tend them. Jane Austen stories are littered with examples of the fire being relit by a maid in the morning. This is a well-known fact of the era. At some point in the night, the fire would die, and in the morning, they would be re-lit. That means for much of the night, people are sleeping in an unheated room.

It is important to note that many bedrooms may not have had a fireplace at all, and those that did were often only lit when someone was ill. —Georgian & Regency Houses Explained by Trevor Yorke

The pay and duties of a housemaid, with its relatively lighter tasks of cleaning the house and maintaining bedroom fires, implicitly contrasted to those of a girl of all works, a lower position with less pay and more onerous duties of cooking, scouring, sweeping, laundry, fires, lamps, heavy lifting and if necessary, child-minding. —The Cambridge Edition of Sense & Sensibility, edited by Edward Copeland

In winter, the housemaid’s first task was to clean the hearths and light the fires, while in summer the stove had to be attended to. Shutters were opened in the sitting rooms, hearth rugs shaken and carpets swept. Chairs and other furniture had to be dusted, looking glasses had to be cleaned and kettles filled for hot water, both for use in the kitchen and for washing purposes. These tasks had to be completed before the master and mistress came down for breakfast. —Flunkeys and Scullions, Life Below Stairs in Georgian England by Pamela Horn

Chambermaids ranked highest among the lower female servants. Their sphere was properly in the bedrooms: dusting, straightening, cleaning, swatting insects in summer, laying fires and warming beds in winter, sweeping, closing windows and turning down bedclothes the last thing at night. —The Regency Companion by Sharon Laudermilk & Teresa Hamlin

Long before the family was awake, the housemaids would be up and about, opening the shutters, dusting, sweeping and polishing, cleaning the grates and laying and lighting fires. —Wives and Daughters by Joanna Martin

Catherine Morland is surprised to find a fire in her chamber at Northanger Abbey and even allows it to die before going to bed. She awakens to a maid having already lit the fire but at eight in the morning and many people arose earlier.

Thus wisely fortifying her mind, as she proceeded upstairs, she was enabled, especially on perceiving that Miss Tilney slept only two doors from her, to enter her room with a tolerably stout heart; and her spirits were immediately assisted by the cheerful blaze of a wood fire.

“How much better is this,” said she, as she walked to the fender—”how much better to find a fire ready lit, than to have to wait shivering in the cold till all the family are in bed, as so many poor girls have been obliged to do, and then to have a faithful old servant frightening one by coming in with a faggot! How glad I am that Northanger is what it is! If it had been like some other places, I do not know that, in such a night as this, I could have answered for my courage: but now, to be sure, there is nothing to alarm one.”

A glance at the old chest, as she turned away from this examination, was not without its use; she scorned the causeless fears of an idle fancy, and began with a most happy indifference to prepare herself for bed. “She should take her time; she should not hurry herself; she did not care if she were the last person up in the house. But she would not make up her fire; that would seem cowardly, as if she wished for the protection of light after she were in bed.” The fire therefore died away, and Catherine, having spent the best part of an hour in her arrangements, was beginning to think of stepping into bed,

The housemaid’s folding back her window-shutters at eight o’clock the next day was the sound which first roused Catherine; and she opened her eyes, wondering that they could ever have been closed, on objects of cheerfulness; her fire was already burning, and a bright morning had succeeded the tempest of the night.

Marianne Dashwood has also awoken before the fire re-lit on occasion:

Before the housemaid had lit their fire the next day, or the sun gained any power over a cold, gloomy morning in January, Marianne, only half dressed, was kneeling against one of the window-seats for the sake of all the little light she could command from it, and writing as fast as a continual flow of tears would permit her.

The drawing rooms of Mansfield would have had fires. Fanny was more than welcome to sit in them. She is far more reserved and introverted than anyone in the family can understand and she’s been that way since the moment of her arrival–long before anyone had a chance to abuse her. They can hardly conceive of why she needs time by herself. It is not that Fanny is forced to sit in a cold room. Nor is she deprived warm clothing. She chooses it.

Fireplaces of the era also left much to be desired. They did not really heat the entire room. It could be unbearably hot near the fire but then very cool away from it. Indeed, people often had to rearrange themselves throughout the day. Honestly, anyone who has spent time near a fire should understand this. There are also countless examples in Jane Austen’s works of seating someone ill near a fire or someone finding the fire too hot and needing to relocate.

Now, I’m going to divulge some personal information. I once lived in a house with no heat. There even came a time in the early spring in which it was cooler in the house than outside. Oh, we had means to heat the place. We had a woodstove–which generally provide excellent heat. However, my husband and I were full-time college students and also worked 32 hours a week. Our cabin was about a half hour drive from the town in which we worked and attended school. Essentially, I left for the day at 7 am and did not get home until almost midnight. We lived in the mountains. How did we deal with that? Well, we did have a very small space heater that we would turn on for a bit in our room. In Jane Austen’s time, they had bed warmers which were long-handled copper skillets filled with warmed stones. They would be placed on the sheet to warm the bed. I’m not going to lie, I would still like this. We also layered our bed with several blankets and I wore good, warm pajamas.

Additionally, consider that many people sleep outside without heat for fun. My husband is an Eagle Scout and told me they would regularly camp in below freezing weather without a fire. They did have good sleeping bags. However, the average winter low for Northamptonshire is above freezing.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the time I lived in Alaska and people worked outside in negative forty all day long. Actually, that was a warm winter for the area. It usually got to negative sixty, and other areas got much colder.

Was Fanny freezing and turning to ice? It doesn’t seem like it. Was she abused? I don’t think so. She was the poor relation and there was a definite difference made between her and her cousins. Let’s remember we’re far more egalitarian these days. However, either way, I don’t think this fire reference can be proof of abuse. If Jane Austen didn’t include those points to illustrate abuse, then what is their purpose? Sir Thomas says it perfectly:

The principle was good in itself, but it may have been, and I believe has been, carried too far in your case. I am aware that there has been sometimes, in some points, a misplaced distinction; but I think too well of you, Fanny, to suppose you will ever harbour resentment on that account. You have an understanding which will prevent you from receiving things only in part, and judging partially by the event. You will take in the whole of the past, you will consider times, persons, and probabilities, and you will feel that they were not least your friends who were educating and preparing you for that mediocrity of condition which seemed to be your lot. Though their caution may prove eventually unnecessary, it was kindly meant;

In a book where so much is about doing what looks right without considering what truly is right, Fanny’s lack of a fire illustrates the dysfunction perfectly. There’s lots of reasons why Fanny shouldn’t have a fire and one obvious reason why she should. That reason has nothing to do with economy or habits but about knowing a person and building an inter-personal relationship with them.

Mansfield Monday–Friends or family?

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When little Fanny Price arrives at Mansfield Park everything is so different that she can do little but be terrified and shy. We are told no one meant to be mean.

Nobody meant to be unkind, but nobody put themselves out of their way to secure her comfort.

Her aunts and uncle tried talking with her. Her cousins attempted to play with her. However, it’s not until a week into her stay that she feels a moment of reprieve from her distress. Edmund, at age sixteen, found Fanny crying and wishing she could write to her brother. He helped get her set up and started on a letter.

During their interaction, Edmund observed:

was convinced of her having an affectionate heart, and a strong desire of doing right; and he could perceive her to be farther entitled to attention by great sensibility of her situation, and great timidity. He had never knowingly given her pain, but he now felt that she required more positive kindness; and with that view endeavoured, in the first place, to lessen her fears of them all, and gave her especially a great deal of good advice as to playing with Maria and Julia, and being as merry as possible.

The effect was immediate. We are next told:

From this day Fanny grew more comfortable. She felt that she had a friend, and the kindness of her cousin Edmund gave her better spirits with everybody else. The place became less strange, and the people less formidable;

From there, Fanny began to adjust more to life at Mansfield and they all grew up. In those years, she did not see her family at Portsmouth again. No one ever seemed to consider her returning or visiting and no one there ever asked for her. She saw only one brother, the one she had wanted to write to, before he left for the sea.

Chapter Two closes telling us of Fanny’s continued friendship with Edmund:

Edmund’s friendship never failed her: his leaving Eton for Oxford made no change in his kind dispositions, and only afforded more frequent opportunities of proving them. Without any display of doing more than the rest, or any fear of doing too much, he was always true to her interests, and considerate of her feelings, trying to make her good qualities understood, and to conquer the diffidence which prevented their being more apparent; giving her advice, consolation, and encouragement.

Kept back as she was by everybody else, his single support could not bring her forward; but his attentions were otherwise of the highest importance in assisting the improvement of her mind, and extending its pleasures. He knew her 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. In return for such services she loved him better than anybody in the world except William: her heart was divided between the two.

Fanny Price was given two families in life but in one found a true friend. Some think Fanny is the most down trodden Austen heroine, but compare this with Anne Elliot whose only friend, Lady Russell, was the means of separating her from her love. Emma’s best friend was her governess who marries at the beginning of the novel. She then has to find a new one and the question throughout the book is if the one she discovered was suitable. Catherine Morland’s first friend she makes outside of her family circle ends up being cunning and devious. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood have only each other. Elinor has the added injury of a false friendship with her rival, Lucy Steele. Elizabeth Bennet’s friendship with Charlotte Lucas is materially wounded when she marries Mr. Collins and moves fifty miles away.

Let us also consider how the friendships within families may alter after the sisters marry. Jane and Elizabeth Bennet are separated by marriage and distance. Elinor and Marianne manage to settle near one another. Emma loses the closeness of her friendship with Harriet due to the inequity of their marriages. Anne Elliot will at times have no female company at all as she will live aboard her husband’s ships. Nothing is said about where Eleanor Tilney’s husband lives. We can suppose Catherine and Eleanor do not get to meet often.

It seems, whether friendship comes from within family circles or without retaining one is rare indeed. It might have been harder on Fanny at the time, but given how Maria and Julia turn out, it was all for the best that Fanny found a closer friend in Edmund than she did in her female cousins.

Mansfield Monday– The Miss Wards

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Every time I start to read Mansfield Park, I can’t help but wonder what a prequel to the story would be like. We do not meet Fanny for a few chapters, and the beginning of Chapter One reaches back thirty years to the marriage Miss Maria Ward to Sir Thomas Bertram.

About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.

The elder Wards aren’t mentioned, only an uncle who was a lawyer. Was he their guardian? Rather than being proud of his niece’s “accomplishment,” he is amazed that she managed to marry him when she had less than ten thousand pounds. Could this be an early reference to a recurring thing of untrustworthy and overbearing uncles? Mary Crawford has one in the admiral. Fanny has one with Sir Thomas.

Next, we are told of the marriages of Miss Ward, who becomes Mrs. Norris, and Miss Frances Ward who became Mrs. Price. Austen tells us that there are not enough rich men as there are pretty girls in the world. It’s written a bit tongue in cheek but must certainly be the truth.

Mr. Elton in Emma married a woman worth ten thousand pounds. With Miss Ward’s money of seven thousand pounds and the living from Sir Thomas, the Norris family had nearly one thousand pounds a year. We know they never had children and so they had almost Mr. Bennet’s income and yet Mrs. Norris seems to think that’s always insufficient. Additionally, she was already the eldest sister, and it took her another six years to find a husband. Was she too picky? Had she wanted to marry better and relied on Sir Thomas to help her find a better match? Hmm…that seems a bit like Mary Crawford.

Miss Frances married “to disoblige her family.” She seems to have eloped as she was able to hide the intent to marry a poor marine lieutenant until the deed was done. Much like Julia Bertram’s elopement, the elopement itself doesn’t cause much scandal. Compare this with Lydia Bennet’s elopement with Wickham or Maria’s elopement with Henry Crawford. Despite being romantic enough to not care about what her family thought about her marriage, it seems both Miss Frances and Mr. Price had the honest intention actually to marry. I wonder what drove her to such a plan.

Then, the sisters had a falling out. Mrs. Norris wrote a letter telling Mrs. Price all about her faults. Well, it should be no surprise what type of person she is for the rest of the novel. Mrs. Price, in turn, is angry and resentful. The poor Bertrams are stuck in the middle.

I’ve always thought it was interesting that Sir Thomas was willing to try to help Mr. Price.  Apparently, Mrs. Price’s answer to her sister contained things which insulted Sir Thomas’ pride. It does not say that she insulted him directly, but perhaps she did. Now, did Sir Thomas give up in relief or did he try to coax Mrs. Norris into giving way? Did his conscience ever prick him that he should try to do more?

Mrs. Norris is able to tell the Bertrams each time Mrs. Price has a new baby. Pre-Facebook days that is a fascinating ability for “lurking” for a woman who seems to hate her sister. What regrets did Mrs. Norris have about the falling out? She must have felt something since she orchestrated bringing Fanny to Mansfield Park. And yet, the text tells us she had no real affection for her sister. She seems to have gloried merely in the possibility that she would receive credit for the idea. She always seems to arrange things so she comes out on top. I would compare that to Mary Crawford, but it seems more likely to be as foolishly thought out as Maria’s schemes.

What do you make of the Miss Wards? Do you see any parallels between them and the trio of cousins (Maria, Julia, and Fanny) or with Mary Crawford? That might be the topic for the next Mansfield Monday.

 

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.

tom's death

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