Jane Austen, Mansfield Park: Ch. 9

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Chapter IX

Mr. Rushworth was at the door to receive his fair ladyd; and the whole party were welcomed by him with due attention. In the drawing-room they were met with equal cordiality by the mother, and Miss Bertram had all the distinction with each that she could wish. After the business of arriving was over, it was first necessary to eat, and the doors were thrown open to admit them through one or two intermediate rooms into the appointed dining-parlour, where a collation was prepared with abundance and elegance. Much was said, and much was ate, and all went well. The particular object of the day was then considered. How would Mr. Crawford like, in what manner would he chuse, to take a survey of the grounds? Mr. Rushworth mentioned his curriclew. Mr. Crawford suggested the greater desirableness of some carriage which might convey more than two. "To be depriving themselves of the advantage of other eyes and other judgments, might be an evil even beyond the loss of present pleasure."

Mrs. Rushworth proposed that the chaise should be taken alsod; but this was scarcely received as an amendment: the young ladies neither smiled nor spoke. Her next proposition, of shewing the house to such of them as had not been there before, was more acceptable, for Miss Bertram was pleased to have its size displayed, and all were glad to be doing something.

The whole party rose accordingly, and under Mrs. Rushworth's guidance were shewn through a number of rooms, all lofty, and many large, and amply furnished in the taste of fifty years backh, with shining floors, solid mahogany, rich damask, marble, gilding, and carving, each handsome in its way. Of pictures there were abundance, and some few good, but the larger part were family portraits, no longer anything to anybody but Mrs. Rushworth, who had been at great pains to learn all that the housekeeper could teach, and was now almost equally well qualified to shew the house. On the present occasion she addressed herself chiefly to Miss Crawford and Fanny, but there was no comparison in the willingness of their attention; for Miss Crawford, who had seen scores of great houses, and cared for none of them, had only the appearance of civilly listening, while Fanny, to whom everything was almost as interesting as it was new, attended with unaffected earnestness to all that Mrs. Rushworth could relate of the family in former times, its rise and grandeur, regal visits and loyal effortsh, delighted to connect anything with history already known, or warm her imagination with scenes of the past.

The situation of the house excluded the possibility of much prospect from any of the rooms; and while Fanny and some of the others were attending Mrs. Rushworth, Henry Crawford was looking grave and shaking his head at the windows. Every room on the west front looked across a lawn to the beginning of the avenue immediately beyond tall iron palisades and gates.

Having visited many more rooms than could be supposed to be of any other use than to contribute to the window-taxw, and find employment for housemaids, "Now," said Mrs. Rushworth, "we are coming to the chapel, which properly we ought to enter from above, and look down upon; but as we are quite among friends, I will take you in this way, if you will excuse me."

They entered. Fanny's imagination had prepared her for something grander than a mere spacious, oblong room, fitted up for the purpose of devotion: with nothing more striking or more solemn than the profusion of mahogany, and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge of the family gallery above. "I am disappointed," said she, in a low voice, to Edmund. "This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grandw. Here are no aisles, no arches, no inscriptions, no banners. No banners, cousin, to be 'blown by the night wind of heaven.' No signs that a 'Scottish monarch sleeps below.'"h

"You forget, Fanny, how lately all this has been built, and for how confined a purpose, compared with the old chapels of castles and monasteries. It was only for the private use of the family. They have been buried, I suppose, in the parish church. There you must look for the banners and the achievements."

"It was foolish of me not to think of all that; but I am disappointed."

X [d] Mr. Rushworth was at the door to receive his …

Writing & Reading

This chapter is pivotal in bringing into one compass religion, politics, and landscape. We get a taste of the ironies to come in the chivalric language of "to receive his fair lady."

X [w] curricle

Transportation

Equivalent to the old Jaguar XKE or Austin-Healey, an open, light, precariously high, and sporty two-wheeled, two-seater, generally two-horse vehicle, the favored chariot of young men and of the Prince Regent.

X [d] the chaise should be taken also

A matter again of being "in" or "out." In a society in which opportunities for bodily proximity are metered and in which precedence is significant, the seating arrangement in a close carriage is a statement. Fanny, submissive from the day she arrives at Mansfield Park, passively accepts being placed.

X [h] the taste of fifty years back

Arts

Fifty years back is the acme of English architecture and interior design, the results of the genius of Capability Brown, Robert Adam, and Chippendale, their work simple, serviceable, yet elegant.

How the various characters see the house and furnishings, like their differing responses to nature, indicates their aesthetic and moral values.

That Mrs. Rushworth must rely on her housekeeper to chronicle the house's history betrays an indifference bordering on sacrilege.

 

X [h] regal visits and loyal efforts

Religion

This seems to refer to the Rushworth family's support for the Catholic and Stuart cause, James II and Bonnie Prince Charlie, in 1715 and/or 1745. Regal visits and "loyal" efforts conjure up those events. But Fanny's references to the chapel and what if anything she's thinking about history remain indefinite.…

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X [w] window-tax

Daily Life

As a means to raising revenue during a steady succession of expensive wars, the King and the Parliament imposed excise taxes on imports (such as that on tea, which helped trigger the American Revolution), on male servants, carriages, dogs, and a number of other things, among them windows.…

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X [w] nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothi…

Arts

"[A]wful," means awesome; "melancholy" a preference for the depths of a sorrow that only sensitive natures can feel; in the "grand" will be found the Sublime. Chapels and churches, she is suggesting, evoke the symbolic and mysterious and convey a sense of a historic narrative. …

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X [h] blown by the night wind of heaven.' No signs …

Writing & Reading

Sir Walter Scott's lines evoking the Stuart cause once more suggest that Fanny associates the Rushworth family with Catholicism and imagines chivalric loyalties and reverence that contrast with what the chapel's evangelical austerity.

Even if the family were involved in the Civil Wars of the 17th c. or the Stuart cause in the 18th, Edmund points out that the house, built or renovated, is of more recent origin.