Austen’s Opposites

This is eighth (and last) 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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As an admirer of Jane Austen, I am fascinated by her ability to expand her skills as a writer. In each novel, without varying her exquisite prose style, she set a new challenge for herself.

Austen's Opposites 1After writing the sparkling and satirical Pride and Prejudice, she determined to write something more serious. In Mansfield Park, she designed away all sparkle from her hero and heroine. Neither Edmund nor Fanny are witty, nor do either possess brilliant accomplishments or buoyant spirits. Instead of writing comedy, Austen turned to tragedy. What many readers complain of in Mansfield Park, I see as Austen’s genius.

Some readers also complain of Austen’s next novel, Emma. Although happy that Austen returned to comedy, they bemoan the story’s lack of action. “Nothing happens!”, they exclaim. The marriages in the book all cement the couples in their former stations. (Even Jane Fairfax’s marriage enables her to stay in the station in which she had been raised.) Every scene takes place in Highbury, whence the heroine has famously never traveled!

Austen's Opposites 2In contrast, Mansfield Park is overflowing with action. The characters are constantly coming and going. The young people explore Sotherton and act a play. Every few chapters something changes. And at the end, everything is shaken up from what it could likely have been from the beginning.

I think this busyness explains the monotony of Emma. Austen wanted to try something new. What if she wrote a story in which nothing really happened?

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Illustrations by Hugh Thomson of Dr. Grant and Fanny Price in Mansfield Park and Mr. Weston, Miss Taylor, and Emma Woodhouse in Emma.

Jane Austen Sighting

Pride and Prejudice BrockHSLDA’s Home School Heartbeat radio program suggested some Valentine’s Day studies geared toward older students. Their “Aspects of Love” interview briefly discusses some love stories from great literature — Homer, The Divine Comedy, The Faerie Queen, and, of course, Pride and Prejudice! Transcripts and audio for the program can be found here. The discussion of Pride and Prejudice begins at about 3:49 in the audio.

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Illustration by C. E. Brock from Pride and Prejudice.

Matrimony Was Her Object

Pop quiz: One of the following quotations describes Mr. Rushworth of Mansfield Park, and the other describes Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice. Which is which?

a: “He was a tall, heavy-looking young man of five-and-twenty.”

b: “He was a heavy young man, with not more than common sense”

C E Brock Mr Rushworth and Mr Collins

Jane Austen obviously considered affection an important requirement for marriage. Not all of her characters share their creator’s values, however. Maria Bertram of Mansfield Park marries Mr. Rushworth, a man for whom she entertains no warmer sentiment than contempt, and Charlotte Lucas of Price and Prejudice marries Mr. Collins, whose society she finds irksome. Maria and Charlotte thought alike in several ways, though with some important differences and from dissimilar backgrounds. So, without further ado, Maria Bertram versus Charlotte Lucas:

MP H M Brock Miss Bertram and Mr Rushworth (left)“Being now in her twenty-first year, Maria Bertram was beginning to think matrimony a duty; and as a marriage with Mr. Rushworth would give her the enjoyment of a larger income than her father’s, as well as ensure her the house in town, which was now a prime object, it became, by the same rule of moral obligation, her evident duty to marry Mr. Rushworth if she could.” (MP, Ch. 4)

“Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her [Charlotte Lucas’s] object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it.” (P&P, Ch. 22)

“Mr. Rushworth was from the first struck with the beauty of Miss Bertram, and, being inclined to marry, soon fancied himself in love. He was a heavy young man, with not more than common sense; but as there was nothing disagreeable in his figure or address, the young lady was well pleased with her conquest.” (MP, Ch. 4)

“Charlotte herself was tolerably composed. She had gained her point, and had time to consider of it. Her reflections were in general satisfactory. Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband.” (P&P, Ch. 22)

“In all the important preparations of the mind she [Maria] was complete: being prepared for matrimony by an hatred of home, restraint, and tranquillity; … and contempt of the man she was to marry.” (MP, Ch. 21)

P&P H M Brock Miss Lucas and Mr Colins“The whole [Lucas] family … were properly overjoyed on the occasion. The younger girls formed hopes of coming out a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the boys were relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid. …

“‘[W]hen you have had time to think it over, I hope you will be satisfied with what I [Charlotte] have done. I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.’” (P&P, Ch. 22)

And were Maria and Charlotte happy? When Elizabeth Bennet goes to visit her friend Charlotte, she observes, “When Mr. Collins said anything of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom, … in general Charlotte wisely did not hear. … When Mr. Collins could be forgotten, there was really an air of great comfort throughout [the house], and by Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must be often forgotten.” (P&P, ch. 28). While few, I suppose, would wish to obtain enjoyment and comfort only by forgetting their husbands, Maria fairs even worse. She runs away with another man. “She hoped to marry him, and they continued together till she was obliged to be convinced that such hope was vain, and till the disappointment and wretchedness arising from the conviction rendered her temper so bad, and her feelings for him so like hatred, as to make them for a while each other’s punishment, and then induce a voluntary separation.” (MP, ch. 48). Moral of the story: Don’t marry someone you don’t love.

Oh, and if you didn’t find the answers to the pop quiz in the quotations above, “a” is Mr. William Collins (see P&P, Ch. 13) and “b” is Mr. James Rushworth (see MP, Ch. 4).

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Illustrations: Mr. Rushworth and Mr. Collins by C. E. Brock (top), Maria Bertram and Mr. Rushworth by H. M. Brock (center), Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins by H. M. Brock (bottom).

Sometimes How Quick to Feel!

Mary Crawford is a controversial figure in Mansfield Park. Many have compared her to Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. The two characters are similar in their liveliness, their wit, and their playfulness — all in contrast to the heroine of Mansfield Park, who is quiet, reserved, and even solemn. Why, some have asked, is Mary condemned for possessing the same qualities as Elizabeth?

The answer is, she isn’t. Mary isn’t judged for her liveliness, her wit, her playfulness, or her charm — she is judged for her moral failings, for her “faults of principle”, her “blunted delicacy” and her “corrupted, vitiated mind” (Ch. XLVII).

Elizabeth Bennet, when she sought to clear Mr. Wickham from the charges Mr. Darcy made against him, was unable to.

His countenance, voice, and manner had established him at once in the possession of every virtue. She tried to recollect some instance of goodness, some distinguished trait of integrity or benevolence, that might rescue him from the attacks of Mr. Darcy; or at least, by the predominance of virtue, atone for those casual errors under which she would endeavour to class what Mr. Darcy had described as the idleness and vice of many years’ continuance. But no such recollection befriended her. She could see him instantly before her, in every charm of air and address; but she could remember no more substantial good than the general approbation of the neighbourhood, and the regard which his social powers had gained him in the mess. (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 36)

Those who read Mansfield Park, however, can find not only Mary Crawford’s charm, but also “some instance of goodness”, for Mary is not all bad. Her liveliness and wit are not always directed towards people or subjects which ought to be respected. Edmund’s exclamation about Miss Crawford describes her well: “Sometimes how quick to feel!” (Ch. XLVII).

She is sorry for Fanny Price, and often kind to her and considerate of her.

“I am afraid you are very tired, Fanny,” said Edmund, observing her; “why would not you speak sooner? This will be a bad day’s amusement for you if you are to be knocked up. Every sort of exercise fatigues her so soon, Miss Crawford, except riding.”

“How abominable in you, then, to let me engross her horse as I did all last week! I am ashamed of you and of myself, but it shall never happen again.” (Ch. IX)

When Mrs. Norris berates Fanny for not taking part in the play — “I shall think her a very obstinate, ungrateful girl, if she does not do what her aunt and cousins wish her — very ungrateful, indeed, considering who and what she is.” (Ch. XV) — Miss Crawford,

looking for a moment with astonished eyes at Mrs. Norris, and then at Fanny, whose tears were beginning to shew themselves, immediately said, with some keenness, “I do not like my situation: this place is too hot for me,” and moved away her chair to the opposite side of the table, close to Fanny, saying to her, in a kind, low whisper, as she placed herself, “Never mind, my dear Miss Price, this is a cross evening: everybody is cross and teasing, but do not let us mind them”; and with pointed attention continued to talk to her and endeavour to raise her spirits, in spite of being out of spirits herself. By a look at her brother she prevented any farther entreaty from the theatrical board, and the really good feelings by which she was almost purely governed were rapidly restoring her to all the little she had lost in Edmund’s favour. (Ch. XV)

This action of Miss Crawford’s leads Edmund to say to Fanny, “She never appeared more amiable than in her behaviour to you last night. It gave her a very strong claim on my goodwill.” (Ch. XVI). Many readers — including myself — feel the same.

When Dr. Grant invites Fanny into his house out of the rain, Miss Crawford finds that Fanny has never heard her play the harp.

It was beginning to look brighter, when Fanny, observing a harp in the room, asked some questions about it, which soon led to an acknowledgment of her wishing very much to hear it, and a confession, which could hardly be believed, of her having never yet heard it since its being in Mansfield. To Fanny herself it appeared a very simple and natural circumstance. She had scarcely ever been at the Parsonage since the instrument’s arrival, there had been no reason that she should; but Miss Crawford, calling to mind an early expressed wish on the subject, was concerned at her own neglect; and “Shall I play to you now?” and “What will you have?” were questions immediately following with the readiest good-humour.  (Chapter XXII)

She loves music, as she acknowledges to Edmund and Fanny. “I shall be most happy to play to you both,” said Miss Crawford; “at least as long as you can like to listen: probably much longer, for I dearly love music myself, and where the natural taste is equal the player must always be best off, for she is gratified in more ways than one.” (Ch. VI).

Mary is lively, good-humoured, entertaining, and feminine.

“Well, Fanny, and how do you like Miss Crawford now?” said Edmund the next day, after thinking some time on the subject himself. “How did you like her yesterday?”

“Very well—very much. I like to hear her talk. She entertains me; and she is so extremely pretty, that I have great pleasure in looking at her. … [But] 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. She is perfectly feminine, except in the instances we have been speaking of.” (Ch. VII)

She can be obliging. On one occasion, she is talking with Edmund and Fanny

when, being earnestly invited by the Miss Bertrams to join in a glee, she tripped off to the instrument, leaving Edmund looking after her in an ecstasy of admiration of all her many virtues, from her obliging manners down to her light and graceful tread.

“There goes good-humour, I am sure,” said he presently. “There goes a temper which would never give pain! How well she walks! and how readily she falls in with the inclination of others! joining them the moment she is asked.” (Ch. XI)

On another occasion,

Henry Crawford entered the room, fresh from the Parsonage, calling out, “No want of hands in our theatre, Miss Bertram. No want of understrappers: my sister desires her love, and hopes to be admitted into the company, and will be happy to take the part of any old duenna or tame confidante, that you may not like to do yourselves.”

Maria gave Edmund a glance, which meant, “What say you now? Can we be wrong if Mary Crawford feels the same?” And Edmund, silenced, was obliged to acknowledge that the charm of acting might well carry fascination to the mind of genius; and with the ingenuity of love, to dwell more on the obliging, accommodating purport of the message than on anything else. (Ch. XIII)

She is fond of her brother. “She speaks of her brother with a very pleasing affection” (Ch. VII), says Edmund, reflecting on some of Miss Crawford’s earlier conversation (Ch. VI). When she undertakes comforting Fanny after Mrs. Norris angrily scolds her for not obliging her cousins by acting in their play, Mary, by “a look at her brother … prevented any farther entreaty from the theatrical board” — showing their amiable relationship, and dependence on each other’s good-will and willingness to help each other.

She is capable of being tender.

“Yet, Fanny, do not imagine I would now speak disrespectfully of Sir Thomas, though I certainly did hate him for many a week. No, I do him justice now. He is just what the head of such a family should be. Nay, in sober sadness, I believe I now love you all.” And having said so, with a degree of tenderness and consciousness which Fanny had never seen in her before, and now thought only too becoming, she turned away for a moment to recover herself. “I have had a little fit since I came into this room, as you may perceive,” said she presently, with a playful smile, “but it is over now; so let us sit down and be comfortable; for as to scolding you, Fanny, which I came fully intending to do, I have not the heart for it when it comes to the point.” And embracing her very affectionately, “Good, gentle Fanny! when I think of this being the last time of seeing you for I do not know how long, I feel it quite impossible to do anything but love you.”

Fanny was affected. She had not foreseen anything of this, and her feelings could seldom withstand the melancholy influence of the word “last.” She cried as if she had loved Miss Crawford more than she possibly could; and Miss Crawford, yet farther softened by the sight of such emotion, hung about her with fondness, and said, “I hate to leave you. I shall see no one half so amiable where I am going. Who says we shall not be sisters? I know we shall. I feel that we are born to be connected; and those tears convince me that you feel it too, dear Fanny.” (Ch. XXXVI)

Her playfulness is disarming and charming.

“My dear Miss Price,” said Miss Crawford, as soon as she was at all within hearing, “I am come to make my own apologies for keeping you waiting; but I have nothing in the world to say for myself—I knew it was very late, and that I was behaving extremely ill; and therefore, if you please, you must forgive me. Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.” (Ch. VII)

“No part of it fatigues me but getting off this horse, I assure you,” said she, as she sprang down with [Edmund’s] help; “I am very strong. Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like. Miss Price, I give way to you with a very bad grace; but I sincerely hope you will have a pleasant ride, and that I may have nothing but good to hear of this dear, delightful, beautiful animal.” (Ch. VII)

“Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” ….

[Edmund] still reasoned with her, but in vain. She would not calculate, she would not compare. She would only smile and assert. The greatest degree of rational consistency could not have been more engaging, and they talked with mutual satisfaction. (Ch. IX)

She is energetic and spirited. ‘After sitting a little while Miss Crawford was up again. “I must move,” said she; “resting fatigues me.”’ (Ch. IX) The old coachman commented on Miss Crawford’s “great cleverness as a horse-woman”: “It is a pleasure to see a lady with such a good heart for riding!” said he. “I never see one sit a horse better. She did not seem to have a thought of fear.” (Ch. VII)

In the drawing-room Miss Crawford was also celebrated. Her merit in being gifted by Nature with strength and courage was fully appreciated by the Miss Bertrams; her delight in riding was like their own; her early excellence in it was like their own, and they had great pleasure in praising it. (Ch. VII)

And then, there is her affection for Edmund.

Edmund was beginning, at the end of a week of such intercourse, to be a good deal in love; and 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 any 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. She did not think very much about it, however: he pleased her for the present; she liked to have him near her; it was enough. (Ch. VII)

Fanny admits that Miss Crawford’s “attachment to Edmund had been respectable, the most respectable part of her character” (Ch. XLV).

Mary is shown to be both charming and amiable. What, then, are her faults?

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Notes:

This post is part of a series on the character Mary Crawford from Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park. The first post, ‘Sometimes How Quick to Feel!’, is about the good side of Mary’s character. The second two, ‘The Case Against Mary Crawford’, Part I and Part II, discuss Mary’s faults. The last post, ‘This Is What the World Does’, briefly considers how she became the woman that she was.

woman that she was.

Screencaps of the 2007 ITV production of ‘Mansfield Park’ with Hayley Atwell as Mary Crawford from angelfish_icons.

Sir Thomas Bertram & Mr. Bennet, Part II

Both Sir Thomas Bertram and Mr. Bennet have a daughter that runs away with a lover… and both refuse to countenance their daughters’ misconduct. Sir Thomas will not have Maria back to live at Mansfield Park after she finally leaves Mr. Crawford.

Where she [Maria] could be placed became a subject of most melancholy and momentous consultation. Mrs. Norris, whose attachment seemed to augment with the demerits of her niece, would have had her received at home and countenanced by them all. Sir Thomas would not hear of it …. Sir Thomas very solemnly assured her that … had there been no young person of either sex belonging to him, to be endangered by the society or hurt by the character of Mrs. Rushworth, he would never have offered so great an insult to the neighbourhood as to expect it to notice her. As a daughter, he hoped a penitent one, she should be protected by him, and secured in every comfort, and supported by every encouragement to do right, which their relative situations admitted; but farther than that he could not go. Maria had destroyed her own character, and he would not, by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, by affording his sanction to vice, or in seeking to lessen its disgrace, be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man’s family as he had known himself. (Ch. XLVIII)

As for Mr. Bennet, as Lydia was eventually married to the man she had run off with, her disgrace could not be so deep as that of Maria’s. Nonetheless, Mr. Bennet was determined not to have her and her husband living with his family. He even refused to give her money to buy wedding clothes.

Her husband allowed her [Mrs. Bennet] to talk on [about finding a house for Lydia and Wickham close by] without interruption while the servants remained. But when they had withdrawn, he said to her: “Mrs. Bennet, before you take any or all of these houses for your son and daughter, let us come to a right understanding. Into one house in this neighbourhood they shall never have admittance. I will not encourage the impudence of either, by receiving them at Longbourn.”

A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr. Bennet was firm. It soon led to another; and Mrs. Bennet found, with amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter. He protested that she should receive from him no mark of affection whatever on the occasion. Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it. That his anger could be carried to such a point of inconceivable resentment as to refuse his daughter a privilege without which her marriage would scarcely seem valid, exceeded all she could believe possible. She was more alive to the disgrace which her want of new clothes must reflect on her daughter’s nuptials, than to any sense of shame at her eloping and living with Wickham a fortnight before they took place. (P&P, Ch. 50)

Mr. Bennet is eventually persuaded to allow his daughter to visit his home before leaving for the North after her marriage, but further than that he will not go.

His daughter’s [Lydia’s] request, for such it might be considered, of being admitted into her family again before she set off for the North, received at first an absolute negative. But Jane and Elizabeth, who agreed in wishing, for the sake of their sister’s feelings and consequence, that she should be noticed on her marriage by her parents, urged him so earnestly yet so rationally and so mildly, to receive her and her husband at Longbourn, as soon as they were married, that he was prevailed on to think as they thought, and act as they wished. (P&P, Ch. 50)

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Apart from the similarities between their erring daughters, Sir Thomas and Mr. Bennet, for different reasons, find themselves changing their minds about the marriages of their “daughters”, Fanny Price and Elizabeth Bennet—to the entertainment of their neighbours. Mr. Bennet thinks that his daughter Elizabeth would never marry Mr. Darcy, and doesn’t wish her to, as he thinks she would be unhappy. When the idea is suggested to him by Mr. Collins, he tells Lizzy, “Had they fixed on any other man it would have been nothing; but his perfect indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd!” “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” he asks her teasingly (P&P, Ch. 57).

However, Elizabeth convinces him that she deeply loves Mr. Darcy, and he gives them permission to marry. “He then recollected her embarrassment a few days before, on his reading Mr. Collins’s letter; and after laughing at her some time, allowed her at last to go” (P&P, Ch. 59).

After his own daughters’ disgrace, Sir Thomas is done with mercenary plans. When his son Edmund falls in love with Sir Thomas’s niece Fanny, whom he had raised as his daughter, he approves, even though when he first thought to take her in, he had had some qualms because of his two sons. He had thought uneasily “of cousins in love, etc.” (Ch. I), but decides to take Fanny in anyway. Now, one of his sons is asking to marry this same Fanny, but by this time

It was a match which Sir Thomas’s wishes had even forestalled. Sick of ambitious and mercenary connexions, prizing more and more the sterling good of principle and temper, and chiefly anxious to bind by the strongest securities all that remained to him of domestic felicity, he had pondered with genuine satisfaction on the more than possibility of the two young friends finding their natural consolation in each other for all that had occurred of disappointment to either; and the joyful consent which met Edmund’s application, the high sense of having realised a great acquisition in the promise of Fanny for a daughter, formed just such a contrast with his early opinion on the subject when the poor little girl’s coming had been first agitated, as time is for ever producing between the plans and decisions of mortals, for their own instruction, and their neighbours’ entertainment. (Ch. XLVIII)

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Notes:

This post is a continuation of the post Sir Thomas Bertram & Mr. Bennet.

All chapter references labelled P&P refer to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The rest refer to Mansfield Park.

The pictures in this post are details of watercolor illustrations by C. E. Brock—the first being for an edition of Mansfield Park and the second for one of Pride and Prejudice.

Sir Thomas Bertram & Mr. Bennet

These were reflections that required some time to soften;

but time will do almost everything (Chapter XLVIII)

Both Sir Thomas Bertram and Mr. Bennet have a daughter that runs away with a lover. Maria Rushworth (née Bertram) leaves her husband and runs away with Henry Crawford, and Lydia Bennet runs off from Brighton with Mr. Wickam. Each of the fathers experiences regret because of their lack of care for their daughters. Sir Thomas did his best to care for his daughters, “but his cares had been directed to the understanding and manners, not the disposition; and of the necessity of self-denial and humility, he feared they had never heard from any lips that could profit them.”

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. …

Bitterly did he deplore a deficiency which now he could scarcely comprehend to have been possible. Wretchedly did he feel, that with all the cost and care of an anxious and expensive education, he had brought up his daughters without their understanding their first duties, or his being acquainted with their character and temper.

The high spirit and strong passions of Mrs. Rushworth, especially, were made known to him only in their sad result. (Ch. XLVIII)

All of the Bertrams suffer when Maria runs away, but “Sir Thomas, poor Sir Thomas, a parent, and conscious of errors in his own conduct as a parent, was the longest to suffer.” (Ch. XLVIII) “He felt that he ought not to have allowed the marriage [between his daughter and Mr. Rushworth]; that his daughter’s sentiments had been sufficiently known to him to render him culpable in authorising it; that in so doing he had sacrificed the right to the expedient” (Ch. XLVIII). However he is eventually comforted in his other children, finding that his daughter Julia’s husband was not as trifling as he had thought, that his son Tom regains health without “regaining the thoughtlessness and selfishness of his previous habits” and becomes useful and steady, and that his son Edmund, after “wandering about and sitting under trees with Fanny all the summer evenings”, improves so much in his spirits “as to be very tolerably cheerful again”.

These were the circumstances and the hopes which gradually brought their alleviation to Sir Thomas, deadening his sense of what was lost, and in part reconciling him to himself; though the anguish arising from the conviction of his own errors in the education of his daughters was never to be entirely done away. (Ch. XLVIII)

Mr. Bennet had “talents, which, rightly used, might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters” (P&P, Ch. 42), but, against his daughter Elizabeth’s advice, he sends Lydia to Brighton. Lizzy represents to him “all the improprieties of Lydia’s general behaviour” and points out that the temptations of Brighton “must be greater than at home” (P&P, Ch. 41), but he tells her, “Lydia will never be easy until she has exposed herself in some public place or other, and we can never expect her to do it with so little expense or inconvenience to her family as under the present circumstances.” (P&P, Ch. 41) So she goes, and the result is disaster for her and her family.

“My poor father! how he must have felt it!” Lizzy says after Lydia runs away. “I never saw anyone so shocked,” Jane tells her. “He could not speak a word for full ten minutes.” (P&P, Ch. 47) Mr. Bennet goes to London to search for Lydia, but returns without having found her.

When Mr. Bennet arrived, he had all the appearance of his usual philosophic composure. He said as little as he had ever been in the habit of saying; made no mention of the business that had taken him away, and it was some time before his daughters had courage to speak of it.

It was not till the afternoon, when he had joined them at tea, that Elizabeth ventured to introduce the subject; and then, on her briefly expressing her sorrow for what he must have endured, he replied, “Say nothing of that. Who should suffer but myself? It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it.”

“You must not be too severe upon yourself,” replied Elizabeth.

“You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is so prone to fall into it! No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough.” ….

Then after a short silence he continued:

“Lizzy, I bear you no ill-will for being justified in your advice to me last May, which, considering the event, shows some greatness of mind.”  (P&P, Ch. 48)

Mr. Bennet’s brother-in-law, Mr. Gardiner, is in London when Lydia is found, and is party to arranging a marriage between her and Mr. Wickam.

Mr. Bennet had very often wished before this period of his life that, instead of spending his whole income, he had laid by an annual sum for the better provision of his children, and of his wife, if she survived him. He now wished it more than ever. Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia need not have been indebted to her uncle for whatever of honour or credit could now be purchased for her. The satisfaction of prevailing on one of the most worthless young men in Great Britain to be her husband might then have rested in its proper place.

He was seriously concerned that a cause of so little advantage to anyone should be forwarded at the sole expense of his brother-in-law, and he was determined, if possible, to find out the extent of his assistance, and to discharge the obligation as soon as he could. (P&P, Ch. 50)

Both fathers make mistakes in the upbringing of their children—and suffer for it. However, the deep-feeling Sir Thomas did his best for his children, whereas Mr. Bennet makes little attempt to see that his children have proper guidance. They both suffer, but in different degrees and for different lengths of time. Sir Thomas, whose conduct had been less reprehensible, suffered much more and for much longer than Mr. Bennet, whose behavior had been much more blameworthy, in that he had not even striven to do the best he could for his daughters. Mr. Bennet, a “true philosopher”, after recovering from the initial blow, faces his situation with as much humor as can be found in it.

“He is as fine a fellow,” said Mr. Bennet [of Mr. Wickham, his new son-in-law], as soon as they were out of the house, “as ever I saw. He simpers, and smirks, and makes love to us all. I am prodigiously proud of him. I defy even Sir William Lucas himself to produce a more valuable son-in-law.” (P&P, Ch. 53)

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Notes: All chapter references labelled P&P refer to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The rest refer to Mansfield Park. The pictures in this post are of Sir Thomas Bertram and his wife, Lady Bertram, played by Bernard Hepton and Angela Pleasence, in the 1983 adaptation of ‘Mansfield Park’, and of Mr. Bennet, played by Benjamin Whitrow, in the 1995 version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

A continuation of this post is here: Sir Thomas Bertram & Mr. Bennet, Part II.

A Cheat

It was impossible for her to be insensible of Mr. Crawford’s change of manners. She had long seen it. He evidently tried to please her: he was gallant, he was attentive, he was something like what he had been to her cousins: he wanted, she supposed, to cheat her of her tranquillity as he had cheated them . . . (Mansfield Park, Chapter XXVI)

A Cheat is “a person who behaves dishonestly in order to gain an advantage” (New Oxford American Dictionary, 2005-2007 Apple Inc.); “a person who cheats; one guilty of fraud by deceitful practices” (American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, 1828). To cheat is to “deceive by any artiface, trick or device, with a view to gain an advantage contrary to common honesty”, “to impose on, to trick” (American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, 1828). Mr. Willoughby cheats at cards when he falls in love with Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility: “When he was present she had no eyes for any one else. Every thing he did, was right. Every thing he said, was clever. If their evenings at the park were concluded with cards, he cheated himself and all the rest of the party to get her a good hand.” (Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Chapter 11)

Did Henry Crawford cheat Maria and Julia Bertram of their tranquility as John Willoughby cheated Marianne of hers? Well, Willoughby and Marianne let their feelings run away with them to such an extent, that Willoughby was able to do much more damage to Marianne than Crawford did to either of the Bertram girls—at least at first. Crawford, in courting two women—one of them engaged—right under the eyes of their mother, aunt, brothers, and the fiancé of one of them, (not to mention each other), was forced to be much more discreet.

Mr. Crawford did not mean to be in any danger: the Miss Bertrams were worth pleasing, and were ready to be pleased; and he began with no object but of making them like him. He did not want them to die of love; but with sense and temper which ought to have made him judge and feel better, he allowed himself great latitude on such points. (Mansfield Park, Chapter V).

The season and duties which brought Mr. Bertram back to Mansfield took Mr. Crawford into Norfolk. Everingham could not do without him in the beginning of September. He went for a fortnight—a fortnight of such dullness to the Miss Bertrams as ought to have put them both on their guard, and made even Julia admit, in her jealousy of her sister, the absolute necessity of distrusting his attentions, and wishing him not to return; and a fortnight of sufficient leisure, in the intervals of shooting and sleeping, to have convinced the gentleman that he ought to keep longer away, had he been more in the habit of examining his own motives, and of reflecting to what the indulgence of his idle vanity was tending; but, thoughtless and selfish from prosperity and bad example, he would not look beyond the present moment. The sisters, handsome, clever, and encouraging, were an amusement to his sated mind; and finding nothing in Norfolk to equal the social pleasures of Mansfield, he gladly returned to it at the time appointed, and was welcomed thither quite as gladly by those whom he came to trifle with further.

Maria, with only Mr. Rushworth to attend to her, and doomed to the repeated details of his day’s sport, good or bad, his boast of his dogs, his jealousy of his neighbours, his doubts of their qualifications, and his zeal after poachers, subjects which will not find their way to female feelings without some talent on one side or some attachment on the other, had missed Mr. Crawford grievously; and Julia, unengaged and unemployed, felt all the right of missing him much more. Each sister believed herself the favourite. Julia might be justified in so doing by the hints of Mrs. Grant, inclined to credit what she wished, and Maria by the hints of Mr. Crawford himself. Everything returned into the same channel as before his absence; his manners being to each so animated and agreeable as to lose no ground with either, and just stopping short of the consistence, the steadiness, the solicitude, and the warmth which might excite general notice.

Fanny was the only one of the party who found anything to dislike; but since the day at Sotherton, she could never see Mr. Crawford with either sister without observation, and seldom without wonder or censure; . . . (Mansfield Park, Chapter XII).

Crawford hurt the Bertram girls in varying degrees. When Julia finds out that he prefers her sister, this is what is written about her feelings:

Julia was a sufferer . . . . Henry Crawford had trifled with her feelings; but she had very long allowed and even sought his attentions, with a jealousy of her sister so reasonable as ought to have been their cure; and now that the conviction of his preference for Maria had been forced on her, she submitted to it without any alarm for Maria’s situation, or any endeavour at rational tranquillity for herself. She either sat in gloomy silence, wrapt in such gravity as nothing could subdue, no curiosity touch, no wit amuse; or allowing the attentions of Mr. Yates, was talking with forced gaiety to him alone, and ridiculing the acting of the others. (Mansfield Park, Chapter XVII).

However, it is later said of Julia,

She had submitted the best to the disappointment in Henry Crawford. After the first bitterness of the conviction of being slighted was over, she had been tolerably soon in a fair way of not thinking of him again; and when the acquaintance was renewed in town, and Mr. Rushworth’s house became Crawford’s object, she had had the merit of withdrawing herself from it, and of chusing that time to pay a visit to her other friends, in order to secure herself from being again too much attracted. (Mansfield Park, Chapter XLVIII).

Maria, on the other hand, has a much more passionate nature than Julia. She actually expected to marry Crawford. When he came to visit the Bertrams before leaving for Bath, Maria’s feelings are expressed:

A few moments of feverish enjoyment were followed by hours of acute suffering. Henry Crawford was again in the house . . . . and Maria saw with delight and agitation the introduction of the man she loved to her father. Her sensations were indefinable, and so were they a few minutes afterwards upon hearing Henry Crawford, who had a chair between herself and Tom, ask the latter in an undervoice whether there were any plans for resuming the play after the present happy interruption (with a courteous glance at Sir Thomas), because, in that case, he should make a point of returning to Mansfield at any time required by the party: he was going away immediately, being to meet his uncle at Bath without delay; but if there were any prospect of a renewal of Lovers’ Vows, he should hold himself positively engaged, he should break through every other claim, he should absolutely condition with his uncle for attending them whenever he might be wanted. The play should not be lost by his absence. … Maria, who wanted neither pride nor resolution, was preparing to encounter her share of it [this conversation] with tolerable calmness.

To her he soon turned, repeating much of what he had already said, with only a softened air and stronger expressions of regret. But what availed his expressions or his air? He was going, and, if not voluntarily going, voluntarily intending to stay away; for, excepting what might be due to his uncle, his engagements were all self-imposed. He might talk of necessity, but she knew his independence. The hand which had so pressed hers to his heart! the hand and the heart were alike motionless and passive now! Her spirit supported her, but the agony of her mind was severe. She had not long to endure what arose from listening to language which his actions contradicted, or to bury the tumult of her feelings under the restraint of society; for general civilities soon called his notice from her, and the farewell visit, as it then became openly acknowledged, was a very short one. He was gone—he had touched her hand for the last time, he had made his parting bow, and she might seek directly all that solitude could do for her. Henry Crawford was gone, gone from the house, and within two hours afterwards from the parish; and so ended all the hopes his selfish vanity had raised in Maria and Julia Bertram. (Mansfield Park, Chapter XX).

Later, Crawford, despite being in love with Fanny Price, attempts to “make Mrs. Rushworth Maria Bertram again in her treatment of himself”:

In this spirit he began the attack, and by animated perseverance had soon re-established the sort of familiar intercourse, of gallantry, of flirtation, which bounded his views; but in triumphing over the discretion [of Maria Rushworth] which, though beginning in anger, might have saved them both, he had put himself in the power of feelings on her side more strong than he had supposed. She loved him; there was no withdrawing attentions avowedly dear to her. He was entangled by his own vanity, with as little excuse of love as possible, and without the smallest inconstancy of mind towards her cousin. (Mansfield Park, Chapter XLVIII).

He runs away with Maria. Her father attempts to induce her to leave Crawford, but

She was not to be prevailed on to leave Mr. Crawford. She hoped to marry him, and they continued together till she was obliged to be convinced that such hope was vain, and till the disappointment and wretchedness arising from the conviction rendered her temper so bad, and her feelings for him so like hatred, as to make them for a while each other’s punishment, and then induce a voluntary separation.

She had lived with him to be reproached as the ruin of all his happiness in Fanny, and carried away no better consolation in leaving him than that she had divided them. What can exceed the misery of such a mind in such a situation? (Mansfield Park, Chapter XLVIII).

Here Crawford is here able to hurt Maria in a way that Willoughby did not hurt Marianne.

She [Marianne] felt the loss of Willoughby’s character yet more heavily than she had felt the loss of his heart; his seduction and desertion of Miss Williams, the misery of that poor girl, and the doubt of what his designs might once have been on herself, preyed altogether so much on her spirits, that she could not bring herself to speak of what she felt even to Elinor; and, brooding over her sorrows in silence, gave more pain to her sister than could have been communicated by the most open and most frequent confession of them. (Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 32)

Willoughby, of course, intended to marry Marianne, until it became near financial ruin for him to do so, and so he abandons her. Actually, he begins by

“. . . trying to engage her regard, without a thought of returning it.—But one thing may be said for me [Willoughby]: even in that horrid state of selfish vanity, I did not know the extent of the injury I meditated, because I did not then know what it was to love. But have I ever known it?—Well may it be doubted; for, had I really loved, could I have sacrificed my feelings to vanity, to avarice?—or, what is more, could I have sacrificed hers?— But I have done it. To avoid a comparative poverty, which her affection and her society would have deprived of all its horrors, I have, by raising myself to affluence, lost every thing that could make it a blessing.” (Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 44).

Marianne is not the first woman Willoughby paid attentions to without any intention of being faithful to. He seduced Colonel Brandon’s ward, Eliza Williams, and then left her, never returning. Willoughby admits, “Her affection for me deserved better treatment, and I often, with great self-reproach, recall the tenderness which, for a very short time, had the power of creating any return. I wish—I heartily wish it had never been.” (Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 44).

In Emma, Frank Churchill pays attentions to Emma Woodhouse that he has no intention of fulfilling—he is in love with and engaged to another. When his engagement becomes known, Emma tells Mr. Knightley, “He has imposed on me, but he has not injured me.” (Emma, Chapter XIII). However, Frank Churchill, notwithstanding how wrongly he acted, never meant to engage Emma’s affections. As Emma says, “He never wished to attach me. It was merely a blind to conceal his real situation with another.—It was his object to blind all about him; and no one, I am sure, could be more effectually blinded than myself—except that I was not blinded—that it was my good fortune—that, in short, I was somehow or other safe from him.” (Emma, Chapter XIII). Frank Churchill writes to his step-mother to explain the circumstances of his secret engagement, and mentions Emma:

“With the greatest respect, and the warmest friendship, do I mention Miss Woodhouse; my father perhaps will think I ought to add, with the deepest humiliation.— A few words which dropped from him yesterday spoke his opinion, and some censure I acknowledge myself liable to.—My behaviour to Miss Woodhouse indicated, I believe, more than it ought.— In order to assist a concealment so essential to me, I was led on to make more than an allowable use of the sort of intimacy into which we were immediately thrown.—I cannot deny that Miss Woodhouse was my ostensible object—but I am sure you will believe the declaration, that had I not been convinced of her indifference, I would not have been induced by any selfish views to go on.— Amiable and delightful as Miss Woodhouse is, she never gave me the idea of a young woman likely to be attached; and that she was perfectly free from any tendency to being attached to me, was as much my conviction as my wish.—She received my attentions with an easy, friendly, goodhumoured playfulness, which exactly suited me. We seemed to understand each other. From our relative situation, those attentions were her due, and were felt to be so.—Whether Miss Woodhouse began really to understand me before the expiration of that fortnight, I cannot say;—when I called to take leave of her, I remember that I was within a moment of confessing the truth, and I then fancied she was not without suspicion; but I have no doubt of her having since detected me, at least in some degree.— She may not have surmised the whole, but her quickness must have penetrated a part. I cannot doubt it. You will find, whenever the subject becomes freed from its present restraints, that it did not take her wholly by surprize. She frequently gave me hints of it. I remember her telling me at the ball, that I owed Mrs. Elton gratitude for her attentions to Miss Fairfax.— I hope this history of my conduct towards her will be admitted by you and my father as great extenuation of what you saw amiss. While you considered me as having sinned against Emma Woodhouse, I could deserve nothing from either. Acquit me here, and procure for me, when it is allowable, the acquittal and good wishes of that said Emma Woodhouse, whom I regard with so much brotherly affection, as to long to have her as deeply and as happily in love as myself.” (Emma, Chapter XIV).

This, of course, does not excuse Frank’s behaviour. He himself admits later in his letter, “I behaved shamefully. And here I can admit, that my manners to Miss W., in being unpleasant to Miss F., were highly blameable. She disapproved them, which ought to have been enough.—My plea of concealing the truth she did not think sufficient.—She was displeased; I thought unreasonably so: …. But she was always right.” (Emma, Chapter XIV).

In Pride and Prejudice, George Wickham persuades Georgiana Darcy to believe herself in love with him. Mr. Darcy writes to Elizabeth,

“I must now mention a circumstance which I would wish to forget myself, and which no obligation less than the present should induce me to unfold to any human being. Having said thus much, I feel no doubt of your secrecy. My sister, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of my mother’s nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself. About a year ago, she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for her in London; and last summer she went with the lady who presided over it, to Ramsgate; and thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design; for there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived; and by her connivance and aid, he so far recommended himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse; and after stating her imprudence, I am happy to add, that I owed the knowledge of it to herself. I joined them unexpectedly a day or two before the intended elopement, and then Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving and offending a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged the whole to me. You may imagine what I felt and how I acted. Regard for my sister’s credit and feelings prevented any public exposure; but I wrote to Mr. Wickham, who left the place immediately, and Mrs. Younge was of course removed from her charge. Mr. Wickham’s chief object was unquestionably my sister’s fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a strong inducement. His revenge would have been complete indeed.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 35).

Later Wickham pays attentions to Elizabeth Bennet and then to Miss King, solely for mercenary reasons. When Elizabeth learns of his behaviour to Miss Darcy, she conjectures,

His attentions to Miss King were now the consequence of views solely and hatefully mercenary; and the mediocrity of her [Elizabeth’s] fortune proved no longer the moderation of his wishes, but his eagerness to grasp at anything. His behaviour to herself could now have had no tolerable motive; he had either been deceived with regard to her fortune, or had been gratifying his vanity by encouraging the preference which she believed she had most incautiously shown. (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 36).

And then, the perfidious Wickham ends by running away with Elizabeth’s sister Lydia without any intention of marrying her. Darcy, upon discovering the whereabouts of Wickham, thinks, “it only remained . . . to secure and expedite a marriage, which, in his [Darcy’s] very first conversation with Wickham, he easily learnt had never been his design” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 52).

What were Henry Crawford’s intentions toward Fanny Price? When his sister learns that he plans to make Fanny Price in love with him she exclaims, “Fanny Price! Nonsense! No, no. You ought to be satisfied with her two cousins.” He replies,

“But I cannot be satisfied without Fanny Price, without making a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart. … I will not do her any harm, dear little soul! I only want her to look kindly on me, to give me smiles as well as blushes, to keep a chair for me by herself wherever we are, and be all animation when I take it and talk to her; to think as I think, be interested in all my possessions and pleasures, try to keep me longer at Mansfield, and feel when I go away that she shall be never happy again. I want nothing more.” (Mansfield Park, Chapter XXIV).

Instead of harming Fanny’s heart, however, Crawford falls in love with her himself. He tells his sister, “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, Chapter XXX). But Fanny has every reason to think ill of Crawford’s principles, and has no intention of marrying him. Her distrust of him is justified when he runs away with Maria. When Edmund comes to love Fanny, she is able to give him a heart totally committed to himself alone. When he finds that Fanny did not love Crawford, Edmund is relieved. “‘Thank God,’ said he. ‘We were all disposed to wonder, but it seems to have been the merciful appointment of Providence that the heart which knew no guile should not suffer.’” (Mansfield Park, Chapter XLVII).