improver

Category: Arts | Type: Historical | Title: Mansfield Park (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Ch: Chapter VI

"Improver" refers to landscape designers such as "Capability" Brown and Humphrey Repton and Improvement (Search) to alterations to the landscape surrounding an important country house. The house is a consolidation of the present and past. It represents the current owner's taste and projects his public persona, but from Austen's perspective it is preferable to say the default is toward the house and land, toward perpetuity and continuity. The current owner is or ought to be the embodiment of the past generations that lived in and through the estate and must protect what is most venerable. 

Austen is not opposed to improvement upon nature ("nature to advantage dressed," Alexander Pope wrote). But the purpose is strengthen what is already strong and minimize what is weak or marginal. Whether in landscape or manners Austen deplores the overly refined and studied. 

A corollary of taste is tact, which Rushworth lacks. His name condemns him ("fools rush in where angels fear to tread," from Pope's Essay on Criticism) and reminds us rush forth. He is not wicked but fatuous. He knows new names and fashions; simple-minded, he believes more is better. 

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