Happy Monday, my dear readers!! I know Mondays don’t always elicit a lot of excitement; however, this is a Monday I hope we can all get really excited about because today is the launch of Fanny vs Mary. Yes, you heard me correctly… Today we are launching a duel between two of Austen’s leading ladies and JAFF authors Kyra Kramer and Lona Manning are going to try to convince us to choose a side and join one of these camps.
This year, I had the pleasure of reading both Mansfield Parsonage and A Contrary Wind, and I have to say that I am really torn between both ladies; I think Austen did a brilliant job creating these compelling figures and Ms. Kramer and Ms. Manning both did a wonderful taking these characters and writing stories that really allowed readers to connect with these ladies and see these stories through their point-of-view.
Today it’s my pleasure to welcome both Kyra Kramer and Lona Manning to Just Jane 1813 to present their dueling opinions!
And I’m Kyra Kramer, author of Mansfield Parsonage and the nonfictional historical books, Blood Will Tell, The Jezebel Effect, Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell, and Edward VI in a Nutshell.
Lona: Please join us for the knock-down drag-out (maybe) Fanny versus Mary debate of the decade/epoch/millennium. We will take turns posing each other questions. Please feel free to join in also by leaving your thoughts in the comments below!
Kyra: Everyone who comments will be entered into a draw to win a gift pack of Austen goodies from Bath, England.
Team Fanny Price, or Team Mary Crawford?
Lona: Thank you for accepting my challenge to engage in an online Fanny vs Mary debate. I’ve read that Fanny Price is THE most debated Austen topic on the internet! But hey, let’s do it again, talking about the Fanny and Mary of Mansfield Park, and also as they appear in our novels. We both have written recently-published variations on Mansfield Park,– yours – Mansfield Parsonage — follows the original plot but is a vindication of Mary Crawford, while mine – A Contrary Wind — strays away from the original, but maintains Fanny Price as the heroine. Now, no doubt you have answered this question many times before, but to set the stage for our online debate, let me ask you: How did you come to write Mansfield Parsonage? I suppose that you have been a long-time champion of Mary Crawford, but what provided that extra impetus for you to take up your pen in her defence?
Kyra: You mean other than the fact Fanny Price was a wet hen with all the vivacity of a damp dishcloth? Yes, yes, I know Fanny is theoretically all that is morally upright and good, but she is also a drip (among her other character flaws, to be discussed at length later). In truth, what has made me so passionate about the defense of Mary Crawford since I was a teen is the shabby way Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price treated her. At the end of the book, when Edmund turns against Mary, he castigates her in the strongest terms because she dared to try to save HIS sister from social ruin after Maria left her husband for Henry Crawford. He was so devoted to the letter of Biblical law, he ignored the most important bit – the bit about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Lona: I’ll let Edmund speak for himself here, when he nearly wept that Mary “saw it only as folly, and that folly stamped only by exposure … it was the detection, in short—oh, Fanny! it was the detection, not the offence, which she reprobated … the manner in which she spoke of the crime itself, giving it every reproach but the right.” Mary’s casual acceptance of immorality was too much for a highly principled clergyman like Edmund to endure hearing without some kind of rebuke. Either you agree with him or you don’t, I suppose.
Kyra: Even you applaud his moral stance, the way Edmund addressed the issue was appalling, in my opinion. He not only had no mercy towards his sister, he decided that Mary’s lack of fierce condemnation of Maria was evidence of Mary’s own immorality. He spoke to Mary like she was filth, just because she had more mercy on Maria than he did. Even though Mary was willing to sacrifice her own brother’s happiness to save Edmund’s sister from ostracization, based on nothing more than Mary’s warm feelings for the Bertram family, he threw her offer back with excessive rudeness and condemnation. As for Fanny; Mary was a devoted and sincere friend to her, yet because Fanny secretly yearned to be Edmund’s love, she disliked Mary. Neither of them, when it came down to it, cared three straws for Mary even though she had given them nothing of her affection that was not honest. My nerves are eaten alive by hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and two-faced friendship. Mary eschewed those things while Fanny and Edmund embodied them. QED, Mary was the more deserving protagonist.
Lona: I think you are attributing virtues to Mary that she doesn’t really have. Although Mary recognized and praised Fanny’s innate modesty and gentleness, her conversations with Fanny betray how little she understands her so-called friend. Fanny is an audience, not a confidante, for Mary. Recall Mary’s cynicism when she discusses the unhappy marriages of her mercenary friends, Lady Stornoway and Janet Fraser. Can she imagine that Fanny’s worldview is remotely like her own, as regards matrimony? Worst of all, does Mary really think Fanny would “smile and look cunning” when contemplating her cousin Tom’s death? Fanny?
Kyra: Mary is self-aware, but not able to discern the feelings of others — especially when they are too different from those she experiences or has encountered in others in the past. Moreover, she keeps projecting a veneer of sophistication – of urbane cynicism – on Fanny that simply wasn’t there. She kept mistakenly assuming Fanny’s thoughts and feelings were like her own. She thought that because Tom so disrespected his cousin, Fanny must have disliked him in return, as the bolder Mary would have. She knew Fanny adored Edmund, and erroneously conflated it with a preference for Edmund even at the expense of the uncaring Tom, just as Mary obviously preferred Edmund to Tom. With one cousin so beloved, and one cousin so callous, why WOULDN’T Fanny want Edmund to have the title he ‘deserved’ more? Mary couldn’t understand Fanny’s familial love for Tom any more than she could understand that Fanny’s seemingly fraternal hero-worship of Edmund was also romantic love. That doesn’t mean her affection for Fanny wasn’t sincere, however.
Lona: I would argue that Mary is often insincere. For example, in this conversation:
“Well, when your cousin comes back, he will find Mansfield very quiet; all the noisy ones gone, your brother and mine and myself. I do not like the idea of leaving Mrs. Grant now the time draws near. She does not like my going.”
Fanny felt obliged to speak. “You cannot doubt your being missed by many,” said she. “You will be very much missed.”
Miss Crawford turned her eye on her, as if wanting to hear or see more, and then laughingly said, “Oh yes! missed as every noisy evil is missed when it is taken away; that is, there is a great difference felt. But I am not fishing; don’t compliment me…”
Lona: Now, who is really being the most insincere? Fanny, who can’t bring herself to say, “I will miss you,” or “Edmund will miss you,” — or Mary, who “had hoped to hear some pleasant assurance of her power [over Edmund] from [Fanny].”
Kyra: Mary is, in sober truth, full of flaws … but they are flaws she is aware of. There is no mendacity in her, and she often mocks her own vanity and selfishness. And who among us, when dealing with a crush, doesn’t want to find out if he likes us too? Mary is barely 21, and this is the first time she’s been in love. Moreover, she cannot ask directly about Edmund’s intentions, for various sociocultural reasons, and it is in Mary’s nature to broach unbroachable subjects with humor and lightness. Jests can go where impudence fears to tread.
Lona: Hmmmm, I’m not convinced. Let’s see if the readers agree with your interpretation.
Is Kyra right about Mary’s virtues, or do you think Fanny was a better judge of Mary’s character? Was Lona correct to think the scales were finally falling from his Edmund’s when he confronted Mary or was he just being a sanctimonious jerk?
Kyra Kramer is a medical anthropologist, historian, and devoted bibliophile who lives just outside Cardiff, Wales with her handsome husband and three wonderful young daughters. She has a deep – nearly obsessive – love for Regency Period romances in general and Jane Austen’s work in particular. Ms. Kramer has authored several history books and academic essays, but Mansfield Parsonage is her first foray into fictional writing. You can visit her website at kyrackramer.com to learn more about her life and work.
Fans of Jane Austen will recognise the players and the setting – Mansfield Park has been telling the story of Fanny Price and her happily ever after for more than 200 years. But behind the scenes of Mansfield Park, there’s another story to be told. Mary Crawford’s story.
When her widowed uncle made her home untenable, Mary made the best of things by going to live with her elder sister, Mrs Grant, in a parson’s house the country. Mansfield Parsonage was more than Mary had expected and better than she could have hoped. Gregarious and personable, Mary also embraced the inhabitants of the nearby Mansfield Park, watching the ladies set their caps for her dashing brother, Henry Crawford, and developing an attachment to Edmund Bertram and a profound affection for his cousin, Fanny Price.
Mansfield Parsonage retells the story of Mansfield Park from the perspective of Mary Crawford’s hopes and aspirations and shows how Fanny Price’s happily-ever-after came at Mary’s expense.
Or did it?
Visit Amazon to add Mansfield Parsonage to your bookshelf.
Mansfield Parsonage is also available through KindleUnlimited.
Lona Manning is the author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park. She has also written numerous true crime articles, which are available at www.crimemagazine.com. She has worked as a non-profit administrator, a vocational instructor, a market researcher, and a speechwriter for politicians. She currently teaches English as a Second Language. She and her husband now divide their time between mainland China and Canada. Her second novel, A Marriage of Attachment, a sequel to A Contrary Wind, is planned for release in early 2018. You can follow Lona at www.lonamanning.ca where she blogs about China and Jane Austen.
Lona was born in Seoul, South Korea shortly after the Korean War. Her father taught library science and her mother cared for war orphans. She and her husband Ross have two grown sons. They divide their time between their home in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada, and China.
Lona is the author of “The Hurricane Hoax,” “The Murder of Madalyn Murray O’Hair” and other true crime stories. “A Contrary Wind” is her first novel.
“Manning…. emulates Austen’s writing style so well that she often seamlessly incorporates exact passages from the original into her narrative…..
Fanny Price, niece to Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park, is an intelligent but timid girl from a poor family, who is grateful for the advantages of education and breeding conferred upon her as result of growing up with her wealthier cousins.
But the cruelty of her Aunt Norris, together with a broken heart, compel Fanny to run away from Mansfield Park and find employment as a governess.
Far away from everything she ever knew and the one man she loves, will Fanny grow in fortitude and independence? Will a new suitor help her to forget? Or will a reckless decision threaten to destroy her own life and the lives of those she holds most dear?
This variation of Jane Austen’s novel includes all the familiar characters from Mansfield Park, as well as some new acquaintances. Note to readers: There are some mature scenes and situations not suitable for all readers.
Visit Amazon to add A Contrary Wind to your bookshelf.
A Contrary Wind is also available through KindleUnlimited.
So, what do you think? Do you have a team that you belong more squarely within, or are you open to some persuasion when it comes to choosing between Team Fanny or Team Mary? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section below and to reading all of the posts at the blogs participating in this duel!