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.


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.


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.


Falling for Fanny

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

falling for fanny 4

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

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

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

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


Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can never be important to anyone.”

“What is to prevent you?”

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Four

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

Ah, and here Lady Betram is Mr. Bennet.

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

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

pride and prejudice kid

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

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

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

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

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


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!