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

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


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


Marriage Market Domestic Space Imperial History Family Record Room Door 
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  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
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    Isobel Armstrong, Jane Austen: Mansfield Park (London: Penguin, 1988), p. 51;Google Scholar
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    Barbara Hardy, ‘The Objects in Mansfield Park’, in Jane Austen: Bicentenary Essays, ed. John Halperin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 185.Google Scholar
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    Andrea Kaston Tange, Architectural Identities: Domesticity, Literature, and the Victorian Middle Classes (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), p. 46.Google Scholar
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    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
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    Lefroy quoted in Le Faye, Jane Austen: A Family Record (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 73, my emphasis.Google Scholar
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    See Le Faye, Family Record, p. 74; Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life (New York: Knopf, 1997), p. 106.Google Scholar
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    Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, ed. Claudia Johnson (New York: Norton, 1998), p. 36. Further references are given parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
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    Jillian Heydt-Stevenson, Austen’s Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Laughter, Embodied Humor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), p. 207.Google Scholar
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    See Elizabeth Grosz, Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 173–5;Google Scholar
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    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
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    Lynn Festa, ‘Losing One’s Place in Mansfield Park’, Eighteenth-Century Novel, 6–7 (2009), 444.Google Scholar
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    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
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    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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