Mansfield Monday–Friends or family?

mansfield monday

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

mansfield monday

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.

adaptability

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.

hero loves a heroine.jpg

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

falling for fanny 4

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!