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Written by Tarn
(9/12/2010 3:16 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Welcome to the Mansfield Park Group Read!, penned by Carol
I have high hopes of at least reading all the posts in this group read (so many already), and even have a Topic, good for at least two posts – Mansfield Park as Political Satire.
My inspiration came when I asked myself if Mansfield Park was really satire; exactly who and what it was satirising, reading MP against a background babble of news straight out of 1809; - coup d’etat, ministries of all talents, debate on the merits of appointment versus election, of the role of the crown and suitable spouses for the daughter of its representative, doubts about the legitimacy of mandates and the independence of independents, accusations of factional skulduggery, calls for a bill of rights, calls to reform our 18th century political system to meet the needs of the new millennium. Or maybe it was the other way around, and the political news sounds 200 years old because I was reading MP. Whichever, looking at MP as a satire of the Regency and the Napoleonic wars, examining the opposed political positions of constitutional monarchy and democratic republicanism in it, has thrown up some objects of interest.
For example, the 'Reform' theme that I had previously regarded as being about morality could just as easily be about political reform, with the Bertrams representing the Establishment Tories; the Crawfords, Disestablishment Whigs, and the Prices as the Antidisestablishmentarian middle classes whose political influence was confined to service in their profession and their parish. Same for the 'Return of the King' theme, where the behaviour of every character from the Right Hon. Lord Ravenshaw of Ecclesford to Sally the erstwhile under maid of Mrs Price are observed in the absence of any higher authority.
MP is loaded with literary references to pro-monarchy, anti-republican political satirists (and often, the satire alluded to is itself a satire of an earlier pro-monarchy, anti-republican political satirist). Exploring the significance of words like "Anhalt" and "Antwerp", revealed to me that there were regencies in Spain, Portugal, Holland and Germany as well as England. I felt like giving myself a slap when I realized that France also had a monarch living in London, as well as an Emperor who had used the new republican system of government to usurp power, betraying and economically crippling his republican allies in the USA and Haiti, reducing what were formerly constitutional monarchies on the continent to vassal states ruled by his relatives, republics in name only. The references to the wars (in the Americas and on the continent) are not as direct as those in Persuasion, but they are there - quite obvious to anyone reading the newspapers of the time, and there are more of them in Mansfield Park than in Persuasion.
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