*-Delineates text from the original novel. Courtesy of Austen.com
This year, Janeites around the world will celebrate and debate the novel that is Mansfield Park, as they have done for 2 centuries.
Austen begins the novel with the introduction of the Ward sisters.
*-About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income. All Huntingdon exclaimed on the greatness of the match, and her uncle, the lawyer, himself, allowed her to be at least three thousand pounds short of any equitable claim to it. She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation; and such of their acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria, did not scruple to predict their marrying with almost equal advantage. But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them. Miss Ward, at the end of half a dozen years, found herself obliged to be attached to the Rev. Mr. Norris, a friend of her brother-in-law, with scarcely any private fortune, and Miss Frances fared yet worse. Miss Ward’s match, indeed, when it came to the point, was not contemptible, Sir Thomas being happily able to give his friend an income in the living of Mansfield, and Mr. and Mrs. Norris began their career of conjugal felicity with very little less than a thousand a year. But Miss Frances married, in the common phrase, to disoblige her family, and by fixing on a Lieutenant of Marines, without education, fortune, or connections, did it very thoroughly.
The novel’s heroine, Fanny Price is the eldest daughter of the youngest Miss Ward. At the age of 10, she is taken from her family home to Mansfield Park, where she is raised. She is family, but not a daughter of the house and treated as such. Eight years later, Henry and Mary Crawford walk into Mansfield Park and catch the eyes of Fanny’s cousins.
I won’t give the rest of the novel away if you haven’t read it.
Mansfield Park is her longest novel, the theme is not as clear cut as her other novels. It could be about slavery, it could be about following your own heart vs. society’s rules, it could be about appearances vs. reality. Fanny is not witty like Elizabeth Bennet, confident like Emma Woodhouse or sensible like Elinor Dashwood. She is meek, almost a hypochondriac. She could be labelled by some as priggish. She is financially, the poorest of the Austen heroines and dependent on her aunt and uncle.
Happy Birthday, Mansfield Park