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Mansfield Park

About the Book

Mansfield Park

(Excerpted from The Jane Austen Book Club)

Mansfield Park was written between 1811 and 1813, and published in 1814. It marks Austen's return to novel writing after an interruption of more than a decade.

Ten-year-old Fanny Price is taken from her impoverished home to the estate of her wealthy aunt and uncle Bertram. There she is tormented by her aunt Norris, disliked by her cousins Tom, Maria, and Julia, and befriended only by her cousin Edmund. Her position is less than a daughter, more like a servant. Years pass. Fanny grows up shrinking and sickly (though very pretty).

While Uncle Bertram is away on business, Henry and Mary Crawford come to stay at the nearby parsonage. The Crawfords, brother and sister, are lively and charming. Both Maria and Julia are taken with Henry. Edmund is equally smitten with Mary.

Amateur theatricals are planned, then cancelled by Uncle Bertram's return. But the rehearsals have already encouraged several damaging flirtations. Maria, humiliated by Henry's lack of real interest, marries Mr. Rushworth, a wealthy buffoon.

Henry then falls in love with shy Fanny. She refuses the advantageous match and, as punishment, is sent back to her parents. Henry pursues her for a time, then has an affair with Maria that results in her disgrace. Edmund's eyes are opened by Mary's casual response to this.

Tom, the eldest Bertram cousin, nearly dies of vice and dissipation; Fanny is fetched back to Mansfield Park to help nurse him. At the end of the book, Edmund and Fanny marry. They seem well suited to each other, though not, as Kingsley Amis has pointed out, the sort of people you would like to have over for dinner.

Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen

  • Publication Date: April 29, 2003
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics
  • ISBN-10: 0141439807
  • ISBN-13: 9780141439808