Monday, 16 December 2013

Maria Edgeworth and Mansfield Park

I wrote here about the author Maria Edgeworth and her opinions on Jane Austen's writings.

Since then I have come across a more detailed opinion of Edgeworth's on Mansfield Park and so I'm sharing it here. Hope you enjoy it.

She says in a letter to Lady Romilly dated Dec 31st1814 *

We heartily join with you in your opinion of Mansfield park – which, as you say, is a true picture, a copy of nature – I had almost said a facsimile – for it seems in some of the conversations as if the paper had been laid down upon the words of the speaker and had taken off the impression exact and fresh from their lips – The novel wants what you missed in it, some characters a little above every-day life, some above the standard of mediocrity to touch the heart and raise enthusiasm (you will allow that Waverly is not deficient there?) – I do not know whether the author of Mansfield park meant to give her heroine Fanny, a touch of the selfishness which is described so variously and so admirably in her mother aunt and all the rest of her family – but certainly Fanny has a portion of family selfishness – When she married and is rich she never does anything for her wretched father and mother – Whilst with them she gives them nothing, but a silver knife, and buys biscuits and buns for her private eating – I absolutely hate her for that stroke – the whole Portsmouth scene is admirable – Mrs Morris excellent – but I do not think it in character for her to go live with her aunt in adversity. It should at least have been stated that said niece had a considerable separate maintenance and that Sit Thomas was to tired of Mrs. Morris that he would not let her live with him any longer. That poor father: that poor Sir Thomas: is very ill used through the whole story and for no good reason that appears – all his children and Fanny to whom he is so kind fear and tremble before him – yet all that he does and says is good – We are continually assured that he is severe and odious but we never see any instance of it – I never saw any man take the finding his house turned upside down on his return from a long voyage more quietly  - some instances of his severity to his children should have been given to excuse or render possible their horror of him – a very annuatural horror of a father: The mistakes in the early education of the Miss Bertrams should have been more distinctly pointed out, should not they? –But perhaps my dear Lady Romilly this novel has by this time completely faded from your memory though it is so fresh in ours.

* from The Lost Letters of Maria Edgeworth

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