Mansfield Park is the first of Jane Austen’s three later novels she wrote in full whilst living at Chawton Cottage. Jane began Mansfield Park in 1811 whilst still revising Pride and Prejudice and she completed it in the Summer of 1813. The publisher Egerton accepted it in the November of that year, and it was published at the end of May 1814.
Jane read the novel to her brother Henry on a carriage ride to London and he liked it very much. He later became ordained and married Eliza, so he may have seen something of himself in the story.
Mansfield Park Reviews
Mansfield Park was not as well received as Pride and Prejudice. After the romantic and headstrong Elizabeth, the heroine Fanny was either thought to be very dull or too pleasant. As there were no official reviews Jane could refer to, she made her own list of feedback.
Jane’s mother had thought Mansfield Park was not as good as Pride and Prejudice and found the heroine Fanny ‘insipid’. Sister Cassandra was ‘fond of Fanny’ and ‘delighted much in Mr Rushworth’s stupidity’.
Miss Bramston commented having finished the first volume, she ‘flattered herself she had got through the worst!‘ and a family friend, Augusta Branstone, had thought Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were ‘downright nonsense’, but expected to like Mansfield Park more. She preferred it to Jane’s other books, although Jane wrote that she ‘imagined that might be her want of taste – as she does not understand wit!’
There are some interesting facts about the novel, and although Jane seldom included events from family and friends in her novels, there does seem to be some impression of real events in Mansfield Park. And some interesting facts.
1. Jane Austen was a Self-Published Author
After the sparkle of Pride and Prejudice, the story did not impress Egerton and once again Jane had to publish it on commission and pay the printing costs upfront. A first run of 1500 copies were printed and an advert appeared in the Morning Chronicle.
The title page showed it was ‘By the Author of “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice”, which was a good endorsement, and the novel sold out quickly.
2. Mansfield Park Turned Out To Be Jane’s Most Profitable Book
The second edition of Mansfield Park came out after the first edition of Emma. As Egerton had declined to publish a second edition, Henry offered it to the publisher John Murray and it was reprinted in 1816.
The second edition also sold out quickly, and Mansfield Park became Jane’s most profitable book making her a profit of £350.
3. Fanny Price leaving home may have parallels with Jane’s brother Edward being adopted
Mansfield Park is a story about a young Fanny Price who at 10 years old is sent away from her family to live with relatives at Mansfield Park in Northampton. Some speculate that the story was inspired by Jane’s brother Edward who was adopted as a teenager and left to live at Godmersham Park in Kent. Jane was only 8 years old at the time, and his siblings must have missed him greatly.
4. Another Loving Brother and Topaz Cross
Jane’s brother Charles Austen bought Jane and Cassandra topaz crosses with his Navy winnings, and although Jane rarely wrote of actual events in her novels, she must have been so proud that she wrote this event into Mansfield Park.
In Mansfield Park it is Fanny’s brother William who is in the Navy and buys Fanny a topaz cross to share his good fortune with his sister. Then Edmund, Fanny’s cousin gives Fanny a gold chain on which to wear the cross.
5. The Abolition of Slavery in 1807
Jane was aware of current affairs from the newspapers and letters from her brothers. The planned changes in slavery at the time would have affected many of the families that Jane knew who operated in the West Indies.
Parliament were debating the use of slaves by the British in the West Indies and abolished their use by passing the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
Jane has Mr Bertram called away to his plantations in the West Indies when there is difficulty with its management, and makes Mr Bertram a member of Parliament which meant that he would have debated and passed this Bill.
6. Enter Henry and Mary Crawford
Mansfield Park is enlightened by two wonderful characters called Henry and Mary Crawford who come to Mansfield from London and shake up the household.
The character of Mary is thought to have been inspired by Jane’s cousin Eliza, who impressed Jane from a young age when she came to stay at Steventon. Eliza was flirtatious, exotic and fun. Jane had nursed Eliza through a long illness until her death in April 1813, and Mansfield Park was completed in the summer of that same year.
Jane describes Mary Crawford as having a lively dark eye, clear brown complexion, and general prettiness.. a sweet pretty girl.
7. A Wonderful Play – Lovers Vows
In Mr Bertrams absence, the characters decide to put on a popular play called Lovers Vows (just as Jane and her siblings put on plays at Steventon). The story is about intimate relationships outside outside marriage and illegitimate birth. Consequently, when Mr Bertram returns from his West Indies trip and finds the children at play, he throws it on the fire.
8. A Most Perfect Clergyman, Edmund
Edmund was one of Jane’s fondest characters. She wrote the story when clergymen were much improved and admired, and as Jane was a religious person and devoted to God, she gave Edmund many devout qualities. It is often thought that if Jane would have married one of her characters – it would be Edmund!
As To The Ending..
Jane’s niece Louisa remembers Jane and Cassandra discussing the ending of the novel. Cassandra wanted Mary to marry Edmund and Fanny to marry Henry, where Jane argued that Mary would have tired of Edmund and his church duties and Fanny would have been unhappy with Henry and his fickle nature.
What do you think?