A Critical Edition
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There was nothing of the literary woman in the external affairs of her life and its conduct. Born on 16 December, 1775, at Steventon in Hampshire, of which her father was rector, and dying at Winchester on 18 July, 1817, she passed the intervening years almost entirely in the country. She lived with her family in Bath from 1801 to 1806, and at Southampton from 1806 to 1809. Later, she paid occasional visits to London where she went not a little to the play; but she never moved in “literary circles,” was never “lionised” and never drew much advantage from personal contact with other people of intellect. From 1811 until 1816, with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote three additional novels, Lady Susan, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, all published posthumously, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon.
Jane Austen’s novel, Mansfield Park, is less brilliant and sparkling than Pride and Prejudice, and, while entering no less subtly than Persuasion into the fine shades of the affections and feelings, it is the widest in scope of the six. Begun, probably, in the autumn of 1812, and finished in the summer of 1813, this was the first novel which Jane Austen had written without interruption, and remains the finest example of her power of sustaining the interest throughout a long and quiet narrative. Mansfield Park is the book in which Jane Austen most clearly shows the influence of Richardson, whose Sir Charles Grandison was one of her favourite novels; and her genius can scarcely be more happily appreciated than by a study of the manner in which she weaves into material of a Richardsonian fineness the brilliant threads of such witty portraiture of mean or foolish people as that of Lady Bertram, of Mrs. Norris, of Fanny’s own family, of Mr. Yates, Mr. Rushworth and others.
The Atheneum, 1820 — We turn to repose on the soft green of Miss Austen's sweet and unambitious creations. Her Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey, have a simple elegance, which is manifestly the natural and unlaboured result of a singularly harmonious mind.
The Quarterly Review (Modern Novels), 1821 — Mansfield Park contains some of Miss Austen's best moral lessons, as well as her most humorous descriptions.
The Atlantic Monthly (Living Age), 1863 — A pleasant anecdote, told to us on good authority in England, is illustrative of Miss Austen's power over various minds. A party of distinguished literary men at a country-seat; among them was Macaulay, and, we believe, Hallam; at all events, they were men of high reputation. While discussing the merits of various authors, it was proposed that each should write down the name of that work of fiction which had given him the greatest pleasure. Much surprise and amusement followed; for, on opening the slips of paper, seven bore the name of Mansfield Park, a coincidence of opinion most rare, and a tribute to an author unsurpassed.