The Passionate, Evocative Passages
in Jane Austen's Novels
The Second Page - Mansfield Park
November 2, 2000
Last Updated: May 20, 2001
By Linda, with contributions
from Ashton Dennis
Many people will explain to you that Jane Austen wrote nothing about romance or passion; the worst examples of this view are the petty remarks of Charlotte Bronte. We disagree, we believe that there was a deeply passionate side to Jane Austen. Perhaps Jane Austen's oldest brother, James Austen, said it best when he wrote this about his sister:
On such subjects no wonder that she shou'd write well,
In whom so united those Qualities dwell;
Where 'dear Sensibility', Sterne's darling Maid,
With Sense so attemper'd is finely portray'd
Fair Elinor's self in that Mind is exprest,
And the Feelings of Marianne live in that Breast,
Everyone points to the humor in our Lady's novels—the humor and the intricate logic. These seem to fuel the enduring interest in Jane Austen's novels, but the passionate feelings and the range of emotions are important too. This sensibility is not noticed as often as the other qualities, but its pull is as strong because it is closer to our hearts, and so it controls our tides and provides the mixing so that the more obvious qualities are better blended. This web page is devoted to those passages in the novels that evoke our strongest feelings. We purposely allow the sensibilities to eclipse those other qualities, to shade our view from the extreme brightness of the humor and the good sense in order better to view the passion and the sensibility.
You can move from here to the evocative passages of Mansfield Park, or advance to the "passionate passages" of
| Emma | Northanger
Abbey | Persuasion
| Pride and Prejudice | Sense and Sensibiliy |
In Volume 3, Chapter 15, we find Fanny Price waiting for her cousin, Edmund Bertram, to arrive at her family home, in Portsmouth. He is to take her back to Mansfield Park. She is in love with Edmund and she knows that he has just broken off with the woman he loves, Mary Crawford. That just as the Bertram family was in mourning over the adulterous affair of the older daughter, Maria, and the unwise elopement of the younger, Julia. All was unhappiness, but the anticipated presence of the steady, loving Edmund must bring solace—to Fanny and to the family if not to himself.
"By eight in the morning Edmund was in the house. The girls heard his entrance from above, and Fanny went down. The idea of immediately seeing him, with the knowledge of what he must be suffering, brought back all her own first feelings. He so near her, and in misery. She was ready to sink as she entered the parlour. He was alone, and met her instantly; and she found herself pressed to his heart with only these words, just articulate, 'My Fanny, my only sister; my only comfort now!' She could say nothing; nor for some minutes could he say more."
Fanny and Edmund would marry and make a good marriage, the kind that would be fulfilling to Fanny and great comfort and satisfaction to her father-in-law, her benefactor, Sir Thomas Bertram. But, what of Edmund? Jane Austen tells us that he would find happiness as well, but some readers are not so sure. This is the point to return to the beginning.
Fanny Price was a poor cousin of the aristocratic Bertrams of Mansfield Park. The Bertrams responded to Mrs. Price's call for some financial relief by accepting one of her many children to be raised in their home. Mrs. Price had hoped to send her oldest son, William, but the Mansfield clan opted instead for the oldest daughter, Fanny. Fanny was the ten-year old child her mother described as "delicate and puny." Fanny's first week at Mansfield Park is the subject of Volume 1, Chapter 2.
"It required a longer time, however, than Mrs. Norris was inclined to allow, to reconcile Fanny to the novelty of Mansfield Park, and the separation from everybody she had been used to. Her feelings were very acute, and too little understood to be properly attended to. Nobody meant to be unkind, but nobody put themselves out of their way to secure her comfort."
The story of Fanny's adjustment to Mansfield Park illustrates Jane Austen's understanding of, sensitivity to, and empathy with the feelings of children.
The situation had lasted for a week when Fanny's misery inspired the first tender touch of kindness from her cousin, Edmund Bertram. He found her crying, made inquiries, and as a consequence, he offered to help her write a letter to her brother, William: "It was William whom she talked of most and wanted most to see. William, ... her constant companion and friend; her advocate with her mother ... in every distress. ... William did not like she should come away--he had told her, he would miss her very much indeed." This kindness on Edmund's part, was felt by Fanny. Edmund wrote with his own hand his love to his cousin William, and sent half a guinea under the seal.
"... Fanny's feelings on the occasion were such as she believed herself incapable of expressing; but her countenance and a few artless words fully conveyed all their gratitude and delight, and her cousin began to find her an interesting object. He talked to her more, and from all that she said, was convinced of her having an affectionate heart, and a strong desire of doing right; and he could perceive her to be farther entitled to attention, by great sensibility of her situation and great timidity. ... he now felt that she required more positive kindness, and with that view endeavoured, in the first place, to lessen her fears of them all, ..."
Edmund was sixteen at the time. Subsequently, he would be away at school, for the most part, as Fanny was growing up. Fanny grew up well in spite of the indifference and neglect of most of the Bertrams. Fanny would have benefited from a bit more neglect from her Aunt Norris who was more energetic than her sister, Lady Bertram, and who was determined that Fanny must remain in the shadow of her Bertram cousins, Maria and Julia. However, Fanny always had her growing love for Edmund to dream about—and to conceal. And, of course, there was the continuing generousity of Sir Thomas Bertram to her brothers and to herself. He did not supply Fanny's emotional needs, but he was always providing material advantage to the Prices, especially William. (For a more comprehensive discussion of Fanny's relationship to Sir Thomas, use this link.)
Next, we turn to Volume 1, Chapter 7; in so doing, we move ahead to Fanny's eighteenth year. Edmund resided more at home now as did his older brother, Tom Bertram, the heir of Mansfield Park. Two new young people, Henry Crawford and his sister Mary, were then visiting in the neighborhood. Mary Crawford is very remindful of Elizabeth Bennet in every way except two. Mary Crawford was missing a few principles and she was a bit jaded. However, she was captivating with all the beauty, wit, and liveliness of the inimitable Miss Bennet. (Brother Henry Crawford was also charming, but he was completely unprincipled.) Edmund was in love, of course, and this is the passage describing how Edmund's love for Mary had been formed.
"Having formed [Fanny's] mind and gained her affections, he had a good chance of her thinking like him; though at this period, and on this subject, there began now to be some danger of dissimilarity, for he was in a line of admiration of Miss Crawford, which might lead him where Fanny could not follow. Miss Crawford's attractions did not lessen. The harp arrived, and rather added to her beauty, wit, and good-humour for she played with the greatest obligingness, with an expression and taste which were peculiarly becoming, and there was something clever to be said at the close of every air. Edmund was at the Parsonage every day, to be indulged with his favourite instrument: one morning secured an invitation for the next; for the lady could not be unwilling to have a listener, and every thing was soon in a fair train.
A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man's heart. The season, the scene, the air, were all favourable to tenderness and sentiment. Mrs. Grant and her tambour frame were not without their use: it was all in harmony; and as everything will turn to account when love is once set going, even the sandwich tray, and Dr. Grant doing the honours of it, were worth looking at. Without studying the business, however, or knowing what he was about, 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."
Edmund had wanted to buy a horse for Fanny, but his aunt and mother prevailed upon him to wait for his father's return to England. He then did the next best thing and traded in one of his hunters for a mount appropriate for Fanny. It was also appropriate for Mary who had never before learned to ride but was willing to let Edmund to teach her the basics. At first this did not encroach on Fanny's exercise, but that changed as Mary, wouldn't you know, made rapid progress.
"Miss Crawford made her first essay with great credit to herself, and no inconvenience to Fanny. Edmund, who had taken down the mare and presided at the whole, returned with it in excellent time, before either Fanny or the steady old coachman, who always attended her when she rode without her cousins, were ready to set forward. The second day's trial was not so guiltless. Miss Crawford's enjoyment of riding was such that she did not know how to leave off. Active and fearless, and though rather small, strongly made, she seemed formed for a horsewoman; and to the pure genuine pleasure of the exercise, something was probably added in Edmund's attendance and instructions, and something more in the conviction of very much surpassing her sex in general by her early progress, to make her unwilling to dismount."
"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."
" 'I was sure she would ride well,' said Julia; 'she has the make for it. Her figure is as neat as her brother's.' "
" 'Yes,' added Maria, 'and her spirits are as good, and she has the same energy of character. I cannot but think that good horsemanship has a great deal to do with the mind.' "
Meanwhile Fanny was ready and waiting, and Mrs. Norris was beginning to scold her for not being gone, and still no horse was announced, no Edmund appeared. To avoid her aunt, and look for him, she went out. She walked to a wooded hill where she could look out upon this scene while unobserved herself.
"The houses, though scarcely half a mile apart, were not within sight of each other; but, by walking fifty yards from the hall door, she could look down the park, and command a view of the Parsonage and all its demesnes, gently rising beyond the village road; and in Dr. Grant's meadow she immediately saw the group—Edmund and Miss Crawford both on horse-back, riding side by side, Dr. and Mrs. Grant, and Mr. Crawford, with two or three grooms, standing about and looking on. A happy party it appeared to her, all interested in one object: cheerful beyond a doubt, for the sound of merriment ascended even to her. It was a sound which did not make her cheerful; she wondered that Edmund should forget her, and felt a pang. She could not turn her eyes from the meadow; she could not help watching all that passed. At first Miss Crawford and her companion made the circuit of the field, which was not small, at a foot's pace; then, at her apparent suggestion, they rose into a canter; and to Fanny's timid nature it was most astonishing to see how well she sat. After a few minutes they stopped entirely. Edmund was close to her; he was speaking to her; he was evidently directing her management of the bridle; he had hold of her hand; she saw it, or the imagination supplied what the eye could not reach. She must not wonder at all this; what could be more natural than that Edmund should be making himself useful, and proving his good-nature by any one? She could not but think, indeed, that Mr. Crawford might as well have saved him the trouble; that it would have been particularly proper and becoming in a brother to have done it himself; but Mr. Crawford, with all his boasted good-nature, and all his coachmanship, probably knew nothing of the matter, and had no active kindness in comparison of Edmund. She began to think it rather hard upon the mare to have such double duty; if she were forgotten, the poor mare should be remembered.
Her feelings for one and the other were soon a little tranquillised by seeing the party in the meadow disperse, and Miss Crawford still on horseback, but attended by Edmund on foot, pass through a gate into the lane, and so into the park, and make towards the spot where she stood. She began then to be afraid of appearing rude and impatient; and walked to meet them with a great anxiety to avoid the suspicion.
'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.'
Fanny's answer was extremely civil, and Edmund added his conviction that she could be in no hurry. 'For there is more than time enough for my cousin to ride twice as far as she ever goes,' said he, 'and you have been promoting her comfort by preventing her from setting off half an hour sooner: clouds are now coming up, and she will not suffer from the heat as she would have done then. I wish you may not be fatigued by so much exercise. I wish you had saved yourself this walk home.'
'No part of it fatigues me but getting off this horse, I assure you,' said she, as she sprang down with his 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.'
The old coachman, who had been waiting about with his own horse, now joining them, Fanny was lifted on hers, and they set off across another part of the park; her feelings of discomfort not lightened by seeing, as she looked back, that the others were walking down the hill together to the village; nor did her attendant do her much good by his comments on Miss Crawford's great cleverness as a horse-woman, which he had been watching with an interest almost equal to her own.
'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. Very different from you, miss, when you first began, six years ago come next Easter. Lord bless you! how you did tremble when Sir Thomas first had you put on!' "
The next passage is, again, from Volume 1, Chapter 7: Fanny was forgotten for longer and longer periods as Edmund's and Mary's regard for each other grew. That is until Edmund came in one evening and noticed Fanny sitting apart with an apparent headache. After Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris and Edmund discussed the cause of Fanny's headache—too much work and walking in the heat or the lack of exercise due to not riding for the past 4 days—Edmund then became sensitive to the exploitation of Fanny by the women and of his own unpardonable neglect:
"Edmund said no more to either lady; but going quietly to another table, on which the supper-tray yet remained, brought a glass of Madeira to Fanny, and obliged her to drink the greater part. She wished to be able to decline it; but the tears, which a variety of feelings created, made it easier to swallow than to speak.
Vexed as Edmund was with his mother and aunt, he was still more angry with himself. His own forgetfulness of her was worse than anything which they had done. Nothing of this would have happened had she been properly considered; but she had been left four days together without any choice of companions or exercise, and without any excuse for avoiding whatever her unreasonable aunts might require. He was ashamed to think that for four days together she had not had the power of riding, and very seriously resolved, however unwilling he must be to check a pleasure of Miss Crawford's, that it should never happen again.
Fanny went to bed with her heart as full as on the first evening of her arrival at the Park. The state of her spirits had probably had its share in her indisposition; for she had been feeling neglected, and been struggling against discontent and envy for some days past. As she leant on the sofa, to which she had retreated that she might not be seen, the pain of her mind had been much beyond that in her head; and the sudden change which Edmund's kindness had then occasioned, made her hardly know how to support herself."
The effect of simple human kindness is portrayed again here, as in her arrival at Mansfield Park, which brings us to the next example; this is from Volume 1 Chapter 8. It had been finally decided that Fanny was to go on the visit to Sotherton while Edmund was to stay at home with his Mother.
" 'I am sure [Fanny] ought to be very much obliged to you,' added Julia, hastily leaving the room as she spoke, from a consciousness that she ought to offer to stay at home herself.
'Fanny will feel quite as grateful as the occasion requires,' was Edmund's only reply, and the subject dropt.
Fanny's gratitude, when she heard the plan, was, in fact, much greater than her pleasure. She felt Edmund's kindness with all, and more than all, the sensibility which he, unsuspicious of her fond attachment, could be aware of; but that he should forego any enjoyment on her account gave her pain, and her own satisfaction in seeing Sotherton would be nothing without him."
It is a truth universally unknown that it sometimes only takes a small amount of kindness by a man to conquer a woman's heart.
Maria Bertram was engaged to Mr. Rushworth, a helpless, harmless, foolish man but a rich one. Sotherton was his estate and it was far more impressive than Mansfield Park. It was on this trip that Henry Crawford's flirtation with Maria took on a new intensity. It was there that Fanny would lose respect for him and for his sister; with the latter because of her negative reaction to the clergy, Edmund's chosen profession. Mary was really quite candid and free with her disapproval.
Jane Austen made Mary Crawford a most interesting sort of character. Mary had wit, intelligence, and sensitivity; and, she was in love with Edmund Bertram. She was also a flawed creature and a marriage to Edmund would have ended in a tragedy—for him. All these traits are illustrated in Chapter 15 of the first volume.
The young people had finally settled on a play, Lovers' Vows. First Edmund arrived, was informed, and immediately grew unhappy. Edmund, Fanny, and Julia had made clear that they would not join in the production. Next the Crawford's arrived and, in contrast, were pleased that a decision had been made and production could now begin. The passage begins with a display of Mary's excellent, big-city manners.
" ... [Mary Crawford] made her way to Lady Bertram, and with pleasant attention was complimenting her.--'I must really congratulate your ladyship,' said she, 'on the play being chosen; for though you have borne it with exemplary patience, I am sure you must be sick of all our noise and difficulties. The actors may be glad, but the bystanders must be infinitely more thankful for a decision; and I do sincerely give you joy, madam, as well as Mrs. Norris, and everybody else who is in the same predicament,' glancing half fearfully, half slyly, beyond Fanny to Edmund.
She was very civilly answered by Lady Bertram, but Edmund said nothing. His being only a bystander was not disclaimed. After continuing in chat with the party round the fire a few minutes, Miss Crawford returned to the party round the table; and standing by them, seemed to interest herself in their arrangements till, as if struck by a sudden recollection, she exclaimed, 'My good friends, you are most composedly at work upon these cottages and alehouses, inside and out; but pray let me know my fate in the meanwhile. Who is to be Anhalt? What gentleman among you am I to have the pleasure of making love to?' "
Who indeed?—then everyone recalled that her character's lover, Anhalt, had not yet been cast. Then Mary bantered with Mr. Rushworth. (In fact, she used the occasion to ridicule him in public—readers will divide on that, some will judge her marvelously cleaver and sly, others will say it was despicable to have attacked such an easy and undeserving target.) Then Mary observed,
" ...'I am not at all surprised,' said Miss Crawford, after a short pause, 'at this want of an Anhalt. Amelia deserves no better. Such a forward young lady may well frighten the men.'
... Miss Crawford talked of something else, and soon afterwards rejoined the party at the fire.
'They do not want me at all,' said she, seating herself. 'I only puzzle them, and oblige them to make civil speeches. Mr. Edmund Bertram, as you do not act yourself, you will be a disinterested adviser; and, therefore, I apply to you.—What shall we do for an Anhalt? Is it practicable for any of the others to double it? What is your advice?'
'My advice,' said he calmly, 'is that you change the play.'
'I should have no objection,' she replied; 'for though I should not particularly dislike the part of Amelia if well supported, that is, if everything went well, I shall be sorry to be an inconvenience; but as they do not chuse to hear your advice at that table.' (looking round), 'it certainly will not be taken.'
Edmund said no more.
'If any part could tempt you to act, I suppose it would be Anhalt,' observed the lady archly, after a short pause; 'for he is a clergyman, you know.'
'That circumstance would by no means tempt me,' he replied, 'for I should be sorry to make the character ridiculous by bad acting. It must be very difficult to keep Anhalt from appearing a formal, solemn lecturer; and the man who chuses the profession itself is, perhaps, one of the last who would wish to represent it on the stage.'
Miss Crawford was silenced, and with some feelings of resentment and mortification, moved her chair considerably nearer the tea-table, and gave all her attention to Mrs. Norris, who was presiding there."
Yes, the lovers were now upset with one another. Jane Austen resolved that in an interesting way; the resolution began with these lacerations of Fanny Price:
" 'Fanny,' cried Tom Bertram, from the other table, where the conference was eagerly carrying on, and the conversation incessant, 'we want your services.'
Fanny was up in a moment, expecting some errand; for the habit of employing her in that way was not yet overcome, in spite of all that Edmund could do.
'Oh! we do not want to disturb you from your seat. We do not want your present services. We shall only want you in our play. You must be Cottager's wife.'
'Me!' cried Fanny, sitting down again with a most frightened look. 'Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act anything if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act.'
'Indeed, but you must, for we cannot excuse you. It need not frighten you: it is a nothing of a part, a mere nothing, not above half a dozen speeches altogether, and it will not much signify if nobody hears a word you say; so you may be as creep-mouse as you like, but we must have you to look at.'
... 'It is not that I am afraid of learning by heart,' said Fanny, shocked to find herself at that moment the only speaker in the room, and to feel that almost every eye was upon her; 'but I really cannot act.'
'Yes, yes, you can act well enough for us.—Learn your part, and we will teach you all the rest. You have only two scenes, and as I shall be Cottager, I'll put you in and push you about, and you will do it very well, I'll answer for it. ... Do not be so shamefaced. You'll do it very well. Every allowance will be made for you. We do not expect perfection. .. you will be a very proper, little old woman.'
'You must excuse me, indeed you must excuse me,' cried Fanny, growing more and more red from excessive agitation, and looking distressfully at Edmund, who was kindly observing her; but unwilling to exasperate his brother by interference, gave her only an encouraging smile. Her entreaty had no effect on Tom: he only said again what he had said before; ... "
Well, as bad as that may seem, things then became a great deal worse.
" ... and it was not merely Tom, for the requisition was now backed by Maria, and Mr. Crawford, and Mr. Yates, with an urgency which differed from his but in being more gentle or more ceremonious, and which altogether was quite overpowering to Fanny; and before she could breathe after it, Mrs. Norris completed the whole by thus addressing her in a whisper at once angry and audible--'What a piece of work here is about nothing: I am quite ashamed of you, Fanny, to make such a difficulty of obliging your cousins in a trifle of this sort--so kind as they are to you! Take the part with a good grace, and let us hear no more of the matter, I entreat.'
'Do not urge her, madam,' said Edmund. 'It is not fair to urge her in this manner. You see she does not like to act. Let her chuse for herself, as well as the rest of us. Her judgment may be quite as safely trusted. Do not urge her any more.'
'I am not going to urge her,' replied Mrs. Norris sharply; 'but 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.' "
"... considering who and what she is"? Incredible!—but, what was to be done?
"Edmund was too angry to speak; but 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."
Good for you, Mary!—but, to what degree was the restoration of Edmund's favor an object? In any case, Mary knew that the cure needed to be even more potent than that offered so far.
"Fanny did not love Miss Crawford; but she felt very much obliged to her for her present kindness; and when, from taking notice of her work, and wishing she could work as well, and begging for the pattern, and supposing Fanny was now preparing for her appearance,—as of course she would come out when her cousin was married, Miss Crawford proceeded to inquire if she had heard lately from her brother at sea, and said that she had quite a curiosity to see him, and imagined him a very fine young man, and advised Fanny to get his picture drawn before he went to sea again—she could not help admitting it to be very agreeable flattery, or help listening, and answering with more animation than she had intended."
And then Edmund's siblings began to betray him--to play upon his jealousy in order to manipulate him into the part of Anhalt.
"The consultation upon the play still went on, and Miss Crawford's attention was first called from Fanny by Tom Bertram's telling her, with infinite regret, that he found it absolutely impossible for him to undertake the part of Anhalt in addition to the Butler: ... 'But there will not be the smallest difficulty in filling it,' he added. 'We have but to speak the word; we may pick and chuse. I could name, at this moment, at least six young men within six miles of us, who are wild to be admitted into our company, and there are one or two that would not disgrace us: I should not be afraid to trust either of the Olivers or Charles Maddox. ..., so I will take my horse early to-morrow morning and ride over to Stoke, and settle with one of them.'
While he spoke, Maria was looking apprehensively round at Edmund in full expectation that he must oppose such an enlargement of the plan as this: so contrary to all their first protestations; but Edmund said nothing. After a moment's thought, Miss Crawford calmly replied, 'As far as I am concerned, I can have no objection to anything that you all think eligible. Have I ever seen either of the gentlemen? Yes, Mr. Charles Maddox dined at my sister's one day, did not he, Henry? A quiet-looking young man. I remember him. Let him be applied to, if you please, for it will be less unpleasant to me than to have a perfect stranger.'
Charles Maddox was to be the man. Tom repeated his resolution of going to him early on the morrow; and though Julia, who had scarcely opened her lips before, observed, in a sarcastic manner, and with a glance first at Maria and then at Edmund, that 'the Mansfield theatricals would enliven the whole neighbourhood exceedingly,' Edmund still held his peace, and shewed his feelings only by a determined gravity.
'I am not very sanguine as to our play,' said Miss Crawford, in an undervoice to Fanny, after some consideration; 'and I can tell Mr. Maddox that I shall shorten some of his speeches, and a great many of my own, before we rehearse together. It will be very disagreeable, and by no means what I expected.' "
Mary Crawford knew how to take a cue.
Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford used the occasion of the rehearsals to add physical contact to their flirtations; they could flaunt that in the face of Rushworth because of his foolish naivete. And they did that under the flimsy excuse of rehearsing their parts in the play. Fanny saw everything and was as much ashamed of their actions as she was of the manipulation of Edmund by Mary Crawford and his siblings.
Volume 1, Chapter 18: But Fanny had something still worse to think about. she thought of the next day's rehearsal a great deal; Edmund and Miss Crawford would then be acting together for the first time; the third act would bring a scene between them which interested Fanny most particularly, and which she was dreading to see how they would perform. The whole subject of it was love—a marriage of love was to be described by the gentleman, and very little short of a declaration of love be made by the lady.
"[Fanny] had read and read the scene again with many painful, many wondering emotions, and looked forward to their representation of it as a circumstance almost too interesting. She did not believe they had yet rehearsed it, even in private."
The "East room" at Mansfield Park had been the children's schoolroom, but the governess had long since been dismissed and the room abandoned. Abandoned by everyone except Fanny Price who made it her refuge and sanctuary—her domain. Unbeknownst to Sir Thomas, Aunt Norris had achieved staggering economy in the East room with the standing order that no fire was ever to set there.
"The morrow came, the plan for the [rehearsal] continued, and Fanny's consideration of it did not become less agitated. She worked very diligently under her aunt's directions, but her diligence and her silence concealed a very absent, anxious mind; and about noon she made her escape with her work to the East room, ... and she worked and meditated in the East room, undisturbed, for a quarter of an hour, when a gentle tap at the door was followed by the entrance of Miss Crawford.
'Am I right? Yes; this is the East room. My dear Miss Price, I beg your pardon, but I have made my way to you on purpose to entreat your help.'
Fanny, quite surprised, endeavoured to shew herself mistress of the room by her civilities, and looked at the bright bars of her empty grate with concern.
'Thank you; I am quite warm, very warm. Allow me to stay here a little while, and do have the goodness to hear me my third act. I have brought my book, and if you would but rehearse it with me, I should be so obliged! I came here to-day intending to rehearse it with Edmund—by ourselves—against the evening, but he is not in the way; and if he were, I do not think I could go through it with him, till I have hardened myself a little; for really there is a speech or two. You will be so good, won't you?'
Fanny was most civil in her assurances, though she could not give them in a very steady voice.
'Have you ever happened to look at the part I mean?' continued Miss Crawford, opening her book. 'Here it is. I did not think much of it at first—but, upon my word. There, look at that speech, and that, and that. How am I ever to look him in the face and say such things? Could you do it? But then he is your cousin, which makes all the difference. You must rehearse it with me, that I may fancy you him, and get on by degrees. You have a look of his sometimes.'
'Have I? I will do my best with the greatest readiness; but I must read the part, for I can say very little of it.'
'None of it, I suppose. You are to have the book, of course. Now for it. We must have two chairs at hand for you to bring forward to the front of the stage. There—very good school-room chairs, not made for a theatre, I dare say; much more fitted for little girls to sit and kick their feet against when they are learning a lesson. What would your governess and your uncle say to see them used for such a purpose? Could Sir Thomas look in upon us just now, he would bless himself, for we are rehearsing all over the house. ... the theatre is engaged of course by those indefatigable rehearsers, Agatha [Maria] and Frederick [Crawford]. If they are not perfect, I shall be surprised. By the bye, I looked in upon them five minutes ago, and it happened to be exactly at one of the times when they were trying not to embrace, and Mr. Rushworth was with me. I thought he began to look a little queer, so I turned it off as well as I could, by whispering to him, "We shall have an excellent Agatha; there is something so maternal in her manner, so completely maternal in her voice and countenance." Was not that well done of me? He brightened up directly. Now for my soliloquy.'
She began, and Fanny joined in with all the modest feeling which the idea of representing Edmund was so strongly calculated to inspire; but with looks and voice so truly feminine as to be no very good picture of a man. With such an Anhalt, however, Miss Crawford had courage enough; and they had got through half the scene, when a tap at the door brought a pause, and the entrance of Edmund, the next moment, suspended it all.
Surprise, consciousness, and pleasure appeared in each of the three on this unexpected meeting; and as Edmund was come on the very same business that had brought Miss Crawford, consciousness and pleasure were likely to be more than momentary in them. He too had his book, and was seeking Fanny, to ask her to rehearse with him, and help him to prepare for the evening, without knowing Miss Crawford to be in the house; and great was the joy and animation of being thus thrown together, of comparing schemes, and sympathising in praise of Fanny's kind offices.
She could not equal them in their warmth. Her spirits sank under the glow of theirs, and she felt herself becoming too nearly nothing to both to have any comfort in having been sought by either. They must now rehearse together. Edmund proposed, urged, entreated it, till the lady, not very unwilling at first, could refuse no longer, and Fanny was wanted only to prompt and observe them. She was invested, indeed, with the office of judge and critic, and earnestly desired to exercise it and tell them all their faults; but from doing so every feeling within her shrank—she could not, would not, dared not attempt it: had she been otherwise qualified for criticism, her conscience must have restrained her from venturing at disapprobation. She believed herself to feel too much of it in the aggregate for honesty or safety in particulars. To prompt them must be enough for her; and it was sometimes more than enough; for she could not always pay attention to the book. In watching them she forgot herself; and, agitated by the increasing spirit of Edmund's manner, had once closed the page and turned away exactly as he wanted help. It was imputed to very reasonable weariness, and she was thanked and pitied; but she deserved their pity more than she hoped they would ever surmise. At last the scene was over, and Fanny forced herself to add her praise to the compliments each was giving the other; and when again alone and able to recall the whole, she was inclined to believe their performance would, indeed, have such nature and feeling in it as must ensure their credit, and make it a very suffering exhibition to herself. ..."
The situation was saved only by the timely arrival of Sir Thomas back at Mansfield Park. He demolished the plans for the play and scattered the ring-leaders to the winds.
Volume 2, Chapter 3: In this passage, Maria’s strong feelings of pride and self-revenge are shown. These feelings are so strong, in fact, as to change the course of her life.
After Sir Thomas had had the opportunity to take the measure of Mr. Rushworth, Maria's intended, he offered to break off the engagement, but she declined his offer, and we notice that the timing was critical. "Had Sir Thomas applied to his daughter within the first three or four days after Henry Crawford's leaving Mansfield, before her feelings were at all tranquillised, before she had given up every hope of him, her answer might have been different; but after another three or four days, when there was no return, no letter, no message—no symptom of a softened heart—no hope of advantage from separation—her mind became cool enough to seek all the comfort that pride and self-revenge could give."
What follows is a description of Maria's pride and revenge. "Henry Crawford had destroyed her happiness, but he should not know that he had done it; he should not destroy her credit, her appearance, her prosperity, too. ... She must escape from ... Mansfield as soon as possible, and find consolation in fortune and consequence, bustle and the world, for a wounded spirit. Her mind was quite determined, and varied not."
Her pride was such that she would not allow Henry to get the better of her by leaving her in a pitiable state of affairs. Maria would have her revenge against Henry by gaining her independence and worldly consequence without his help, even though she had to settle for something a good deal less than true love.
Volume 2, Chapter 5: Fanny received her first invitation to dine at the Parsonage with the Grants and Crawfords after the departure of Julia with the Rushworth newly-weds.
Aunt Norris took great pains to belittle Fanny on this occasion—"lessening her niece’s pleasure"—and was positively angry when Sir Thomas put the carriage at Fanny’s disposal, but Sir Thomas had a reply to that concern.
" 'Walk!' repeated Sir Thomas, in a tone of most unanswerable dignity, and coming farther into the room. 'My niece walk to a dinner engagement at this time of the year! Will twenty minutes after four suit you?' "
" 'Yes, sir,' was Fanny's humble answer, given with the feelings almost of a criminal towards Mrs. Norris; and not bearing to remain with her in what might seem a state of triumph, she followed her uncle out of the room, having staid behind him only long enough to hear these words spoken in angry agitation—'Quite unnecessary! a great deal too kind! But Edmund goes; true, it is upon Edmund's account. I observed he was hoarse on Thursday night.' "
"But this could not impose on Fanny. She felt that the carriage was for herself, and herself alone: and her uncle's consideration of her, coming immediately after such representations from her aunt, cost her some tears of gratitude when she was alone."
This is from Volume 2, Chapter 6: The subject is Fanny's visit with her beloved brother William after many years of separation. William, through the influence of Sir Thomas, had become a midshipman in his Majesty's Navy (in those days, that was not a guarantee that he would be promoted to Lieutenant.)
" ... all the evil and good of their earliest years could be gone over again, and every former united pain and pleasure retraced with the fondest recollection. An advantage this, a strengthener of love, in which even the conjugal tie is beneath the fraternal. Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply; and it must be by a long and unnatural estrangement, by a divorce which no subsequent connection can justify, if such a precious remains of the earliest attachments are ever entirely outlived. Too often, alas! it is so.—Fraternal love, sometimes almost every thing, is at others worse than nothing. ..."
Jane Austen's testimonial on the values and trials of family life. This seems very strange reading in our current cultural climate—that climate in which only the dysfunctional is admitted.
Volume 2, Chapter 9: Edmund gave Fanny a gold chain to wear to the ball. This was the ball that Sir Thomas provided, partly to celebrate William's visit and partly to rectify a family omission—the formal introduction of Miss Fanny Price into society. Earlier in the same day, Mary Crawford had given Fanny another chain for the same occasion (the duplicity of Mary in this action is discussed in another place.) After Fanny had expressed her delight with the Edmund's gift, he said:
" 'My dear Fanny, you feel these things a great deal too much. I am most happy that you like the chain, and that it should be here in time for to-morrow; but your thanks are far beyond the occasion. Believe me, I have no pleasure in the world superior to that of contributing to yours. No, I can safely say, I have no pleasure so complete, so unalloyed. It is without a drawback.'
Upon such expressions of affection Fanny could have lived an hour without saying another word but Edmund, after waiting a moment, obliged her to bring down her mind from its heavenly flight by saying, 'But what is it that you want to consult me about?' "
Fanny asks his advice about returning Mary Crawford's necklace. Edmund does not want there to arise any misunderstandings between them, so he advises her to keep it, and says:
" 'I would not have the shadow of a coolness arise,' he repeated, his voice sinking a little, 'between the two dearest objects I have on earth.'
He was gone as he spoke; and Fanny remained to tranquillise herself as she could. She was one of his two dearest--that must support her. But the other: the first! She had never heard him speak so openly before, and though it told her no more than what she had long perceived, it was a stab, for it told of his own convictions and views. They were decided. He would marry Miss Crawford. It was a stab, in spite of every long-standing expectation; and she was obliged to repeat again and again, that she was one of his two dearest, before the words gave her any sensation. Could she believe Miss Crawford to deserve him, it would be--oh, how different would it be--how far more tolerable! But he was deceived in her: he gave her merits which she had not; her faults were what they had ever been, but he saw them no longer. Till she had shed many tears over this deception, Fanny could not subdue her agitation; and the dejection which followed could only be relieved by the influence of fervent prayers for his happiness."
In the midst of such tenderness for herself, realizing that his heart must belong to Mary, how can she conclude, as she does, with "fervent prayers" for his happiness? Can you not see Jane Austen herself doing the same for Tom Lefroy whether or not he returned her sentiments?
"It was her intention, as she felt it to be her duty, to try to overcome all that was excessive, all that bordered on selfishness, in her affection for Edmund. To call or to fancy it a loss, a disappointment, would be a presumption for which she had not words strong enough to satisfy her own humility. To think of him as Miss Crawford might be justified in thinking, would in her be insanity. To her he could be nothing under any circumstances; nothing dearer than a friend. Why did such an idea occur to her even enough to be reprobated and forbidden? It ought not to have touched on the confines of her imagination. She would endeavour to be rational, and to deserve the right of judging of Miss Crawford's character, and the privilege of true solicitude for him by a sound intellect and an honest heart."
Is Jane Austen writing from her own heart?
"She had all the heroism of principle, and was determined to do her duty; but having also many of the feelings of youth and nature, let her not be much wondered at, if, after making all these good resolutions on the side of self-government, she seized the scrap of paper on which Edmund had begun writing to her, as a treasure beyond all her hopes, and reading with the tenderest emotion these words, 'My very dear Fanny, you must do me the favour to accept' locked it up with the chain, as the dearest part of the gift. It was the only thing approaching to a letter which she had ever received from him; she might never receive another; it was impossible that she ever should receive another so perfectly gratifying in the occasion and the style. Two lines more prized had never fallen from the pen of the most distinguished author--never more completely blessed the researches of the fondest biographer. The enthusiasm of a woman's love is even beyond the biographer's. To her, the handwriting itself, independent of anything it may convey, is a blessedness. Never were such characters cut by any other human being as Edmund's commonest handwriting gave! This specimen, written in haste as it was, had not a fault; and there was a felicity in the flow of the first four words, in the arrangement of 'My very dear Fanny,' which she could have looked at for ever."
How many of us have done likewise because of "the feelings of youth and nature" - "The enthusiasm of a woman's love is even beyond the biographer's."
On the day of the ball, Edmund returned from the Parsonage where he had gone to ask Mary Crawford for the two first dances. Mary had declared that she would never dance with a clergyman. Edmund says to Fanny:
" 'I have been pained by her manner this morning, and cannot get the better of it. I know her disposition to be as sweet and faultless as your own, but the influence of her former companions makes her seem--gives to her conversation, to her professed opinions, sometimes a tinge of wrong. She does not think evil, but she speaks it, speaks it in playfulness and though I know it to be playfulness, it grieves me to the soul.'
... 'but you have always known my opinion of her; you can bear me witness, Fanny, that I have never been blinded. How many a time have we talked over her little errors! You need not fear me; I have almost given up every serious idea of her; but I must be a blockhead indeed, if, whatever befell me, I could think of your kindness and sympathy without the sincerest gratitude.'
He had said enough to shake the experience of eighteen. He had said enough to give Fanny some happier feelings than she had lately known ...' "
Perhaps Edmund's feelings for Mary had changed?
"For Fanny's present comfort it was concluded, perhaps, at the happiest moment: had he been able to talk another five minutes, there is no saying that he might not have talked away all Miss Crawford's faults and his own despondence. But as it was, they parted with looks on his side of grateful affection, and with some very precious sensations on hers. She had felt nothing like it for hours."
We never know upon what circumstance our lives may be changed from joy to sadness or vice versa.
Volume 2, Chapter 10: Happiness is being asked to dance by a "special" someone.
"From a variety of causes she was happy, and she was soon made still happier; for in following her aunts out of the room, Edmund, who was holding open the door, said, as she passed him, 'You must dance with me, Fanny; you must keep two dances for me; any two that you like, except the first.' She had nothing more to wish for. She had hardly ever been in a state so nearly approaching high spirits in her life."
However, for Edmund the two first dances with Mary produced an opposite feeling.
"The evening had afforded Edmund little pleasure. Miss Crawford had been in gay spirits when they first danced together, but it was not her gaiety that could do him good: it rather sank than raised his comfort; and afterwards, for he found himself still impelled to seek her again, she had absolutely pained him by her manner of speaking of the profession to which he was now on the point of belonging. They had talked, and they had been silent; he had reasoned, she had ridiculed; and they had parted at last with mutual vexation. Fanny, not able to refrain entirely from observing them, had seen enough to be tolerably satisfied. It was barbarous to be happy when Edmund was suffering. Yet some happiness must and would arise from the very conviction that he did suffer."
And then the ball was over—and the breakfest was soon over too; the last kiss was given, and William was gone back to his ship.
Volume 2, Chapter 11: Now nearly everyone was away from Mansfield Park—Maria, Julia, William, and Henry—all of them gone. Then Edmund decided to leave as well. He decided that a relationship with Mary was impossible and he went to visit friends; perhaps there he might forget the disappointment and the pain. He resolved nothing with Mary before he left, and so she was to rely on the person of Fanny for information and consolation. Mary was, herself, about to leave for an extended visit to London.
"The week which passed so quietly and peaceably at the great house in Mansfield had a very different character at the Parsonage. To the young lady, at least, in each family, it brought very different feelings. What was tranquillity and comfort to Fanny was tediousness and vexation to Mary. Something arose from difference of disposition and habit: one so easily satisfied, the other so unused to endure; but still more might be imputed to difference of circumstances. In some points of interest they were exactly opposed to each other. To Fanny's mind, Edmund's absence was really, in its cause and its tendency, a relief. To Mary it was every way painful. She felt the want of his society every day, almost every hour, and was too much in want of it to derive anything but irritation from considering the object for which he went. He could not have devised anything more likely to raise his consequence than this week's absence, occurring as it did at the very time of her brother's going away, of William Price's going too, and completing the sort of general break-up of a party which had been so animated. She felt it keenly. They were now a miserable trio, confined within doors by a series of rain and snow, with nothing to do and no variety to hope for. Angry as she was with Edmund for adhering to his own notions, and acting on them in defiance of her (and she had been so angry that they had hardly parted friends at the ball), she could not help thinking of him continually when absent, dwelling on his merit and affection, and longing again for the almost daily meetings they lately had. His absence was unnecessarily long. He should not have planned such an absence—he should not have left home for a week, when her own departure from Mansfield was so near. Then she began to blame herself. She wished she had not spoken so warmly in their last conversation. She was afraid she had used some strong, some contemptuous expressions in speaking of the clergy, and that should not have been. It was ill-bred; it was wrong. She wished such words unsaid with all her heart.
Her vexation did not end with the week. All this was bad, but she had still more to feel when Friday came round again and brought no Edmund; when Saturday came and still no Edmund; and when, through the slight communication with the other family which Sunday produced, she learned that he had actually written home to defer his return, having promised to remain some days longer with his friend.
If she had felt impatience and regret before—if she had been sorry for what she said, and feared its too strong effect on him—she now felt and feared it all tenfold more. She had, moreover, to contend with one disagreeable emotion entirely new to her—jealousy. His friend Mr. Owen had sisters; he might find them attractive. But, at any rate, his staying away at a time when, according to all preceding plans, she was to remove to London, meant something that she could not bear. Had Henry returned, as he talked of doing, at the end of three or four days, she should now have been leaving Mansfield. It became absolutely necessary for her to get to Fanny and try to learn something more. She could not live any longer in such solitary wretchedness; and she made her way to the Park, through difficulties of walking which she had deemed unconquerable a week before, for the chance of hearing a little in addition, for the sake of at least hearing his name.
The first half-hour was lost, for Fanny and Lady Bertram were together, and unless she had Fanny to herself she could hope for nothing. But at last Lady Bertram left the room, and then almost immediately Miss Crawford thus began, with a voice as well regulated as she could—'And how do you like your cousin Edmund's staying away so long? Being the only young person at home, I consider you as the greatest sufferer. You must miss him. Does his staying longer surprise you?'
'I do not know,' said Fanny hesitatingly. 'Yes; I had not particularly expected it.'
'Perhaps he will always stay longer than he talks of. It is the general way all young men do.'
'He did not, the only time he went to see Mr. Owen before.'
'He finds the house more agreeable now.—He is a very—a very pleasing young man himself, and I cannot help being rather concerned at not seeing him again before I go to London, as will now undoubtedly be the case. I am looking for Henry every day, and as soon as he comes there will be nothing to detain me at Mansfield. I should like to have seen him once more, I confess. But you must give my compliments to him. Yes; I think it must be compliments. Is not there a something wanted, Miss Price, in our language—a something between compliments and—and love—to suit the sort of friendly acquaintance we have had together? So many months' acquaintance! But compliments may be sufficient here. Was his letter a long one? Does he give you much account of what he is doing? Is it Christmas gaieties that he is staying for?'
'I only heard a part of the letter; it was to my uncle; but I believe it was very short; indeed I am sure it was but a few lines. All that I heard was that his friend had pressed him to stay longer, and that he had agreed to do so. A few days longer, or some days longer; I am not quite sure which.'
'Oh! if he wrote to his father; but I thought it might have been to Lady Bertram or you. But if he wrote to his father, no wonder he was concise. Who could write chat to Sir Thomas? If he had written to you, there would have been more particulars. You would have heard of balls and parties. He would have sent you a description of everything and everybody. How many Miss Owens are there?'
'Three grown up.'
'Are they musical?'
'I do not at all know. I never heard.'
'That is the first question, you know,' said Miss Crawford, trying to appear gay and unconcerned, 'which every woman who plays herself is sure to ask about another. But it is very foolish to ask questions about any young ladies—about any three sisters just grown up; for one knows, without being told, exactly what they are: all very accomplished and pleasing, and one very pretty. There is a beauty in every family; it is a regular thing. Two play on the pianoforte, and one on the harp; and all sing, or would sing if they were taught, or sing all the better for not being taught; or something like it.'
'I know nothing of the Miss Owens,' said Fanny calmly.
'You know nothing and you care less, as people say. Never did tone express indifference plainer. Indeed, how can one care for those one has never seen? Well, when your cousin comes back, he will find Mansfield very quiet; all the noisy ones gone, your brother and mine and myself I do not like the idea of leaving Mrs. Grant now the time draws near. She does not like my going.'
Fanny felt obliged to speak. 'You cannot doubt your being missed by many,' said she. 'You will be very much missed.'
Miss Crawford turned her eye on her, as if wanting to hear or see more, and then laughingly said, 'Oh yes! missed as every noisy evil is missed when it is taken away; that is, there is a great difference felt. But I am not fishing; don't compliment me. If I am missed, it will appear. I may be discovered by those who want to see me. I shall not be in any doubtful, or distant, or unapproachable region.'
Now Fanny could not bring herself to speak, and Miss Crawford was disappointed; for she had hoped to hear some pleasant assurance of her power from one who she thought must know, and her spirits were clouded again.
'The Miss Owens,' said she, soon afterwards; 'suppose you were to have one of the Miss Owens settled at Thornton Lacey; how should you like it? Stranger things have happened. I dare say they are trying for it. And they are quite in the right, for it would be a very pretty establishment for them. I do not at all wonder or blame them. It is everybody's duty to do as well for themselves as they can. Sir Thomas Bertram's son is somebody; and now he is in their own line. Their father is a clergyman, and their brother is a clergyman, and they are all clergymen together. He is their lawful property; he fairly belongs to them. You don't speak, Fanny; Miss Price, you don't speak. But honestly now, do not you rather expect it than otherwise?'
'No,' said Fanny stoutly, 'I do not expect it at all.'
'Not at all!' cried Miss Crawford with alacrity. 'I wonder at that. But I dare say you know exactly—I always imagine you are—perhaps you do not think him likely to marry at all--or not at present.'
'No, I do not,' said Fanny softly, hoping she did not err either in the belief or the acknowledgment of it.
Her companion looked at her keenly; and gathering greater spirit from the blush soon produced from such a look, only said, 'He is best off as he is,' and turned the subject."
Well, you know, Mary really did love Edmund. When Edmund returned, Fanny had some questions for him, "You spent your time pleasantly there?"—and, "The Miss Owens--you liked them did you not?" (Volume 3, Chapter 4)
Volume 2, Chapter 13: Henry Crawford brought Fanny the news that her brother, William, had received his commission due to his, Henry's, efforts. Earlier, Henry had decided, from a challange to his vanity, to make Fanny love him, even marry him. He now applied the pressure by trying to obligate her by virtue of this considerable favor to her brother.
"Fanny could not speak, but he did not want her to speak. To see the expression of her eyes, the change of her complexion, the progress of her feelings, their doubt, confusion, and felicity, was enough. She took the letters as he gave them. The first was from the Admiral to inform his nephew, in a few words, of his having succeeded in the object he had undertaken, the promotion of young Price, and enclosing two more, one from the Secretary of the First Lord to a friend, whom the Admiral had set to work in the business, the other from that friend to himself, by which it appeared that his lordship had the very great happiness of attending to the recommendation of Sir Charles; that Sir Charles was much delighted in having such an opportunity of proving his regard for Admiral Crawford, and that the circumstance of Mr. William Price's commission as Second Lieutenant of H.M. Sloop Thrush being made out was spreading general joy through a wide circle of great people.
While her hand was trembling under these letters, her eye running from one to the other, and her heart swelling with emotion, Crawford thus continued, with unfeigned eagerness, to express his interest in the event—"
After Henry disclosed his part in the promotion, he then explained his motives. Fanny was at first "bewildered" and "stupefied"; but, upon his further explanation she began to get "his drift" and tried to leave his presence.
"He was after her immediately. 'She must not go, she must allow him five minutes longer,' and he took her hand and led her back to her seat, and was in the middle of his farther explanation, before she had suspected for what she was detained. When she did understand it, however, and found herself expected to believe that she had created sensations which his heart had never known before, and that everything he had done for William was to be placed to the account of his excessive and unequalled attachment to her, she was exceedingly distressed, and for some moments unable to speak. She considered it all as nonsense, as mere trifling and gallantry, which meant only to deceive for the hour; she could not but feel that it was treating her improperly and unworthily, and in such a way as she had not deserved; but it was like himself, and entirely of a piece with what she had seen before--and she would not allow herself to shew half the displeasure she felt, because he had been conferring an obligation, which no want of delicacy on his part could make a trifle to her. While her heart was still bounding with joy and gratitude on William's behalf, she could not be severely resentful of anything that injured only herself; and after having twice drawn back her hand, and twice attempted in vain to turn away from him, she got up, and said only, with much agitation, 'Don't, Mr. Crawford, pray don't! I beg you would not. This is a sort of talking which is very unpleasant to me. I must go away. I cannot bear it.' But he was still talking on, describing his affection, soliciting a return, and, finally, in words so plain as to bear but one meaning even to her, offering himself, hand, fortune, everything, to her acceptance. It was so; he had said it. Her astonishment and confusion increased; and though still not knowing how to suppose him serious, she could hardly stand. He pressed for an answer.
'No, no, no!' she cried, hiding her face. 'This is all nonsense. Do not distress me. I can hear no more of this. Your kindness to William makes me more obliged to you than words can express; but I do not want, I cannot bear, I must not listen to such--No, no, don't think of me. But you are not thinking of me. I know it is all nothing.'
She had burst away from him, ...
She was feeling, thinking, trembling about everything; agitated, happy, miserable, infinitely obliged, absolutely angry. It was all beyond belief! He was inexcusable, incomprehensible! But such were his habits that he could do nothing without a mixture of evil. He had previously made her the happiest of human beings, and now he had insulted--she knew not what to say, how to class, or how to regard it. She would not have him be serious, and yet what could excuse the use of such words and offers, if they meant but to trifle?"
What a predicament! Shades of Darcy's first proposal? Darcy had wealth and status that no woman could refuse. Henry had wealth, status, and had created an obligation that no woman should refuse. However, compare Crawford's actions with those of Darcy in the events leading to his second proposal. Darcy might have created an obligation from the Bennet family, but he chose not to—He swore everyone involved in Lydia's wedding to secrecy so that the Bennets would not be obligated, so that Elizabeth would not be compromised when Darcy renewed his proposal to her.
Volume 3, Chapter 1: After Sir Thomas is informed about the proposal and that it had been refused, he lets Fanny know, in no uncertain terms, about his disappointment and vexation. When he finishes Fanny expresses her relief:
"It was over, however, at last; and the evening set in with more composure to Fanny, and more cheerfulness of spirits than she could have hoped for after so stormy a morning; but she trusted, in the first place, that she had done right: that her judgment had not misled her. For the purity of her intentions she could answer; and she was willing to hope, secondly, that her uncle's displeasure was abating, and would abate farther as he considered the matter with more impartiality, and felt, as a good man must feel, how wretched, and how unpardonable, how hopeless, and how wicked it was to marry without affection."
The assertion of these feelings—attitude, beliefs—as a basis for marriage is amazing considering that in those times the basis was so often security, money, power, and/or rank. Next, we have Lady Bertram's reaction: " 'And you must be aware, Fanny, that it is every young woman's duty to accept such a very unexceptionable offer as this.' "
Fanny was sent to Portsmouth to visit her parents' home. (The idea was that if she could see the neediness there, she might be more inclined to accept Crawford's highly advantageous proposal.) Fanny was greeted with indifference there by all except William and Susan, one of her sisters. She was patient but longed to return to Mansfield Park, and wished only to take Susan with her. This was the period when matters unraveled for the Bertrams and the Crawfords; and, thereby, the full truth was revealed to Sir Thomas. Inexplicably, Mary Crawford had brought her brother together with Maria—now Mrs. Rushworth—and the result was predictable. Maria had left her husband's home and taken up residence with Crawford. Meanwhile, Julia had eloped to enter into a disadvantageous marriage of her own. Tom Bertram nearly had died after a drinking binge with inattentive friends. The Bertram clan was shocked, mortified, and disconsolate, and the call went out for Fanny to return and to bring Susan with her—The emotional need for Fanny was now great and her earlier rejection of Crawford's proposal had been vindicated.
That takes us to Volume 3, Chapter 16—the penultimate chapter—and the events related in the first excerpt of this page. That was the event of Edmund's arrival in Portsmouth to escort Fanny and Susan back to Mansfield park. Eventually, Edmund must talk to Fanny and that conversation deals with his last meeting with Mary Crawford and begins in this beautifully written way.
"... Sitting with her on Sunday evening--a wet Sunday evening—the very time of all others when, if a friend is at hand, the heart must be opened, and everything told; no one else in the room, except his mother, who, after hearing an affecting sermon, had cried herself to sleep, it was impossible not to speak; and so, with the usual beginnings, hardly to be traced as to what came first, and the usual declaration that if she would listen to him for a few minutes, he should be very brief, and certainly never tax her kindness in the same way again; she need not fear a repetition; it would be a subject prohibited entirely: he entered upon the luxury of relating circumstances and sensations of the first interest to himself, to one of whose affectionate sympathy he was quite convinced."
How that Jane Austen could write!
"How Fanny listened, with what curiosity and concern, what pain and what delight, how the agitation of his voice was watched, and how carefully her own eyes were fixed on any object but himself, may be imagined. The opening was alarming. He had seen Miss Crawford. He had been invited to see her... and regarding it as what was meant to be the last, last interview of friendship, and investing her with all the feelings of shame and wretchedness which Crawford's sister ought to have known, he had gone to her in such a state of mind, so softened, so devoted, as made it for a few moments impossible to Fanny's fears that it should be the last. But as he proceeded in his story, these fears were over..."
Mary had met Edmund, he said, in a manner which had shocked him. She had expressed great anger at the folly of Maria and Henry. Mary reprobated her brother's folly in being drawn on by "a woman whom he had never cared for, to do what must lose him the woman he adored". She had seemed to regret still more the folly of Maria, in sacrificing such a situation, plunging into such difficulties, under the idea of being really loved by a man who had long ago made his indifference clear. Edmund had been shocked and grieved to hear the woman he loved give no harsher name than "folly." Edmund expressed his sorrow, "This is what the world does. For where, Fanny, shall we find a woman whom nature had so richly endowed? Spoilt, spoilt! ... it was the detection, not the offence, which she reprobated ..."
Then Mary began to talk of Fanny, "Why would not she have him? It is all her fault. Simple girl! I shall never forgive her. Had she accepted him as she ought, they might now have been on the point of marriage, and Henry would have been too happy and too busy to want any other object. He would have taken no pains to be on terms with Mrs. Rushworth again. It would have all ended in a regular standing flirtation, in yearly meetings at Sotherton and Everingham ... " In the midst of all this, Edmund could still defend Mary Crawford, "Hers are not faults of temper. She would not voluntarily give unnecessary pain to any one, ... Hers are faults of principle, Fanny; of blunted delicacy and a corrupted, vitiated mind. Perhaps it is best for me, since it leaves me so little to regret. Not so, however. Gladly would I submit to all the increased pain of losing her, rather than have to think of her as I do ... "
Mary Crawford had a comprehensive plan: "... Well, she went on to say that what remained now to be done was to bring about a marriage between them. She spoke of it, Fanny, with a steadier voice than I can ... 'We must persuade Henry to marry her,' said she; 'and what with honour, and the certainty of having shut himself out for ever from Fanny, I do not despair of it... What I advise is, that your father be quiet ... Persuade him to let things take their course ... Let Sir Thomas trust to [Henry's] honour and compassion, and it may all end well; but if he get his daughter away, it will be destroying the chief hold.' "
Then came the final breach.
"After repeating this, Edmund was so much affected that Fanny, watching him with silent, but most tender concern, was almost sorry that the subject had been entered on at all. It was long before he could speak again... 'the manner in which she treated the dreadful crime committed by her brother and my sister ... but the manner in which she spoke of the crime itself, giving it every reproach but the right; considering its ill consequences only as they were to be braved or overborne by a defiance of decency and impudence in wrong; and last of all, and above all, recommending to us a compliance, a compromise, an acquiescence in the continuance of the sin, on the chance of a marriage which, thinking as I now thought of her brother, should rather be prevented than sought; all this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past... This is what I said, the purport of it; but, as you may imagine, not spoken so collectedly or methodically as I have repeated it to you. She was astonished, exceedingly astonished—more than astonished. I saw her change countenance. She turned extremely red. I imagined I saw a mixture of many feelings: a great, though short struggle; half a wish of yielding to truths, half a sense of shame, but habit, habit carried it. She would have laughed if she could. It was a sort of laugh, as she answered,
'A pretty good lecture, upon my word. Was it part of your last sermon? At this rate you will soon reform everybody at Mansfield and Thornton Lacey; and when I hear of you next, it may be as a celebrated preacher in some great society of Methodists, or as a missionary into foreign parts.'
She tried to speak carelessly, but she was not so careless as she wanted to appear. I only said in reply, that from my heart I wished her well, and earnestly hoped that she might soon learn to think more justly, and not owe the most valuable knowledge we could any of us acquire, the knowledge of ourselves and of our duty, to the lessons of affliction, and immediately left the room. I had gone a few steps, Fanny, when I heard the door open behind me. 'Mr. Bertram,' said she. I looked back. 'Mr. Bertram,' said she, with a smile; but it was a smile ill-suited to the conversation that had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming to invite in order to subdue me; at least it appeared so to me. I resisted; it was the impulse of the moment to resist, and still walked on. I have since, sometimes, for a moment, regretted that I did not go back, but I know I was right, and such has been the end of our acquaintance ... "
Fanny now felt more than justified in adding to his knowledge of her real character, by some hint of what share his brother's state of health might be supposed to have in her wish for a complete reconciliation. This was not an agreeable intimation—his Nature resisted it for a while. It would have been a vast deal pleasanter to have had her more disinterested in her attachment; but his vanity was not so strong as to fight long against reason. He began to believe that Tom's illness had influenced Mary, only reserving for himself this consoling thought, that considering the many counteractions of opposing habits, Mary Crawford had certainly been more attached to him than could have been expected, and for his sake been more near doing right.
Time would undoubtedly abate Edmund's sufferings, but still it was a sort of thing which he never could get entirely the better of; and as to his ever meeting with any other such woman, it seemed to him impossible. Fanny's friendship was all that he had to cling to.
But in the end, he would understand that he had met such another woman, Miss Fanny Price.
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