For S & S
who were there at the start.
Names of the Principal Persons
At Mansfield Park:
Sir Thomas Bertram, Baronet
Lady Bertram, his wife
Thomas Bertram, his eldest son
Miss Maria Bertram, his eldest daughter
William Bertram, his second son, away at sea
Miss Julia Bertram, his second daughter
Miss Fanny Price, niece to Sir Thomas; daughter to Mr Price of Lessingby Hall, Cumberland, and his wife Frances, sister to Lady Bertram
Baddeley, the butler
Mrs Baddeley, the housekeeper
Mr McGregor, the steward
Mr Fletcher, the bailiff
Mrs Chapman, attending Lady Bertram
Mme Dacier, attending Miss Price
Hannah O'Hara, attending Miss Price
Kitty Jeffries, attending Miss Bertram
Polly Evans, attending Miss Julia Bertram
At the White House
Mrs Norris, sister to Lady Bertram
Edmund Norris, her stepson
At the Parsonage
The Reverend Dr Grant
Henry Crawford, half brother to Mrs Grant
Miss Mary Crawford, his sister
James Rushworth, son to Sir Richard Rushworth
The Honourable John Yates
Charles Maddox, a thief-taker
George Fraser and Abel Stornaway, his assistants
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 her father hoped that the eldest daughter’s match would set matters in a fair train for the younger. But, though she possessed no less a fortune, Miss Julia’s features were rather plain than handsome, and in consequence the neighbourhood was united in its conviction that there would not be such another great match to distinguish the Ward family.
Unhappily for the neighbourhood, Miss Julia was fated to confound their dearest expectations, and to emulate her sister’s good luck, by captivating a gentleman of both wealth and consequence, albeit a widower. Within a twelvemonth after Miss Ward’s nuptials her younger sister began upon a career of conjugal felicity with a Mr Norris, his considerable fortune, and young son, in the village immediately neighbouring Mansfield Park. Miss Frances fared yet better. A chance encounter at a Northampton ball threw her in the path of a Mr Price, the only son of a great Cumberland family, with a large estate at Lessingby Hall. Miss Frances was lively and beautiful, and the young man being both romantic and imprudent, a marriage took place to the infinite mortification of his father and mother, who possessed a sense of their family’s pride and consequence, which equalled, if not exceeded, even their prodigious fortune. It was as unsuitable a connection as such hasty marriages usually are, and did not produce much happiness. Having married beneath him, Mr Price felt justly entitled to excessive gratitude and unequalled devotion in his wife, but he soon discovered that the young woman he had loved for her spirit, as much as her beauty, had neither the gentle temper nor submissive disposition he and his family considered his due.
Older sages might easily have foreseen the natural sequel of such an inauspicious beginning, and despite the fine house, jewels and carriages that her husband’s position afforded, it was not long before Miss Frances, for her part, perceived that the Prices could not but hold her cheap, on account of her lowly birth. The consequence of this, upon a mind so young and inexperienced, was but too inevitable. Her spirits were depressed, and though her family were not consumptive, her health was delicate, and the rigours of the Cumberland climate, severely aggravated by a difficult lying-in, left young Mr Price a widower within a year of his marriage. He had not been happy with his wife, but that did not prevent him being quite overcome with misery and regret when she was with him no more, and the late vexations of their life together were softened by her suffering and death. His little daughter could not console him; she was a pretty child, with her mother’s light hair and blue eyes, but the resemblance served only to heighten his sense of anguish and remorse. It was a wretched time, but even as they consoled their son in his affliction, Mr and Mrs Price could only congratulate themselves privately that a marriage contracted under such unfortunate circumstances had not resulted in a more enduring unhappiness. Having consulted a number of eminent physicians, the anxious parents soon determined that the young man would be materially better for a change of air and situation, and the family having an extensive property at the West Indies, it was soon decided between them that his wounded heart might best find consolation in the novelty, exertion, and excitement of a sea voyage. Some heart-ache the widower-father may be supposed to have felt on leaving his daughter, but he took comfort in the fact that his little Fanny would have every comfort and attention in his father’s house. He left England with the probability of being at least a twelvemonth absent.
And what of Mansfield at this time? Lady Bertram had delighted her husband with an heir, soon after Miss Frances’ marriage, and this joyful event was duly followed by the birth of a daughter, some few months younger than her little cousin in Cumberland. One might have imagined Mrs Price to have enjoyed a regular and intimate intercourse with her sisters at Mansfield during this interesting period, but her husband’s family had done all in their power to discourage anything more than common civility, and despite Mrs Norris’s sanguine expectations of being "every year at Lessingby", and being introduced to a host of great personages, no such invitation was ever forthcoming. Mrs Price’s sudden death led to an even greater distance between the families, and when news finally reached Mansfield that young Mr Price had fallen victim to a nervous seizure on his journey back to England — intelligence his parents had not seen fit to impart themselves — Mrs Norris could not be satisfied without writing to the Prices, and giving vent to all the anger and resentment that she had pent up in her own mind since her sister’s marriage. Had Sir Thomas known of her intentions, an absolute rupture might have been prevented, but as it was the Prices felt fully justified in putting an end to all communication between the families for a considerable interval.
One can only imagine the mortifying sensations that Sir Thomas must have endured at such a time, but all private feelings were soon swallowed up by a more public grief. Mr Norris, long troubled by an indifferent state of health, brought on apoplexy and death by drinking a whole bottle of claret in the course of a single evening. There were some who said that a long-standing habit of self-indulgence had lately grown much worse from his having to endure daily harangues from his wife at her ill-treatment by the Prices, but whatever the truth of this, it is certain that no such rumour ever came to Mrs Norris’s ear. She, for her part, was left only with a large income and a spacious house, and consoled herself for the loss of her husband by considering that she could do very well without him, and for the loss of an invalid to nurse by the acquisition of a son to bring up.
At Mansfield Park a son and a daughter successively entered the world, and as the years passed, Sir Thomas contrived to maintain a regular if unfrequent correspondence with his brother-in-law, Mr Price, in which he learned of little Fanny’s progress with much complacency. But when the girl was a few months short of her twelfth birthday, Sir Thomas, in place of his usual communication from Cumberland, received instead a letter in a lawyer’s hand, conveying the sorrowful information that Mr and Mrs Price had both succumbed to a putrid fever, and in the next sentence, beseeching Sir Thomas, as the child’s uncle, and only relation, to take the whole charge of her. Sir Thomas was a man of honour and principle, and not insensible to the claims of duty and the ties of blood, but such an undertaking was not to be lightly engaged in; not, at least, without consulting his wife. Lady Bertram was a woman of very tranquil feelings, guided in everything important by Sir Thomas, and in smaller day-to-day concerns by her sister. Knowing as he did Mrs Norris’s generous concern for the wants of others, Sir Thomas elected to bring the subject forward as they were sitting together at the tea-table, where Mrs Norris was presiding. He gave the ladies the particulars of the letter in his usual measured and dignified manner, concluding with the observation that "after due consideration, and examining this distressing circumstance in all its particulars, I firmly believe that I have no other alternative but to accede to this lawyer’s request and bring Fanny to live with us here, at Mansfield Park. I hope, my dear, that you will also see it in the same judicious light."
Lady Bertram agreed with him instantly. "I think we cannot do better," said she. "Let us send for her at once. Is she not my niece, and poor Frances’ orphan child?"