her life. She relished her return to the countryside and, with it, a renewed artistic vigor that led to the revision of her early novels. Sense and Sensibility, a reworking of "Elinor and Marianne," was published in 1811, followed by Pride and Prejudice, a reworking of "First Impressions," two years later.
Table of Contents
From the Pages of Mansfield Park
The World of Jane Austenand Mansfield Park
Inspired by Mansfield Park
For Further Reading
From the Pages of
'Give a girl an education, and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody.' (page 6)
'An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged; no harm can be done.'
The politeness which she had been brought up to practise as a duty made it impossible for her to escape; while the want of that higher species of self-command, that just consideration of others, that knowledge of her own heart, that principle of right which had not formed any essential part of her education, made her miserable under it. (page 80)
'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.' (page 84)
'A clergyman has nothing to do but to be slovenly and selfish--read the newspaper, watch the weather, and quarrel with his wife. His curate does all the work, and the business of his own life is to dine.' (page 97)
'Where an opinion is general, it is usually correct.' (page 97)
'There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control!' (pages 180-181)
'A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. It certainly may secure all the myrtle and turkey part of it.' (page 184)
'Human nature needs more lessons than a weekly sermon can convey.' (page 215)
To her, the cares were sometimes almost beyond the happiness; for, young and inexperienced, with small means of choice, and no confidence in her own taste--the "how she should be dressed" was a point of painful solicitude. (page 220)
'A sermon, well delivered, is more uncommon even than prayers well read.' (page 295)
She saw nobody in whose favour she could wish to overcome her own shyness and reserve. The men appeared to her all coarse, the women all pert, everybody underbred. (page 343)
The indignities of stupidity, and the disappointments of selfish passion, can excite little pity. (page 403)
Published by Barnes & Noble Books
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Mansfield Park was first published in three volumes in 1814.
Published in 2004 by Barnes & Noble Classics with new Introduction,
Notes, Biography, Chronology, Inspired By, Comments & Questions,
and For Further Reading.
Introduction, Notes, and For Further Reading
Copyright (c) 2004 by Amanda Claybaugh.
Note on Jane Austen, The World of Jane Austen and Mansfield Park,
Inspired by Mansfield Park, and Comments & Questions
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The English novelist Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, the seventh of eight children, in the Parsonage House of Steventon, Hampshire, where she spent her first twenty-five years. During her brief lifetime Austen witnessed political unrest, revolution, war, and industrialization, yet these momentous events are not the central subjects of her finely focused novels. Rather, Austen wrote of her immediate experience: the microcosm of the country gentry and its class-conscious insularity. Jane's father, the Reverend George Austen, was the erudite country rector of Steventon, and her mother, Cassandra (nee Leigh), was descended from an aristocratic line of learned clergymen. By no means wealthy, the Austens nonetheless enjoyed a comfortable, socially respectable life, and greatly prized their children's education.
Jane and her beloved elder (and only) sister, Cassandra, were schooled in Southampton and Reading for a short period, but most of their education took place at home. Private theatrical performances in the barn at Steventon complemented Jane's studies of French, Italian, history, music, and eighteenth-century fiction. An avid reader from earliest childhood, Jane began writing at age twelve, no doubt encouraged by her cultured and affectionate family. Indeed, family and writing were her great loves; despite a fleeting engagement in 1802, Austen never married. Her first two novels, "Elinor and Marianne" and "First Impressions," were written while at Steventon but never published in their original form.
Following her father's retirement, Jane moved in 1801 with her parents and sister to Bath. That popular watering hole, removed from the country life Jane preferred, presented the sociable young novelist with a wealth of observations and experience that would later emerge in her novels. Austen moved to Southampton with her mother and sister after the death of her father in 1805. Several years later the three women settled in Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, where Austen resided until the end of
Austen completed four more novels (Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion) in the Chawton sitting room. Productive and discreet, she insisted that her work be kept secret from anyone outside the family. All of her novels were published anonymously, including the posthumous release, thanks to her brother Henry, of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
The last years of Austen's life were relatively quiet and comfortable. Her final, unfinished work, Sanditon, was put aside in the spring of 1817, when her health sharply declined and she was taken to Winchester for medical treatment of what appears to have been Addison's disease or a form of lymphoma. Jane Austen died there on July 18, 1817, and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
The World of Jane Austen
and Mansfield Park
1775 The American Revolution begins in April. Jane Austen is born on December 16 in the Parsonage House in Steventon, Hampshire, England, the seventh of eight children (two girls and six boys)
1778 Frances (Fanny) Burney publishes Evelina, a seminal work in the development of the novel manners.
1781 German philosopher Immanuel Kant publishes his Critique of pure reason.
1782 The American Revolution ends. Fanny Burney's novel Cecilia is published.
1783 Cassandra and Jane Austen begin their formal education in Southampton, followed by study in Reading.
1788 King George III of England suffers his first bout of mental illness, leaving the country in a state of uncertainty and anxiety. George Gordon, Lord Byron, is born.
1789 George III recuperates. The French Revolution begins. William Blake's Songs of innocence is published.
1791 American political philosopher Thomas Paine publishes the first part of the Rights of Woman.
1792 Percy Bysshe Shelley is born. Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
1793 A shock wave passes through Europe with the execution of King Louis XVI of France and, some months later, his wife, Marie-Antoinette; the Reign of Terror begins. England declares war on France. Two of Austen's brothers, Francis (1774-1865) and Charles (1779-1852), serve in
the Royal Navy, but life in the countryside of Steventon remains relatively tranquil.
1795 Austen begins her first novel, "Elinor and Marianne,"written as letters (the fragments of his early work are now lost); she will later revise the material to become the novel Sense and Sensibility. John Keats is born.
1796- Austen authors a second novel, "First Impression,"
1797 which was never published; it will later become Pride and Prejudice.
1798 Poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth publish the Lyrrical Ballads.
1801 Jane's father, the Reverend George Austen, retires, and with the Napoleonic Wars looming in the background of British conciousness, he and his wife and two daughters leave the quiet country life of Steventon for the bustling fashionable town Bath. Many of the characters and depictions of society in JAne Austen subsequent novels are shaped by her experiences in Bath.
1803 Austen receives her first publication offer for her novel "Susan," but the manuscript is subsequently returned ny the publisher; it will later be revised and released as Northanger Abbey. The United States buys Louisana from France. Ralph Waldo Emmerson is born.
1804 Napoleon crowns himself emperor of France. Spain declares war on britain.
1805 Jane's father dies. Jane and her mother and sister subsequently move to southampton. Sir Walter Scott publishes his Lay of the Last Minstrel.
1809 After Several years of travelling and short-term stays in various towns, the Austen women settle in Chawton Cottage in Hampshire; in the parlor of this house Austen quietly composes her most famous works. Chales Darwin and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, are born.
1811 Austen begins Mansfield Park in February. In November Sense and Sensibility, the romantic misadventures of two sisters, is published with the notation "By a Lady"; all of Austen's subsquent novels are also brought out anonymously. George III is declared insane, and the morally
corrupt Prince Wales (the future King George IV) becomes regent.
1812 Fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and the first parts of Lord Byron's Child Harold are published. The United States declared war on Great Britain.
1813 Pride and Prejudice is published; it describes the conflict between the high-spirited daughter of a country gentleman and a wealthy landowner. Napoleon is exiled to Elba, and the Bourbons restored are restored to power.
1814 Mansfield Park is published; it is the story of the difficult though ultimately rewarded life of a poor relation who lives in the house of her wealthy uncle.
1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo.
1816 Austen's comic novel Emma is published; it centers on the heroine's misguided attempts at matchmaking. Charlotte Bronte is born.
1817 Austen begins the satiric novel Sandition, but abandons it because of declining health. She dies on July 18 in Winchester and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
1818 Northanger Abbey, a social satire with overtones of (parodied) terror, and Persuasion,, about a reawakened love, are published under Austen's brother Henry's supervision.
Mary Crawford is, or so it seems, the very model of a Jane Austen heroine. Spirited, warm-hearted, and, above all else, witty, she displays all the familiar Austen virtues, and she stands in need of the familiar Austen lessons as well. Like Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice (1813), she banters archly with the man she is falling in love with, and, like Elizabeth, she must learn to set aside her preconceptions in order to recognize that love. Like Emma Woodhouse, the heroine of Emma (1816), she speaks more brilliantly and speculates more dazzlingly than anyone around her, and, like Emma, she must learn to rein in the wit that tempts her at times to impropriety. But Mary Crawford is not the heroine of Mansfield Park (1814)--Fanny Price is, and therein lies the novel's great surprise. For Fanny differs not merely from Mary, but also from our most basic expectations of what a novel's protagonist should do and be. In Fanny, we have a heroine who seldom moves and seldom speaks, and never errs or alters.
"'I must move,"' Mary announces, "'resting fatigues me'" (p. 85). Before her arrival at Mansfield, she had made a glamorous circuit of winters in London and summers at the country houses of friends, with stops at fashionable watering places in between, and at Mansfield she is no less mobile. A vigorous walker, she soon takes up riding, cantering as soon as she mounts. Fanny, by contrast, has hardly left the grounds of Mansfield since her arrival eight years before, and she is further immobilized by her weakness and timidity. A half-mile walk is beyond her, a ball, she fears, will exhaust her, and she is prostrated by headache after picking roses. She must be lifted onto the horse she was long too terrified to approach, and her exercise consists of being led by a groom.
"'Now, do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat,'" says Mary to her listeners, who have not, in fact, caught the joke at all (p. 54). So dazzling a talker is Mary that she must serve as her own best audience, amusing herself with witticisms the others cannot hear. With a keener eye and a sharper tongue than those around her, Mary sets her words dancing alongside the inanities, vulgarities, and hypocrisies that make up the other characters' speech. Fanny, by contrast, barely speaks at all, and when she does, it is in the silencing language of moral certainty. "'Very indecorous,'" Edmund says of Mary's far more captivating discourse, and Fanny is quick to agree and contribute a judgment of her own: "'and very ungrateful'" (p. 56). There is little that can be said after that.
'"I will stake my last like a woman of spirit,'" Mary proclaims in the midst of a card game that Fanny had been reluctant to play at all (p. 210). Mary wins the hand, only to find that it has c
ost her more than it was worth, and, in doing so, she reminds us that to act is necessarily to risk being wrong. Fanny, by contrast, is always right. "'Fanny is the only one who has judged rightly throughout'" (pp. 162)--this is Edmund Bertram speaking to Sir Thomas in the aftermath of the theatricals, but it could just as properly be the narrator at the novel's end. The language of Fanny's right judgment suggests, however, that her moral certainty is a function of her passivity: "'No, indeed, I cannot act,'" she had insisted (p. 128), and the double meaning of "acting" suggests that Fanny knows not to "act" in a theatrical sense because she never really "acts" at all.
It is in the contrast between Fanny and Mary that we can most clearly see that Mansfield Park is, in the words of the critic Tony Tanner, "a novel about rest and restlessness, stability and change--the moving and the immovable" (Jane Austen, p. 145; see "For Further Reading"). Mansfield Park is hardly the only Austen novel to take as its subject matter a pair of opposed terms, but typically these terms stand in a dynamic relation to one another, each altering the other until a proper synthesis or balance is achieved. In Sense and Sensibility (1811), for instance, the rational Elinor Dashwood and her romantic sister Marianne must each learn from the other to moderate her mode of feeling; similarly, Mr. Darcy must modify his pride and Elizabeth, her prejudice before marriage can unite them. Other of Austen's novels draw careful distinctions within a single term, as when Persuasion (1818) establishes a continuum from the most laudable to the most lamentable instances of conforming to the wishes of others. Mansfield Park stands alone in this regard, for it unequivocally endorses one set of terms and unequivocally condemns the other. Rest has, in this novel, nothing to learn from restlessness, and restlessness can in no way be redeemed.