Mansfield Park is a novel about ordination, and about the family. It delves into questions of the education and upbringing of children, of conservative values, of parental authority, of the propriety and place of romantic love, of the tension between propriety and sophistication, and of the dangers of undue familiarity outside the family circle. It unerringly displays the depth of Austen's wisdom, especially in her understanding of the spiritual, psychological, and cultural complexities of morality.
As well as the full text of one of the richest and most intricately woven novels in the English language, this new critical edition contains many insightful critical essays by today's leading Austen experts.
Into this Cinderella existence comes Henry Crawford and his sister, Mary, who are visiting relatives in the neighborhood. Soon Mansfield Park is given over to all kinds of gaiety, including a daring interlude spent dabbling in theatricals. Young Edmund is smitten with Mary, and Henry Crawford woos Fanny. Yet these two charming, gifted, and attractive siblings gradually reveal themselves to be lacking in one essential Austenian quality: principle. Without good principles to temper passion, the results can be disastrous, and indeed, Mansfield Park is rife with adultery, betrayal, social ruin, and ruptured friendships. But this is a comedy, after all, so there is also a requisite happy ending and plenty of Austen's patented gentle satire along the way. Describing the switch in Edmund's affections from Mary to Fanny, she writes: "I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that everyone may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people." What does not vary is the pleasure with which new generations come to Jane Austen. --Alix Wilber