Jane Austen, Mansfield Park: Ch. 6

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"The tree thrives well, beyond a doubt, madam," replied Dr. Grant. "The soil is good; and I never pass it without regretting that the fruit should be so little worth the trouble of gathering."

"Sir, it is a Moor Parkw, we bought it as a Moor Park, and it cost us—that is, it was a present from Sir Thomas, but I saw the bill—and I know it cost seven shillings, and was charged as a Moor Park."

"You were imposed on, ma'am," replied Dr. Grant: "these potatoes have as much the flavour of a Moor Park apricot as the fruit from that tree. It is an insipid fruit at the best; but a good apricot is eatable, which none from my garden are."

"The truth is, ma'am," said Mrs. Grant, pretending to whisper across the table to Mrs. Norris, "that Dr. Grant hardly knows what the natural taste of our apricot is: he is scarcely ever indulged with one, for it is so valuable a fruit; with a little assistance, and ours is such a remarkably large, fair sort, that what with early tarts and preserves, my cook contrives to get them all."

Mrs. Norris, who had begun to redden, was appeased; and, for a little while, other subjects took place of the improvements of Sotherton. Dr. Grant and Mrs. Norris were seldom good friends; their acquaintance had begun in dilapidationsw, and their habits were totally dissimilar.

After a short interruption Mr. Rushworth began again. "Smith's place is the admiration of all the country; and it was a mere nothing before Repton took it in hand. I think I shall have Repton."

"Mr. Rushworth," said Lady Bertram, "if I were you, I would have a very pretty shrubberyw. One likes to get out into a shrubbery in fine weather."

Mr. Rushworth was eager to assure her ladyship of his acquiescence, and tried to make out something complimentary; but, between his submission to her taste, and his having always intended the same himself, with the superadded objects of professing attention to the comfort of ladies in general, and of insinuating that there was one only whom he was anxious to please, he grew puzzled, and Edmund was glad to put an end to his speech by a proposal of wine. Mr. Rushworth, however, though not usually a great talker, had still more to say on the subject next his heart. "Smith has not much above a hundred acres altogether in his grounds, which is little enough, and makes it more surprising that the place can have been so improved. Now, at Sotherton we have a good seven hundred, without reckoning the water meadowsw; so that I think, if so much could be done at Compton, we need not despair. There have been two or three fine old trees cut down, that grew too near the housed, and it opens the prospect amazingly, which makes me think that Repton, or anybody of that sort, would certainly have the avenue at Sotherton down: the avenue that leads from the west front to the top of the hill, you know," turning to Miss Bertram particularly as he spoke. But Miss Bertram thought it most becoming to reply—

"The avenue! Oh! I do not recollect it. I really know very little of Sotherton."

Fanny, who was sitting on the other side of Edmund, exactly opposite Miss Crawford, and who had been attentively listening, now looked at him, and said in a low voice—

"Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? 'Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmeritedh.'"

He smiled as he answered, "I am afraid the avenue stands a bad chance, Fanny."

"I should like to see Sotherton before it is cut down, to see the place as it is now, in its old state; but I do not suppose I shall."

"Have you never been there? No, you never can; and, unluckily, it is out of distance for a ride. I wish we could contrive it."

"Oh! it does not signify. Whenever I do see it, you will tell me how it has been altered."

"I collectw," said Miss Crawford, "that Sotherton is an old place, and a place of some grandeur. In any particular style of building?"

X [w] Moor Park

Things

One of several varieties of apricot, known more for the tree's appearance than the fruit's taste. Another instance in which appearance belies substance.

 

X [w] dilapidations

Religion

A parsonage's departing inhabitant or his heirs were obligated to pay for any wear (dilapidation) of the house and outbuildings as a result of use during his tenure. Mrs. Norris, miserly under all occasions, finds it galling to have to pony up in order to restore the house to its original condition (surely never having spent a shilling on its maintenance) in order to accommodate Dr. Grant, a man whose lavish habits with regard to food and drink offend her nature. 

X [w] shrubbery

Daily Life

The shrubbery in Austen is both a barrier and frontier. Of differing heights, some affording a view, other protective and encircling, the shrubbery separates the manor from the park and wilder nature beyond. Planted and manicured yet natural, shrubbery combines elements of both.…

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X [w] water meadows

Land flooded in wet times of the year.

X [d] There have been two or three fine old trees c…

Daily Life

The venerable walnut trees planted long ago and which are now so old as to be "natural" represent continuity and durability, the very things Rushworth's stewardship should protect. The grand, umbrageous tree in Austen is an example of what her contemporary Edmund Burke described as the compact between "the dead, the living, and the as yet unborn." Austen frames a similar scene in Sense and Sensibility and discusses in Emma Knightley's home, Donwell Abbey, as in some ways ideal.…

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X [h] Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fat…

Writing & Reading

From William Cowper's The Task (1785; Cowper was born in 1732 and died in 1800), a long poem celebrating the commonplace in rural life.

He influenced Wordsworth and was much beloved by Austen. Cowper was deeply religious though in spiritual agony much of his life, believing himself unworthy of God, and attempted suicide at least once. "The Castaway" reflects this condition. He wrote some satire, but The Task, "Yardley Oak," and the great series of hymns known as the Olney Hymns are more typical.

X [w] collect

Gather, in the sense of know.