Jane Austen, Mansfield Park: Ch. 2

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The holiday allowed to the Miss Bertrams the next day, on purpose to afford leisure for getting acquainted with, and entertaining their young cousin, produced little union. They could not but hold her cheap on finding that she had but two sashesw, and had never learned French; and when they perceived her to be little struck with the duet they were so good as to play, they could do no more than make her a generous present of some of their least valued toys, and leave her to herself, while they adjourned to whatever might be the favourite holiday sport of the moment, making artificial flowers or wasting gold paper.

Fanny, whether near or from her cousins, whether in the schoolroom, the drawing-room, or the shrubberyw, was equally forlorn, finding something to fear in every person and place. She was disheartened by Lady Bertram's silence, awed by Sir Thomas's grave looks, and quite overcome by Mrs. Norris's admonitions. Her elder cousins mortified her by reflections on her size, and abashed her by noticing her shyness: Miss Lee wondered at her ignorance, and the maid-servants sneeredd at her clothes; and when to these sorrows was added the idea of the brothers and sisters among whom she had always been important as playfellow, instructress, and nurse, the despondenceh that sunk her little heart was severe.

The grandeur of the house astonished, but could not console her. The rooms were too large for her to move in with ease: whatever she touched she expected to injure, and she crept about in constant terror of something or other; often retreating towards her own chamber to cry; and the little girl who was spoken of in the drawing-room when she left it at night as seeming so desirably sensible of her peculiar good fortune, ended every day's sorrows by sobbing herself to sleep. A week had passed in this way, and no suspicion of it conveyed by her quiet passive manner, when she was found one morning by her cousin Edmund, the youngest of the sons, sitting crying on the attic stairsd.

"My dear little cousin," said he, with all the gentleness of an excellent nature, "what can be the matter?" And sitting down by her, he was at great pains to overcome her shame in being so surprised, and persuade her to speak openly. Was she ill? or was anybody angry with her? or had she quarrelled with Maria and Julia? or was she puzzled about anything in her lesson that he could explain? Did she, in short, want anything he could possibly get her, or do for her? For a long while no answer could be obtained beyond a "no, no—not at all—no, thank you"; but he still persevered; and no sooner had he begun to revertw to her own home, than her increased sobs explained to him where the grievance lay. He tried to console her.

"You are sorry to leave Mama, my dear little Fanny," said he, "which shows you to be a very good girl; but you must remember that you are with relations and friends, who all love you, and wish to make you happy. Let us walk out in the park, and you shall tell me all about your brothers and sisters."

On pursuing the subject, he found that, dear as all these brothers and sisters generally were, there was one among them who ran more in her thoughts than the rest. It was William whom she talked of most, and wanted most to see. William, the eldest, a year older than herself, her constant companion and friend; her advocate with her mother (of whom he was the darling) in every distress. "William did not like she should come away; he had told her he should miss her very much indeed." "But William will write to you, I dare say." "Yes, he had promised he would, but he had told her to write first." "And when shall you do it?" She hung her head and answered hesitatingly, "she did not know; she had not any paper."

"If that be all your difficulty, I will furnish you with paper and every other material, and you may write your letter whenever you choose. Would it make you happy to write to William?"

"Yes, very."

"Then let it be done now. Come with me into the breakfast-room, we shall find everything there, and be sure of having the room to ourselves."

X [w] sashes

Daily Life

Sometimes with fringed ends, worn around the waist by women and children.

X [w] shrubbery

Places

Of varying heights and density, it borders the gravel paths that allow for exercise, withdrawal into private thought, or more intimate conversation than the drawing-room may permit. The English have a fascination with shrubbery that Austen reflects in some of her novels. It is a mixed space, public yet in places private, natural yet trimmed, a border between the house and the land beyond.…

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X [d] Miss Lee wondered at her ignorance, and the m…

Class

English society then and the Great House are nothing if not hierarchical, and Fanny, the youngest, last, and most easily intimidated at Mansfield, is at the bottom of the food chain. Her standing in the house is in a nether-world below the governess and just above the house servants, who sneer with impunity at her. Occupying a limbo,  Fanny lacks a fixed identity.

X [h] despondence

Mind

Melancholia or depression, described here as "severe."

Fanny's unhappiness, despite her supposed good fortune, only makes her feel all the more ungrateful and thus "wicked," which then reinforces her unhappiness. Claire Tomalin, one of Austen's best biographers, describes the long depression—Austen ceased writing for about a decade—that descends upon her at twenty-five when her parents decide to leave Steventon Rectory for Bath, taking Jane and Cassandra with them. …

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X [d] crying on the attic stairs

Class

A clue to what we learn later—that her room is a tiny, cold one in the attic. Her room's location reflects her uncertain status. Fanny is so small, retiring, and ambiguously placed as to be beneath all but Mrs. Norris's radar.

X [w] revert

Turn to, refer to.