Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

It happened about thirty years ago. Maria Ward, a girl with seven thousand pounds in her pocket, managed to attract the attention of a rich man. It was Thomas Bertram. This man was an aristocrat, the owner of a huge country house and several hectares of land. He loved Maria and married her. But her two sisters were less fortunate. The poor priest became the husband of her older sister. Maria’s younger sister married a young naval officer. She understood that the family would not accept her choice. She voluntarily distanced herself from the sisters, but over time, her husband began to drink and could not provide for the family. They had many children, but they were very poor. The younger sister began to regret having quarreled with her family.

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Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

About thirty years before our story begins, Miss Maria Ward – a young lady with only about 7,000 pounds of her own – was lucky enough to catch the eye of a rich baronet. He was Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park, a large country house in Northamptonshire, about eighty miles north of London. He fell in love with her and married her, and she became Lady Bertram, with a fine house and plenty of money.

However, her two sisters, although pretty, did not manage to find husbands as good as hers. Sadly, there are more lovely women in the world than rich men to marry them. Her older sister married a poor clergyman, Mr Norris. Sir Thomas kindly offered Mr Norris the living of Mansfield, so Mr and Mrs Norris began their married life at the Parsonage, near the great house. The younger sister, Frances, chose an even worse husband, a young officer in the navy, and because she knew her sisters would not accept him in the family, she did not tell them until after her wedding. Lady Bertram, who preferred a quiet life, was too lazy to do anything much about it. But Mrs Norris could not rest until she had written a long letter to Frances, now Mrs Price, to tell her how stupid she had been. Mrs Price wrote back angrily, saying bitter things about Mrs Norris, Lady Bertram, and Sir Thomas and his unnecessarily high opinion of himself. Mrs Norris felt unable to keep this reply to herself.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

‘How could Frances say those terrible things about you and dear Sir Thomas?’ she said sadly to Lady Bertram. ‘I knew her letter would make you both unhappy, but I felt it was my duty to inform you of it!’ And from then on there was a cold silence for some years between Lady Bertram and Mrs Price, who lived many miles away and moved in very different social circles.

However, interestingly, Mrs Norris continued to hear from her younger sister, and almost every year she told the Bertrams, in an angry voice, ‘Really, it’s too bad of her! Frances has had another child!’ By the end of eleven years, Mrs Price had a large family of eight children and would soon have a ninth. It seemed her husband was well enough to go drinking with his friends, but couldn’t earn enough money to keep his family, and they were very poor. Now Mrs Price was sorry that she had cut herself off from her sisters, so she wrote a letter to Lady Bertram, asking for help.

Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram were happy to reply; they sent money and baby clothes. Often Mrs Norris said to Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, when she visited them in the evenings, ‘I wish we could do more for my poor sister! She has so many children, poor thing!’ And soon she had an idea. ‘Her oldest daughter is a girl of nine or so – why shouldn’t we, the three of us, offer to take care of her? She could live with us at Mansfield. That would be a great help to poor Frances!…

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