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Feeling Like Mary Crawford

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.

Michele 5/2/20   

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Negus at a Ball

Cassandra Bates, our treasurer, has shared another wonderful recipe from the past for Negus.  Whether you can attend the dance this Saturday March 9 or not, this seems like a most intriguing recipe to try at a ball or at home.  Let us know if you try to make it and how it turns out.

“There were more Dancers than the Room could conveniently hold, which is enough to constitute a good Ball at any time.”

Letter to Cassandra, January 9, 1799

Even though in the Inland Northwest, Spring seems far away, but it will be here soon and that will bring flowers, new plant growth, green grass, and warmth. In Jane Austen’s time springtime was also the most active time for the London Season, which meant Balls! Food at Regency Balls ranged from simple fare to elegant dinner settings. Since it is still cold here in the Inland Northwest, here is a recipe for Negus. Negus is a mulled wine of sorts invented by Col. Francis Negus in the early 18th century. During Jane Austen’s time it was a popular beverage at Balls, however it slowly lost favor and became a popular children’s drink (not recommended).

To Make Negus:

“To every pint of port wine, allow 1 quart of boiling water, 1/4lb. of sugar, 1 lemon, grated nutmeg to taste.

Put the wine into a jug and rub some lumps of sugar (equal to 1/4lb.) on the lemon rind until all the yellow part of the skin is absorbed, then squeeze the juice, and strain it. Add the sugar and lemon-juice to the port wine, with the grated nutmeg; pour it over the boiling water, cover the jug and, when the beverage has cooled a little, it will be fit for use.”

From Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861

Negus is mentioned in Mansfield Park, in Jane Austen’s inimitable description of Fanny leaving the ball where she danced with Henry Crawford (pictured below at the beginning of the dance in a Brock illustration):

Shortly afterwards, Sir Thomas was again interfering a little with her inclination by advising her to go immediately to bed.  “Advise” was his word, but it was the advice of absolute power, and she had only to rise and, with Mr. Crawford’s very cordial adieus, pass quietly away; stopping at the entrance door, like the Lady of Branxholm Hall, “one moment and no more,” to view the happy scene, and take a last look at the five or six determined couple, who were still hard at work–and then, creeping slowly up the principle staircase, pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes and fears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of every thing, that a ball was indeed delightful” (280-81, Oxford Edition).

mpbrockwc17 full view