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Written by Robbin
(10/1/2010 12:20 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Harsh words?, penned by Barb JA
Independence was more needful than ever; the want of it at Mansfield more sensibly felt. She was less and less able to endure the restraint which her father imposed. The liberty which his absence had given was now become absolutely necessary. She must escape from him and Mansfield as soon as possible, and find consolation in fortune and consequence, bustle and the world, for a wounded spirit.’ (21)
The narrator describes Sir Thomas as ‘a truly anxious father… not outwardly affectionate’ and reserved of manner which caused his daughters to repress their spirits before him. Although Sir Thomas is not demonstrative, it would be better if he was, but his kindness is not hidden and that is how I judge his heart. However much his reserve discouraged affection or intimacy Edmund is proof it is not insurmountable. I feel children very naturally may find such a manner repressing but it seems to me grown-up children usually, eventually see past faults to appreciate the good in a parent—perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. The well established doom and gloom of MP is interesting to me, at first it was for the sake of Sir Thomas and then for itself. Maria has been ‘prepared for matrimony by an hatred of home, restraint, and tranquility’ (21) and of course a broken heart but it is the first that draws my attention. I have tried to figure out what makes MP feel so restricting to three of Sir Thomas’ children. What was life at MP really like?
What activities are forbidden—is that a source of discontent?
There is no certainty but likely candidates can be drawn using Sir Thomas’ known dislikes. Edmund said Sir Thomas’ ‘sense of decorum is strict’ and that he would not wish his ‘grown–up daughters to be acting plays’ (13) and he was right. Sir Thomas saw ‘all the impropriety of such a scheme among such a party’ (20) and he did not know the half of it. Anything in the nature of flirting, ‘to court triflingly or act amorously without serious intentions; play at love’ (dictionary.com) and romantic intrigues I feel would be considered improper to immoral. I don’t know that theatricals, flirting and intrigues were specifically forbidden but it seems they cannot fit in with his ideas of propriety. I daresay none of this is unreasonable but I feel as least a portion of the liberty Maria longs for is that of easy manners, flirtations and the romantic intrigue.
Sir Thomas’ gravity and serious nature not only caused awe in his children but sets the tone of their family party. Sir Thomas’ value for domestic tranquility, quiet pleasures and the ‘repose of his own family circle’ is not a recipe for merriment subsequently it is not surprising Fanny says there was ‘never much laughing in his presence’ (21)—do note there was some laughter.
Sir Thomas’ pleasures within the family circle seem to be music (20), reading (12), reading aloud (13) and conversation—I feel serious conversation too. He readily talks of his travel adventures and of his employments at Antigua. He happily answers Fanny’s question about the slave-trade (21) which is serious indeed but it also shows the young people were not expected to sit quietly by until spoken to. Edmund tells Fanny “Ask your uncle what he thinks, and you will hear compliments enough” (21) which I point out to show he is not so much an ogre and his children probably suffered a compliment or two at least. The normal family party of Sir Thomas (grave), Lady Bertram (dull) and Mrs. Norris (unpleasant), siblings and a quiet cousin add what could be a wearing predictability to their evening amusements to those who long for bustle and noisy pleasures.
William was often called on by his uncle to be the talker. His recitals were amusing in themselves to Sir Thomas, but the chief object in seeking them was to understand the reciter, to know the young man by his histories; and he listened to his clear, simple, spirited details with full satisfaction, seeing in them the proof of good principles, professional knowledge, energy, courage, and cheerfulness, everything that could deserve or promise well. (24)
There does not seem to have been house parties or balls at MP but this may be partially due to financial problems. It seems there was socializing with the Grants even before Sir Thomas went to Antigua. Edmund told Mary “My mother seldom goes into company herself, and dines nowhere but with Mrs. Grant” (6) and Sir Thomas had no scruples giving Fanny permission to dine at the parsonage which suggests his daughters had at least equal opportunity to dine out. It does not seem Lady Bertram is into the usual round of morning visits but I doubt her indolence prevented her daughters. I assume other normal amusements seen in JA such as music, drawing, cards, walking and riding and etcetera were frequent and of course the men have sport. William visited before he went to sea (3) and now returns again in Ch. 24. I feel he is a guest worth having but I am unsure if Maria or Julia would have been half as thrilled as Fanny. He is really an extension of the family party.
It does not seem very probable MP was ever disturbed by the novelty of guests in the likes of a Yates or a Crawford of either sex. Sir Thomas disapproves of ‘trifling and confident, idle and expensive’ (20) young men. Mr. Yates is such a one—a bad influence on his son and an as the ‘admirer of Julia… offensive’ (20). I feel Sir Thomas would not approve of Miss Crawford’s disrespect for the clergy and her uncle, and surely some of her less delicate comments would be frowned upon. I feel the nonsense, ‘arts of flattery or the gaieties of small talk…’ (7) so enjoyed by her would not find a friend in Sir Thomas. A cad like Henry would be considered immoral, dishonorable and dangerous to his daughters. Although I can’t say no one ever visited MP it is likely, if they were friends of Sir Thomas, they did not add a great deal to the amusement of the young people.
I do not feel Sir Thomas purposely intended life at MP to be dull, oppressive and restrictive rather it just feels so to young adults who may naturally desire new freedoms and noisier pleasures than their parents. However I do think Tom, Maria, and Julia’s feelings of restraint are partially due to the fact they are selfish and live only for their own pleasure. They do not seem to be able or wish to enjoy the quiet pleasures that rule at home and are rather sullen when they feel less than completely accommodated. With such poor feelings to content with it is no surprise they are often discontent. (:D)
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