Mansfield Park HTML version

Chapter 1
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 connections, 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 period.
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. By the end of