Mansfield Park

  • David Monaghan


If her presentation of great houses is anything to go by, Jane Austen began to lose confidence in English landed society some time between the writing of Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. In their externals, Mansfield Park and Sotherton are suggestive of much the same ideals as Pemberley. The sheer bulk of the houses and the spaciousness of their parks underline the authority of the landowners; the careful cultivation of nature, whether it be the stream at Pemberley, or the avenue of trees at Sotherton, serves as a reminder of the organic principles upon which society is founded; and the conduct of daily life with its ‘consideration of times and seasons’ (383) reinforces values such as ‘elegance, propriety, regularity, harmony’ (391).1 However, whereas what Pemberley symbolises is made into a reality by Darcy, neither Sir Thomas Bertram nor Rushworth does more than keep up appearances.


Great House Social Circle Social Involvement Social Vision Sheer Bulk 
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  1. 1.
    The part played by these houses has been discussed in detail by Ann Banfield, ‘The Moral Landscape of Mansfield Park’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 26 (1971) 1–24, and Duckworth, pp. 36–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    I do not accept the argument that Mansfield Park condemns any form of wit or charm. Amongst those who take this position are Robert Alan Donovan, ‘Mansfield Park and Jane Austen’s Moral Universe’, in The Shaping Vision: Imagination in the English Novel from Defoe to Dickens (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966) pp. 148–52, andGoogle Scholar
  3. Walter E. Anderson, ‘The Plot of Mansfield Park’, Modern Philology, 71 (1973) 26.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    My thesis places great emphasis on the period of activity which separates Fanny’s two periods of very different kinds of quietness. It thus runs counter to the argument put forward by Tanner, ‘Jane Austen and “The Quiet Thing”’, p. 137, that Mansfield Park is the story of a girl who triumphs by ‘doing nothing’. Others who have emphasised Fanny’s passivity are Lionel Trilling, ‘Mansfield Park’, in The Opposing Self (London: Seeker and Warburg, 1955) p. 212; Nardin, pp. 107–8;Google Scholar
  5. Gerry Brenner, ‘Mansfield Park: Reading for “Improvement”’, Studies in the Novel, 7 (1975) 30.Google Scholar
  6. The fact that Fanny becomes active has been recognised by Butler, p. 236 and Alan Kennedy, ‘Irony and Action in Mansfield Park’, English Studies in Canada, 3 (1977) 164–75.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Joel C. Weinsheimer, ‘Mansfield Park: Three Problems’, Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 29 (1974) 200–5, argues that Fanny exaggerates the virtues of Mansfield Park. However, it is clear that she is thinking more of the house and its traditions than of the actual behaviour of the Bertrams. For an excellent discussion of Mansfield Park vis-à-vis its inhabitants, see Rubinstein, pp. 134–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© David Monaghan 1980

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  • David Monaghan

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