Here we have the answers to last week’s game of failed New Year’s resolutions. Thank you all for playing along—your hemming and hawing and theorizing in the comments was delightful! Let’s play again soon.
1. Resolves to practice the power of positive thinking. Is already so thoroughly positive as to succeed just by getting up in the morning. Is impressed by the power of positive thinking. - MR. BINGLEY
2. Resolves to run off, experience the world, and achieve self-actualization, possibly becoming a lady-pirate with much cooler younger sister in the process. Fails to account for the medium-sized drop-off, meant to thwart wandering cows, at the edge of the estate. – FANNY PRICE
3. Resolves to be more in control of her emotions. Is in raptures about how controlled her emotions are going to be, now that she’s resolved. Faints with excitement. – MARIANNE DASHWOOD
4. Resolves to get out of bed. Is seduced by cuteness of pug face. Stays in bed. – LADY BERTRAM
5. Has no resolutions. Life is already perfect: wife supportive of gardening habit; house next to awesomest house in the world. – MR. COLLINS
6. Resolves to be a lady with a grasp on reality. Is pretty sure husband is pushing her towards this resolution in order to lure her into cave of godlessness and drink her blood. But at least she likes her father-in-law. – CATHERINE MORLAND
That’s Vol. 3, Chapters 3 – 13, or regular chapters 34 – 44. Oy with the multiple editions, Jane!
So. Last week, everybody was horrible to Fanny about refusing Henry Crawford’s proposal. This remains the case. HOWEVER. There’s knowing you’re not into a guy who’s kind of a tool, and then there’s doing everything you can to AVOID being into a guy who maybe acted kind of like a tool once but has since proven pretty stellar. Guess which one our dear Fanny chooses?
And look: I know a little of what’s coming. This is not my first Jane Austen rodeo, and I know that in her world, handsome gentlemen who look too good to be true usually are. But for just this shining moment, when he comes to visit her and get her out of the hovel and walk arm in arm along the waterfront and say nice things to her little sister, would it kill her to get over herself and think maybe? Isn’t it possible that a guy could be kind of a jerk, then have a change of heart and prove his excellence? Wait, I think I read a book once that went kind of like that. IT WAS CALLED PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.
Also, let’s talk about Fanny’s Stockholm Syndrome. On one hand, of course her parents’ house is cramped and crowded and noisy; that’s why she was shuttled off to Mansfield in the first place. Nobody (except Fanny herself) expects her home visit to be all puppies and rainbows and high degrees of female accomplishment. But it’s not only the shrubberies that she misses—she loves Lady Bertram! She misses Mrs. Norris! This is the talk of a crazy person, which I might have thought was my newfangled modern brain talking, had not half the characters in the novel tried to point it out to her as well. Apparently the occasional fire in the East Room means true love.
And finally, a few assorted points:
- It is my dearest hope that Susan Price will accompany Fanny back to Mansfield, take one look at the whole situation, and drag her sister off to become pirate queens on the Thrush or something.
- “Fanny requires constant air and exercise”? REALLY, JANE? The girl who can’t make it past the cattle guard?
- Heh, Mr. Price is gross.
I am pleased to announce that the official Austenacious Mansfield Park read-along will, barring unwanted advances from a handsome scoundrel or a particularly vexing ha-ha, conclude Wednesday, April 18! Get your final chapters in now, folks, and bet on who Fanny ropes into marrying her with the power of her deep passivity.
Mariella Frostrup over at The Guardian recently wrote this in an advice column:
Despite achieving a position in the modern world where we are not only self-supporting but also increasingly outshining the men, we act like a gaggle of competitive girls whose most important goal is how blokes view us. Female-to-female behaviour hasn’t evolved much since Jane Austen’s day and the sad result is we continue to fail to provide sisterhood.
The rest of the column is similarly depressing. Mariella does suggest that the 40-something woman who feels life is slipping out of her grasp should age gracefully while at the same time make a noise, and “Rage, rage, rage when they attempt to turn out the light.” Sounds like a plan to me.
What about this talk of lack of sisterhood, now and in Jane Austen? Surely Jane and Cassandra Austen themselves are in the Sisterhood Hall of Fame? And Jane wrote about all sorts of sisters. Here’s Lizzie and Jane Bennet: “. . . do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?” Not the words of someone who’s putting a bloke above a sister. Elinor and Marianne are another loving pair of sisters, though it’s true that Marianne does put her romantic notions above Elinor’s feelings sometimes. But isn’t that her great failing, what Jane Austen is warning us against? It’s also true that there’s some unpleasant sisters in the books. Maria and Julia Bertram certainly get into a catfight over Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, and, more chillingly, Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris, and Mrs. Price take their separation from each other with perfect calm. As with the Elliot sisters in Persuasion, Austen seems to assume that there’s no reason that sisters would hang together, if circumstances or temperament didn’t allow it. And it’s true that we see very little genuine womanly friendship in Austen: Lizzie and Charlotte Lucas and Catherine Morland and Eleanor Tilney are the only examples I can think of. I guess it would make sense when getting a husband was like getting a job that you mightn’t be very nice to the competition, especially in a limited pool. So, I concede, Austen was pretty cynical about the whole sisterhood thing.
But what about now? Miss Osborne, Miss Ball, and I don’t have any sisters. We came together as Beloved Sisters through a shared love of Jane Austen, eating, and talking smack. So we can’t comment on the modern state of sisterhood between actual sisters. But between women in general? I think it’s a pretty mixed bag. I personally haven’t seen much catfight action, have you? And also, isn’t it a bit sexist to assume that women should get along all the time? As if men do!
OK, obviously it’d be nice if we all got along. As it says in our header, Jane will keep us together. This may be terribly ironic, considering the above, but I suggest we try it. Send loving thoughts to all those of your acquaintance, even if there are few people you really love, and still fewer of whom you think well. It’s either that or back to the meat market, apparently.
Photo credit: ©David Stephensen. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
You all remember that Fanny Price and Edmund walked happily off into the sunset or vicarage (admiring the verdure). Julia had run off with Mr. Yates, Maria was disgraced and living with Aunt Norris, and Fanny’s sister Susan came to live at Mansfield Park. The End.
. . .
Ten years later, Sir Thomas Bertram decided to visit his estates in Bermuda once more. And what happened then? In a most unusual burst of energy, Lady Bertram decided the entire family should go with him. Except Maria and Aunt Norris, of course. Edmund and Fanny packed up their two children, Tom and his wife packed up their four, and Susan simply had to come too, even though by this time she was running the village newspaper. Julia and Mr. Yates managed to get out of it, though, by “renewing their vows” in Gretna Green.
And off they went. . .
Did I mention that Sir Thomas, as a cost-saving measure, bunked Susan in with two of her nephews? Also, that the “staterooms” were more like cabins? Here’s one of Tom Bertram’s wee sons, Mustaschio Man, strutting his stuff before forcing Miss Osborne, er, Susan, to watch Beverly Hills Ninja and Cats and Dogs on TV.
Whoever said “you can’t feel a thing when you’re on a big cruise ship” lied lied lied. While Susan turned green and whimpered as the boat rocked to and fro, the boys got pizza and ice cream. Not gingerbread cakes. No one really eats those, you know. They’re for tourists.
At long last, the Bertrams arrived in Bermuda. While Tom and Edmund tried to convince their father that slavery had been outlawed 200 years earlier, and Bermuda was independent, and he had no more estates, the ladies lounged on the beach. That’s Fanny on the left in the pink bikini. Marriage has really lightened that girl up.
Alas, at dinner things turned ugly. The Bertrams, if you can believe it, got into a huge family row about whose estates they didn’t have, exactly, and whether Fanny and Edmund should build a vicarage on the beach. Fanny’s own sweet little daughter broke her Aunt Susan’s arm. With a fork. Maybe she’s in the . . . oh, first rule.
For the rest of the trip, Susan sported an arm sling made with muslin that she had intended to embroider. It made her look rather like the Nutcracker Prince, but that couldn’t be helped.
Susan did allow Edmund (alias Mr. David Osborne) to escort her up on some rocks to take in the beauty of the sun and surf. After he’d apologized for his daughter’s behavior, of course.
The Bertrams, happy and united once more, visited the City Hall and Art Centre in Bermuda’s capital city, Hamilton. All those pictures of men reminded Lady Bertram that her dear niece Susan really ought to find a rich husband.
As a matter of fact, Susan had her eye on a man mysteriously appearing in her magic mirror.
Then one night, Cary Grant traveled back in time, and they had An Affair to Remember. Susan decided that despite the indignities of mass family transit, Bermuda was a very beautiful place to visit. “The beaches are spectacular, the sand is soft, clean and lovely, and the water is delightful!” she wrote in the village paper.
Miss Osborne, on the other hand, has been known to sigh and say, “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories . . . we’ve already missed the spring.”
We’re glad they’re both back home, safe and sound, if devoid of rich husbands and Cary Grant.
Photo credita: All images ©2010 by Christine Osborne. All rights reserved.
On this special day, I’d like to thank you for introducing me to many fine authors throughout my childhood, all of them sarcastic, most of them British, and one of them Jane Austen!
I’d also like to thank you for not being a Jane Austen mother. I’d like to thank you for not giving me away in childhood, like Fanny Price’s mother (and thank goodness you didn’t have to). I’d like to thank you for not sitting on the sofa playing with your pug dog while my evil aunt ruined my childhood, ala Lady Bertram. And I’m certainly glad you didn’t die in my formative years like Mrs. Woodhouse and Lady Elliot. Though, if you had been like Lady Susan, I might have wanted you to! Most of all, I’m glad you didn’t try to force me into marrying my own cousin, because he may be cute like Mr. Darcy or ugly like Mr. Collins, but either way, EWW! You haven’t even been explaining all about my love life to anyone who would listen, like the amiable Mrs. Bennet. Geez, Mom, how do you expect me to get a husband, anyway?!
That’s right, you didn’t ever pressure me one way or another. Like Mrs. Dashwood, you were always supportive but discreet, respecting my privacy. It’s just lucky Mr. Fitzpatrick didn’t turn out to be the Willoughby type. (For the record, gentle readers, Mom’s reaction to my announcement that I was getting married was, “Do I know him?” Sarcastic through and through, that’s my aged relative!)
To the other mothers out there: take a moment to reflect on your behavior. Have you emulated any of Jane Austen’s mothers? If so, which ones? Because if you’ve taught your daughters to read Jane Austen (and I hope you have), they’ll know how to deal with you!
Likewise, daughters, thank your mothers for any non-cousin-marrying behavior. It’s hard to be a mother, so they tell me, and Jane Austen certainly showed us how low the bar could go.
So, Mom, happy Mother’s Day! I hope you enjoy our traditional out-loud reading of “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” by Mark Twain. We can certainly follow it up with some P. G. Wodehouse or Jane Austen if you want!
Your loving daughter,
Photo credit: ©2009 Heather Dever. All rights reserved.