Jane Austen, Mansfield Park: Ch. 5

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Tom Bertram must have been thought pleasant, indeed, at any rate; he was the sort of young man to be generally liked, his agreeableness was of the kind to be oftener found agreeable than some endowments of a higher stamp, for he had easy manners, excellent spirits, a large acquaintance, and a great deal to say; and the reversionw of Mansfield Park, and a baronetcy, did no harm to all this. Miss Crawford soon felt that he and his situation might do. She looked about her with due consideration, and found almost everything in his favour: a park, a real park, five miles round, a spacious modern-built house, so well placed and well screened as to deserve to be in any collection of engravings of gentlemen's seats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be completely new furnished—pleasant sisters, a quiet mother, and an agreeable man himself—with the advantage of being tied up from much gaming at present by a promise to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter. It might do very well; she believed she should accept him; and she began accordingly to interest herself a little about the horsed which he had to run at the B—— races.

These races were to call him away not long after their acquaintance began; and as it appeared that the family did not, from his usual goings on, expect him back again for many weeks, it would bring his passion to an early proof. Much was said on his side to induce her to attend the races, and schemes were made for a large party to them, with all the eagerness of inclination, but it would only do to be talked of.

And Fanny, what was she doing and thinking all this while? and what was her opinion of the newcomers? Few young ladies of eighteen could be less called on to speak their opinion than Fanny. In a quiet way, very little attended to, she paid her tribute of admiration to Miss Crawford's beauty; but as she still continued to think Mr. Crawford very plain, in spite of her two cousins having repeatedly proved the contrary, she never mentioned him. The notice, which she excited herself, was to this effect. "I begin now to understand you all, except Miss Price," said Miss Crawford, as she was walking with the Mr. Bertrams. "Pray, is she out, or is she not? I am puzzled. She dined at the Parsonage, with the rest of you, which seemed like being out; and yet she says so little, that I can hardly suppose she is."

Edmund, to whom this was chiefly addressed, replied, "I believe I know what you mean, but I will not undertake to answer the question. My cousin is grown up. She has the age and sense of a woman, but the outs and not outs are beyond med."

"And yet, in general, nothing can be more easily ascertained. The distinction is so broad. Manners as well as appearance are, generally speaking, so totally differentd. Till now, I could not have supposed it possible to be mistaken as to a girl's being out or not. A girl not out has always the same sort of dress: a close bonnetw, for instance; looks very demure, and never says a word. You may smile, but it is so, I assure you; and except that it is sometimes carried a little too far, it is all very proper. Girls should be quiet and modest. The most objectionable part is, that the alteration of manners on being introduced into company is frequently too sudden. They sometimes pass in such very little time from reserve to quite the opposite—to confidence! That is the faulty part of the present system. One does not like to see a girl of eighteen or nineteen so immediately up to every thing—and perhaps when one has seen her hardly able to speak the year before. Mr. Bertram, I dare say you have sometimes met with such changes."

"I believe I have, but this is hardly fair; I see what you are at. You are quizzing me and Miss Anderson."

"No, indeed. Miss Anderson! I do not know who or what you mean. I am quite in the dark. But I will quiz you with a great deal of pleasure, if you will tell me what about."

X [w] reversion

Tom Bertram's becoming Sir Thomas, Bart., and inheriting Mansfield Park.

X [d] to interest herself a little about the horse

As today a young woman might express an interest in his car or in his sports or hobbies.

X [d] the outs and not outs are beyond me

Mary is mystified, her confusion reflecting Fanny's equivocal status at Mansfield Park, for she's nominally a niece and first cousin who's treated as the domestic pet of one aunt and the servant of the other.

Heathcliff, another orphan, responds to his marginality by attacking anyone who dares to presume it.

X [d] Manners as well as appearance are, generally …

Manners & Morals

Mary's confusion with respect to Fanny calls attention to a more general problem that will afflict various people at Mansfield Park: the degree to which manners and appearances, which are meant to represent the actual person, fail to do so, so that one's judgment of the person is mistaken. Much in this novel novel will turn on the difficulty of knowing what is beneath the manners and appearances. 

X [w] close bonnet

Daily Life

The competition for marriageable men was fierce, compelling the society to develop markers in dress and manners that denoted the "outs."

To become an "in" transformed a formerly harmless girl in sexless clothes into a white widow spider. She goes from an innocent to, Mary remarks, a predator. At some point some women, nearing thirty, signaled their withdrawal from the marriage market, as Jane Austen did, by returning to wearing a bonnet.