Today’s lesson is from Mansfield Park, Volume I, Chapter XII, in honor of the holiday tomorrow in the U.S.; if memory serves, the only time Jane Austen mentioned our country in one of her novels.
Listening and wondering were all suspended for a time, for Mr. Bertram was in the room again; and though feeling it would be a great honour to be asked by him, she thought it must happen. He came towards their little circle; but instead of asking her to dance, drew a chair near her, and gave her an account of the present state of a sick horse, and the opinion of the groom, from whom he had just parted. Fanny found that it was not to be, and in the modesty of her nature immediately felt that she had been unreasonable in expecting it. When he had told of his horse, he took a newspaper from the table, and looking over it, said in a languid way, “If you want to dance, Fanny, I will stand up with you.” With more than equal civility the offer was declined; she did not wish to dance. “I am glad of it,” said he, in a much brisker tone, and throwing down the newspaper again, “for I am tired to death. I only wonder how the good people can keep it up so long. They had need be all in love, to find any amusement in such folly; and so they are, I fancy. If you look at them you may see they are so many couple of lovers–all but Yates and Mrs. Grant–and, between ourselves, she, poor woman, must want a lover as much as any one of them. A desperate dull life hers must be with the doctor,” making a sly face as he spoke towards the chair of the latter, who proving, however, to be close at his elbow, made so instantaneous a change of expression and subject necessary, as Fanny, in spite of everything, could hardly help laughing at. “A strange business this in America, Dr. Grant! What is your opinion? I always come to you to know what I am to think of public matters.”
Mr. Bertram was possibly referring to the War of 1812, which would have been going on while Jane Austen was writing Mansfield Park. This is a funny little moment, and Fanny laughing at Tom’s awkward predicament makes her seem a little more human than she is sometimes perceived. Here endeth the lesson.
3 thoughts on “Your Sunday Austen Meditation”
A meditation indeed Margaret. Apart from the American bit, the whole chapter is a masterclass in observing and analysing peoples desires and relationships through facial expressions and conversations. Lots of great nuances. A real lesson in ,”people,” for Fanny,
and the reader.
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Me, I’m sidetracked as usual: I’m just imagining what a 2016 version of MP could do with the “strange business in America.” Fueled with enough claret, Dr. Grant could go on for hours. (But then he might also have to say something about Brexit, and Mrs. Grant might have to send out for another dozen.)
Also, loud cheers for the more frequent posts on AustenBlog of late. Pray, continue!
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I’m trying to be a better blogger, I really am! I have a couple of things coming up this week already scheduled/posted. I figure if I can start exercising regularly (I have), I can start blogging regularly, too. 🙂
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