Happy Birthday, Mansfield Park


Two hundred years ago this month, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen was published.

I’m sure it was hard to top Pride and Prejudice. But if there must be a least favorite Jane Austen novel, Mansfield Park leads many readers’ lists, usually right next to the humorous gothic spoof, Northanger Abbey.


I suspect it’s because readers simply dislike the terribly shy, plain, and quiet heroine, Fanny Price, and the rather dull and proper hero, Edmund Bertram. But if you think of Mansfield Park as a novel of manners in the context of its time in history, instead of a romance–unlike Austen’s most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice, or the poignant second chance love story, Persuasion— you’ll discover both its richness and its brilliance.

“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.”

At its heart, it’s really about a dysfunctional family. The Bertrams of Mansfield Park are a wealthy family who take in a poor relation Fanny Price when she is ten years old, to give her worn-out and fecund mother a break. Appearances are everything and they congratulate themselves on their benevolence, forgetting that Fanny has been completely uprooted from her immediate family in Portsmouth.

“There is not one in a hundred of either sex, who is not taken in when they marry.” 

With a family like this, you might be as terrified as Fanny is:

  • Aunt Bertram, a bit dim and languorous, and who is more concerned with her dog, Pug, than in anyone or anything else; Fanny serves as her companion and errand girl.
  • Maria, Julia, and Tom, Fanny’s self-interested and privileged cousins who look down on her or worse, ignore her.
  • Uncle Bertram, with his larger-than-life austere manner, who scares her to death.
  • The downright nasty Aunt Norris, who never lets her forget her very low place in the household and how eternally grateful she should feel.
  • Edmund, the only cousin to show her great kindness and consideration. However, he also pursues their new neighbor, the beautiful and saucy Mary Crawford, and talks about her incessantly to the lovesick Fanny.

“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”

When the elegant and sophisticated Henry and Mary Crawford arrive from London to visit their sister, Mrs. Grant, the vicar’s long-suffering wife, the two families become intimately acquainted. Henry is a dashing and unapologetic rake who lives for his own pleasure and flirts shamelessly with both Julia and the engaged Maria, creating great rivalry and tension between the sisters. Mary is gorgeous, worldly-wise, and attracts Edmund with her boldly direct behavior, much to Fanny’s disappointment. But when Henry sets his restless sights on Fanny merely to make “a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart,” the novel kicks into high gear intrigue and drama.

“If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.”

Many might be surprised to discover all the unsavory and titillating drama that is going on in this novel including:

  • Jealousy
  • Infatuation
  • Lust
  • Adultery
  • Slavery
  • Drunkeness
  • Gambling

All behind an elegant narrative as only Jane Austen could create.

~Maria A.


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13 responses to “Happy Birthday, Mansfield Park

  1. This has been on my TBR list for so long! Thanks for your review…it has inspired me to get reading.

  2. Like Fanny Price in the novel, Mansfield Park is the underappreciated little sister among Austen’s novel. Been a long time since I’ve reread Mansfield Park, and your nice post makes me think it might be time to look at it again.

  3. I recently re-read Mansfield Park and really enjoyed it. But the first time I read it, I will admit, it was not my favourite. I think it gets better the older you get, the more you appreciate all the relationship dynamics that are portrayed.

  4. I am afraid I never quite liked the novel……… it was perhaps too scandalous for my tastes…….. Fanny was one of the most timid and shy heroines of Austen………. the main problem with her character that nobody gets at her real feelings; not even the proper hero until the very end………..

  5. Hooray! I loved Mansfield Park. I know people think Fanny’s too good to be true, but honestly, I am so much like her. My little sister is always rolling her eyes at me because I’m such a goody-goody. I wish my skin was thicker and my nerve was tougher, but I can’t help being how I am. So I love that Jane Austen wrote about a heroine like me. Emma and Eliza Bennet may be more attractive, but for me, Fanny is more relatable. (Still, as for the novels as a whole, Emma and P&P are my first- and second-favorite Jane Austen books, because of the plots.)

  6. A fellow fan! Lovely! Thanks for reading & commenting!
    -Maria A.

  7. Mansfield Park was always near the top of my list rather than at the bottom. Sure, Fanny and Edmund were not as fascinating as the Crawfords or even the Bertram sisters, but they were good-hearted and loyal, and I liked how they brought out the best in people, or at least tried.

  8. I agree. My favorite Austen novel is the one I’m re-reading which, currently and coincidentally, IS Mansfield Park! Thanks for reading.

  9. People certainly do seem to dislike Fanny. It always makes me a little sad when they insult her because I relate to her. I adore both her and this book.

  10. Pingback: Weekly Mind Cleanup | A Bringer of New Things

  11. Yes! Cheers to Fanny! Thanks for reading.

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