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A Calendar for Mansfield Park


I preface this calendar with a summary of recent work on the novel, for this summary suggests how important it is to study the text of the book carefully before we go about to interpret events and characters as alluding to any specific people or political events in Austen's period.

In the most recent interpretation of Mansfield Park, Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England Roger Sales says there has been no controversy about the years it is set in; he simply assumes it is set in the year it was written, and writes as follows:

"The details concerning the composition and publication of MP are relatively uncontroversial. It was probably begun in February 1811, completed sometime during the summer of 1813, and then published in 1814."
The footnote makes no reference to three articles which have disputed these dates. All three are known and cited in the 1986 Macmillan Jane Austen Companion (edd. J. David Grey et alia) as worthy looking into because the cast doubt on the dates of composition and the years the novel takes place in (see Jo Modert, "Chronology within the Novels," 53-9.) It is true that the book we know as MP was put together and rewritten some ("ordination" theme brought in) as Cassandra jotted ("begun somewhere about Feby 1811--Finished soon after June 1813"). But it is also true that the composition of MP resembles the composition of all Austen's novels: it was in an original first draft and then revised and revised again over a long period of time. A. Walton Litz thinks "the actual calendar in MP is the years of 1796-7." He says it was during this year Austen's memories of Eliza de Feuillide's flirtation with Henry and James Austen and the theatricals at Steventon would still have been vivid in Austen's mind, and he cites an article by the grandson of Francis Austen to suggest Austen had in mind theatricals at Steventon in 1797 (Notes and Queries, 208 [1961], 221-2. In The Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1949-65 (London 1967), 197-203, Bernard Ledwidge studies the periodicals to figure out what "the strange business in America" was, and comes to the conclusion that the calendar for MP is 1809-10 and those were the years in which Austen began the novel. He also mentions that the one year in which Easter fell late (which so upsets Fanny because it is said to keep her at Portsmouth) was 1810. Warren Roberts has opted for the year 1805-7 without studying the novel itself: he argues it must be set during this time because this was the year when the French blockade had disastrous implications for British sugar trade. Sutherland's rejoinder in his "Where does Sir Thomas's wealth come from?" demonstrates there is not even enough textual evidence to prove Sir Thomas was in sugar or owned many slaves, much less that his trip to Antigua was caused by a specific event (see Roberts's Jane Austen and the French Revolution and John Sutherland, Can Jane Eyre be Happy? [New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 2-9).

I am also not persuaded by Brian Southam's brief argument on behalf of 1810-1813. It hinges on a single reference in Chapter 16 to a group of books on Fanny's table in her attic: these include "Crabbe's Tales in full, Tales in Verse) published in September 1811". From this Southam deduces the time scheme of the novel without working all its parts out; his demonstration is that the date for Crabbe's tales coheres with Tom's reference to "strange business" as that (Southam assumes) refers to the outbreak of the War of 1812. It need not refer to that war at all (see Ledwidge). The rest of Southam's argument depends on his sense of the mood of the book and assumptions about what other vague referennces in the text refer to. As indicated above, Sutherland's reply to Roberts demonstraste that all argument that we can know what specifically Austen was referring to from the vague general nouns she scatters in this book is fictional supposition. As for the citation of Crabbe, as in the case of Sense and Sensibility, Austen could easily have placed into her texts references to other texts that had come out after she had written a long version of the novel. Sense and Sensibility refers in ecstatic terms to Cowper and Thomson which would date the novel in the 1790s; but then it also refers to Scott as a poet which brings it forward to 1809. The solution: Austen came back later to put in the more modern reference as she did to her Juvenilia. More importantly, there is no way to map the novel onto a full calendar post-1812 (see below), so even if Tom's comment is a reference to the War of 1812, it is a later addition to a calendar which was worked out on an earlier almanac.

I studied the text very carefully and decided that MacKinnon and Chapman's calendars in the Oxford edition of Mansfield Park are preferable. The central events of Mansfield Park as now represented in Austen's text dovetail most consistently into the years 1808-9, though there is equally an argument for 1796-7 if we see the indeterminate time in the theatricals & later elopement. However, 1808-9 reveals the important revision that took place while Austen lived in Southampton: Portsmouth reflects her later time in Bath; Fanny Price's character shows Austen's sympathetic reponse to how how Caroline didn't manage to cope at Godmersham in 1808. 1808-9 fits the cited the pivotal days of Tuesday (Fanny and William arrive in Portsmouth and Henry Crawford meets Mrs Rushworth on a Tuesday evening).

For long stretches of time, the calendar for MP shows an astonishing, not to say staggering accuracy, minuteness and internal consistency. The smallest references (hours, half-hours, decades cited across a couple of hundred pages) dovetail. A repeated careful working out of the calendar for this novel, sometimes using different grids (e.g, 1796-1797) demonstrates that the dramatic narratives and meditations of MPare as closely fitted together through the use of a continually referred to time scheme as S&S, and that time in MP is far more frequently and consistently determinate than time in P&P and NA. If we still cannot say for sure that the text we have was begun as early as 1796-97, this reality does suggest that in its original conception the novel may have been constructed in the way Austen constructed the above three books, and may even have been originally heavily epistolary, as Q. D. Leavis once famously argued. Where it becomes inconsistent or vague occurs at precisely those points where it has been suggested that we have old material interwoven in (the theatricals, the lateness of Easter, and the elopement of Maria and Henry whose liaison is rooted in the psychological events of the theatricals).


About 30 years ago

1783
Miss Maria Ward captivates Sir Thomas Bertram 1:41
1789
Miss Ward marries the Rev Mr Norris; about this time Miss Frances Ward also marries. In 189 Mrs Norris says "she has not seen her poor dear sister Price for more than twenty years". 1:41; 37:367
1800
Eleven years follow; Mrs Price's ninth lying in, speaks of 8 children, eldest a boy 10 1:42
1801
Twelvemonth later the scheme to adopt a child 1:42 Fanny now 9
next day after conversation
Mrs Norris writes to Mrs Price with offer of taking the eldest girl 1:43
About mid-year:
Lady Bertram said only to have given one piece of advice in 8 1/2 years in Jan 1809; "some time later" Fanny comes, she is 10, Tom 17, Edmund 16, Maria 13, Julia 12 33:331
next day
holiday for daughters 2:50
one week
she cries herself to sleep, the first morning conversation between Edmund and Fanny, William now 11 2:51
for 1st 2-3 weeks:
how stupid she is 2:54
about this time
Lady Bertram stopped yearly trip to London 2:56
December:
soon after her removal, William made a sailor comes in Christmas holidays to stay with her for a week; in 1808 just before Christmas William said to have been sent to sea by Sir Thomas years ago 2:57; 24:242
1803, Easter
When Fanny eleven, Sir Thomas provided her with a horse, and despite her intense reluctance, she learned to ride: 'Very different from you, miss, when you first began, six years ago, come next Easter. How you did tremble, when Sir Thomas first had you put on', 7:99
1804
Maria 16 and renamed schoolroom the East Room. 16:173,

1805
Spring
twelvemonth before Mr Norris's death, they plant apricot against stable wall;
Summer
Admiral buys cottage at Twickenham, they spend 3 months improving 6:88

1806
Spring
Mr Norris dies, Fanny 15; Edmund 21, Tom 22; Julia 17, Maria 18;

Sir Thomas's supposition, Lady Bertram's comment first time subject occurs to her; as soon as she meets with Edmund she tells her distress; Lady Bertram soon brings matter to certainty and Mrs Norris refuses; Sir Thomas writing about or to Antigua 3:60

after September
the Grants arrive; Mrs Grant sets about making a garden out of heaht; Dr Grant, man of 45, takes living, Mrs Grant is 30 (they were not at Mansfield a twelvemonth before Sir Thomas left for Antigua) 3:58; 21:211; 22:222

During this year Miss Lee left family; three years ago in autumn 1808. This was the year of the strongest friendship beween Lady Stornaway and Mary Crawford; it was Lady Stornaway whom Mary was close to rather than Mrs Fraser: "I have not cared much for her these three years"; 16:173; 36:355


1807
Spring
Miss Mary Price dies, two hours before death, gives knife to Susan; godmother, Mrs Admiral Maxwell gave it her 6 weeks before; we know it occurred in 1807 since in 1809 we are told Susan has been struggling for control of the knife for two years 38:379, 40:389
September
A year later Sir Thomas finds it necessary to go to Antigua, takes Tom with probability of staying a twelvemonth; Sir on the "very last morning" says he fears William will find his sister more like 10 than 16; looking forward to an "ensuing winter" 3:66; 4:69
Winter
Miss Bertrams the belles of the neighborhood 4:68

1808
Spring
Old grey pony dies 4:69
April into May
Miss Bertrams ride, Fanny's health endangered 4:69
September
Sir Thomas kept away, but he sends Tom home, at which time he goes to Ramsgate 4:71; 5:83 Long evenings of autumn come on 4:71 Winter: Rushworth courts Maria, now 21
April
Sir Thomas approves & hopes to return before the end of summer 4:73
July.
Fanny just reached 18; into neighborhood come Mary and Henry Crawford 4:73
Not long after
Tom goes to races, not to return for many weeks
July 10th, Sun:
10 days earlier, harvest time Mary's harp arrived at Northampton 6:84
July 18th, Mon:
A Dinner to which Rushworth comes, Crawford there; subject of improving Sotherton brought up, plan for everyone visiting Sotherton so that Crawford might give advice begun; we can also count 6 weeks from this day and the week Tom Bertram returns 6:84; 12:141
July 19th, Tues:
Next day Edmund and Fanny's grave talk about Mary 7:94 Harp arrives;
July 27, Wed:
at end of a week Edmund in love and Mary going that way herself 7:96
July 28-31st, Thurs-Sun:
Soon Mary takes to riding 7:96-7 1st day they get horse back; second she comes half-an-hour late; four mornings in a row Mary takes horse 7:100; on fourth day Maria not invited to dine at Parsonage; Edmund and Julia's return late in the evening, scene over abuse of Fanny 7:100
Aug 1st, Mon:
Next day Fanny rides, pleasant fresh-feeling morning 8: 105; fortnight earlier was conversation
Aug 2nd, Tues:
2 Families meet and plan finalized
Wed, Aug 3rd,
The Trip to Sotherton 8:105; Miss Crawford says she "engrossed" Fanny's horse "all last week;" 9:123
Aug 17th, Wed?
Sir Thomas's letters arrive, the Crawford come that evening; 'middle November thirteen weeks away', 11:134
Aug 23rd-30th, Tues:
Tom Bertram arrives, end of August, as September approaches 12:141
Sept 1st, Thurs:
Crawford must go to Everingham 12:141
Sept 15th, Thurs:
Crawford returns 12:141-2; conversation over it at a ball in which Fanny talks of Crawford having originally been there for 7 weeks 12:141
Sept 21st:
In the last days of November (see below)Henry Crawford wishes that he and his sister and the Bertrams had had the disposal of events -- 'if Mansfield Park had had the government of the winds just for a week or two about the equinox ... only a steady contrary wind, a calm ... Then Sir Thomas would have arrived after the play had been staged; 23:236

One day, now early October:
Yates and everyone talk of acting; that evening Bertram's irritation over bad billiard table makes him take seriously Yates' desire to act again; Edmund alarmed 13:150
Next morning:
His sisters will not listen; Mrs Norris delighted, gives her excuse to live at MP, to be important 13:153
Two or three days go by:
carpentry begun, green baize bought but still squabbling over what to act, 14:155
Third day, the morning into late at night:
Tom chooses the play, insists on Mary for Amelia; scene between Edmund and Maria; dinner, and then late evening the Crawfords come delighted; she cannot press Edmund into making love to her; ugly scene when Fanny will not do Cottager's wife; Tom determines to ask Charles Maddox on the morrow 15:164-6
Bad night, morning comes 16:172-3:
Edmund visits Fanny's attic before breakfast with news he will take Anhalt before Tom rides forth 16:177
Second day after Crawford has chosen Maria for Agatha,
he still endeavours to do it away, and then he ceases 17:181
Not many days pass 18:184
A day comes when Mr Rushworth again jealous 185
Indeterminate interval, but we are into mid-October;
the evening of rehearsing 3 acts to come the next day 187
This the day of the great interruption:
Incessant rains since October began, Tom has hardly taken out a gun since the 3rd; this to Sir Thomas on the evening of Sir Thomas's return 19:197
Curtain was to have been hung the day after (this was Sir Thomas's first day home),
but instead Edmund has interview with father 18:187; 20:203; very busy day for Sir Thomas in which Tom and Yates go hunting in the morning; Maria in deep anxiety awaiting Crawford all day and evening 20:207
Crawford comes at early hour,
ushered into breakfast room, and with news the play has ceased, announces he is off for Bath 20:208
Another day or two
and Mr Yates is gone likewise 20:209
Three or four days after Crawford left
Maria still suffering acutely 21:216
Middling to end October
Edmund & Fanny's conversation, with comment about Mary Crawford that 'this is the first October that she has passed in the country since her infancy ... November is a still more serious month...' next day followed by Sir Thomas, Tom, and Edmund dining at Sotherton 21:214
Still October, 'eight days after Mr Crawford left'
Had Sir Thomas applied to his daughter within the first three or four days after Henry Crawford's leaving ... but after another three to four days, when there was no return, no letter, no message ...'. Maria's marriage to Mr Rushworth set as she refuses her father's offer to break the engagement for her, 21:216
Very early November
Mrs Rushworth retires to Bath 21:217
Before Middle November
Marriage of Maria and Rushworth ('before the middle of the same month', Maria and Julia to Brighton for the winter
The gloom and dirt of a middle November day
makes Fanny welcome at Parsonage, 22:219
Close of November
'a fortnight passes and the intimacy between Mary and Fanny is established when she is caught outside in the rain, is brought in, listens to music and then begins to visit the Parsonage 'every two or three days' It is to be noted that as we move away from theatricals, time becomes less and less indeterminate. 22:221 I suggest this may stand as some proof for Litz's contention that the theatrical part of the novel was written much earlier than the rest, perhaps 1796-97, and then worked into a new narrative. Note how quickly it is all brought to an end, with no loose threads left over, 22:221

1808
Nov 26th, Sat (?)
Three years ago garden at Parsonage nothing but a hedgerow along the upper side of a field 22:222

By saying she has been there 5 months that brings musing scene of Fanny and Mary interrupted by Mrs Grant and Edmund; therefore, late November; it is remarkable how many indications of time we have; while they are walking the clock 'strikes three'; terribly nervous scene later afternoon into evening where Sir Thomas gives Fanny permission to go to dinner 22:222-227; 23:229-231

Nov 27th, Sun (?):
Next morning: venomous Mrs Norris brought over to Mansfield Park to serve Lady Bertram in Fanny's place; again remarkable indications of time; when does Fanny want the coach? 'will twenty minutes after four suit you?' Edmund and Fanny share their turkey with Henry Crawford who now has come (unexpectedly); this dinner is also said to have taken place "about a fortnight" after Maria, Julia, and Rushworth set out for Brighton; Crawford arrives before 4; he claims Fanny 'quite another creature from what she was in the autumn'; 'wonderful improvement in the last six weeks' (bringing us back to early/middle Octoberr 22:228-9
Nov 28th, Mon (?):
Next morning Crawford decides to remain at Mansfield for another fortnight 24:239
Dec 1st, Thurs:
a very few days later: Fanny begins to dislike Crawford less, receives letter from William, William invited by uncle; that morning Crawford brings news from newspapers 24:241-2
Dec 11th, Sun, ten days later:
Fanny waiting in hall, greets William ecstatically 24:243
Dec 12th, Mon:
Edmund sends for the chain for the cross; he sends it to his brother who he expects is in London; however, Tom arrived several days later; 27:268
Dec 14th, Wed.
On this day the chain for the cross ought to have arrived; 27:268
Dec 16th, Fri:
Sir Thomas and family come to dine at Parsonage, includes card game, of Speculation; there is talk of Thornton Lacey; important thematic dialogue on question of "how honesty can rise to distinction"; William says this is assembly night in Portsmouth 25:247, 256
Dec 17th, Sat:
next morning Sir Thomas announces his plans of having a ball at Mansfield Park 25:260; whirl of activity from morning to night
Dec 21st, Wed:
Fanny visits Mary, meets Mary on her way to Fanny and is given fancy necklace for a chain for the cross; she returns home to find Edmund in her room writing a letter; he has plainer chain he sent for which ought to have arrrived a week ago, but was delayed as his brother came to town after Edmund expected him to be there; Edmund speaks of his happiness that the chain has arrived in time for tomorrow. It must be conceded that the text leaves us with the impression that Edmund bought the cross for the ball; the calendar shows him sending for it the day after William's arrival; that is, William gave Fanny the cross on Dec 11th and Edmund sent for a chain on Dec 12th. It should be noted that Edmund says the chain "was not bought with any reference to the Ball" (he sent away for it the day after William's arrival, see above). He tells Fanny the necklace is what is appropriate for the ball, and she should keep his chain for "commoner occasions". 26:264; 27:268-270
Dec 22nd, Thurs:
Ball at Mansfield Park with 14 couple, shortness of notice emphasized; William originally to leave the next day with night mail, but in the morning Henry offers a place in his carriage as he is leaving Mansfield to go to London for a few days; during morning William out snipe-shooting, Edmund at Parsonage, Fanny cannot escape Aunt Norris 26:261; 27:272-3
Dec 23rd, Fri:
Henry and William get off at 9:30, William has been there "a whole fortnight," Edmund to visit a friend, also about to be ordained, near Peterborough, leaves after breakfast; long heavy day and evening to pass; Henry had talked of returning in 3-4 days 26:261; 27:272; 29:287, 291
Dec 24th, Sat:
William must be at Portsmouth; that day Fanny gets to discuss ball with Mrs Grant and Mary; around this time Julia would have returned but Sir Thomas gives her permission to go with Maria to London 26:261; 29:288
Dec 30th, Fri:
the second Friday comes round after the ball 29:291
Dec 24th-Jan 1st:
a week passes; Edmund supposed to return but does not 29:289, 291

1809
January
Henry will stay until this time in order to convey Mary to London 26:263
Jan 1st, Sun:
Edmund has written home to defer his return 29:291
Jan 2nd, Mon:
Mary braves weather to visit Fanny; that evening Henry returns on "Monday" 30:295, 31:303
Jan 3rd, Tues:
Henry goes to visit Bertrams, stays one and one half hours sitting with Fanny and Lady Bertram
Jan 4th, Wed:
Henry at Park next morning very early 31: 302; he shows letters to Fanny; Admiral to him, Secretary of the First Lord to Admiral's friend, Sir Charles, and Sir Charles to Admiral; he tells her of his love and begs her to marry him; comes to dine 31:302-3, 306
Jan 5th, Thurs:
Crawford asks for Fanny's hand; terrible scene between Sir Thomas and Fanny in East Room; on this day a fire appears in East Room; Crawford comes after tea & pleads his case before Fanny 32:312ff
Jan 6th, Fri:
Sir Thomas hears from Crawford it's still "no," Crawford allowed to persevere; the aunts told 33:328, 331
Jan 10th, Tues:
On the Friday before the Sunday Mary and Fanny talk,and the Monday the Crawfords go (Jan 15th and 16th, see below) Edmund says "I was within a trifle of staying at Lessingby [another] five or six days more"; he therefore returns home this day to hear of "all the great events of the last fortnight" and the ball was more than 2 weeks ago; we are also told that Fanny and Mary do not talk for above a week after the time of Crawford's proposal, and this is more than a wek and one day eariler than the day on which the statement is made. 34:332; 35:350
Jan 11th, Wed:
Crawford calls, invited for dinner; occasion of his dramatic reading from Henry VIII 34:333-4
Jan 12th Thurs,
On the day of Edmund and Fanny's conference in the shrubbery, we are told that Edmund "had dined at the Parsonage only the preceding day"; Mary speaks of Crawford's proposal to Edmund in a way that pleases him; he visited Parsonage 35:345, 347
Jan 13th, Fri:
A day or two of "mutual reserve" between Fanny and Edmund after the evening of the reading of the play (see above) has now passed. It is this day that Sir Thomas persuades Edmund to speak to Fanny on Crawford's behalf; again "above a week since Fanny saw Mary". They have the conference (referred to above also) and Edmund says Crawfords leaving Monday and he assumes therefore Mary will come to talk tomorrow or Sunday 35:342
Jan 15th, Sun:
"You are sure of seeing your friend [Mary] either to-morrow [Saturday] or sunday" (said by Edmund on Friday the day of the shrubbery conference. Mary comes while Fanny in breakfast room; they retire to East Room; real adieu to Henry too 36:352, 360
Jan 16th, Mon:
"They go on Monday ... They really go on Monday". Crawfords gone 36:360
Jan 17th-20th, Tues-Fri:
Three or four days pass in which Fanny does not seem to miss either Crawford; within a fortnight Edmund plans to go to town, but the time as expressed is indeterminate 37:362
Jan 27th, Fri:
William comes for a 10 day visit 37:363; proposal for Fanny to go to Portsmouth with him for 2 months; Edmund therefore delays for a week or two longer than a fortnight his proposed trip to London 37:364; 37:367-8
Feb 6th, Mon:
Three weeks pass from the time the Crawfords depart to the time Fanny and William take off for Portsmouth; on the same day Henry Crawford goes to Everingham. It "was the dirty month of February" ... They entered Oxford". On the same day Henry Crawford went to Everingham. During the preceding three week interval we are told that Mary repeatedly writes to Fanny, and in each letter there is a postscript from Henry. It is a correspondence which Fanny finds deeply unpleasant as Mary is acting as a go-between for Henry to reach Fanny and using Fanny as a go-between for Mary to reach Edmund to whom Fanny must read "the chief" of Mary's letters, much of which is meant for Edmund to hear. The epistolary section of the novel begins here 38:369
Feb 7th, Tues:
early evening William and Fanny arrive at Price's house in Portsmouth, between 4 and 6; at this time Susan is 14, Sam is 11, Tom 9, Charles 8 and Betsey, 5; William is 2 years older than Fanny, 20 to her 18. Two further brothers, John and Richard, were born between Fanny and Susan, one now a clerk in a London Office, the other a midshipman on board an Indiaman. Mrs Price and Betsy have been waiting "this half hour" when Fanny and William arrive; Mr Campbell, ship surgeon was there at four and William must be off by six, a detail repeated by father and mother. Father on the platform which is two steps from his house for two hours in the afternoon; Thrush arrives and William heads off before 6. Four weeks later Fanny tells Crawford "I did not arrive here until Tuesday evening" 38:370; 42:402
Feb 8th, Wed:
Fanny writes to her aunt with her spirits somewhat cheered. 38:370
Feb 10th-11th, Fri/Sat:
William leaves within four days; Sam goes with him; William and Fanny have time for only short meetings twice. By half week's time, she is already feeling an immense disillusionment 38:370
Feb 14th, Tues:
A whole week passes and we are given Fanny's assessment; the two further brothers are named (John and Richard away in London and aboard Indiaman) 38:370.
Feb 15th, Wed:
According to Mary's letter (see below), the day before she has had a visit from Julia and Mrs Rushworth; it is to communicate this that Mary speeds her letter off; she is exulting for Fanny 40:386-387
Feb 16th, Thurs:
Letter from Mary arrives. this can be dated as it is in Mary's letter that we learn both that Henry left for Everingham the same day Fanny and William travelled to Portsmouth and it was 10 days ago, and that's why she has not written as frequently as before; she speaks of Mrs Rushworth's party as occurring on the 28th; she was there two years ago (1808) when it was owned by Lady Lascelles 40:386
Feb 21st, Tues:
a fortnight passes and Fanny begins to understand and appreciate Susan; during interval she purchases knife and become library subscriber;
Feb 25th, Sat:
Edmund goes to town (see below, his letter of Mar 25th-6); on authority of Lady Bertram's letter around same time as Fanny and Susan's relationship develops Fanny gets a letter from Lady Bertram which says Edmund gone to London 40:390
Feb 28th, "Tuesday":
Mrs Rushworth throws a lavish party; her first coming out in London; discussed in Mary's letter of March 8th (see below) 40:387
Mar 2nd, Thurs:
Henry leaves Everingham for London 41:391
Mar 3rd, Fri:
Henry is hardly in London 24 hours, sees Mary for a brief half-hour and travels on to Portsmouth; he understands Edmund had been in town a few days and to dine that night at Mrs Fraser's 41:391
Mar 4th, Sat:
Fanny has been in Portsmouth nearly 4 weeks; a week passes since Edmund supposed to be in town; thus this the morning Mr Crawford shows up; walk and dockyard expedition. It is worth noting here that the narrative about this day comes directly after the narrative which is attached to February 21st (above). From the time of the end of the play to now we have moved inch-by-inch; throughout the novel time has simply crawled forward slowly. Now we jump ahead and must later fill in what we didn't experience. This is the epistolary way of telling a story. This sudden deviation suggests that Q. D. Leavis's idea that the novel was originally epistolary, or a draft of it was, is true at least as far as this part of the novel goes. We may further speculate that the theatrical portion of the book was written in 1797-97 while the Portsmouth part of the book was written while Austen was in Bath directly after she put her partly polished latest version of The Watsons down 41:391
Mar 5th, Sun:
Mr Crawford comes again and joins them in walk to Garrison chapel, walk on ramparts: "It was really March; but it was April in its mild air, brisk, soft wind, and bright sun, occasionally clouded for a minute" 42:400
Mar 6th, Mon:
this is day after the walk which Fanny describes as exactly four weeks since she left Mansfield and that's what it is; the day Henry returns to London; from "six o'clock to half past nine, there was little intermission of noise or grog" 42:402
Mar 8th, Wed:
Fanny receives a letter from Mary 2 days after Henry gone, which letter Henry must have insisted upon her writing the day after he arrived; Mrs Rushworth has already had her party; Mary has seen Edmund 2 or 3 times; Mary looking forward to Mrs Frazer's 43:406-7
Mar 8th-11th, Thurs-Sat, 12th-15th, Sun-Wed:
a few days Fanny cannot settle down, 3 or 4 days more no letters still 43:408-9
Mar 14th, Tues:
the night of Mrs Frazer's party 40:387
Mar 18th, Sat:
Edmund returns to Mansfield (see below);
Mar 21st, Tues:
Fanny receives Edmund's letter when 7 weeks of proposed 2 month stay almost gone (Mar 27th-28th would make it 7 weeks); Edmund says he returned to Mansfield Saturday previous, thus the 18th, and he says he was in London 3 weeks, which brings us back to Feb 18th; he saw Henry at party on Tues, the 14th, but, as usual obtuse, saw nothing untoward. He speaks of returning after Easter which would be April 2nd in the year 1809 44:411-14
Mar 27th, Mon:
Grants leave Mansfield for Bath 44:414 (see above letter)
Mar 28th, Tues:
Lady Bertram's letter telling of Tom's illness, Edmund to leave to fetch him immediately and bring him back; it arrived within a few days of Fanny's receipt of Edmund's letter: Fanny would have received Edmund's 2 days after he wrote his; a few days is 3-4 days after that 44:415 44:415
A conjecture*: April 2nd or 4th, Sat:
2 or 3 week before Easter, Julia decamps from Wimpole Street to house of relation. *I star this conjecture because I am now using the almanacs of 1707 or 1802/13. Only by using these can Julia's elopment be placed in the present time scheme 47:437 47:437

  • A series of letters from Lady Bertram, one a day, playing at being frightened. Time indeterminate.
  • Early in April, say Apr 3rd: Edmund brings Tom home, and Lady Bertram writes a sincerely distressed letter 44:417
  • A week later, say Apr 9th: Tom is better 44:417; 45:419
  • Inconsistencies cannot be resolved unless we make this section written at the same time as the theatricals. Switching to a 1797 calendar makes Easter April 16th (not April 2nd Easter day in 1809). If it is the 16th, then Fanny can be away for nearly 3 months; thenin 1797 with no sign of Sir Thomas and Easter coming on, it is getting on for 3 mnths. That makes Fanny's yearning occur in the last week of April, say 24th to 28th (45:40-421). In 1802 and 183 Easter also came very late; this sudden out-of-kilter date might also reflect her use of the calendar the year she was writing the last revision (1813)
  • Apr 16th, Easter [1797], Sun: Easter came late, no sign of Sir Thomas, end of April coming on, soon it will be 3 months gone; we now in the last week of April, say 24th to 28th 45:420-1
  • Again we are told Tom ill "several" weeks and sisters don't come, several means at least four so April 28th; no letter from Mary for "weeks" 45:422
  • Apr 28th?: The day Mary's letter to Fanny arrived (not the day it was written) in which she inquired after Tom's health. On the day the letter was composed Henry and Maria returned from Aylmers; Fanny writes back this same day refusing invitation to be taken back to Mansfield by them; this was a crucial moment though Fanny didn't know it. Henry would have showed, if only to escape Maria 45:422
  • May 1st, Mon (returning to conjectured 1809 sequence) Sir Thomas receives that important letter from his friend, Mr Harding telling of his concerns about Maria 47:437
  • May 3rd, Wed: second express letter from Mr Harding to Sir Thomas telling him it is now too late 47:437
  • May 4th, Thurs: Letter from Mary to Fanny, in haste, with reference to elopement 46:426
  • Next day, May 5th, morning no letter, but father with afternoon paper, 46:427; Fanny's sleepless night in which she thinks of Maria as a woman married 6 months ago (May is 6 months after November). A very close use of the calendar and time for sunlight: ""The remembrance of her first evening in that room, of her father and his newspaper, came across her. No candle was now wanted. The sun was yet an hour and half above the horizon. She felt that she had, indeed, been three months there; and the sun's rays falling strongly into the parlour, instead of cheering, made her still more melancholy" 46:, 427-429. This resembles Austen's alignment of the setting sun with the calender in NA, see Calendar for NA under 1798, Sunday, March 18th: 46:427-429
  • Edmund's letter says he and father arrived two days ago, May 6th; it seems Sir Thomas left promptly upon receipt of express letter from Sir Thomas's friend, Mr Harding 47:437; on the same day they arrived Julia eloped with Yates; so both Edmund and his father left day after article appeared and Julia fled 46:430
  • Three days later letter from Edmund, London, to Fanny, Portsmouth put in her hand, say May 8th 46:430-1
  • Edmund to come next morning, say May 9th; Fanny to invite Susan to stay "for a few months" 46:431. Edmund arrives 8 in the morning, 46:432, they leave one half hour later 433, and get to Oxford that evening
  • May 11th, "Thursday": arrive Mansfield Park 46:434; full three months makes it May9th or 10th 46:434; 47:440
  • June: Mary Crawford stayed with Mrs Frazer and Lady Stornaway half a year 48:453
  • All the summer long, 1809 48:447
  • Henry Crawford and Maria lived together a very few months 48:452, say until September

The other events are then left somewhat vague; we may suppose they all occurred within the next couple of years


Brief summary:

The question of which year to choose for drawing a calendar for Mansfield Parkmust remain undecided. Despite its internal consistencies over much of the book, as A. Walton Litz has shown only 1796-7 fits all the dated events in the novel. On the other hand, alluded to events outside the novel returns the calendar to 1809-1810 as does the day of the ball (see also Warren Roberts and Bernard Ledgewick); then again its mood and moral sternness argues for Sales's regency perspective. The solution to this is to understand our extant text as a much revised book, begun in 1797, reworked during Austen's years in Bath, and then picked up, put into a final shape, adding the "ordination theme" (in contrast to P&P, rearranging, reattaching and here and there simply lifted off its grid.

Bibliography:

  • Chapman, R. W. and Frank MacKinnon, MP, 554-7;
  • Ledwidge, Bernard, "The 'Strange Business in America,'" Collected Reports of the Jane Austen Society 1949-67 (London 1967): 197-203;
  • Leavis, Q. D. "A Critical Theory of Jane Austen's Writings," Scrutiny 10 (1941), 61-90, 114-42, 272-94; 12 (1944), 104-19.
  • Litz, A. Walton, "The Chronology of Mansfield Park," Notes and Queries 208 (1961): 221-2;
  • Modert, Jo, "Chronology Within the Novels," The Jane Austen Companion, edd. Grey, J. David A. Walton Litz, and Brian Southam (New York: Macmillan, 1986), pp 55-6.
  • Nabokov, Vladmir, "Mansfield Park," Lectures on Literature, ed. Fredson Bowers (New York: HBJ, 1980) 9-61;
  • Roberts, Warren, Jane Austen and the French Revolution (1979; rpt. London: Athlone Press, 1995) 97-100; but see
  • John Sutherland, "Where Does Sir Thomas's Wealth Come From," Is Heathcliff a Murderer? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) 1-7;
  • Sales, Roger Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England (London: Routledge, 1996) 88-9.
  • Southam, Brian. "The Silence of the Bertrams: Slavery and the Chronology of Mansfield Park," Times Literary Supplement, 17 February 1995).

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