Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Sex in the Park. Mansfield Park. Part Two.

Even from her infancy the evils of an ill-judged sexual alliance are working against our heroine. The marriage of her aunt Lady Bertram to the wealthy baronet Sir Thomas had given rise to hopes that the other two sisters would likewise do well for themselves from the connection to a nobleman with considerable influence, power and wealth and from the opportunity to meet and captivate rich men themselves by socializing in Sir Thomas’ circles. Alas, Sir Thomas’ very domesticated habits were never likely to produce many such opportunities and though the eldest secured a home for herself with Mr Norris in the Mansfield parsonage, Fanny’s mother though ‘quite as handsome’ as her newly minted sister, threw herself away on a ‘Lieutenant of Marines, without education, fortune, or connections’ and into a thankless life of poverty, toil and child bearing without management, cleanliness or manners, with almost no education for her children and without even respectability for herself or her family. Such was Fanny’s early life in Portsmouth and the circumstances that made Mrs Price not at all unwilling to give Fanny up to the Bertrams. The poverty of the Price family is a continual influence over Fanny, even when enveloped in the elegance and serenity of Mansfield Park, as she is never able to shake off the coils of dependency. She can never be an equal there and is always to be grateful and humble, to be handy at all times and yet never in the way, to be servile and yet cheerful, self denying and never complaining. As Mrs Norris would say of Mrs Grant, that 'a fine lady in a country parsonage was quite out of place’ so too is a fine lady out of place as a drunkard seaman’s wife in Portsmouth.

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