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Mansfield Park, published in 1814, is the third novel by Jane Austen. The protagonist is Fanny Price, an intelligente and sensitive girl; at age ten her impoverished family sends Fanny to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle. Edmund, her cousin, will always be near her and Fanny soon realize that she is in love with him. Many tests await her before her dream is crowned. Jane Austen was born in Steventon, England, in 1775. Not much else is known other than she always lived with her family and that she never got married. After she died, her brothers destroyed most of her private letters, leaving very little biographical detail about her private life. Her novels are: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

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Veste grafica, nota introduttiva e cenni biografici

a cura di Infilaindiana Edizioni.

Introduction

 

Mansfield Park, published in 1814, is the third novel by Jane Austen. The protagonist is Fanny Price, an intelligente and sensitive girl; at age ten her impoverished family sends Fanny to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle. Edmund, her cousin, will always be near her and Fanny soon realize that she is in love with him. Many tests await her before her dream is crowned.

Biography

Jane Austen was born in Steventon, England, in 1775.

Not much else is known other than she always lived with her family and that she never got married. After she died, her brothers destroyed most of her private letters, leaving very little biographical detail about her private life. Her novels are: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Mansfield Park

 

by

 

Jane Austen

CHAPTER I

 

About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven

thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of

Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised

to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences

of an handsome house and large income. All Huntingdon exclaimed on the

greatness of the match, and her uncle, the lawyer, himself, allowed her

to be at least three thousand pounds short of any equitable claim to it.

She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation; and such of their

acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss Frances quite as handsome as

Miss Maria, did not scruple to predict their marrying with almost equal

advantage. But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in

the world as there are pretty women to deserve them. Miss Ward, at the

end of half a dozen years, found herself obliged to be attached to

the Rev. Mr. Norris, a friend of her brother-in-law, with scarcely any

private fortune, and Miss Frances fared yet worse. Miss Ward’s match,

indeed, when it came to the point, was not contemptible: Sir Thomas

being happily able to give his friend an income in the living of

Mansfield; and Mr. and Mrs. Norris began their career of conjugal

felicity with very little less than a thousand a year. But Miss Frances

married, in the common phrase, to disoblige her family, and by fixing on

a lieutenant of marines, without education, fortune, or connexions, did

it very thoroughly. She could hardly have made a more untoward choice.

Sir Thomas Bertram had interest, which, from principle as well as

pride – from a general wish of doing right, and a desire of seeing all

that were connected with him in situations of respectability, he would

have been glad to exert for the advantage of Lady Bertram’s sister; but

her husband’s profession was such as no interest could reach; and before

he had time to devise any other method of assisting them, an absolute

breach between the sisters had taken place. It was the natural result of

the conduct of each party, and such as a very imprudent marriage almost

always produces. To save herself from useless remonstrance, Mrs. Price

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, to point out the folly of

her conduct, and threaten her with all its possible ill consequences.

Mrs. Price, in her turn, was injured and angry; and an answer, which

comprehended each sister 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.

 

Their homes were so distant, and the circles in which they moved so

distinct, as almost to preclude the means of ever hearing of each

other’s existence during the eleven following years, or, at least, to

make it very wonderful to Sir Thomas that Mrs. Norris should ever have

it in her power to tell them, as she now and then did, in an angry

voice, that Fanny had got another child. By the end of eleven years,

however, Mrs. Price could no longer afford to cherish pride or

resentment, or to lose one connexion that might possibly assist her.

A large and still increasing family, an husband disabled for active

service, but not the less equal to company and good liquor, and a very

small income to supply their wants, made her eager to regain the friends

she had so carelessly sacrificed; and she addressed Lady Bertram in

a letter which spoke so much contrition and despondence, such a

superfluity of children, and such a want of almost everything else, as

could not but dispose them all to a reconciliation. She was preparing

for her ninth lying-in; and after bewailing the circumstance, and

imploring their countenance as sponsors to the expected child, she

could not conceal how important she felt they might be to the future

maintenance of the eight already in being. Her eldest was a boy of ten

years old, a fine spirited fellow, who longed to be out in the world;

but what could she do? Was there any chance of his being hereafter

useful to Sir Thomas in the concerns of his West Indian property?

No situation would be beneath him; or what did Sir Thomas think of

Woolwich? or how could a boy be sent out to the East?

 

The letter was not unproductive. It re-established peace and kindness.

Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram dispatched

money and baby-linen, and Mrs. Norris wrote the letters.

 

Such were its immediate effects, and within a twelvemonth a more

important advantage to Mrs. Price resulted from it. Mrs. Norris was

often observing to the others that she could not get her poor sister and

her family out of her head, and that, much as they had all done for her,

she seemed to be wanting to do more; and at length she could not but

own it to be her wish that poor Mrs. Price should be relieved from the

charge and expense of one child entirely out of her great number. “What

if they were among them to undertake the care of her eldest daughter,

a girl now nine years old, of an age to require more attention than her

poor mother could possibly give? The trouble and expense of it to them

would be nothing, compared with the benevolence of the action.” Lady

Bertram agreed with her instantly. “I think we cannot do better,” said

she; “let us send for the child.”

 

Sir Thomas could not give so instantaneous and unqualified a consent. He

debated and hesitated; – it was a serious charge; – a girl so brought up

must be adequately provided for, or there would be cruelty instead

of kindness in taking her from her family. He thought of his own four

children, of his two sons, of cousins in love, etc.; – but no sooner

had he deliberately begun to state his objections, than Mrs. Norris

interrupted him with a reply to them all, whether stated or not.

 

“My dear Sir Thomas, I perfectly comprehend you, and do justice to the

generosity and delicacy of your notions, which indeed are quite of a

piece with your general conduct; and I entirely agree with you in

the main as to the propriety of doing everything one could by way of

providing for a child one had in a manner taken into one’s own hands;

and I am sure I should be the last person in the world to withhold my

mite upon such an occasion. Having no children of my own, who should I

look to in any little matter I may ever have to bestow, but the children

of my sisters? – and I am sure Mr. Norris is too just – but you know I am

a woman of few words and professions. Do not let us be frightened from

a good deed by a trifle. Give a girl an education, and introduce

her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of

settling well, without farther expense to anybody. A niece of ours, Sir

Thomas, I may say, or at least of _yours_, would not grow up in this

neighbourhood without many advantages. I don’t say she would be so

handsome as her cousins. I dare say she would not; but she would be

introduced into the society of this country under such very favourable

circumstances as, in all human probability, would get her a creditable

establishment. You are thinking of your sons – but do not you know that,

of all things upon earth, _that_ is the least likely to happen, brought

up as they would be, always together like brothers and sisters? It is

morally impossible. I never knew an instance of it. It is, in fact, the

only sure way of providing against the connexion. Suppose her a pretty

girl, and seen by Tom or Edmund for the first time seven years hence,

and I dare say there would be mischief. The very idea of her having been

suffered to grow up at a distance from us all in poverty and neglect,

would be enough to make either of the dear, sweet-tempered boys in love

with her. But breed her up with them from this time, and suppose her

even to have the beauty of an angel, and she will never be more to

either than a sister.”

 

“There is a great deal of truth in what you say,” replied Sir Thomas,

“and far be it from me to throw any fanciful impediment in the way of a

plan which would be so consistent with the relative situations of each.

I only meant to observe that it ought not to be lightly engaged in,

and that to make it really serviceable to Mrs. Price, and creditable to

ourselves, we must secure to the child, or consider ourselves engaged to

secure to her hereafter, as circumstances may arise, the provision of

a gentlewoman, if no such establishment should offer as you are so

sanguine in expecting.”

 

“I thoroughly understand you,” cried Mrs. Norris, “you are everything

that is generous and considerate, and I am sure we shall never disagree

on this point. Whatever I can do, as you well know, I am always ready

enough to do for the good of those I love; and, though I could never

feel for this little girl the hundredth part of the regard I bear your

own dear children, nor consider her, in any respect, so much my own,

I should hate myself if I were capable of neglecting her. Is not she a

sister’s child? and could I bear to see her want while I had a bit of

bread to give her? My dear Sir Thomas, with all my faults I have a warm

heart; and, poor as I am, would rather deny myself the necessaries of

life than do an ungenerous thing. So, if you are not against it, I will

write to my poor sister tomorrow, and make the proposal; and, as soon

as matters are settled, _I_ will engage to get the child to Mansfield;

_you_ shall have no trouble about it. My own trouble, you know, I never

regard. I will send Nanny to London on purpose, and she may have a bed

at her cousin the saddler’s, and the child be appointed to meet her

there. They may easily get her from Portsmouth to town by the coach,

under the care of any creditable person that may chance to be going. I

dare say there is always some reputable tradesman’s wife or other going

up.”

 

Except to the attack on Nanny’s cousin, Sir Thomas no longer made any

objection, and a more respectable, though less economical rendezvous

being accordingly substituted, everything was considered as settled,

and the pleasures of so benevolent a scheme were already enjoyed. The

division of gratifying sensations ought not, in strict justice, to

have been equal; for Sir Thomas was fully resolved to be the real and

consistent patron of the selected child, and 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 knew 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.

Having married on a narrower income than she had been used to look

forward to, she had, from the first, fancied a very strict line of

economy necessary; and what was begun as a matter of prudence, soon grew

into a matter of choice, as an object of that needful solicitude which

there were no children to supply. Had there been a family to provide

for, Mrs. Norris might never have saved her money; but having no care

of that kind, there was nothing to impede her frugality, or lessen the

comfort of making a yearly addition to an income which they had never

lived up to. Under this infatuating principle, counteracted by no real

affection for her sister, it was impossible for her to aim at more than

the credit of projecting and arranging so expensive a charity; though

perhaps she might so little know herself as to walk home to the

Parsonage, after this conversation, in the happy belief of being the

most liberal-minded sister and aunt in the world.

 

When the subject was brought forward again, her views were more fully

explained; and, in reply to Lady Bertram’s calm inquiry of “Where shall

the child come to first, sister, to you or to us?” Sir Thomas heard with

some surprise that it would be totally out of Mrs. Norris’s power to

take any share in the personal charge of her. He had been considering

her as a particularly welcome addition at the Parsonage, as a desirable

companion to an aunt who had no children of her own; but he found

himself wholly mistaken. Mrs. Norris was sorry to say that the little

girl’s staying with them, at least as things then were, was quite out of

the question. Poor Mr. Norris’s indifferent state of health made it an

impossibility: he could no more bear the noise of a child than he could

fly; if, indeed, he should ever get well of his gouty complaints, it

would be a different matter: she should then be glad to take her turn,

and think nothing of the inconvenience; but just now, poor Mr. Norris

took up every moment of her time, and the very mention of such a thing

she was sure would distract him.

 

“Then she had better come to us,” said Lady Bertram, with the utmost

composure. After a short pause Sir Thomas added with dignity, “Yes, let

her home be in this house. We will endeavour to do our duty by her, and

she will, at least, have the advantage of companions of her own age, and

of a regular instructress.”

 

“Very true,” cried Mrs. Norris, “which are both very important

considerations; and it will be just the same to Miss Lee whether she has

three girls to teach, or only two – there can be no difference. I only

wish I could be more useful; but you see I do all in my power. I am not

one of those that spare their own trouble; and Nanny shall fetch her,

however it may put me to inconvenience to have my chief counsellor away

for three days. I suppose, sister, you will put the child in the little

white attic, near the old nurseries. It will be much the best place

for her, so near Miss Lee, and not far from the girls, and close by the

housemaids, who could either of them help to dress her, you know, and

take care of her clothes, for I suppose you would not think it fair to

expect Ellis to wait on her as well as the others. Indeed, I do not see

that you could possibly place her anywhere else.”

 

Lady Bertram made no opposition.

 

“I hope she will prove a well-disposed girl,” continued Mrs. Norris,

“and be sensible of her uncommon good fortune in having such friends.”

 

“Should her disposition be really bad,” said Sir Thomas, “we must not,

for our own children’s sake, continue her in the family; but there is

no reason to expect so great an evil. We shall probably see much to wish

altered in her, and must prepare ourselves for gross ignorance, some

meanness of opinions, and very distressing vulgarity of manner; but

these are not incurable faults; nor, I trust, can they be dangerous for

her associates. Had my daughters been _younger_ than herself, I should

have considered the introduction of such a companion as a matter of very

serious moment; but, as it is, I hope there can be nothing to fear for

_them_, and everything to hope for _her_, from the association.”

 

“That is exactly what I think,” cried Mrs. Norris, “and what I was

saying to my husband this morning. It will be an education for the

child, said I, only being with her cousins; if Miss Lee taught her

nothing, she would learn to be good and clever from _them_.”

 

“I hope she will not tease my poor pug,” said Lady Bertram; “I have but

just got Julia to leave it alone.”

 

“There will be some difficulty in our way, Mrs. Norris,” observed Sir

Thomas, “as to the distinction proper to be made between the girls

as they grow up: how to preserve in the minds of my _daughters_ the

consciousness of what they are, without making them think too lowly of

their cousin; and how, without depressing her spirits too far, to make

her remember that she is not a _Miss Bertram_. I should wish to see them

very good friends, and would, on no account, authorise in my girls the

smallest degree of arrogance towards their relation; but still they

cannot be equals. Their rank, fortune, rights, and expectations will

always be different. It is a point of great delicacy, and you must

assist us in our endeavours to choose exactly the right line of

conduct.”

 

Mrs. Norris was quite at his service; and though she perfectly agreed

with him as to its being a most difficult thing, encouraged him to hope

that between them it would be easily managed.

 

It will be readily believed that Mrs. Norris did not write to her sister

in vain. Mrs. Price seemed rather surprised that a girl should be

fixed on, when she had so many fine boys, but accepted the offer most

thankfully, assuring them of her daughter’s being a very well-disposed,

good-humoured girl, and trusting they would never have cause to throw

her off. She spoke of her farther as somewhat delicate and puny, but was

sanguine in the hope of her being materially better for change of air.

Poor woman! she probably thought change of air might agree with many of

her children.

CHAPTER II

 

The little girl performed her long journey in safety; and at Northampton

was met by Mrs. Norris, who thus regaled in the credit of being foremost

to welcome her, and in the importance of leading her in to the others,

and recommending her to their kindness.

 

Fanny Price was at this time just ten years old, and though there might

not be much in her first appearance to captivate, there was, at least,

nothing to disgust her relations. She was small of her age, with no glow

of complexion, nor 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, or

speaking one word where he spoke ten, 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 no embarrassment, at

least on the part of the sons, who, at seventeen and sixteen, and tall

of their age, had all the grandeur of men in the eyes of their little

cousin. The two girls were more at a loss from being younger and in

greater awe of their father, who addressed them on the occasion with

rather an injudicious particularity. But they were too much used to

company and praise to have anything like natural shyness; and their

confidence increasing from their cousin’s total want of it, they were

soon able to take a full survey of her face and her frock in easy

indifference.

 

They were a remarkably fine family, the sons very well-looking, the

daughters decidedly handsome, and all of them well-grown and forward of

their age, which produced as striking a difference between the cousins

in person, as education had given to their address; and no one would

have supposed the girls so nearly of an age as they really were. There

were in fact but two years between the youngest and Fanny. Julia

Bertram was only twelve, and Maria but a year older. The little visitor

meanwhile was as unhappy as possible. Afraid of everybody, ashamed of

herself, and longing for the home she had left, she knew not how to look

up, and could scarcely speak to be heard, or without crying. Mrs. Norris

had been talking to her the whole way from Northampton of her wonderful

good fortune, and the extraordinary degree of gratitude and good

behaviour which it ought to produce, and her consciousness of misery was

therefore increased by the idea of its being a wicked thing for her

not to be happy. The fatigue, too, of so long a journey, became soon no

trifling evil. In vain were the well-meant condescensions of Sir Thomas,

and all the officious prognostications of Mrs. Norris that she would be

a good girl; in vain did Lady Bertram smile and make her sit on the sofa

with herself and pug, and vain was even the sight of a gooseberry tart

towards giving her comfort; she could scarcely swallow two mouthfuls

before tears interrupted her, and sleep seeming to be her likeliest

friend, she was taken to finish her sorrows in bed.

 

“This is not a very promising beginning,” said Mrs. Norris, when Fanny

had left the room. “After all that I said to her as we came along, I

thought she would have behaved better; I told her how much might depend

upon her acquitting herself well at first. I wish there may not be a

little sulkiness of temper – her poor mother had a good deal; but we must

make allowances for such a child – and I do not know that her being sorry

to leave her home is really against her, for, with all its faults,

it _was_ her home, and she cannot as yet understand how much she has

changed for the better; but then there is moderation in all things.”

 

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 holiday allowed to the Miss Bertrams the next day, on purpose to

afford leisure for getting acquainted with, and entertaining their young

cousin, produced little union. They could not but hold her cheap on

finding that she had but two sashes, and had never learned French; and

when they perceived her to be little struck with the duet they were so

good as to play, they could do no more than make her a generous present

of some of their least valued toys, and leave her to herself, while

they adjourned to whatever might be the favourite holiday sport of the

moment, making artificial flowers or wasting gold paper.

 

Fanny, whether near or from her cousins, whether in the schoolroom, the

drawing-room, or the shrubbery, was equally forlorn, finding something

to fear in every person and place. 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 wondered at her ignorance, and the maid-servants sneered at her

clothes; and when to these sorrows was added the idea of the brothers

and sisters among whom she had always been important as playfellow,

instructress, and nurse, the despondence that sunk her little heart was

severe.

 

The grandeur of the house astonished, but could not console her. The

rooms were too large for her to move in with ease: whatever she touched

she expected to injure, and she crept about in constant terror of

something or other; often retreating towards her own chamber to cry; and

the little girl who was spoken of in the drawing-room when she left it

at night as seeming so desirably sensible of her peculiar good fortune,

ended every day’s sorrows by sobbing herself to sleep. A week had

passed in this way, and no suspicion of it conveyed by her quiet

passive manner, when she was found one morning by her cousin Edmund, the

youngest of the sons, sitting crying on the attic stairs.

 

“My dear little cousin,” said he, with all the gentleness of an

excellent nature, “what can be the matter?” And sitting down by her,

he was at great pains to overcome her shame in being so surprised, and

persuade her to speak openly. Was she ill? or was anybody angry with

her? or had she quarrelled with Maria and Julia? or was she puzzled

about anything in her lesson that he could explain? Did she, in short,

want anything he could possibly get her, or do for her? For a long while

no answer could be obtained beyond a “no, no – not at all – no, thank

you”; but he still persevered; and no sooner had he begun to revert

to her own home, than her increased sobs explained to him where the

grievance lay. He tried to console her.

 

“You are sorry to leave Mama, my dear little Fanny,” said he, “which

shows you to be a very good girl; but you must remember that you are

with relations and friends, who all love you, and wish to make you

happy. Let us walk out in the park, and you shall tell me all about your

brothers and sisters.”

 

On pursuing the subject, he found that, dear as all these brothers and

sisters generally were, there was one among them who ran more in her

thoughts than the rest. It was William whom she talked of most, and

wanted most to see. William, the eldest, a year older than herself, her

constant companion and friend; her advocate with her mother (of whom

he was the darling) in every distress. “William did not like she should

come away; he had told her he should miss her very much indeed.” “But

William will write to you, I dare say.” “Yes, he had promised he would,

but he had told _her_ to write first.” “And when shall you do it?” She

hung her head and answered hesitatingly, “she did not know; she had not

any paper.”

 

“If that be all your difficulty, I will furnish you with paper and every

other material, and you may write your letter whenever you choose. Would

it make you happy to write to William?”

 

“Yes, very.”

 

“Then let it be done now. Come with me into the breakfast-room, we shall

find everything there, and be sure of having the room to ourselves.”

 

“But, cousin, will it go to the post?”

 

“Yes, depend upon me it shall: it shall go with the other letters; and,

as your uncle will frank it, it will cost William nothing.”

 

“My uncle!” repeated Fanny, with a frightened look.

 

“Yes, when you have written the letter, I will take it to my father to

frank.”

 

Fanny thought it a bold measure, but offered no further resistance; and

they went together into the breakfast-room, where Edmund prepared her

paper, and ruled her lines with all the goodwill that her brother

could himself have felt, and probably with somewhat more exactness. He

continued with her the whole time of her writing, to assist her with his

penknife or his orthography, as either were wanted; and added to these

attentions, which she felt very much, a kindness to her brother which

delighted her beyond all the rest. He wrote with his own hand his

love to his cousin William, and sent him 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 had never knowingly given her pain, but 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, and gave her

especially a great deal of good advice as to playing with Maria and

Julia, and being as merry as possible.

 

From this day Fanny grew more comfortable. She felt that she had a

friend, and the kindness of her cousin Edmund gave her better spirits

with everybody else. The place became less strange, and the people less

formidable; and if there were some amongst them whom she could not cease

to fear, she began at least to know their ways, and to catch the best

manner of conforming to them. The little rusticities and awkwardnesses

which had at first made grievous inroads on the tranquillity of all,

and not least of herself, necessarily wore away, and she was no longer

materially afraid to appear before her uncle, nor did her aunt Norris’s

voice make her start very much. To her cousins she became occasionally

an acceptable companion. Though unworthy, from inferiority of age and

strength, to be their constant associate, their pleasures and schemes

were sometimes of a nature to make a third very useful, especially when

that third was of an obliging, yielding temper; and they could not but

own, when their aunt inquired into her faults, or their brother Edmund

urged her claims to their kindness, that “Fanny was good-natured

enough.”

 

Edmund was uniformly kind himself; and she had nothing worse to endure

on the part of Tom than that sort of merriment which a young man of

seventeen will always think fair with a child of ten. He was just

entering into life, full of spirits, and with all the liberal

dispositions of an eldest son, who feels born only for expense and

enjoyment. His kindness to his little cousin was consistent with his

situation and rights: he made her some very pretty presents, and laughed

at her.

 

As her appearance and spirits improved, Sir Thomas and Mrs. Norris

thought with greater satisfaction of their benevolent plan; and it

was pretty soon decided between them that, though far from clever, she

showed a tractable disposition, and seemed likely to give them little

trouble. A mean opinion of her abilities was not confined to _them_.

Fanny could read, work, and write, but she had been taught nothing more;

and as her cousins found her ignorant of many things with which they had

been long familiar, they thought her prodigiously stupid, and for the

first two or three weeks were continually bringing some fresh report of

it into the drawing-room. “Dear mama, only think, my cousin cannot

put the map of Europe together – or my cousin cannot tell the principal

rivers in Russia – or, she never heard of Asia Minor – or she does

not know the difference between water-colours and crayons! – How

strange! – Did you ever hear anything so stupid?”

 

“My dear,” their considerate aunt would reply, “it is very bad, but

you must not expect everybody to be as forward and quick at learning as

yourself.”

 

“But, aunt, she is really so very ignorant! – Do you know, we asked her

last night which way she would go to get to Ireland; and she said, she

should cross to the Isle of Wight. She thinks of nothing but the Isle of

Wight, and she calls it _the_ _Island_, as if there were no other island

in the world. I am sure I should have been ashamed of myself, if I had

not known better long before I was so old as she is. I cannot remember

the time when I did not know a great deal that she has not the least

notion of yet. How long ago it is, aunt, since we used to repeat the

chronological order of the kings of England, with the dates of their

accession, and most of the principal events of their reigns!”

 

“Yes,” added the other; “and of the Roman emperors as low as Severus;

besides a great deal of the heathen mythology, and all the metals,

semi-metals, planets, and distinguished philosophers.”

 

“Very true indeed, my dears, but you are blessed with wonderful

memories, and your poor cousin has probably none at all. There is a

vast deal of difference in memories, as well as in everything else,

and therefore you must make allowance for your cousin, and pity her

deficiency. And remember that, if you are ever so forward and clever

yourselves, you should always be modest; for, much as you know already,

there is a great deal more for you to learn.”

 

“Yes, I know there is, till I am seventeen. But I must tell you another

thing of Fanny, so odd and so stupid. Do you know, she says she does not

want to learn either music or drawing.”

 

“To be sure, my dear, that is very stupid indeed, and shows a great

want of genius and emulation. But, all things considered, I do not know

whether it is not as well that it should be so, for, though you know

(owing to me) your papa and mama are so good as to bring her up with

you, it is not at all necessary that she should be as accomplished as

you are; – on the contrary, it is much more desirable that there should

be a difference.”

 

Such were the counsels by which Mrs. Norris assisted to form her nieces’

minds; and it is not very wonderful that, with all their promising

talents and early information, they should be entirely deficient in the

less common acquirements of self-knowledge, generosity and humility. In

everything but disposition they were admirably taught. Sir Thomas did

not know what was wanting, because, though a truly anxious father, he

was not outwardly affectionate, and the reserve of his manner repressed

all the flow of their spirits before him.

 

To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest

attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent

her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of

needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than

her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put

herself to inconvenience, guided in everything important by Sir Thomas,

and in smaller concerns by her sister. Had she possessed greater leisure

for the service of her girls, she would probably have supposed it

unnecessary, for they were under the care of a governess, with proper

masters, and could want nothing more. As for Fanny’s being stupid at

learning, “she could only say it was very unlucky, but some people

_were_ stupid, and Fanny must take more pains: she did not know what

else was to be done; and, except her being so dull, she must add she saw

no harm in the poor little thing, and always found her very handy and

quick in carrying messages, and fetching what she wanted.”

 

Fanny, with all her faults of ignorance and timidity, was fixed at

Mansfield Park, and learning to transfer in its favour much of her

attachment to her former home, grew up there not unhappily among her

cousins. There was no positive ill-nature in Maria or Julia; and though

Fanny was often mortified by their treatment of her, she thought too

lowly of her own claims to feel injured by it.

 

From about the time of her entering the family, Lady Bertram, in

consequence of a little ill-health, and a great deal of indolence, gave

up the house in town, which she had been used to occupy every spring,

and remained wholly in the country, leaving Sir Thomas to attend his

duty in Parliament, with whatever increase or diminution of comfort

might arise from her absence. In the country, therefore, the Miss

Bertrams continued to exercise their memories, practise their duets,

and grow tall and womanly: and their father saw them becoming in person,

manner, and accomplishments, everything that could satisfy his anxiety.

His eldest son was careless and extravagant, and had already given him

much uneasiness; but his other children promised him nothing but good.

His daughters, he felt, while they retained the name of Bertram, must

be giving it new grace, and in quitting it, he trusted, would extend

its respectable alliances; and the character of Edmund, his strong good

sense and uprightness of mind, bid most fairly for utility, honour, and

happiness to himself and all his connexions. He was to be a clergyman.

 

Amid the cares and the complacency which his own children suggested,

Sir Thomas did not forget to do what he could for the children of Mrs.

Price: he assisted her liberally in the education and disposal of her

sons as they became old enough for a determinate pursuit; and Fanny,

though almost totally separated from her family, was sensible of the

truest satisfaction in hearing of any kindness towards them, or of

anything at all promising in their situation or conduct. Once, and once

only, in the course of many years, had she the happiness of being with

William. Of the rest she saw nothing: nobody seemed to think of her ever

going amongst them again, even for a visit, nobody at home seemed to

want her; but William determining, soon after her removal, to be a

sailor, was invited to spend a week with his sister in Northamptonshire

before he went to sea. Their eager affection in meeting, their exquisite

delight in being together, their hours of happy mirth, and moments of

serious conference, may be imagined; as well as the sanguine views and

spirits of the boy even to the last, and the misery of the girl when he

left her. Luckily the visit happened in the Christmas holidays, when she

could directly look for comfort to her cousin Edmund; and he told her

such charming things of what William was to do, and be hereafter, in

consequence of his profession, as made her gradually admit that the

separation might have some use. Edmund’s friendship never failed her:

his leaving Eton for Oxford made no change in his kind dispositions, and

only afforded more frequent opportunities of proving them. Without any

display of doing more than the rest, or any fear of doing too much,

he was always true to her interests, and considerate of her feelings,

trying to make her good qualities understood, and to conquer the

diffidence which prevented their being more apparent; giving her advice,

consolation, and encouragement.

 

Kept back as she was by everybody else, his single support could not

bring her forward; but his attentions were otherwise of the highest

importance in assisting the improvement of her mind, and extending its

pleasures. He knew her to be clever, to have a quick apprehension

as well as good sense, and a fondness for reading, which, properly

directed, must be an education in itself. Miss Lee taught her French,

and heard her read the daily portion of history; but he recommended

the books which charmed her leisure hours, he encouraged her taste, and

corrected her judgment: he made reading useful by talking to her of what

she read, and heightened its attraction by judicious praise. In return

for such services she loved him better than anybody in the world except

William: her heart was divided between the two.

CHAPTER III

 

The first event of any importance in the family 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 afterwards to a small house

of Sir Thomas’s in the village, and consoled herself for the loss of her

husband by considering that she could do very well without him; and for

her reduction of income by the evident necessity of stricter economy.

 

The living was hereafter for Edmund; and, had his uncle died a few years

sooner, it would have been duly given to some friend to hold till he

were old enough for orders. But Tom’s extravagance had, previous to

that event, been so great as to render a different disposal of the next

presentation necessary, and the younger brother must help to pay for the

pleasures of the elder. There was another family living actually held

for Edmund; but though this circumstance had made the arrangement

somewhat easier to Sir Thomas’s conscience, he could not but feel it to

be an act of injustice, and he earnestly tried to impress his eldest son

with the same conviction, in the hope of its producing a better effect

than anything he had yet been able to say or do.

 

“I blush for you, Tom,” said he, in his most dignified manner; “I blush

for the expedient which I am driven on, and I trust I may pity your

feelings as a brother on the occasion. You have robbed Edmund for ten,

twenty, thirty years, perhaps for life, of more than half the income

which ought to be his. It may hereafter be in my power, or in yours

(I hope it will), to procure him better preferment; but it must not

be forgotten that no benefit of that sort would have been beyond his

natural claims on us, and that nothing can, in fact, be an equivalent

for the certain advantage which he is now obliged to forego through the

urgency of your debts.”

 

Tom listened with some shame and some sorrow; but escaping as quickly as

possible, could soon with cheerful selfishness reflect, firstly, that he

had not been half so much in debt as some of his friends; secondly, that

his father had made a most tiresome piece of work of it; and,

thirdly, that the future incumbent, whoever he might be, would, in all

probability, die very soon.

 

On Mr. Norris’s death the presentation became the right of a Dr. Grant,

who came consequently to reside at Mansfield; and on proving to be a

hearty man of forty-five, seemed likely to disappoint Mr. Bertram’s

calculations. But “no, he was a short-necked, apoplectic sort of fellow,

and, plied well with good things, would soon pop off.”

 

He had a wife about fifteen years his junior, but no children; and

they entered the neighbourhood with the usual fair report of being very

respectable, agreeable people.

 

The time was now come when Sir Thomas expected his sister-in-law to

claim her share in their niece, the change in Mrs. Norris’s situation,

and the improvement in Fanny’s age, seeming not merely to do away any

former objection to their living together, but even to give it the most

decided eligibility; and as his own circumstances were rendered less

fair than heretofore, by some recent losses on his West India estate, in

addition to his eldest son’s extravagance, it became not undesirable

to himself to be relieved from the expense of her support, and the

obligation of her future provision. In the fullness of his belief that

such a thing must be, he mentioned its probability to his wife; and the

first time of the subject’s occurring to her again happening to be when

Fanny was present, she calmly observed to her, “So, Fanny, you are going

to leave us, and live with my sister. How shall you like it?”

 

Fanny was too much surprised to do more than repeat her aunt’s words,

“Going to leave you?”

 

“Yes, my dear; why should you be astonished? You have been five years

with us, and my sister always meant to take you when Mr. Norris died.

But you must come up and tack on my patterns all the same.”

 

The news was as disagreeable to Fanny as it had been unexpected. She had

never received kindness from her aunt Norris, and could not love her.

 

“I shall be very sorry to go away,” said she, with a faltering voice.

 

“Yes, I dare say you will; _that’s_ natural enough. I suppose you have

had as little to vex you since you came into this house as any creature

in the world.”

 

“I hope I am not ungrateful, aunt,” said Fanny modestly.

 

“No, my dear; I hope not. I have always found you a very good girl.”

 

“And am I never to live here again?”

 

“Never, my dear; but you are sure of a comfortable home. It can make

very little difference to you, whether you are in one house or the

other.”

 

Fanny left the room with a very sorrowful heart; she could not feel the

difference to be so small, she could not think of living with her aunt

with anything like satisfaction. As soon as she met with Edmund she told

him her distress.

 

“Cousin,” said she, “something is going to happen which I do not like

at all; and though you have often persuaded me into being reconciled to

things that I disliked at first, you will not be able to do it now. I am

going to live entirely with my aunt Norris.”

 

“Indeed!”

 

“Yes; my aunt Bertram has just told me so. It is quite settled. I am to

leave Mansfield Park, and go to the White House, I suppose, as soon as

she is removed there.”

 

“Well, Fanny, and if the plan were not unpleasant to you, I should call

it an excellent one.”

 

“Oh, cousin!”

 

“It has everything else in its favour. My aunt is acting like a sensible

woman in wishing for you. She is choosing a friend and companion exactly

where she ought, and I am glad her love of money does not interfere.

You will be what you ought to be to her. I hope it does not distress you

very much, Fanny?”

 

“Indeed it does: I cannot like it. I love this house and everything in

it: I shall love nothing there. You know how uncomfortable I feel with

her.”

 

“I can say nothing for her manner to you as a child; but it was the

same with us all, or nearly so. She never knew how to be pleasant to

children. But you are now of an age to be treated better; I think she is

behaving better already; and when you are her only companion, you _must_

be important to her.”

 

“I can never be important to any one.”

 

“What is to prevent you?”

 

“Everything. My situation, my foolishness and awkwardness.”

 

“As to your foolishness and awkwardness, my dear Fanny, believe me, you

never have a shadow of either, but in using the words so improperly.

There is no reason in the world why you should not be important where

you are known. You have good sense, and a sweet temper, and I am sure

you have a grateful heart, that could never receive kindness without

wishing to return it. I do not know any better qualifications for a

friend and companion.”

 

“You are too kind,” said Fanny, colouring at such praise; “how shall I

ever thank you as I ought, for thinking so well of me. Oh! cousin, if I

am to go away, I shall remember your goodness to the last moment of my

life.”

 

“Why, indeed, Fanny, I should hope to be remembered at such a distance

as the White House. You speak as if you were going two hundred miles

off instead of only across the park; but you will belong to us almost

as much as ever. The two families will be meeting every day in the

year. The only difference will be that, living with your aunt, you will

necessarily be brought forward as you ought to be. _Here_ there are

too many whom you can hide behind; but with _her_ you will be forced to

speak for yourself.”

 

“Oh! I do not say so.”

 

“I must say it, and say it with pleasure. Mrs. Norris is much better

fitted than my mother for having the charge of you now. She is of a

temper to do a great deal for anybody she really interests herself

about, and she will force you to do justice to your natural powers.”

 

Fanny sighed, and said, “I cannot see things as you do; but I ought to

believe you to be right rather than myself, and I am very much obliged

to you for trying to reconcile me to what must be. If I could suppose

my aunt really to care for me, it would be delightful to feel myself of

consequence to anybody. _Here_, I know, I am of none, and yet I love the

place so well.”

 

“The place, Fanny, is what you will not quit, though you quit the house.

You will have as free a command of the park and gardens as ever. Even

_your_ constant little heart need not take fright at such a nominal

change. You will have the same walks to frequent, the same library to

choose from, the same people to look at, the same horse to ride.”

 

“Very true. Yes, dear old grey pony! Ah! cousin, when I remember how

much I used to dread riding, what terrors it gave me to hear it talked

of as likely to do me good (oh! how I have trembled at my uncle’s

opening his lips if horses were talked of), and then think of the kind

pains you took to reason and persuade me out of my fears, and convince

me that I should like it after a little while, and feel how right you

proved to be, I am inclined to hope you may always prophesy as well.”

 

“And I am quite convinced that your being with Mrs. Norris will be as

good for your mind as riding has been for your health, and as much for

your ultimate happiness too.”

 

So ended their discourse, which, for any very appropriate service it

could render Fanny, might as well have been spared, for Mrs. Norris had

not the smallest intention of taking her. It had never occurred to her,

on the present occasion, but as a thing to be carefully avoided. To

prevent its being expected, she had fixed on the smallest habitation

which could rank as genteel among the buildings of Mansfield parish,

the White House being only just large enough to receive herself and her

servants, and allow a spare room for a friend, of which she made a

very particular point. The spare rooms at the Parsonage had never been

wanted, but the absolute necessity of a spare room for a friend was now

never forgotten. Not all her precautions, however, could save her from

being suspected of something better; or, perhaps, her very display of

the importance of a spare room might have misled Sir Thomas to suppose

it really intended for Fanny. Lady Bertram soon brought the matter to a

certainty by carelessly observing to Mrs. Norris –

 

“I think, sister, we need not keep Miss Lee any longer, when Fanny goes

to live with you.”

 

Mrs. Norris almost started. “Live with me, dear Lady Bertram! what do

you mean?”

 

“Is she not to live with you? I thought you had settled it with Sir

Thomas.”

 

“Me! never. I never spoke a syllable about it to Sir Thomas, nor he to

me. Fanny live with me! the last thing in the world for me to think

of, or for anybody to wish that really knows us both. Good heaven! what

could I do with Fanny? Me! a poor, helpless, forlorn widow, unfit for

anything, my spirits quite broke down; what could I do with a girl at

her time of life? A girl of fifteen! the very age of all others to need

most attention and care, and put the cheerfullest spirits to the test!

Sure Sir Thomas could not seriously expect such a thing! Sir Thomas is

too much my friend. Nobody that wishes me well, I am sure, would propose

it. How came Sir Thomas to speak to you about it?”

 

“Indeed, I do not know. I suppose he thought it best.”

 

“But what did he say? He could not say he _wished_ me to take Fanny. I

am sure in his heart he could not wish me to do it.”

 

“No; he only said he thought it very likely; and I thought so too. We

both thought it would be a comfort to you. But if you do not like it,

there is no more to be said. She is no encumbrance here.”

 

“Dear sister, if you consider my unhappy state, how can she be any

comfort to me? Here am I, a poor desolate widow, deprived of the best of

husbands, my health gone in attending and nursing him, my spirits still

worse, all my peace in this world destroyed, with hardly enough to

support me in the rank of a gentlewoman, and enable me to live so as not

to disgrace the memory of the dear departed – what possible comfort could

I have in taking such a charge upon me as Fanny? If I could wish it for

my own sake, I would not do so unjust a thing by the poor girl. She

is in good hands, and sure of doing well. I must struggle through my

sorrows and difficulties as I can.”

 

“Then you will not mind living by yourself quite alone?”

 

“Lady Bertram, I do not complain. I know I cannot live as I have done,

but I must retrench where I can, and learn to be a better manager. I

_have_ _been_ a liberal housekeeper enough, but I shall not be ashamed

to practise economy now. My situation is as much altered as my income.

A great many things were due from poor Mr. Norris, as clergyman of the

parish, that cannot be expected from me. It is unknown how much was

consumed in our kitchen by odd comers and goers. At the White House,

matters must be better looked after. I _must_ live within my income, or

I shall be miserable; and I own it would give me great satisfaction to

be able to do rather more, to lay by a little at the end of the year.”

 

“I dare say you will. You always do, don’t you?”

 

“My object, Lady Bertram, is to be of use to those that come after me.

It is for your children’s good that I wish to be richer. I have nobody

else to care for, but I should be very glad to think I could leave a

little trifle among them worth their having.”

 

“You are very good, but do not trouble yourself about them. They are

sure of being well provided for. Sir Thomas will take care of that.”

 

“Why, you know, Sir Thomas’s means will be rather straitened if the

Antigua estate is to make such poor returns.”

 

“Oh! _that_ will soon be settled. Sir Thomas has been writing about it,

I know.”

 

“Well, Lady Bertram,” said Mrs. Norris, moving to go, “I can only say

that my sole desire is to be of use to your family: and so, if Sir

Thomas should ever speak again about my taking Fanny, you will be able

to say that my health and spirits put it quite out of the question;

besides that, I really should not have a bed to give her, for I must

keep a spare room for a friend.”

 

Lady Bertram repeated enough of this conversation to her husband to

convince him how much he had mistaken his sister-in-law’s views; and

she was from that moment perfectly safe from all expectation, or the

slightest allusion to it from him. He could not but wonder at her

refusing to do anything for a niece whom she had been so forward to

adopt; but, as she took early care to make him, as well as Lady Bertram,

understand that whatever she possessed was designed for their family,

he soon grew reconciled to a distinction which, at the same time that it

was advantageous and complimentary to them, would enable him better to

provide for Fanny himself.

 

Fanny soon learnt how unnecessary had been her fears of a removal;

and her spontaneous, untaught felicity on the discovery, conveyed some

consolation to Edmund for his disappointment in what he had expected to

be so essentially serviceable to her. Mrs. Norris took possession of the

White House, the Grants arrived at the Parsonage, and these events over,

everything at Mansfield went on for some time as usual.

 

The Grants showing a disposition to be friendly and sociable, gave great

satisfaction in the main among their new acquaintance. They had their

faults, and Mrs. Norris soon found them out. The Doctor was very fond of

eating, and would have a good dinner every day; and Mrs. Grant, instead

of contriving to gratify him at little expense, gave her cook as high

wages as they did at Mansfield Park, and was scarcely ever seen in her

offices. Mrs. Norris could not speak with any temper of such grievances,

nor of the quantity of butter and eggs that were regularly consumed

in the house. “Nobody loved plenty and hospitality more than herself;

nobody more hated pitiful doings; the Parsonage, she believed, had never

been wanting in comforts of any sort, had never borne a bad character

in _her_ _time_, but this was a way of going on that she could not

understand. A fine lady in a country parsonage was quite out of place.

_Her_ store-room, she thought, might have been good enough for Mrs.

Grant to go into. Inquire where she would, she could not find out that

Mrs. Grant had ever had more than five thousand pounds.”

 

Lady Bertram listened without much interest to this sort of invective.

She could not enter into the wrongs of an economist, but she felt all

the injuries of beauty in Mrs. Grant’s being so well settled in life

without being handsome, and expressed her astonishment on that point

almost as often, though not so diffusely, as Mrs. Norris discussed the

other.

 

These opinions had been hardly canvassed a year before another event

arose of such importance in the family, as might fairly claim some place

in the thoughts and conversation of the ladies. Sir Thomas found it

expedient to go to Antigua himself, for the better arrangement of his

affairs, and he took his eldest son with him, in the hope of detaching

him from some bad connexions at home. They left England with the

probability of being nearly a twelvemonth absent.

 

The necessity of the measure in a pecuniary light, and the hope of its

utility to his son, reconciled Sir Thomas to the effort of quitting the

rest of his family, and of leaving his daughters to the direction of

others at their present most interesting time of life. He could not