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‘The end of all the privacy and propriety’: Fanny’s Dressing Room in Mansfield Park

  • Kirstyn Leuner
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

Fanny Price’s East room in the Bertram estate attracts not only characters in Jane Austen’s 1814 novel Mansfield Park to knock on its door and peer inside, but literary scholars as well. Critics drawn to investigate the significance of this room have discussed its constellation of identities, including that of a study, library, sitting room, theatre, and storeroom. Miranda Burgess, for example, refers to the East room as ‘Fanny’s British Museum’ in which she keeps artefacts of a ‘personal and imperial history’.1 For John Wiltshire, Fanny’s haven is a ‘surrogate maternal space’, but for Claudia Johnson, it acts in part as a storeroom for her gifts and the overall ‘debt’ to the Bertrams they signify.2 Isobel Armstrong argues that the former ‘nursery’ is ‘the place where Fanny constructs her world’, and Penny Gay and Anna Lott depict the former schoolroom as a place where lessons are taught and learned, especially during rehearsals of Elizabeth Inchbald’s play Lovers’ Vows.3 Finally, Barbara Hardy distinguishes the apartment superlatively as ‘the heart of Mansfield Park’.4

Keywords

Marriage Market Domestic Space Imperial History Family Record Room Door 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Miranda Burgess, ‘Fanny Price’s British Museum: Empire, Genre, and Memory in Mansfield Park’, in Recognizing the Romantic Novel: New Histories of British Fiction, 1780–1830, ed. Jillian Heydt-Stevenson and Charlotte Sussman (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008), p. 225.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    John Wiltshire, Jane Austen: Introductions and Interventions (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), p. 14;Google Scholar
  3. Claudia Johnson, ‘Jane Austen’s Relics and the Treasures of the East Room’, Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, 28 (2006), 217–31.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Isobel Armstrong, Jane Austen: Mansfield Park (London: Penguin, 1988), p. 51;Google Scholar
  5. Penny Gay, Jane Austen and the Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 98–122;Google Scholar
  6. Anna Lott, ‘Staging a Lesson: The Theatricals and Proper Conduct in Mansfield Park’, Studies in the Novel, 38 (2006), 275–87.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Barbara Hardy, ‘The Objects in Mansfield Park’, in Jane Austen: Bicentenary Essays, ed. John Halperin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 185.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    Andrea Kaston Tange, Architectural Identities: Domesticity, Literature, and the Victorian Middle Classes (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), p. 46.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    The terms ‘dressing room’, ‘closet’, and ‘lady’s cabinet’ became interchangeable in the mid-eighteenth century. See Tita Chico, Designing Women: The Dressing Room in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Culture (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2005), p. 27. The term ‘boudoir’ came into use in the late eighteenth century and is also a synonym for dressing room (p. 234 n.3).Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    See Christopher Christie, The British Country House in the Eighteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 258.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    Deborah Wynne explains that ‘although wives were unlikely to be the legal owners of “their” personal property before the passing of the Married Women’s Property Acts, they probably believed that they were and … a belief in possession and a performance of ownership can in many instances actually constitute ownership’. Deborah Wynne, Women and Personal Property in the Victorian Novel (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010), p. 15.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ed. James Kinsley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 254, 217, 289.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor, who has been nursing Marianne, waits for Col. Brandon to return to Cleveland with their mother and instead spies a carriage arriving from the ‘dressing-closet’ window carrying Willoughby, which leads directly to their drama-filled discussion regarding his honourable intentions and despicable behaviour towards Marianne. Marianne also recovers from illness in Mrs Palmer’s dressing room and Col. Brandon visits her there. Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, ed. James Kinsley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 239, 257. In Persuasion the references are more minor and refer to men’s closets. For example, Admiral Croft tells Anne that he hasn’t changed much while living at Kellylunch Hall, besides ‘sending away some of the large looking-glasses from my dressing-room, which was your father’s’.Google Scholar
  14. Jane Austen, Persuasion, ed. James Kinsley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 104. I found no direct references to dressing rooms in Emma, though the themes of performance, privacy versus public display, and matchmaking suggest its relevance.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sandition, ed. James Kinsley and John Davie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 142.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    See Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels (New York: Abrams, 2002), p. 233.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Lefroy quoted in Le Faye, Jane Austen: A Family Record (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 73, my emphasis.Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    See Le Faye, Family Record, p. 74; Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life (New York: Knopf, 1997), p. 106.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, ed. Claudia Johnson (New York: Norton, 1998), p. 36. Further references are given parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  20. 26.
    Jillian Heydt-Stevenson, Austen’s Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Laughter, Embodied Humor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), p. 207.Google Scholar
  21. 29.
    See Elizabeth Grosz, Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 173–5;Google Scholar
  22. Martin Heidegger, ‘The Thing’, in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), p. 171.Google Scholar
  23. 31.
    Bruno Latour, ‘From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or How to Make Things Public’, in The Object Reader, ed. Fiona Candlin and Raiford Guins (London: Routledge, 2009), p. 154.Google Scholar
  24. 32.
    Lynn Festa, ‘Losing One’s Place in Mansfield Park’, Eighteenth-Century Novel, 6–7 (2009), 444.Google Scholar
  25. 36.
    Jane Coke, Letters from Lady Jane Coke to her Friend, Mrs. Eyre at Darby, 1747–1758 (Charleston, SC: BiblioLife, 2009), pp. 99–100.Google Scholar
  26. 37.
    Bruno Latour, ‘The Berlin Key or How to Do Words with Things’, in Matter, Materiality, and Modern Culture, ed. Paul Graves-Brown (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 10.Google Scholar

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© Kirstyn Leuner 2012

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  • Kirstyn Leuner

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