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This brings me to my latest essay and Mansfield Park. I discussed the issue of slavery regarding Mansfield Park. England was so corrupt and engaged in the dreadful practise of slavery. Many rich people had plantations in the British colonies and made a fortune on the back of slavery. This is referred to in Mansfield Park at least in-directly. Here, I will post some quotes from Mansfield Park that make a reference to slavery in Antigua, a former British colony.
I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies. I could listen to him for an hour together…” [Fanny to Edmund, 197.]
“But I do talk to him more that is used. I am sure I do. Did not you hear me ask him about the slave trade last night?” [Fanny to Edmund, 198.]
“I did – and was in hopes the question would be followed up by others. It would have pleased your uncle to be inquired of farther.” [Edmund to Fanny]
“And I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence! And while my cousins were sitting by without speaking a word, or seeming at all interested in the subject, I did not like – I thought it would appear as if I wanted to set myself off at their expense, by shewing a curiosity and pleasure in his information which he must wish his own daughters to feel.” [Fanny, 198]
Sir Thomas found it expedient to go to Antigua himself, for the better arrangement of his affairs… probability of being nearly a twelvemonth absent. [Narrator, 32]
…as his [Sir Thomas’s] own circumstances were rendered less fair than heretofore, by some recent losses on his West India Estate. [Narrator, 24]
“Why, you know Sir Thomas’s means will be rather straitened, if the Antigua estate is to make such poor returns.” [Mrs. Norris to Lady Bertram who responds “Oh! that will soon be settled. Sir Thomas has been writing about it, I know.” 30.]
Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park. Wordsworth Editions Ltd. 2020.
Deb, Janeite. Jane Austen in Vermont.
Visit Janeite’s blog below, it’s a great blog and great links for Jane Austen
Deb, Janeite. Jane Austen in Vermont.
This represents a “darker, sinister and most definitely, decadent perspective. This is a side of life that was in need of reform. That is, just how a large amount of this wealth in England was derived from the awful practice of slavery. England had fallen into a decadent way of life by means of obtaining wealth in this manner. There were, in fact, two sides to life. On one hand the high life of the gentry with prosperity, mansions, material things and exuberance. While on the other hand, hundreds of thousands of slaves were forced into hard labour in many British colonies to earn this wealth for the rich to enjoy their lifestyles” (Farley).
“One of the most interesting aspects, regarding Mansfield Park, is the reference Austen makes with her title of the novel. Lord Mansfield, or William Murray, actually came from an aristocratic family and became a lawyer. After positions of Solicitor-General, Attorney-General, and chief Justice of the King’s Bench he became a private councillor advising the king. He often spoke in the House of Lords, and became a very “influential and powerful Man” (Kelly 173). It is also important to note that the character of Sir Bertram is also a member of parliament. Unlike Sir Bertram, however, Lord Mansfield made a very notable and perhaps ground-breaking verdict in a court case; the case of the slave James Somerset. He was brought by his master from America to England in 1769 where he was later abducted and shackled to a slave ship. The intention was to transport him to Virginia where he could be sold. A habeas corpus was obtained by anti-slavery activists and he appeared in court. Lord Mansfield was reluctant to make a judgement; nonetheless he did rule that “contract for the sale of a slave is good here”. In contrast, he also declared that “the person of the slave himself is immediately the object of inquiry” and ruled that the imprisonment was illegal (Kelly 176/7). His intention was not to outlaw slavery; nonetheless it was a celebration for abolitionists. However, even with this, according to Bundock “what the law said” and how people actually behaved were entirely different (61). By Austen using his name as the title of the novel, she forms a link between it and the de-humanising practice of slavery that England accepted” (Farley).
Farley, Michelle. If Mansfield Park stands for England, then England as it is represented in Austen’s novel is decadent and in need of reform.” 2022.
The following link is good information about Mansfield Park.
Huff, Marsha. Sir Thomas Bertram and the Slave Trade. Jasna. Jane Austen Society of North America.