I have been thinking about that passage in Mansfield Park after the ball when Edmund, Henry Crawford, and William Price have all left Mansfield Park. Fanny is alone in the great house with Sir Thomas and Aunt Bertram and Mary Crawford is at the parsonage with her sister and Dr. Grant:
The week which passed so quietly and peaceably at the great house in Mansfield had a very different character at the Parsonage. To the young lady, at least, in each family, it brought very different feelings. What was tranquillity and comfort to Fanny was tediousness and vexation to Mary. Something arose from difference of disposition and habit: one so easily satisfied, the other so unused to endure; but still more might be imputed to difference of circumstances. In some points of interest they were exactly opposed to each other. To Fanny’s mind, Edmund’s absence was really, in its cause and its tendency, a relief. To Mary it was every way painful. She felt the want of his society every day, almost every hour, and was too much in want of it to derive anything but irritation from considering the object for which he went. He could not have devised anything more likely to raise his consequence than this week’s absence, occurring as it did at the very time of her brother’s going away, of William Price’s going too, and completing the sort of general break-up of a party which had been so animated. She felt it keenly. They were now a miserable trio, confined within doors by a series of rain and snow, with nothing to do and no variety to hope for. Angry as she was with Edmund for adhering to his own notions, and acting on them in defiance of her (and she had been so angry that they had hardly parted friends at the ball), she could not help thinking of him continually when absent, dwelling on his merit and affection, and longing again for the almost daily meetings they lately had. His absence was unnecessarily long. He should not have planned such an absence—he should not have left home for a week, when her own departure from Mansfield was so near. Then she began to blame herself. She wished she had not spoken so warmly in their last conversation. She was afraid she had used some strong, some contemptuous expressions in speaking of the clergy, and that should not have been. It was ill-bred; it was wrong. She wished such words unsaid with all her heart.
Her vexation did not end with the week. All this was bad, but she had still more to feel when Friday came round again and brought no Edmund; when Saturday came and still no Edmund; and when, through the slight communication with the other family which Sunday produced, she learned that he had actually written home to defer his return, having promised to remain some days longer with his friend.
If she had felt impatience and regret before–if she had been sorry for what she said, and feared its too strong effect on him–she now felt and feared it all tenfold more. She had, moreover, to contend with one disagreeable emotion entirely new to her–jealousy. His friend Mr. Owen had sisters; he might find them attractive. But, at any rate, his staying away at a time when, according to all preceding plans, she was to remove to London, meant something that she could not bear. Had Henry returned, as he talked of doing, at the end of three or four days, she should now have been leaving Mansfield. It became absolutely necessary for her to get to Fanny and try to learn something more. She could not live any longer in such solitary wretchedness; and she made her way to the Park, through difficulties of walking which she had deemed unconquerable a week before, for the chance of hearing a little in addition, for the sake of at least hearing his name.Mansfield Park, 1814, pp 285-287
It seems to me as we have been staying at home with physical distancing orders and being isolated from others, we all feel a little like Mary Crawford—missing happier times and wanting to connect to each other. Even getting outside for a walk feels wonderful now. Like Mary, I am willing to walk in windy, rainy, and snowy weather now just to get outside.
In coping with physical distancing, I have been thinking about Jane Austen’s messages of perseverance, fortitude in struggles, and having faith. I am trying to find ways to connect with others that do not involve physical contact. I have enjoyed the virtual events we have hosted on our Facebook page and just connecting with people on social media or through email. I have found solace and comfort in reading Jane Austen. I hope that eventually we will return to meeting in person. But for now, we will continue to meet on our Facebook page and through Zoom. I hope you will join us.