Many thanks to Maria Grazia for giving me the opportunity to introduce my new book Revisit Mansfield Park, in which I give Henry Crawford the opportunity to change Fanny Price's opinion of him.
Jane Austen said of Henry: “Would he have deserved more there can be no doubt that more would have been obtained . . . Would he have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward.”
During Henry's two-month courtship of Fanny, she had no idea that his interest in her was genuine. She assumed that Henry was amusing himself by flirting with her, as he had with Maria and Julia Bertram. When Fanny finally learned that Henry truly wanted to marry her, he had only a few days to change her mind about him, but a few days was not nearly enough, given that Fanny disliked Henry intensely. Then Fanny went to see the Price family in Portsmouth, and Henry visited Fanny there, and talked to her of Everingham, his estate. He asked Fanny for her advice as to whether he should return to Everingham and continue the work he had started. I think what Henry really wanted was encouragement, and this was a pivotal moment: if Fanny encouraged Henry, he would be making progress with her, and if she did not, she most likely never would. This is the moment when Revisit Mansfield Park begins (though the first three chapters summarize Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, with a spotlight on Fanny).
|Joseph Beattie as Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park 2007|
"If only Henry had persevered,” I mutter to myself whenever I near the end Mansfield Park. Of all Jane Austen's rogues and rakes, I think Henry Crawford is the only one who had the potential to be a good man and a loving husband. I think he would have persevered if Fanny had encouraged him, and four people would have been happy in the end, instead of only two.
Here are several excerpts:
Fanny lifted her chin and looked directly into Henry's face so that he saw, for perhaps the first time, her countenance unveiled by her usual diffidence."Very well, if you wish for my advice, I will give it.""My dear Miss Price – I thank you! This is treating me like a friend. Pray tell me your opinion.""I advise that you return to Everingham at once, to settle things with your agent, and with respect to the mill, and to make Mr. Maddison understand your opinions, so that, as you said, he cannot swerve from them. That is what I advise. London will always be there when your work is complete. Pleasure is even more pleasurable, you know, when you have satisfied your responsibilities.""I believe you are right! I am never more lighthearted than after or even while taking some task in hand." Henry was chiefly thinking of the task of introducing William to his uncle, Admiral Crawford, and persuading his uncle to exert himself towards William's promotion, which had indeed been a great joy to him, knowing that it would give Fanny so much happiness. However, if he could achieve the same result – pleasing Fanny – by giving his estate the attention he knew it deserved, perhaps the labor would be more agreeable. "May I write to you, my dearest – dear, Miss Price, do allow me to write to you about Everingham while I am there."As Fanny hesitated Henry said, "It is your nature to do good and be good. I have not your goodness, but I do believe I am capable of goodness, if only I can exert myself for someone, for you, of course, and for the sake of the future I hope for. It will be so easy to be patient and energetic at my work, so easy to be good, if I can tell you about it, after work is finished for the day. William has told me how valuable your letters are, especially in danger or discomfort or in performing some boring drudgery; always there was a conversation going on in his mind, a conversation between brother and sister, which he found so useful and so comforting."Fanny blushed fiercely, and her eyes were fixed firmly on the tips of her shoes, and Henry had to lean in to hear her low voice. "Write to my uncle first, and if his permission . . . that is, if he will approve . . . I shall be glad . . ."Henry understood that Fanny's modesty and embarrassment might hinder her from ever finishing her sentence. He reached for her hand and held it in both of his. "I will abide by your uncle's opinion, of course. For now, good afternoon and God bless you.”(From Henry's first letter)
“Dear Miss Price, I have written to your uncle, and Sir Thomas most kindly acquiesced to our correspondence, as you undoubtedly know by now; I believe Lady Bertram was to inform you herself. I told Sir Thomas I would use these letters to extend our knowledge of each other from mere acquaintances, to something like the intimate friendship you have with your cousin Edmund Bertram. So as I write to you today, I write not to “Fanny” of whom I love to dream, but to Miss Price, who does not know me as well as I would wish to be known.“I fondly recall my sister's characterisation of the complete brother's letter: 'Dear Mary, I am just arrived and everything seems as usual.' I shall aim for a different style with you, Miss Price, to inform you of all my doings and explain to you my thinking, and I entreat you to match me in openness and frankness, in time. I will grant that such freedom from respectable constraint will take time.”(From Fanny's first letter)
“Dear Mr. Crawford, I thank you for your letter of last Thursday and I will endeavor to be open and frank and truthful, as you ask.“My brother Sam was home on shore leave these last three days. He had just finished his first voyage, which commenced the week I came to Portsmouth, and is now on his second. The first was a kind of exercise, I believe, but I am forbidden to know of what kind, so that I do not mention it in letters that may be intercepted by spies of foreign governments. This was the reason Sam gave me for not explaining the purpose of their voyage. It is quite possible he was teasing me.”(From Henry)
. . . “Though you could blame me for the way my love started, for wanting to make you, Miss Fanny Price, love me, Henry Crawford, it can only have been a matter of hours before your influence began to work on me, and make me think only of you. It is your greatest gift, Miss Price, that your selflessness makes others less selfish. I hope that this confession will not make you angry with me. I hope that you will write to me very soon to tell me that you are not angry. Yours, always yours, in great hope and faith, Henry Crawford.”(From Fanny)
“While Susan and I have been reading the Lady of the Lake to my mother, Susan's reading has improved remarkably. I am so grateful for your books, your choices have been just the kind of thing Susan has been wanting to read. The more popular books are usually not on hand at the library we visit (it is near my father's house) and so we have been reading history and poetry, but plays and novels are more to Susan's taste, for she has not had the opportunity to read since she was in school. I am reading the Tacitus myself, and am so fascinated. Did you pretend to be a legionary when you and George Maddison were boys together? Today I sign myself, yours, Fanny.”_____
Decorum decreed that only an engaged couple could write letters to each other, so Fanny requires Henry to obtain Sir Thomas' approval before she agrees to receive and respond to Henry's letters. In their letters, Fanny is able to express thoughts and feelings that she would be too shy to say aloud, and her letters also help her grow out of her shyness to some extent, while Henry learns that idle flirtations cause harm, and that he cares more about his estate and its people than he knew.I have started to write a second volume in which Edmund Bertram and Mary Crawford work out their differences and reach a conclusion. It will also address the problem of slavery in Sir Thomas' property in Antigua, which forms part of the Bertram family fortune.
Revisit Mansfield Park is available at Kindle Store
It is available only in English, but can be purchased from Amazon in England, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, India, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Australia
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