Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon,
With only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck
To captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park,
In the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised
To the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts
And consequences of an handsome house and large income.
All Huntingdon exclaimed on the greatness of the match,
And her uncle, the lawyer, himself, allowed her to be at least
Three thousand pounds short of any equitable claim to it.
She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation;
And such of their acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss
Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria, did not scruple
To predict their marrying with almost equal advantage.
But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune
In the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.
Miss Ward, at the end of half a dozen years, found
Herself obliged to be attached to the Rev. Mr. Norris,
A friend of her brother-in-law, with scarcely any
Private fortune, and Miss Frances fared yet worse.
Miss Ward’s match, indeed, when it came to the point,
Was not contemptible: Sir Thomas being happily able
To give his friend an income in the living of Mansfield;
And Mr. and Mrs. Norris began their career of conjugal
Felicity with very little less than a thousand a year.
But Miss Frances married, in the common phrase,
To disoblige her family, and by fixing on a lieutenant
Of marines, without education, fortune, or connexions,
Did it very thoroughly. She could hardly have made
A more untoward choice. Sir Thomas Bertram had interest,
Which, from principle as well as pride – from a general
Wish of doing right, and a desire of seeing all that were
Connected with him in situations of respectability,
He would have been glad to exert for the advantage
Of Lady Bertram’s sister; but her husband’s profession
Was such as no interest could reach; and before he
Had time to devise any other method of assisting them,
An absolute breach between the sisters had taken place.
It was the natural result of the conduct of each party,
And such as a very imprudent marriage almost always produces.
To save herself from useless remonstrance, Mrs. Price never
Wrote to her family on the subject till actually married.
Lady Bertram, who was a woman of very tranquil feelings,
And a temper remarkably easy and indolent, would have
Contented herself with merely giving up her sister,
And thinking no more of the matter; but Mrs. Norris
Had a spirit of activity, which could not be satisfied
Till she had written a long and angry letter to Fanny,
To point out the folly of her conduct, and threaten
Her with all its possible ill consequences. Mrs. Price,
In her turn, was injured and angry; and an answer,
Which comprehended each sister in its bitterness, and bestowed
Such very disrespectful reflections on the pride of Sir
Thomas as Mrs. Norris could not possibly keep to herself,
Put an end to all intercourse between them for a considerable
Their homes were so distant, and the circles in which they
Moved so distinct, as almost to preclude the means of ever
Hearing of each other’s existence during the eleven
Following years, or, at least, to make it very wonderful
To Sir Thomas that Mrs. Norris should ever have it
In her power to tell them, as she now and then did,
In an angry voice, that Fanny had got another child.