Finished Mansfield Park by Jane Austen last night. It is the January selection for my reading group, so I had to be finished before next Wednesday.
Mansfield Park is not one of the favorites among Austen's novels for most readers. But I enjoyed it very much. And I think it has some important things to think about for us in modern society.
But first, I'd like to highlight something that I found enchanting. It is a scene where Henry Crawford is attempting to woo Fanny Price, the novel's heroine. She has grave misgivings about his character, and has refused his offer of marriage, even though it would be a marriage of great "advantage" to her. She cannot love him; her heart effectively belongs to her cousin Edmund. But Mr. Crawford perseveres. And what does he do that makes a little inroad into her heart? He reads aloud! Try this:
She seemed determined to be interested by nothing else. But taste was too strong in her. She could not abstract her mind five minutes; she was forced to listen; his reading was capital, and her pleasure in good reading extreme. To good reading, however, she had been long used; her uncle read well, her cousins all, Edmund very well, but in Mr. Crawford's reading there was a variety of excellence beyond what she had ever met with........
The subject of reading aloud was further discussed. The two young men were the only talkers, but they, standing by the fire, talked over the too common neglect of the qualification, the total inattention to it, in the ordinary school-system for boys, the consequently natural yet in some instances almost unnatural, degree of ignorance and uncouthness of men, of sensible and well-informed men, when suddenly called to the necessity of reading aloud, which had fallen within their notice, giving instances of blunders, and failures with their secondary causes, the want of management of the voice, of proper modulation and emphasis, of foresight and judgment, all proceeding from the first cause: want of early attention and habit; and Fanny was listening again with great entertainment......
To be wooed by being read to! Now THAT, my friends, is romantic.