Fairly Caught

“I am quite determined to marry Fanny Price. … I am fairly caught. You know with what idle designs I began; but this is the end of them. I have, I flatter myself, made no inconsiderable progress in her affections; but my own are entirely fixed.” (Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, Ch. XXX)

Many people think that it is unnatural for Henry Crawford to fall in love with Fanny Price. I find Fanny to be a very lovable girl, so it is not a stretch for me to think of a charming man falling in love with her. Furthermore, I think that it was natural under the circumstances for Henry to fall in love with her, and I shall attempt to explain why.

Fanny is not as immediately attractive as others of Jane Austen’s heroines, but, when you get to know her, she has a quiet charm of her own. Henry only intended to flirt with “Returning to her seat to finish a note” Chap XXX H. M. BrockFanny, not to fall in love with her. His attraction was simply boredom (the Bertram sisters weren’t around anymore for him to flirt with) and the desire to conquer. He tells his sister, “Her looks say, ‘I will not like you, I am determined not to like you’; and I say she shall.” (Ch. XXIV). In the process of wooing her, however, he gets to know her better and falls in love with her. He discovers her sweetness, her intelligence, her high sense of honor — and no one has denied that she is a pretty girl. He feels that he can depend on her “faith and integrity”. “Her temper he had good reason to depend on and to praise. He had often seen it tried. … Her affections were evidently strong. To see her with her brother! What could more delightfully prove that the warmth of her heart was equal to its gentleness? What could be more encouraging to a man who had her love in view?” (Ch. XXX).

Fanny’s attractions increased—increased twofold; for the sensibility which beautified her complexion and illumined her countenance was an attraction in itself. He was no longer in doubt of the capabilities of her heart. She had feeling, genuine feeling. It would be something to be loved by such a girl, to excite the first ardours of her young unsophisticated mind! She interested him more than he had foreseen. A fortnight was not enough. His stay became indefinite. (Ch. XXIV)

Unlike the other girls Henry has known, who were all ready to flirt with him, he must earn Fanny’s respect and regard. Henry expressed his feelings toward marriage earlier in the novel, “I am of a cautious temper, and unwilling to risk my happiness in a hurry.” He is willing to flirt with any attractive girl, but unwilling to commit his happiness to her. Fanny is different. “I could so wholly and absolutely confide in her,” said he; “and that is what I want.” (Ch. XXX). Fanny’s resistance presents him with a challenge, which stimulates him, making “her affection appear of greater consequence because it was withheld, and determined him to have the glory, as well as the felicity, of forcing her to love him” (Ch. XXXIII).

Love such as his, in a man like himself, must with perseverance secure a return, and at no great distance; and he had so much delight in the idea of obliging her to love him in a very short time, that her not loving him now was scarcely regretted. A little difficulty to be overcome was no evil to Henry Crawford. He rather derived spirits from it. He had been apt to gain hearts too easily. His situation was new and animating. (Ch. XXXIII)

I think also that Henry liked the idea of marrying a “damsel in distress”, so to speak, — of “rescuing” her and raising her up. He tells his sister, “[Maria and Julia Bertram] will now “He….left them only at the door” Chap XLI H. M. Brocksee their cousin treated as she ought to be, and I wish they may be heartily ashamed of their own abominable neglect and unkindness. … Yes, Mary, my Fanny will feel a difference indeed: a daily, hourly difference, in the behaviour of every being who approaches her; and it will be the completion of my happiness to know that I am the doer of it, that I am the person to give the consequence so justly her due. Now she is dependent, helpless, friendless, neglected, forgotten. … What can Sir Thomas and Edmund together do, what do they do for her happiness, comfort, honour, and dignity in the world, to what I shall do?” (Ch. XXX, bold emphasis mine)

I think that Fanny is not the kind of woman that Henry would have imagined marrying, or even as likely to attract him, but, once he got to know her better, he could see her charm and goodness. Probably if the Bertram sisters had not left, he would never have noticed Fanny. His initial attraction to Fanny can be expressed in his words, “Why did she draw back and look so grave at me? I could hardly get her to speak. I never was so long in company with a girl in my life, trying to entertain her, and succeed so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so grave on me! I must try to get the better of this.” (Ch. XXIV). He was used to gaining hearts too easily. Her attraction was simply that she did not care for him. So, Henry set about a flirtation with her, and then fell in love.

In his book A Fine Brush on Ivory, Richard Jenkyns puts it like this:

[I]tis perhaps worth noting that both the men in Fanny’s life, Henry and Edmund, take quite a while to see [Fanny] as an object of desire. … Fanny Price takes some getting to know. For what it is worth, my own experience has been that the longer one lives with Mansfield Park, the more lovable she becomes. …

Some critics have found it hard to believe that a lively, worldly man like Henry Crawford could ever have fallen for a good little mouse like Fanny, but on the contrary, he is exactly the type of man who marries his secretary. It is significant that he is said to be plain: he needs to prove to himself his power of conquest. Henry is vain: he wants power and he wants admiration. He knows that Fanny is pretty and gentle, but he also comes to realize that she is passionate: he has seen this from the warmth and strength of her love for her brother. … But he also wants adoration. His sister sees it at once: ‘I approve your choice from my soul, and foresee your happiness as heartily as I wish and desire it. You will have a sweet little wife; all gratitude and devotion.’ … [G]enuine love and affection may be inextricably bound up with a gentle vanity and the gratification of self-esteem. … And the irony in Henry Crawford’s case is that he has misread: Fanny, who is a great deal meeker than Catherine [Morland of Northanger Abbey], is not so simple and artless: she is a tough, severe judge.1

If Henry had met Fanny in London, I doubt he would ever have noticed her. Even in Mansfield, he overlooks her until Maria and Julia are gone, and she is the only young woman left for him to notice. (As his sister said, “The truth is, that she was the only girl in company for you to notice, and you must have a somebody.” — Ch. XXIV) But, under the circumstances, he does notice her. He finds her to be pretty, gentle, passionate, trustworthy, and sweet. The idea of gaining her affections and “rescuing” her, so to speak, attracts him. So, was it natural for Henry to truly fall in love with Fanny? I think so.

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1 A Fine Brush on Ivory, by Richard Jenkyns (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 109, 135-136).

Illustrations: “Returning to her seat to finish a note” (Chap XXX) and “He….left them only at the door” (Chap XLI), by H.M. Brock.

Marrying the Bad Guy

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:
and they shall be one flesh.” — Genesis 2:24

The Tenant of Wildfell HallI recently had a discussion which turned to the subject of the foolishness of marrying a man, however charming and seemingly reclaimable, in the hope of reforming him. An element of a great deal of romantic fiction is the heroine marrying (often with the desire to reform) the “baddies” — the charming scapegrace, dashing highwaymen, Byronic heroes, &c. In Georgette Heyer’s novels, for example, we are often called on to admire wicked men (a case in point is her novel The Black Moth).

In contrast to these, two novels come to mind: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. In the latter, the heroine, Helen, marries Arthur Huntingdon, a reckless and profligate young man. She believes that he is good, but has been led astray by bad companions. She hopes that she can reclaim him — if indeed he needs it. She tells her aunt,

“I should not wish to guide him; but I think I might have influence sufficient to save him from some errors, and I should think my life well spent in the effort to preserve so noble a nature from destruction. He always listens attentively now when I speak seriously to him (and I often venture to reprove his random way of talking), and sometimes he says that if he had me always by his side he should never do or say a wicked thing, and that a little daily talk with me would make him quite a saint. It may he partly jest and partly flattery .… If I do think there is any mixture of truth in it, it is not from confidence in my own powers, but in his natural goodness.” (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Ch. XVII)

Tenant publicity shot - Helen and Arthur Huntingdon

Helen’s aunt warns her, “That sounds presumptuous, Helen. Do you think you have enough [sense and principle] for both; and do you imagine your merry, thoughtless profligate would allow himself to be guided by a young girl like you?” But Helen insists, “till people can prove their slanderous accusations, I will not believe them. And I know this, that if he has committed errors, they are only such as are common to youth, and such as nobody thinks anything about; for I see that everybody likes him”. She lives to bitterly repent her error. Arthur behaves for a while, but then descends into drunkenness and, eventually, adultery.

Tenant publicity shot - Helen Huntingdon

In Mansfield Park, the heroine, Fanny Price, is desired to marry Henry Crawford, an unprincipled, selfish man. Fanny has watched him toy with the happiness of two of her cousins — gaining their affections simultaneously and then dumping first one and then the other. Does this sound like a man you would want to entrust your happiness to? And yet, Henry Crawford is very charming. He becomes more and more gentle, serious, and considerate, and he falls genuinely in love with Fanny. Because of what she has seen him do, Fanny distrusts him. When she tells her cousin Edmund that Henry’s disposition and character are such that she does not think they are suited to one another, Edmund protests that Henry only lacks a little seriousness — and that his wife might supply. Fanny, however, understandably shrinks from the task of reforming her husband. “I would not engage in such a charge,” cried Fanny, in a shrinking accent; “in such an office of high responsibility!” (Mansfield Park, Ch. XXXV). She is proved right. Henry’s “reformation” proves to not be genuine, or at least not complete.

Mansfield publicity shot - Fanny Price with Henry Crawford

The point is that there are no guarantees that the person you marry will change. If only Fanny had married Henry, we might think, he would have been happy and good forever… perhaps. But, the marriage could have been at the sacrifice of Fanny. What if, having gained her, he had still regressed?

Mansfield publicity shot - Henry CrawfordUnlike Arthur Huntingdon’s, Henry’s relapse does not involve the misery of his wife, for Fanny continued to resist him. Yet many, including Jane Austen’s own sister, wish that Henry could have married Fanny. Jane Austen so well portrays Henry’s charm and the temptation to marry a woman to a man because he needs her for his reformation. Despite Arthur’s telling Helen that “a little daily talk with [her] would make him quite a saint”, neither he nor Henry Crawford really admit to themselves the need for repentance. Admitting oneself to be wrong is, I believe, the first step to changing for the better.

From our first introduction to Arthur Huntingdon, however, we suspect his “goodness”. Perhaps this is mainly because we do not meet him until after we have already met the hero, Gilbert Markham — a man who has gained Helen’s affections and whose character requires no change before he will be a suitable husband and father to her young son. (Remember that, in order to be good for a husband, a man must be good for a father too. The man you marry will be the father of your children.) I think that Anne Brontë’s novel is a good portrayal of the reasons against marrying a man in the hope of reforming him and Jane Austen’s is an excellent portrayal of the temptation to do so.

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Illustrations:

Publicity Shots from the 1996 adaptation of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with Tara Fitzgerald as Helen and Rupert Graves as Arthur Huntingdon.

Publicity Shots from the 2007 adaptation of Mansfield Park with Billie Piper as Fanny Price and Joseph Beattie as Henry Crawford.

“Yes, Vanity Is a Weakness Indeed”

I wrote in another post (“A Gratifying Proposal”) about a couple of similarities between Mr. Darcy (of Pride and Prejudice) and Mr. Crawford (of Mansfield Park). Both men are considered (and have vanity enough to consider themselves) great catches. Both perform a great service for the woman they love. (Darcy saves Lizzy’s sister Lydia’s character and Crawford helps William, Fanny’s brother, on in his profession.) Lately I have been thinking about further similarities between the two men.

Both believe that the woman they love must want to marry them. Mr. Darcy later tells Elizabeth, “What will you think of my vanity? I believed you to be wishing, expecting my addresses.” (P&P, Ch. 58). Even when Fanny refuses Mr. Crawford, he perseveres: “He had vanity, which strongly inclined him in the first place to think she did love him, though she might not know it herself” (MP, Ch. XXXIII).

It is also interesting that both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Crawford change because of the woman they love. Mr. Darcy becomes more polite, humble. Mr. Crawford becomes more gentle and serious — less flippant. Still, there is a difference. Darcy’s change is, we are led to believe, permanent. He makes an effort to show Elizabeth, “by every civility in my power, that I was not so mean as to resent the past; and I hoped to obtain your forgiveness, to lessen your ill opinion, by letting you see that your reproofs had been attended to. How soon any other wishes introduced themselves I can hardly tell, but I believe in about half an hour after I had seen you,” he adds (P&P, Ch. 58). Elizabeth observes the change in Darcy.

“[S]he heard an accent so removed from hauteur or disdain of his companions, as convinced her that the improvement of manners which she had yesterday witnessed however temporary its existence might prove, had at least outlived one day. When she saw him thus seeking the acquaintance and courting the good opinion of people with whom any intercourse a few months ago would have been a disgrace … the difference, the change was so great, and struck so forcibly on her mind, that she could hardly restrain her astonishment from being visible. Never … had she seen him so desirous to please, so free from self-consequence or unbending reserve, as now” (P&P, Ch. 44)

Mr. Darcy himself admits that he has changed, and, what is more, that he needed to change.

“I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. … I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves … allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such … I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” (P&P, Ch. 58)

Mr. Darcy was always a good man, as Elizabeth tells him.

“Now be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence? …. The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you.” (P&P, Ch. 60)

Because of his good principles, Darcy’s improvement has a better chance of lasting, and we have no reason to think that it does not — though his transformation is not complete, for, as Lizzy observes, “he had yet to learn to be laughed at” (P&P, Ch. 58).

Crawford’s reformation, on the other hand, does not endure. His temporary change was apparent. Fanny observes it. “[H]is continued attentions—continued, but not obtrusive, and adapting themselves more and more to the gentleness and delicacy of her character—obliged her very soon to dislike him less than formerly. She had by no means forgotten the past, and she thought as ill of him as ever; but she felt his powers: he was entertaining; and his manners were so improved, so polite, so seriously and blamelessly polite” (MP, Ch. XXIV). She continues to notice improvement in Mr. Crawford. When she sees him in Portsmouth, “she thought him altogether improved since she had seen him; he was much more gentle, obliging, and attentive to other people’s feelings than he had ever been at Mansfield; she had never seen him so agreeable—so near being agreeable; his behaviour to her father could not offend, and there was something particularly kind and proper in the notice he took of Susan. He was decidedly improved.” (MP, Ch. XLI).

If he had persevered uprightly, the change may have become genuine (instead of assumed), but his habit of doing whatever he felt like doing was too strong, and he fell, running away with another man’s wife. He lacked the good principles that Darcy had. “[R]uined by early independence and bad domestic example, [Crawford] indulged in the freaks of a cold-blooded vanity a little too long.” When invited to meet Mrs. Rushworth again, “Curiosity and vanity were both engaged, and the temptation of immediate pleasure was too strong for a mind unused to make any sacrifice to right” (MP, Ch. XLVIII).

In the end, Mr. Darcy overcomes his pride and vanity, while Mr. Crawford “was entangled by his own vanity” (MP, Ch. XLVIII).

 

A Gratifying Proposal: Mr. Darcy vs. Mr. Crawford

In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bennet’s youngest sister, Lydia, runs away with the unscrupulous George Wickham, disgracing her family. Unknown to Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy tracks down Wickham and bribes him to marry Lydia, a proceeding which causes Darcy a great deal of mortification, as he detests Wickham, and money — possibly an entire year’s income. He does this because he feels responsible for not having exposed Wickham’s true character before, and to make Elizabeth happy. He did not, however, intend for Elizabeth to know of his role in bringing the marriage about, lest it cause her uneasiness. (Elizabeth discovers it through her aunt.) Shortly afterwards, Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth and is accepted.

In Mansfield Park, Henry Crawford also does something that makes the woman he loves grateful to him by helping someone in her family. He introduces Fanny Price’s beloved brother William, a midshipman, to his uncle, Admiral Crawford. Henry tells Fanny, “My uncle … has exerted himself, as I knew he would, after seeing your brother.” Admiral Crawford uses his influence to get William made a lieutenant. Fanny is overjoyed. Unlike Mr. Darcy, however, Henry Crawford does this to excite Fanny’s gratitude. He tells Fanny what he has done, and attempts to use her gratitude to secure her acceptance to his marriage proposal.

Mr. Darcy is an upright, honourable, generous man, while Mr. Crawford is devious and manipulative. Still, for different reasons, the proposals of either man could be considered flattering. Mr. Darcy is described as “so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour” (Ch. 5). On the occasion on which the Bennets first meet him, “Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year” (Ch. 3). After she refuses Mr. Darcy’s first proposal, Elizabeth feels that,

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection …. That she should receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy! That he should have been … [s]o much in love as to wish to marry her in spite of all the objections which had made him prevent his friend’s marrying her sister, and which must appear at least with equal force in his own case—was almost incredible! It was gratifying to have inspired unconsciously so strong an affection. (P&P, Ch. 34)

Sir Thomas is disagreeably surprised when he finds that his niece Fanny intends to refuse Henry Crawford. He tells Fanny,

“Here is a young man … with everything to recommend him: not merely situation in life, fortune, and character, but with more than common agreeableness, with address and conversation pleasing to everybody …. a young man of sense, of character, of temper, of manners, and of fortune, exceedingly attached to you, and seeking your hand in the most handsome and disinterested way; and let me tell you, Fanny, that you may live eighteen years longer in the world without being addressed by a man of half Mr. Crawford’s estate, or a tenth part of his merits.” (MP, Ch. XXXII).

Crawford’s sister, Mary, thinks that Fanny should be flattered by her brother’s proposal for another reason.

“Ah! I cannot deny …. [h]e has now and then been a sad flirt, and cared very little for the havoc he might be making in young ladies’ affections. I have often scolded him for it, but it is his only fault; and there is this to be said, that very few young ladies have any affections worth caring for. And then, Fanny, the glory of fixing one who has been shot at by so many; of having it in one’s power to pay off the debts of one’s sex! Oh! I am sure it is not in woman’s nature to refuse such a triumph.” (MP, Ch. XXXVI)

Fanny disagrees. She tells Mary, “I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman’s feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of” (Ch. XXXVI).

Elizabeth and Fanny both refuse these “great catches”, for about the same reasons — they do not love them and do not think well of their characters. Fanny, of course, has the additional reason that she is in love with someone else (a much more principled man than Mr. Crawford), and Elizabeth, in due course, finds that her opinion of Mr. Darcy was unjust, falls in love with him, and accepts his second proposal.

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Illustrations:

Illustrations by C. E. Brock (1870 – 1938).

First Impressions of Mansfield Park

“How wonderful, how very wonderful the operations of time, and the changes of the human mind!” — Fanny Price (Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, Chapter XXII)

I was looking through some of my old school papers and came across some writing that I did about Mansfield Park when I was between ten and eleven years old. I’m not sure whether I was writing about the book or the 1983 miniseries — probably the miniseries. The writing is riddled with misspellings and other mistakes. Obviously, I meant that Miss Crawford was Henry’s sister. I wrote that Henry Crawford marries Maria, that Lady Bertram is emotional (I’m not sure what I thought that word meant), and that Fanny was energetic. I called Sir Thomas, Sir Bertran, and had the mistaken notion that Henry Crawford was handsome. Alas for human wisdom at ten!

Caraistics of Mansfield Park

Mrs. Aunt Noris          May 4, 19—

Aunt Noris is Fanny Prices’ Aunt. She always wants what is best for herself. She orders Fanny about. She thinks ordering people about make her look better. She is Selfish, Self-Centerd, Arrogent, and she is a Miser.

Example #1: Fanny is going to visit her Family. Her Aunt Noris (trying to make people think she cares about her sister, Fanny’s mother) thinks she might go with Fanny. But after Lady Bertram (Fanny’s other Aunt) reminds Aunt Noris that she must pay her own way back, Aunt Noris changes her mind imiditly. She does not care about her poor sister (Fanny’s mother). This shows that she is self-centerd. She is trying to make her living on her rich sister (Lady Bertran).

Mr. Henry Crawford          May 5, 19—

Mr. Crawford wants all girls to be in love with him. He flurts with one girl while a while ago he was asking Fanny to marry him. He is dishonist, unloyle, rich, and handsome. Girls think he is just wonderful. He ends up running away with a married girl. Her husband divorses her. Henry dicides to marry her instead of Fanny.

Miss Crawford          May 5, 19—

Miss Crawford is Henry’s brother. She is Fanny’s friend, but she diseeves Fanny. Most People are diseeved by her, but Fanny suspecs her of tricking her. She is kind, dishonest, beutifull, tricky, rich, Friendly, and funny.

Sir Bertran          May 6, 19—

Sir Bertran is Fanny’s Uncle. He is very rich. He has good judgement. He is kind and handsome. He maneges the Family estate very well. He loves his family and takes care of them.

Lady Bertran          May 6, 19—

” is Fanny’s Aunt and Sir Bertran’s wife. She kind, gental, beutiful, graceful, emotional, loving, lazy, and funny.

Fanny Price          May 7, 19—

Fanny Price is the main charectur in Mansfield Park. She is Kind, beutiful, graceful, emotional, loving, gental, loyal, Friendly, unselfish, and energetic. She loves to ride horses. She reads aloud to her Aunt, Lady Bertran. Her cousin, Edmund, reads aloud to her. She studies with him. She is always ready to do anything she can to help (even her Aunt Noris). She is obedient. She will obey anyone when she thinks they are right. Like Sir Bertran, her Uncle, she has good judgement. In the End Of the Story Fanny marries Edmund