Publication Date: April 24, 2012
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"She was not often invited to join in the conversation of the others, nor did she desire it. Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions; and, in observing the appearance of the country, the bearings of the roads, the difference of soil, the state of the harvest, the cottages, the cattle, the children, she found entertainment that could only have been heightened by having Edmund to speak to of what she felt."
In early 19th century England, Fanny Price, at ten years old, is sent from her impoverished family in Portsmouth to rural Mansfield Park, the home of her wealthy aunt and uncle-in-law, the formidable Sir Thomas Bertram. The arrangement is meant to raise her in society, but it comes after she is not needed at home— and will it seem thereafter that she is not missed, except by a particularly beloved brother. Traveling with the imposing hypocrite Mrs. Norris, another aunt and frequenter at the Park, Fanny is preemptively remonstrated and has instilled in her an overwhelming and lasting sense of her dependence and duty in all matters of gratitude. A timid and reticent girl, wishing to do good, it follows that she is distressed by the grandeur of Mansfield, and feels no sense of belonging there, but fears to cause upset. "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." To make things worse, not with comfort, but with ignorant neglect, she is received by her relations: an uncle whose company is stifling, an aunt who is languid and indifferent, and three cousins who are encouraged in their vanity. But, a fourth cousin, singularly good-natured Edmund, befriends her after learning of her distress... and this friendship carries on into adulthood, becoming romantic love for Fanny. But she keeps this secret as well as her pensive existence eludes the understanding and sympathy of others. And now that all the youth of Mansfield are of marrying age, and Sir Thomas must leave them for a few years to attend to business in Antigua— in their newfound liberation, the young Bertrams embark upon mistakes and misbehaviors foolish and severe, while Fanny is left to be a silent or unheard witness, and to depend, even against Edmund's mistaken persuasions, upon her own quiet fortitude and sensibility to resist being drawn into the trouble.
From an authoress who has been held in high esteem by many of the great writers and intellectuals of the past two centuries, Jane Austen's Mansfield Park is a profound novel interwoven with deeply Christian themes, and presenting such a heroine as is rarely found in good literature.
Part of Penguin's beautiful hardback Clothbound Classics series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith, these delectable and collectible editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design.
Praise for Jane Austen
“...[Jane Austen] had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me.” —Sir Walter Scott, in his journal, 1826
“...The influence of her genius is extensively recognized in the American Republic, even by the highest judicial authorities. The late Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, of the Supreme Court of the United States, and his associate Mr. Justice Story, highly estimated and admired Miss Austen, and to them we owe our introduction to her society....” —The Quincy family of Boston, Massachusetts, in a letter to Admiral Sir Francis Austen, 1852
“When I take up one of Jane Austen's books ... I feel like a barkeeper entering the kingdom of heaven. I know what his sensations would be and his private comments. He would not find the place to his taste, and he would probably say so.” —Mark Twain as quoted by A. B. Paine, 1909
“…The strength and subtlety of woman had certainly sunk deep into English letters when George Eliot began to write.... Her originals and even her contemporaries had shown the feminine power in fiction as well or better than she. Charlotte Brontë, understood along her own instincts, was as great; Jane Austen was greater. The latter comes into our present consideration only as that most exasperating thing, an ideal unachieved. It is like leaving an unconquered fortress in the rear. No woman later has captured the complete common sense of Jane Austen. She could keep her head, while all the after women went looking for their brains. She could describe a man coolly; which neither George Eliot nor Charlotte Bronte could do. She knew what she knew, like a sound dogmatist: she did not know what she did not know— like a sound agnostic. But she belongs to a vanished world before the great progressive age of which I write...
Jane Austen was born before those bonds which (we are told) protected women from truth, were burst by the Brontës or elaborately untied by George Eliot. Yet the fact remains that Jane Austen knew more about men than either of them.... Of course, [she] covered an infinitely smaller field than any of her later rivals; but I have always believed in the victory of small nationalities." —G.K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature, 1913
"...Jane lies in Winchester, blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made.
And while the stones of Winchester—or Milsom Street—remain,
Glory, Love, and Honour unto England's Jane!"
—Rudyard Kipling, Jane's Marriage, 1924
"... Why do the characters in Jane Austen give us a slightly new pleasure each time they come in, as opposed to the merely repetitive pleasure that is caused by a character in Dickens?... The answer to this question can be put in several ways; that, unlike Dickens, she was a real artist, that she never stooped to caricature, etc. But the best reply is that her characters, though smaller than his, are more highly organized. They function all round, and even if her plot made greater demands on them than it does they would still be adequate.... All the Jane Austen characters are ready for an extended life which the scheme of her books seldom requires them to lead, and that is why they lead their actual lives so satisfactorily.... How Jane Austen can write! " —E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel, 1927
"... It is perhaps worth emphasizing what may be called the hardness— at least the firmness— of Jane Austen's thought.... The great abstract nouns of the classical English Moralists are unblushingly and uncompromisingly used; good sense, courage, contentment, fortitude, 'some duty neglected, some failing indulged', impropriety, indelicacy, generous candor, blamable trust, just humiliation, vanity, folly, ignorance, reason. These are the concepts by which Jane Austen grasps the world.... All is hard, clear, definable; by some modern standards, even naively so. The hardness is, of course, for oneself, not for one's neighbors.... Contrasted with the world of modern fiction, Jane Austen's is at once less soft and less cruel.... It remains to defend what I have been saying against a possible charge. Have I been treating the novels as though I had forgotten that they are, after all, comedies? I trust not. The hard core of morality and even of religion seems to me to be just what makes good comedy possible. 'Principles' or 'seriousness' are essential to Jane Austen's art. Where there is no norm, nothing can be ridiculous, except for a brief moment of unbalanced provincialism in which we may laugh at the merely unfamiliar. Unless there is something about which the author is never ironical, there can be no true irony in the work. 'Total irony'— irony about everything— frustrates itself and becomes insipid.... If charity is the poetry of conduct and honor the rhetoric of conduct, then Jane Austen's 'principles' might be described as the grammar of conduct. Now grammar is something that anyone can learn; it is also something that everyone must learn.... She is described by someone in Kipling's worst story as the mother of Henry James. I feel much more sure that she is the daughter of Dr. Johnson: she inherits his common sense, his morality, even much of his style...." —C.S. Lewis, A Note On Jane Austen, 1954
I own all of Jane Austen's novels in the Penguin Clothbound Classics edition. They are beautiful and include maps besides notes. Jane Austen, of course, is brilliant. Mansfield Park is truly a profound work with deep Christian themes, and Fanny Price is very admirable as a heroine, although her hidden strength is often lost on readers.
I believe Jane Austen one of the greatest writers who ever lived. Everyone should read her— men, let not the film adaptations scare you away, her novels were written for your enjoyment as well as that of the other sex.