Links: January 2017 — Catch-up Edition

During my long hiatus from blogging here, I read a lot of posts about Mansfield Park. Here is a collection of them:

Jane Austen’s Microcosm: Grumpy husbands, silly wives, and schemes of happiness: real marriages in Jane Austen’s novels; By Monica Descalzi

— A discussion of marriages in Jane Austen’s novels. Mrs. Grant features amongst the array.

Jane Austen’s Microcosm: Nine children and a very small income: How poor are the Prices?; By Monica Descalzi

— About the Prices’ lifestyle. Although they aren’t about Mansfield Park, here are a couple more interesting articles from the same blog: ‘Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint’ and ‘Lady Novelists: Anna Lefroy’s and Charlotte Brontë’s opinions of Emma’.

Miranda Writes: In Defense of Fanny Price; By mirhawk13

— “It is difficult for rectitude of mind to survive in a setting where it is continually downtrodden. Strength of mind and strength of conviction are both necessary to the survival of principle. In a setting where one’s values and ideals are constantly being reaffirmed and upheld by one’s companions, it’s easy to hang on to those values.”

The Guardian: Move over Lizzie Bennet – let’s hear it for the unsung heroine; By John Mullan, et al.

— “Yet in creating a heroine condemned to suffer in secret and powerlessly to watch the follies of others, Austen managed something as audacious as the invention of Elizabeth Bennet.”

Femnista: The Vanity of Mrs. Norris; By Lianne M. Bernardo

— “She may not possess nefarious magical powers used for ill. She may not live in an eerie castle or have a deadly criminal past. Her goal in life is not world domination. But …”

The Spindle of Necessity: What can Jane Austen show us about the 21st Century?; By Christopher Sanderson

— “Today, it seems as if human emotion is a mere shadow of what it once was in Austen’s time.”

Wuthering Expectations: Why is Mansfield Park Jane Austen’s best book?; By Amateur Reader (Tom)

— “Characters in Pride and Prejudice talk about each other; characters in Mansfield Park talk about apricots, cream cheeses, necklaces, whether the turkey needs to be cooked tonight, horses, who gets to sit in which seat of the carriage, and which child gets to play with the knife.”

Lady Disdain Notes: Austen & Me, Then & Now; By Lady Disdain

— This one doesn’t actually have a whole lot about Mansfield Park in particular, but the comparison of the author’s initial and current perspectives on Jane Austen’s novels was intriguing.

The Telegraph: Susanna Clarke introduces her choice for December: ‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen; By Susanna Clarke

— I found this article by Susanna Clarke (known as the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) after reading the post ‘Subversive Heroines’ on Old-Fashioned Fruitcake by Deborah Markarios.

The Curious Archaeologist: Reconstructing the Regency — The Red Books of Humphry Repton; By gordon759

— This article includes some before and after pictures of Humphry Repton’s work. Repton is the real-life landscape gardener mentioned in Mansfield Park.

Girl with Whimsy: Current Read: Mansfield Park; By Marie

— Someone just starting to read Mansfield Park. She continued on to write ‘Character Study: Fanny Price’, ‘What Jane’s Novels Are Made Of (According to One Geeky Reviewer)’, and ‘Things Jane Taught Me’. (Here’s another interesting one, though it doesn’t mention Mansfield Park: ‘Controversial Characters: Emma Woodhouse’.)

Bookheathen’s Right to Read: Mansfield Park; By Bookheathen

— “It is a story about people, about their merits and flaws, and about how they react to society’s claims on them.”

Stories from the Past: Falling for Fanny – Guest post by Leenie Brown

— About adoption and gratitude.

Rather Mundane: Mansfield Park; By JDANM

— “[H]ave any of you read Mansfield Park and (which is the rarity) enjoyed the novel and liked the heroine, Fanny Price?”

My Journal of Imaginary People: Mansfield Park and Good Villains; By hellmouthtvreview

— “I loved the book, most of all, for its villains.”

The little white attic: Fanny and Anne & Reading, misreading Mansfield Park; By Di

— Two articles about Fanny Price and Mansfield Park. The second one links to several more posts the author has written about Mansfield Park.

Sarah Emsley ~ writer & editor: Fanny Price, Mind Reader & Fanny Price as a Student of Shakespeare; By Joyce Tarpley & John Baxter respectively

— Two posts from Sarah Emsley’s celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentennial.

Kimberly Truesdale: A Modern “Mansfield Park” in “Holidays With Jane: Spring Fever”; By Kim

— A bit about the author’s retelling of Mansfield Park, along with a bit about her inspiration.

Book Perfume: Jane Austen’s Rascals: Ranked; By Stephanie Burns

— Henry Crawford makes a list of Jane Austen’s rogues and rascals.

Lizzy Reads Books: In defense of Mansfield Park; By Lizzy

— A recommendation of Mansfield Park.

Jane Austen's Signature

Disclaimer: I do not necessarily endorse or agree with everything contained in these posts (or the blogs that they are on). I have linked to them to them simply because I enjoyed reading them or found them otherwise interesting.

Links: December 2016

Here are some articles that I have read over the past months and found interesting. Enjoy!

The purposes of women’s education: a look at Mansfield Park and Emma (Blog: Jane Austen’s Microcosm)

Falling for Fanny (Blog: Stories from the Past)

Let’s All Give Edmund Bertram a Break (Blog: janeaustenandcompany)

In Defense of Fanny Price: Why You Don’t Like Mansfield Park as Much as You Should (Blog: Carrots for Michaelmas)

In Defense of Fanny Price (Blog: The little white attic)

Jane Austen's Signature

Disclaimer: I do not necessarily endorse or agree with everything contained in these posts (or the blogs that they are on). I have linked to them to them simply because I enjoyed reading them or found them otherwise interesting.

Happily Ever After

This is seventh in a series of guest posts written by “Sophie” of A Reasonable Quantity of Butter in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentennial.

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Squashed into the epilogue of ‘Mansfield Park’ is the marriage of Edmund and Fanny. Although Fanny’s and Edmund’s romance is quite bland in comparison with the excitement in the rest of the novel, I think the couple had an excellent chance of achieving a “happily ever after”. They shared an attitude and philosophy of life as well as interests and pastimes. This, combined with mutual trust, could create a solid base for their life together.

Happily Ever AfterBeyond this, their marriage could strengthen both Edmund and Fanny individually. Because Fanny fully supported Edmund’s career, Edmund could gain confidence in his work. As Fanny was not accustomed to expensive gaieties and luxuries she would not weigh him down with discontent.

For Fanny, marriage to Edmund meant taking on a high position in a new community. As  the wife of a clergyman, her duties of hospitality and charity could help her develop confidence and authority, especially practiced among strangers.

I imagine Fanny and Edmund star-gazing, reading, visiting the poor, and raising children together. What reasons do you think would make them a happy couple?

Misguided Concealment

This is sixth in a series of guest posts written by “Sophie” of A Reasonable Quantity of Butter in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentennial.

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In many novels, much of the drama revolves around a concealment. These passages are especially irksome because great harm often comes from the concealment, and it would be so simple for the informed character to say something and avert the catastrophe.

Often these concealments arise from some romantic fancy. In Far From the Madding Crowd, Gabriel Oak conceals Sergeant Troy’s former relationship from Bathsheba out of a mistaken sense of obligation to Fanny Robin. In Bleak House, Lady Dedlock conceals her past from her husband, even though speaking out would completely disarm her enemy, because she fears losing her husband’s esteem. Other characters feel that it would be wrong to speak ill of someone, even when not speaking injures another person—a person who really has a right to know.

Whereas I have come to expect misguided concealments in novels such as those by Dickens and Hardy, I was surprised to meet one in Mansfield Park.1 Happily, it has no effect on the outcome of the story, but it is still there!

Fanny Price keeps important information from Edmund. As Edmund’s only confidant, she knows that, although he is deeply in love with Mary Crawford, several things would keep him from proposing to her: Mary’s love of money, love of prestige, and contempt for Edmund’s profession. In fact, these did at one point decide Edmund against marrying her. After his ordination, he purposely stayed away from Mansfield to avoid seeing Mary, intending to return only after she left.

Fanny is uncertain as to how much Mary’s fondness for Edmund may have overcome her worldly notions, and she must, in any case, leave Edmund to his own judgment. What good would it do to convey doubts and suspicions to a mind accustomed to excusing them? And what right had she to do so—would it not be only indulging her own envy?

But while in Portsmouth, Fanny receives confirmation of her fears in writing from Mary.2 There, in Mary’s own handwriting, is evidence that she loves money and position in society to the point of wishing Edmund’s brother dead, and looks forward to Edmund’s profession being concealed as a past disgrace!

Despite any attending awkwardness, I think Fanny should have forwarded Mary’s letter to Edmund. He had a right to know.

***

1There is a misguided concealment in Emma, which is crucial to the plot, but Austen handles it much differently than the other authors mentioned. Also, in Pride and Prejudice, Jane and Elizabeth choose not to publish Wickham’s true character because he is leaving soon.

2“Poor young man! If he is to die, there will be two poor young men less in the world; and with a fearless face and bold voice would I say to any one, that wealth and consequence could fall into no hands more deserving of them. It was a foolish precipitation last Christmas [Edmund’s ordination], but the evil of a few days may be blotted out in part. Varnish and gilding hide many stains. It will be but the loss of the Esquire after his name. With real affection, Fanny, like mine, more might be overlooked.”—Mansfield Park, Chapter XLV

If Only

This is fifth in a series of guest posts written by “Sophie” of A Reasonable Quantity of Butter in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentennial.

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37th copyMansfield Park is a tragedy. Its readers often exclaim, “If only!”

The “if only” usually refers to the marriages of Fanny & Henry, Mary & Edmund. What happiness for them all! What fun for the readers to enjoy Henry’s and Mary’s felicity, and to see Fanny and Edmund learn to laugh at themselves, as Mr. Darcy did in Pride and Prejudice.

But this is impossible. As Austen wrote the story, tragedy was inevitable. Although she convinces us that Fanny and Henry could be truly happy together, she states that Fanny would only have married Henry after “a reasonable period from Edmund’s marrying Mary.”1 And, sadly, it seems that Edmund and Mary would not have been happy together.

In contrast to Henry, who, within a short time of falling in love with Fanny, began to change his actions2, Mary did not change for love of Edmund, although her affection continued for many months. In conversation, Henry moderated his tone and topics to Fanny, but Mary sharpened her tongue against Edmund. She ridiculed his principles rather than trying to understand them.

Also, Mary despised Edmund’s profession and would have been discontent with his income. Whereas marriage to Fanny would have been Henry’s moral salvation, marriage to Mary would have been Edmund’s moral condemnation. And Henry’s moral salvation—through Fanny, at least—could only happen by that sacrifice of Edmund.

And we all know what happens when neither of these couples marry. A tragedy.3

***

1Chapter 48, Mansfield Park.

2I chose “actions” as distinct from “principles”. Henry did think about serious subjects more seriously while courting Fanny, but ultimately did not change his principles.

3Although Edmund did suffer deeply, this was a tragedy primarily for the Henry and Mary, as, ultimately, Fanny and Edmund lived happily ever after.

Fanny Was Right

This is third in a series of guest posts written by “Sophie” of A Reasonable Quantity of Butter in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentennial.

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“[Sir Thomas’s] displeasure against herself she trusted . . . would now be done away. She should be justified. Mr. Crawford would have fully acquitted her conduct in refusing him”1

To Sir Thomas, Henry’s and Maria’s elopement vindicated Fanny’s refusal. In this, Sir Thomas’s judgment was shallow. Fanny did not reject Henry because she foresaw scandal and disgrace. Henry did not need to be wicked enough to run off with someone else’s wife in order to be a bad choice for Fanny. Her refusal was formed on standards which Sir Thomas did not share and events of which he was not aware. These standards needed no later proof to validate them.

26th copyAt the time of Henry’s proposal, Fanny’s knowledge of him was overwhelmingly bad. At almost every meeting, Henry flirted and trifled with an engaged woman—a circumstance which Sir Thomas never learned of. Henry also spoke flippantly about matters which should have commanded his respect. When Fanny said, “I cannot approve his character. . . . I am persuaded that he does not think, as he ought, on serious subjects”2 she had every reason to think so. It would have been foolish to entrust herself, and any children she might have, to such a man, no matter how rich or charming he was.

There was also the fact that Fanny did not love Henry. Among the characters, Sir Thomas alone would disagree that it is wrong to marry someone you do not love. When Edmund tells Fanny, “You did not love him; nothing could have justified your accepting him”3, he is only saying what most people would believe. Even worldly-minded Mary and Henry censure any woman who, “would ever give her hand without her heart.”4 Marrying without love is a wrong not only against yourself, but also against the one you marry.5 To marry Henry when she was in love with another would have been doing him a double wrong.6

Not only did Fanny not love Henry, she did not even like him. His society was irksome to her—both as a suitor and as a friend.“His attentions were always—what I did not like”7 & “his spirits often oppress me”.8 This is the only reason for rejecting Henry that Fanny felt comfortable telling her uncle. But Sir Thomas did not understand the nature of liking: “There is something in this which my comprehension does not reach.”9,10

Fanny’s rejection of Henry is not evidence that she was a prig or a prophet. Rather, it shows that she had common sense and common justice. No matter how imperfect her knowledge of him was, or how he may have changed afterward, Fanny was right to refuse Henry.

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1Mansfield Park, ch. 47

2Ibid., ch. 35

3Ibid., ch. 35

4Ibid., ch. 5

5Austen censures Rushworth for marrying a woman who he knows doesn’t love him:

“[Maria] had despised him, and loved another; and he had been very much aware that it was so. The indignities of stupidity, and the disappointments of selfish passion, can excite little pity. His punishment followed his conduct,” ch. 48

6Austen’s characters do not marry out of a silly sense of duty, especially when their hearts are otherwise engaged (not like Laura Fairly in The Woman in White).

7Mansfield Park, ch. 32

8Ibid., ch. 35

9His speech continues, “Here is a young man wishing to pay his addresses to you, 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. And he is not an acquaintance of to-day; you have now known him some time.”, ch. 32

10I am reminded of Aunt Stanbury in He Knew He Was Right: “I never heard of such a thing in my life. Not love him! And why shouldn’t you love him? He’s a gentleman. Everybody respects him. He’ll have plenty to make you comfortable all your life!”

Well-Suited

Today is the last day of May, but it is not the end of Mansfield Park’s bicentennial year. This is a guest post by “Sophie” of A Reasonable Quantity of Butter. She is writing several more guest posts in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentennial, which will be posted throughout June. Also check out other continuing celebrations.

Each time I read Mansfield Park, I am disappointed that Fanny and Henry do not marry. Henry is charming and lively, and becomes down-right attractive when he starts to take life seriously. Fanny and he really seem to make a good couple. Austen took care that her readers would feel this way.

22nd copyThe first glimpse of this is after the proposal, when the family is sitting in the drawing room after dinner. Henry reads aloud, and his reading is so compelling that all Fanny’s determination to ignore him fails her, and her eyes are fixed on him. “His acting had first taught Fanny the pleasure a play might give, and his reading brought all his acting before her again . . . with greater enjoyment.”1 Considering that Fanny’s pleasures in life were few, shared literary taste was a strong tie.

Afterwards, when Fanny talks over Henry’s proposal with Edmund, he says, “[Henry] is lively, you are serious; but so much the better: his spirits will support yours.”2 Although the remark stems from Edmund’s infatuation with Mary, we at once see the justice of it. Fanny needs someone who can make her laugh and can help her stand up to the Aunt Norrises of the world. And Henry needs someone whose sobriety and stability could keep him from the errors of hasty action. Their temperaments complement each other.

In Portsmouth, Fanny discovers that Henry shares her love of nature: “They often stopt with the same sentiment and taste, . . . he was sufficiently open to the charms of nature, and very well able to express his admiration.”3 Fanny had often felt that others did not share her fascination, and that Edmund was her only companion in this, but in Henry she found another sympathizer.

While talking together, Henry points out to Fanny that they have a common interest in the poor. While her interest stems chiefly from compassion, his is steadied by a sense of justice and good management. “It was pleasing to hear him speak so properly; here he had been acting as he ought to do. To be the friend of the poor and the oppressed! Nothing could be more grateful to her . . .”4

Henry also shows during his visit to Portsmouth that he would work well with Fanny’s family. He respects them even when they are not respectable, and shows an instinctive delicacy towards Fanny’s feelings regarding them. When he is gone, Fanny reflects how much she would like to be able to invite her sister to live with her, and she “could fancy his entering into a plan of that sort most pleasantly.”5

Paradoxically, Austen takes as many pains before Henry’s proposal to prove that Fanny and Henry were ill-suited, as she takes afterward to prove them well-suited. And then she turns and destroys the castle in the air that she was building.

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1Chapter XXXIV

2Chapter XXX, I am not suggesting that spouses are morally responsible for the actions of each other, only that good couples are better together than apart. Good couples grow together in great part by helping each other grow.

3Chapter XLI

4Ibid.

5Chapter XLIV