In this episode, we read the first three chapters of Mansfield Park. We give a brief publishing history, and talk about how the opening chapters really prepare the way for the rest of the book, with all of the characters and relationships being set up, how the three Miss Wards come from a not dissimilar background from Pride and Prejudice’s Miss Gardiners (Mrs Bennet and Mrs Phillips), and how the novel’s themes of education and principle are introduced. The character we talk about is Mrs Norris.
In a longer than usual historical segment, Ellen talks about the historical background to Sir Thomas’s estate in Antigua, and the extent to which all members of the gentry were complicit in slavery. We follow this up with a conversation on how discussions of slavery are now part of the discourse on Mansfield Park. Harriet identifies four different approaches:
- People who can’t read the book because of the connection with slavery
- People who feel that perhaps the estate in Antigua did not use enslaved people
- People who feel that the novel is about slavery – and, specifically, that it is an abolitionist novel
- People who feel that slavery is part of the context of the novel – one of the aspects of Janen Austen’s society that today we find abhorrent – but it is not a focus of the novel. We need to be open to discussing the novel in a post-colonial light, but that does not mean the novel is about slavery.
We would like to thank Damianne Scott, who runs the Facebook page Black Girl Loves Jane, for reviewing the historical segment for us, and providing feedback.
To finish the episode, Harriet gives an overview of various popular culture versions of Mansfield Park.
Things we mention:
General and character discussion:
- Deirdre Le Faye [Editor], Jane Austen’s Letters (1969)
- Mary Brunton, Self-Control (1810) – this is the book about which Jane Austen criticised the lack of ‘natural, possible, every-day things’
- Sheila Kaye-Smith and G.B. Stern, Talking of Jane Austen (1943) and More Talk of Jane Austen (1950)
- Catherine Hall, historian who has researched slavery, and who gave a talk about the use of sugar in British cooking
- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade
- Elizabeth Gaskell, My Lady Ludlow (1858)
- Thomas Clarkson, History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade (1836)
- Devoney Looser, Slavery, Anti-Slavery, and the Austen Family (2021 – YouTube video)
- John Sutherland, Is Heathcliff a murderer?: Puzzles in 19th-century fiction (1996)
- Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (1993)
- Helena Kelly, Jane Austen, the Secret Radical (2016)
- William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (1705-1793), judge who held that slavery had no basis in common law
- Lona Manning’s blog posts about slavery and Mansfield Park (2021):
- Was Austen Silenced Over Slavery?
- The “Dead Silence” (we will be talking more about this when we get to the relevant section of the book)
- Amelioration: What Fanny asked and Sir Thomas answered (not something we really touched upon, but useful extra reading)
- Symbolism in Mansfield Park: Is the Novel Named after Lord Mansfield?
- Was Slavery a Taboo Subject in Austen’s Time? Part 1: Non-fiction
- Was Slavery a Taboo Topic in Austen’s Time, Part Two: “This Vilest Traffic”
- Damianne Scott, Black Girl Loves Jane (Facebook page)
Popular culture discussion:
- Joan Aiken, Mansfield Revisited (1985)
Creative commons music used:
- Extract from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sonata No. 12 in F Major, ii. Adagio.
- Extract from Joseph Haydn, Piano Sonata No. 38. Performance by Ivan Ilić, recorded in Manchester in December, 2006. File originally from IMSLP.
- Extract from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sonata No. 13 in B-Flat Major, iii. Allegretto Grazioso. File originally from Musopen.
- Extract from George Frideric Handel, Suite I, No. 2 in F Major, ii. Allegro. File originally from Musopen.
- Extract from Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major. File originally from Musopen.