It Is Curious: A Quotation from Nabokov

All of the Bertrams dine at the parsonage. After dinner while their elders play whist, the younger people, with Lady Bertram, play the card game Speculation. Henry has by chance ridden by Edmund’s future parsonage at Thornton Lacey and, being much impressed with the house and grounds, presses Edmund to make a number of improvements, just as he had done in the case of the Rushworth estate. It is curious how improvements of grounds go together with Henry Crawford’s flirtations. Both are functions of the idea of planning, of scheming. Earlier it was Rushworth’s place he was to improve, and he planned to seduce Rushworth’s fiancée Maria. But now it is Edmund’s future residence, and now he is planning to conquer Edmund’s future wife, Fanny Price. He urges that he be allowed to rent the house so that “he might find himself continuing, improving, and perfecting that friendship and intimacy with the Mansfield Park family which was increasing in value to him every day.” He is rebuffed in a friendly fashion by Sir Thomas, who explains that Edmund will not be living at Mansfield when he has taken orders, now only a few weeks away, but will be looking after his parishioners in residence at Thornton Lacey. (Henry had never conceived that Edmund would not delegate his pastoral duties.) His insistence that the house can be made not into a mere parsonage but into a gentleman’s residence interests Mary Crawford. All this talk is artistically interlinked with the game of cards they are playing, Speculation, and Miss Crawford, as she bids, speculates whether or not she should marry Edmund, the clergyman. This reechoing of the game by her thoughts recalls the same interplay between fiction and reality that had been found in the rehearsal chapter when she was playing Amelia to Edmund’s Anhalt before Fanny. This theme of planning and scheming, linked up with improvements of grounds, rehearsals, card games, forms a very pretty pattern in the novel.

from Lectures on Literature, by Vladimir Nabokov (emphasis mine).


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