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by Jane Austen
The original, squashed down to read in about 25 minutes
Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, the daughter of the rector of Steventon, in Hampshire, England, and received her education from her father, a former Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford. Her life was spent in the country or in country towns, chiefly at the village of Chawton, near Winchester. She died, unmarried, at Winchester on July 18, 1817, and was buried in the cathedral. Her realism, irony and social commentary in tales of the minor gentry has made her one of the most widely read writers in English literature.
The naval officers in this story, and in "Persuasion," may come from Jane Austen's two youngest brothers, Francis and Charles, who both served in the Navy during the French wars, and both rose to the rank of admiral; Jane herself lived at Southampton from 1805 to 1809, and was, therefore, in a position to visit Portsmouth, and to see the sailor's life ashore
For more works by Jane Austen, see The Index
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 a handsome house and large income. She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation; and such of their acquaintances 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's, 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, in the living of Mansfield, an income of 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, named Price, without education, fortune, or connections, did it very thoroughly. To escape remonstrance, she never wrote to her family on the subject till actually married.
Lady Bertram, who was a woman of very tranquil feelings, and a temper remarkably easy and indolent, would have contented herself with merely giving up her sister, and thinking no more of the matter; but Mrs. Norris had a spirit of activity which could not be satisfied till she had written a long and angry letter to Fanny. Mrs. Price, in her turn, was injured and angry; and an answer, which comprehended both sisters in its bitterness, and bestowed such very disrespectful reflections on the pride of Sir Thomas, as Mrs. Norris could not possibly keep to herself, put an end to all intercourse between them for a considerable period.
By the end of eleven years, however, Mrs. Price could no longer afford to cherish pride or resentment, or to lose one connection that might possibly assist her. A very small income, a large and still increasing family, a husband disabled for active service, but not the less equal to company and good liquor, made her eager to regain the friends she had so carelessly sacrificed; and she addressed Lady Bertram a letter which spoke so much contrition and despondence as could not but dispose them all to a reconciliation. The letter re-established peace and kindness. Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram dispatched money and baby-linen for the expected child, and Mrs. Norris wrote the letters.
Within a twelvemonth a more important advantage to Mrs. Price resulted from her letter. Mrs. Norris, who was often observing to the others that she seemed to be wanting to do more for her poor sister, proposed that the latter should be entirely relieved from the charge and expense of her eldest daughter, Fanny, a girl of ten; and Sir Thomas, after debating the question, assented. The division of gratifying sensations in the consideration of so benevolent a scheme ought not, in strict justice, to have been equal; for, while Sir Thomas was fully resolved to be the real and consistent patron of the selected child, Mrs. Norris had not the least intention of being at any expense whatever in her maintenance. As far as walking, talking and contriving reached, she was thoroughly benevolent, and nobody knows better how to dictate liberality to others; but her love of money was equal to her love of directing, and she knew quite as well how to save her own as to spend that of her friends.
Fanny Price proved to be small for her age, with no glow of complexion or any other striking beauty; exceedingly timid and shy, and shrinking from notice; but her air, though awkward, was not vulgar, her voice was sweet, and when she spoke her countenance was pretty. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram received her very kindly; and Sir Thomas, seeing how much she needed encouragement, tried to be all that was conciliating. But he had to work against a most untoward gravity of deportment; and Lady Bertram, without taking half so much trouble, by the mere aid of a good-humoured smile, became immediately the less awful character of the two.
The young people were all at home, and sustained their share in the introduction very well, with much good humour and little embarrassment. They were a remarkably fine family; the sons, Tom and Edmund, boys of seventeen and sixteen, very well looking; the daughters, Maria, aged thirteen, and Julia, twelve, decidedly handsome.
But it took a long time to reconcile Fanny to the novelty of Mansfield Park, and to the separation from everybody she had been used to. Nobody meant to be unkind, but nobody put himself out of the way to secure her comfort. She was disheartened by Lady Bertram's silence, awed by Sir Thomas's grave looks, and quite overcome by Mrs. Norris's admonitions. Her elder cousins mortified her by reflections on her size, and abashed her by noticing her shyness; Miss Lee, the governess, wondered at her ignorance; and the maidservants sneered at her clothes. It was not till Edmund found her crying one morning on the attic stairs, and comforted her, that things began to mend for her. He was ever afterwards her true friend, and next to her dear brother William, first in her affections; and from that day she grew more comfortable.
The first event of any importance in the family's affairs was the death of Mr. Norris, which happened when Fanny was about fifteen, and necessarily introduced alterations and novelties. Mrs. Norris, on quitting the parsonage, removed first to the Park, and then arranged to take a small dwelling in the village belonging to Sir Thomas and called the White House. The living had been destined for Edmund, and in ordinary circumstances would have been duly given to some friend to hold till he were old enough to take orders. But Tom's extravagances had been so great as to render a different disposal of the next presentation necessary, and so the reversion was sold to a Dr. Grant, a hearty man of forty-five, fond of good eating, married to a wife about fifteen years his junior, and unprovided with children.
The Grants had scarcely been settled in Mansfield a year, when, for the better settlement of his property in the West Indies, Sir Thomas had found it expedient to go to Antigua, and he took his elder son with him, in the hope of detaching him from some bad connections at home. Neither person was missed.
Lady Bertram did not at all like to have her husband leave her; but she was not disturbed by any alarm for his safety or solicitude for his comfort, being one of those persons who think nothing can be dangerous or difficult or fatiguing to anybody but themselves. Before very long she found that Edmund could quite sufficiently supply his father's place. On this occasion the Miss Bertrams, who were now fully established among the belles of the neighbourhood, were much to be pitied, not for their sorrow, but for their want of it. Their father was no object of love to them; he had never seemed the friend of their pleasures, and his absence was unhappily most welcome.
Fanny's relief, and her consciousness of it, were quite equal to her cousins'; but a more tender nature suggested that her feelings were ungrateful, and she really grieved because she could not grieve.
Meantime, taking advantage of her sister's indolence, Mrs. Norris acted as chaperon to Maria and Julia in their public engagements, and very thoroughly relished the means this afforded her of mixing in society without having horses to hire.
Fanny had no share in the festivities of the season; but she enjoyed being avowedly useful as her aunt's companion, and talked to Lady Bertram, listened to her and read to her with never a thought of envying her cousins their gaieties. About this time Maria, who was now in her twenty-first year, got engaged to a rich but heavy country gentleman called Rushworth, merely because he had an income larger than her father's and could give her a house in town; while Tom returned safely from the West Indies, bringing an excellent account of his father's health, but telling the family that Sir Thomas would be detained in Antigua for several months longer.
Such was the state of affairs in the month of July; and Fanny had just reached her eighteenth year when the society of the village received an addition in the brother and sister of Mrs. Grant, a Mr. and Miss Crawford, the children of her mother by a second marriage. They were young people of fortune, the son having a good estate in Norfolk, the daughter twenty thousand pounds. They had been brought up by their father's brother and his wife, Admiral and Mrs. Crawford; and it was Mrs. Crawford's death, and the consequent installation of the admiral's mistress in the house, that had forced them to find another home. Mary Crawford was remarkably pretty; Henry, though not handsome, had air and countenance; the manners of both were lively and pleasant; and Mrs. Grant gave them credit for everything else.
The young people were pleased with each other from the first. Miss Crawford was most allowably a sweet, pretty girl, while the Miss Bertrams were the finest young women in the country. Mr. Crawford was the most agreeable young man Julia and Maria had ever known. Before he had been at Mansfield a week the former lady was quite ready to be fallen in love with; while as for the latter she did not want to see or to understand. "There could be no harm in her liking an agreeable man - everybody knew her situation - Mr. Crawford must take care of himself."
A young woman, pretty, lively, witty, playing on a harp as elegant as herself, was enough to catch any man's heart. 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 with Mary Crawford; 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. He taught her to ride on a horse which he had given to Fanny; he was always going round to see her at the parsonage; and, although he disapproved of the flippancy with which she talked of her relations, of religion, and of his future profession of clergyman, he was never weary of discussing her and of confessing his admiration of her to Fanny.
Harry Crawford was not so constant as his sister. On an expedition to Sotherton Court (Mr. Rushworth's place) he flirted with Julia on the way down, and with Maria when Sotherton was reached, leaving poor Mr. Rushworth no resource but to declare to Fanny his surprise at anyone calling so undersized a man as his rival handsome.
Some rehearsals of a play called "Lovers' Vows," in which Harry left Maria happy and expectant and Julia furious by assigning the parts of the lovers to the elder sister and to himself, made Mr. Rushworth even jealous. But this theatrical scheme, to which even Edmund had been forced to lend a reluctant co-operation - merely with a view of preventing outside actors being introduced - happily came to nothing, thanks to the unexpected arrival of Sir Thomas.
Maria was now expecting the man she loved to declare himself; but instead of making such a declaration of attachment, Harry Crawford left the neighbourhood almost immediately on the plea of having to meet his uncle at Bath. Maria, wounded and indignant, resolved that, though he had destroyed her happiness, he should not know that he had done so. So when her father, having, in an evening spent at Sotherton, discovered what a very inferior young man Mr. Rushworth was, and having noticed Maria's complete indifference to him, offered to give up the connection if she felt herself unhappy in the prospect of it, she merely thanked him, and said she had not the smallest desire of breaking through her engagement, and was not sensible of any change of opinion or inclination since her forming it. In a few weeks' time she was married to Mr. Rushworth; and after a day or two spent at Sotherton, the wedded pair went off to Brighton, where they were joined by Julia Bertram.
Meantime, Fanny, as the only young lady left at the Park, became of importance. Sir Thomas decided that she was pretty; Miss Crawford cultivated her society; and Mrs. Grant asked her to dinner. This last-mentioned attention disturbed Lady Bertram.
"So strange!" she said. "For Mrs. Grant never used to ask her."
"But it is very natural," observed Edmund, "that Mrs. Grant should wish to procure so agreeable a visitor for her sister."
"Nothing can be more natural," said Sir Thomas, after a short deliberation; "nor, were there no sister in the case, could anything, in my opinion, be more natural. Mrs. Grant's showing civility to Miss Price, to Lady Bertram's niece, could never want explanation. The only surprise I can feel is that this should be the first time of its being paid. Fanny was right in giving only a conditional answer. She appears to feel as she ought. But, as I conclude that she wishes to go, since all young people like to be together, I can see no reason why she should be denied this indulgence."
"Upon my word, Fanny," said Mrs. Norris, "you are in high luck to meet with such attention and indulgence. You ought to be very much obliged to Mrs. Grant for thinking of you, and to your aunt for letting you go, and you ought to look upon it as something extraordinary; for I hope you are aware that there is no real occasion for your going into company in this sort of way, or ever dining out at all; and it is what you must not depend upon ever being repeated. Nor must you be fancying that the invitation is meant as a compliment to you; the compliment is intended to your uncle and aunt and me. Mrs. Grant thinks it a civility due to us to take a little notice of you, or else it would never have come into her head, and you may be certain that if your cousin Julia had been at home you would not have been asked."
Mrs. Norris fetched breath, and went on.
"I think it right to give you a hint, Fanny, now that you are going into company without any of us; and I do beseech and entreat you not to be putting yourself forward, and talking and giving your opinion as if you were one of your cousins - as if you were dear Mrs. Rushworth or Julia. That will never do, believe me. Remember, wherever you are, you must be the lowest and last; and though Miss Crawford is in a manner at home at the Parsonage, you are not to be taking place of her. And as to coming away at night, you are to stay just as long as Edmund chooses."
"Yes, ma'am. I should not think of anything else."
"And if it should rain - which I think likely, for I never saw it more threatening for a wet evening in my life - you must manage as well as you can, and not be expecting the carriage to be sent for you."
"Walk!" said Sir Thomas, in a tone of unanswerable dignity, and, coming further into the room: "My niece walk to an engagement at this time of the year! Fanny, will twenty minutes after four suit you?"
A few weeks later Fanny was made happy by a visit from her brother William, now, through Sir Thomas's influence, a midshipman; and soon the former intercourse between the families at the Park and at the Parsonage was revived, Sir Thomas perceiving, in a careless way, that Mr. Crawford, who was back again at Mansfield, was somewhat distinguishing his niece.
Harry, indeed, was beginning to be rather piqued by Fanny's indifference.
"I do not quite know what to make of Miss Fanny," he said to his sister. "Is she solemn? Is she queer? Is she prudish? I can hardly get her to speak. I never was so long in company with a girl in my life, trying to entertain her, and succeeded so ill! Never met with a girl who looked so grave on me."
"Foolish fellow!" said Mary. "And so this is her attraction after all! This it is - her not caring for you - which gives her such a soft skin and makes her so much taller, and produces all these charms and graces! I do desire that you will not be making her really unhappy. A little love, perhaps, may animate and do her good; but I will not have you plunge her deep, for she is as good a little creature as ever lived, and has a great deal of feeling."
"It can be but for a fortnight," said Harry, "and if a fortnight can kill her she must have a constitution which nothing could save! No, I will not do her any harm. I only want her to look kindly on me, to give me smiles as well as blushes, to keep a chair for me by herself wherever we are, and be all animation when I take it and talk to her; to think as I think, to be interested in all my possessions and pleasures, try to keep me longer at Mansfield, and feel when I go away that she shall never be happy again. I want nothing more."
"Moderation itself!" replied Mary. "I can have no scruples now. Well, you will have opportunities enough of endeavouring to recommend yourself, for we are a great deal together."
Harry was unable to make any impression on Fanny; and though he fell deeply in love with her, got her brother William made lieutenant, and, after a ball given in her honour by Sir Thomas, proposed to her, he was unable to win her favour. She was in love with Edmund; and Edmund was torn between love for Mary, despair of winning her, and disapproval of her principles.
Mr. William Price, second lieutenant of H.M.S. Thrush, having obtained a ten days' leave of absence, again went down to see his sister; and Sir Thomas, as a kind of medicinal project on his niece's understanding, just to enable her to contrast with her father's shabby dwelling an abode of wealth and plenty like Mansfield Park, arranged that she should accompany her brother back to Portsmouth, and spend a little time with her own family. Within four days from their arrival William had to sail; and Fanny could not conceal it from herself that the home he had left her in was, in almost every respect, the very reverse of what she could have wished. It was the abode of noise, disorder and impropriety. Nobody was in his right place; nothing was done as it ought to be. She could not respect her parents as she had hoped. Her father was more negligent of his family, worse in his habits, coarser in his manners, than she had been prepared for. He did not want abilities; but he had no curiosity, and no information beyond his profession. He read only the newspaper and the Navy List. He talked only of the dockyard, the harbour, Spithead, and the Motherbank. He swore and he drank; he was dirty and gross.
She had never been able to recall anything approaching to tenderness in his former treatment of herself. There had remained only a general impression of roughness, and now he scarcely ever noticed her but to make her the object of a coarse joke.
Her disappointment in her mother was greater. There she had hoped much, and found almost nothing. She discovered, indeed, that her mother was a partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taught nor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagement and discomfort from beginning to end, and who had no talent, no conversation, no affection towards herself; no curiosity to know her better, no desire of her friendship, and no inclination for her company that could lessen her sense of such knowledge.
At the end of the fourth week of her visit Harry Crawford came to see Fanny, made himself very agreeable to her and her family, and then went back to town to see his sister, and to meet such friends as Edmund Bertram and the Rushworths. Fanny heard from Mary of Maria's fine house in Wimpole Street, of the splendours of the first party, and of the attentions paid to Julia by that would-be amateur actor, the Honourable John Yates; while from Edmund she gathered that his hopes of securing Mary were weaker than those he had cherished when he had left Mansfield, and that he was more satisfied with all that he saw and heard of Harry Crawford.
"I cannot give her up, Fanny," Edmund wrote of Mary. "She is the only woman in the world whom I could ever think of as a wife." Mary, on her part, hearing of a serious illness which had prostrated Tom Bertram, could not forbear saying to the same correspondent: "Poor young man! If he is to die, there will be two poor young men less in the world. I put it to your conscience whether 'Sir' Edmund would not do more good with all the Bertram property than any other possible 'sir.'" She also told Fanny that Mrs. Rushworth, in the absence of her husband on a visit to his mother at Bath, had been spending the Easter with some friends at Twickenham, and that her brother Harry had also been passing a few days at Richmond.
The interval of a few days afforded a commentary on this last piece of news. It turned out that Mrs. Rushworth, having succumbed once more to the protestations of Harry Crawford, had left her house in Wimpole Street to live with him, and that her sister Julia had eloped to Scotland to be married to Mr. Yates. On the occurrence of this distressing news, Fanny was summoned back to Mansfield Park, and was escorted down there by Edmund, who described to her his final interview with Mary. It seemed that Mary's distress at her brother's folly was so much more keenly expressed than any sorrow for his sin that Edmund's conscience left him no alternative but to make an end of their acquaintance.
Indeed, before many weeks had passed, he ceased to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire; and before many months had gone, the cousins were united. Nor was this the only happy event that occurred at Mansfield. Harry Crawford and Mrs. Rushworth having quarrelled and parted, and Sir Thomas having refused to allow his elder daughter to come home, Mrs. Norris cast off the dust of Mansfield from her feet, and went to live with her niece in an establishment arranged for them in another county. While as for Tom, he gradually regained his health, without regaining the thoughtlessness and selfishness of his previous habits, and was, in fact, improved forever by his illness.
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