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.

 

Austen’s Brides- Mr. Right Now

Jane Austen’s books center around a heroine who searches for identity and love. Spoiler alert: everyone gets married.

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For this month’s theme, I don’t want to focus on those couples. Instead, I want to look at the others who make marriages in the novel while the heroine is still searching for Mr. Right. I believe these newlyweds serve as a foil to Austen’s heroines. They make mistakes the heroine, no matter how flawed she is, would never do. And for that reason we love her.

Earlier in the month, I examined couples in Jane Austen’s books that I termed “overachievers.” They were men and women who married for financial or social gain. Today, I’ll look at the newlyweds who chose to settle. Instead of waiting for Mr. Right, they snatched up Mr. Right Now. Last time, I concluded that when marrying for financial and social gain, happiness in marriage might be a matter of chance. Does the same hold true when you marry against your inclination?

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Northanger Abbey is the clearest example of an Austen heroine who goes out into the world and discovers it’s not what she imagined. Along the way, Catherine finds out who she really is, who she can trust, and what matters most in life. One of the people she learns she cannot trust is her former best friend, Isabella Thorpe. They met by “chance” and became instant friends in a city where Catherine knew no one and was away from her family for the first time. Upon learning Catherine enjoys fiction reading, Isabella directs her new friend to increasingly fantastical gothic novels. Despite Catherine’s interest in Mr. Tilney and his sister, the friendship with Isabella seems cemented when she becomes engaged to Catherine’s brother. However, she is under the mistaken belief that the Morland children will become heirs of the wealthy Mr. Allen who is Catherine’s host in Bath.

When James Morland returns from asking his parents’ blessing at his betrothal with the news that they must wait two years for him to come of age and take over one of his father’s livings, Isabella’s hopes for wealth vanish. At this point, she might be able to break the engagement without doing her reputation much harm. James never should have proposed if he had no independent means to support a wife. At the same time, she has already met and become enamored with Captain Tilney, who is far more handsome, more charming, and heir to a very wealthy man. Despite this, Isabella decides to play it safe and not call off the engagement with James Morland. However, she can’t hide her attraction to Captain Tilney and soon enrages her betrothed.

The most recent film adaptation has her having sex with the Captain only to learn afterward he had no honorable intentions. That is not even hinted at in the book, but it is perhaps believable that Isabella would have been like Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair. Beautiful, surrounded by men, and vain, she would exchange favors for financial gain for her family. Certainly something James Morland was wise to avoid. In the end, Isabella loses her betrothal to James and her friendship with Catherine. We do not know what becomes of her. I wonder if she learned from settling her ambitions or not. At the very least, Catherine is her complete contrast. She had little hope of gaining Henry Tilney’s notice or love and at the end receives both.

aa2ca3a6f27887f1ba06cd9507fb7620.jpgAnother Austen female to have settled for a match that seemed prudent while she loved a heartless rake is Maria Bertram from Mansfield Park. We are told that after turning twenty-one, Maria felt it a duty to marry. Mrs. Norris is soon keen on Maria marrying a wealthy neighbor who is described as a very stupid fellow indeed, and we’re told no one would like him at all if not for his money. They are soon provisionally engaged, as her father is away, but it’s a poorly kept secret. As it is, twelve thousand pounds a year and a house in town convinced everyone but Edmund Bertram of his suitableness with Maria. That is until she met Henry Crawford.

Maria and her younger sister, Julia, are immediately smitten with Henry. Maria flirts with him with indemnity as she is engaged while Julia must be more reserved and does not gain his attention. Matters almost peak while the young people of the Park put on a play and Maria and Henry are allowed to spend considerable time together rehearsing lines. Even Rushworth notices Maria’s attraction to Henry. However, before such behavior can come to a climax, Sir Thomas returns from Antigua. The play is stopped, and solemnity is restored. Sir Thomas soon realizes that Maria is not happy with Mr. Rushworth and offers to end the engagement, bearing all things for her happiness. Yet Maria answers immediately that she is satisfied with Rushworth.

The couple marries and leaves for London. After some time apart while Henry attempts to woo Fanny Price, Maria and Henry are thrown together again. While Julia is prudent and withdraws to a friend’s house, lest she fall for Henry all over again–confident as she is that he could never love her back after flirting with her sister then declaring himself in love with her cousin–Maria falls into her old ways. Soon after we know of his meeting Maria again, we are told of a brewing scandal regarding them which reaches its breaking point when they elope.

For Maria, this ends in tragedy. She is divorced by Rushworth and not married by Henry. He remained with her for a few months until he could no longer satisfy himself. She was not Fanny, and that is who he had wanted, despite the momentary pleasure Maria could offer. Additionally, she grows unhappy with her situation and takes it out on Henry. Realizing they could never be happy together, he leaves, and she ends up living with Mrs. Norris, who has left Mansfield. Despite Mary Crawford’s suggestion on how Maria might be received into Society again, it seems this never happens, and Maria has lost her respectability forever.

Fanny, of course, had rejected Henry. Even when it seemed she could not have Edmund, she would not settle for Henry. While Edmund was single, she could never entertain thoughts of marrying another. Austen does hint that had Henry proved constant, and Edmund married, Fanny would have accepted Henry. However, I would point out that such is not in his character and Fanny was far more concerned with that than Maria had ever been. Maria’s vanity was satisfied, all the more as he turned to her after being rejected by Fanny.

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The final example of an Austen female who had great weight on a heroine and settled in marriage is Charlotte Lucas of Pride and Prejudice. Charlotte marrying Mr. Collins has a significant effect on Elizabeth Bennet. She had always known their views on marriage were not exactly alike but to see her best friend marry a man so ridiculous as Mr. Collins almost drives Elizabeth to break the friendship entirely. What Jane tries to put in a sympathetic light only enrages Elizabeth more.

You shall not defend her, though it is Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to persuade yourself or me, that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger security for happiness.

Charlotte had accepted Collins’ proposal because at twenty-seven, she was nearing spinsterhood. Her family was large, and while her father was a knight, there was little extra wealth to go around. She wished for her own home and to not burden her parents or brothers.

After several months, Elizabeth’s offense cools, and she visits Charlotte. While Elizabeth sees much that would cause her misery, Charlotte appears to bear it well. She directs her husband in ways that mean they spend little time together. She forbears Lady Catherine’s condescension. She relishes in controlling her own household affairs–or at least as much as Lady Catherine will allow. When Elizabeth leaves Hunsford, she observes that Charlotte’s new situation has not yet lost its charm.

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On the other hand, we know Elizabeth would never choose such a life. She had turned down Collins, and she also rejected Darcy who could offer her much in the way of worldly goods but at the time could not have offered her the sort of character she desired in an equal and companionable marriage.

Categorically, the ladies in Austen who settle for Mr. Right Now find no happiness in marriage. Maria married while in love with another man and it ends in disaster. Isabella’s engagement is broken because she is attracted to another. Charlotte is the best example of contentedness and respectability. While she tells Elizabeth she was never romantic, she might have tried to find a good match with a man that had more sense.

Young bride in forestSome have criticized Miss Austen in that her heroines do not always claim they will only marry for love. Even I have said that her primary motive is not romance. There is much to say that Austen has couples fall out of love showcasing that happiness in marriage might indeed be a matter of chance. However, happiness is not the only facet of marriage, especially in Austen’s era. Marriage was primarily a career option for women. And while you may not always find a job that is a passion, there are some jobs that you know can’t end well such as prostitution or illegal activity. Likewise, there are times when you can be content in a job by choosing one that suits your personality and skills. An introvert should avoid customer service positions, as an example. Similarly, if you do have a passion for dancing, then you may never thrive or do well in an accounting job.

While happiness in marriage may be a matter of chance, I believe Austen proves that respectability and comfortableness are not. From her, we learn to follow our heart wherever it might lead.

 

Falling for Fanny

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

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

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

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

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


 

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can never be important to anyone.”

“What is to prevent you?”

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Four

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

Ah, and here Lady Betram is Mr. Bennet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snort!

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

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

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

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

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

I’m hearing Caroline Bingley music.

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

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

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

 

Ok, maybe not Lizzy-like.

Chapter Five

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

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

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

Ick. The charm. Also dropping of the Miss.

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

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

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

This is pretty true even for contemporary marriages.

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

Oooh, I like him.

Chapter Six

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

Ok, she’s getting on my nerves.

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

Fanny has a very strong sense of justice.

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

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

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

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

Grrr. Displeased with you, Edmund.

Chapter Seven

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

Mary’s face is like an actress.

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

I really, really like you, Edmund.

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

Haha. You wouldn’t like Charles Bingley!

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

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

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

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

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

A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foilage of summer, was enough to catch any man’s heart.

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

Without studying the  business, however, or knowing what he was about, Edmund was beginning, at the end of a week of such intercourse, to be a good deal in love;

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

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

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

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

The sort of impulse control Fanny always has.

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

 

Not liking you, Edmund.

Chapter Eight

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

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

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

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

Chapter Nine

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

 

It’s so kind of Fanny to pity Mary.

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

But it wouldn’t be her true thoughts.

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

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

Chapter Ten

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

Thoughts thus far

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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