Oct 272017
 

Hi readers!  This is a bit new…Today we have two authors paying us a visit at the same time.  But it appears they are engaged in a bit of debate!  As you may recall both Kyra Kramer and Lona Manning came out with Mansfield Park inspired books a few months ago.  In Lona Manning’s variation – A Contrary Wind – she spotlights Fanny Price and in Kyra Kramer’s retelling – Mansfield Parsonage – she retells Mansfield Park from Mary Crawford’s point-of-view!  Now both authors have come together to “duke it out!”

Hello, I’m Lona Manning, author of A Contrary Wind: a variation on Mansfield Park and author of true crime articles available at Crime Magazine.

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, in the comments!

Kyra: Everyone who comments will be entered in a draw to win a gift pack of Austen goodies from Bath, England.

~~~

Who Was the More Shallow in Character? Mary Crawford or Fanny Price?

Lona: Have you read C.S. Lewis’ lecture called “The Inner Ring?” I thought about it while reading your novel Mansfield Parsonage. Mary Crawford and her brother are members in good standing of the Ton, that exclusive and glittering upper echelon of Regency society. The Ton, as described in Mansfield Parsonage, is cruel and ruthless, and its members feast on gossip and ruined reputations. It’s the Ton, it’s Vanity Fair, it’s the Cool Crowd at high school, it’s the “Inner Ring,” as Lewis calls it.

The chief attraction of the Ton, as CS Lewis describes the “inner ring,” is that delicious feeling that you are “in,” and the others are “out.” As you wrote: Mary Crawford, “like [her brother] Henry, thought of being cast out of the Ton as a fate worse than death.”

“Cast out”! As though we were describing the Garden of Eden here. In this case it’s the opposite. Those outside of the Ton are the innocent little country rustics, while the members of the Ton have the knowledge of – well if not Good and Evil exactly, but the knowledge of How Things Really Are. Marriage vows are empty words, adultery (or rather, being caught out) is “folly,” and bad taste or bad manners are more unforgiveable than bad actions.

We can plead on Mary’s behalf that, having been orphaned at a young age, and feeling that her home with her uncle the Admiral was never her home, when she found herself accepted into the inner ring of the Ton, she found a place where she was valued. (BTW, I enjoyed the bits of backstory you provided for Mary and perhaps you will provide even more in your forthcoming sequel).

Mary is attracted to Edmund Bertram, she knows good husband material when she sees it, and yet if she marries him, she will live chiefly in the country, in retirement, away from the Ton. Since the Ton is described in such disparaging terms by Mary and Henry, why would this be a fate worse than death? Not everyone, not even in modern times, is going to cheer for Mary here.

Kyra: For me, although perhaps not for Austen, Mary’s love of the “Inner Ring” was her greatest weakness and least attractive quality. Mary not only rejected country life and simple pleasures; she didn’t even understand such things existed. The Upper 10,000 was her universe and her epicenter, and their mores and norms largely formed her conceptions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. I would point out, however, that even with this influence her goals for herself were to be both in the Ton AND to live a decent life.

Lona: In Mansfield Parsonage, you provide more scenes with Mary Crawford back in London before and after her brother Henry runs off with Maria, and they rang very true to me – but I still wasn’t convinced that Mary was any better of a person than I had supposed her to be.

Kyra: I tried to stay true to Austen’s implied parable that living in the country among upright people is better for one’s soul than life in the Big Smoke among Society. I also wanted to show that Mary was susceptible to the influence of London society in a way she was completely oblivious to. She was so much cleverer and/or so much better behaved than the average member of the Ton that she was overconfident in her own rectitude. She may have eschewed sexual sins for the reason that such risky actions were “folly”, but she DID avoid those behaviors. Furthermore, Mary’s ‘small’ sins – sins of hubris and pride and cynicism – seemed to be hardly sins at all when compared to the moral transgressions swirling around her. Without Mrs. Grant and Fanny to model unexceptional behavior, Mary saw nothing untoward in her nonchalant attitude toward vice, or that her amusements and witticisms were actually unkindness in a thin disguise. She could therefore easily slip into petty cruelty, just as it had been easy for her to slip into the self-justification that all humans are prone to, and make excuses as to why she ‘could not’ write to Fanny as often as she should.

Lona: Fanny recognized, and so does the reader, that the motive to write to Fanny wasn’t there, until Mary wanted to get some up-to-date information about Edmund. Fanny knows that Mary is being a hypocrite and overstating her friendship for Fanny. Fanny’s just a conduit to Edmund for her. And sure, I’ll concede that there are times I’ve been no better than Mary in this respect!

Kyra: We’ve all been there, I think! I would like to point out, though, that Mary Crawford wasn’t the only one who liked the glitter of the Inner Ring. Fanny Price was much more aware of social status and money than she is commonly thought of as being. Fanny clearly preferred living with her moneyed relatives in Mansfield Park rather than with her lower-class parents. It is Mansfield Park that she thinks of as “home”, and she appears to love her rich relatives more than her parents. She is much more concerned about Aunt Bertram needing her than she is with staying to help her own mother. In fact, sweet, noble, unworldly little Fanny is willing to put up with a whole lot of crap – being her aunt’s dogsbody and unpaid companion, getting affection from no one but Edmund Bertram, being emotionally and verbally abused by Mrs. Norris – just to live in a mansion and walk in fancy shrubbery and wallow in general poshness. She sure doesn’t enjoy living like the lower class, with just one shabby servant and vile housing!

Lona: I think I got most irritated with Fanny when she went to Portsmouth and it appeared that she was incapable of rolling up her sleeves and making a cup of tea. It’s so difficult for us to imagine what it would be like to be so genteel that we couldn’t cook a meal or clean a household. But keeping house was a much rougher and dirtier business back then. Austen stipulates that Fanny was too frail to live in that environment. However, Fanny really loved books and the education she had received, more than the grandeur. In A Contrary Wind, I have Fanny reaching the end of her tether at Mansfield Park and rejecting the deal – if living there means that she has to be perpetually abasing herself while watching Edmund fall for that siren Mary Crawford, then she rejects the deal. No thanks, I’m packing my bags. She has an option, and she takes it.

Kyra: Fanny’s actions made her much more likable in your book than in the original, in my opinion! Also, much less hypocritical.

What do the readers think?

Was Fanny as fond of the Inner Ring as Mary Crawford, when it got right down to it?

Or do they both just show a natural preference for plenty rather than poverty?

~~~

Thank you Kyra and Lona for such a stimulating debate!  I’ve greatly enjoyed this series!  These two characters are quite divisive amongst the Austenesque community!  And even if you are #TeamFanny or #TeamMary you may have those moments where you agree with the opposite lady’s actions or beliefs more.  I am curious to hear what you all think about this debate of shallowness – is Mary alone more inclined toward this propensity?  Or do Fanny’s actions prove she is as well?  

~ GIVEAWAY TIME ~

There are some lovely Bath and Jane Austen related items being given away in conjunction with this debate!  All you need to do is comment on this post to be entered to win! 

(Commenting on the other parts of the debate will increase your chances of winning!)

Day 1 ~ Just Jane 1813

Day 2 ~ Diary of An Eccentric

Day 3 ~ Savvy Verse and Wit

Day 4 ~ My Jane Austen Book Club

  • This giveaway is open worldwide!  Thank you Kyra and Lona!

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No spam guarantee.

  47 Responses to “Fanny vs. Mary Debate with Lona Manning and Kyra Kramer + GIVEAWAY!!!”

  1.  

    Delightful conversation! I am going to have to read your books now! As a fan of Lewis’s Inner Ring theory, I loved thinking about its application to the Ton! Thanks for blowing my mind on a Friday morning…

    •  

      Thanks Betsy! We hope you’ll enjoy them and the contrasts we bring out between the characters. CS Lewis is such a fine writer, isn’t he? And I practically lived in Narnia when I was a kid….

  2.  

    I have been challenged following the blogs about this debate. I can begin to understand both sides of it, but I must confess that although Fanny is timid, I feel that Mary Crawford is cunning and deliberate in what she wants.

    •  

      I know how you feel, Eva. I am in the same position. I feel a strong connection with Fanny, and disapprove of Mary’s actions sometimes, but Kyra is making a good case! 😉

  3.  

    Of course, the real ‘winner’ of the debate is Austen, who created characters so interesting and complex that debating them is still a challenge after 200 years …

  4.  

    I find this debate fascinating and well worth following. Fanny lacks social skills but they are so different and opposite perspectives in life. I am with Mary.

  5.  

    To me, and much of my opinion is formed by both impatience with fanny in park and affinity for mary in parsonage, the chief factor in my affiliation with team mary is that her prime motivator was a desire for acceptance and admiration versus Fanny’s singleminded compliance. I can relate to wanting acceptance. I can’t identify with a character who wants no will of her own, but Longs only for the approval of her creepy mentor/brother/cousin. It boils down to the bit in Austen where Edmund approved all of her tastes and opinions because he had formed them all…narcissism much?

    •  

      Hi Lora, if you don’t have a positive reaction to Edmund, than it’s not surprising that you wouldn’t care for Fanny, either, or the dynamic of the relationship between them. Do you think that marriage to Mary Crawford would be good for Edmund, or would it turn out to be a disaster?

      •  

        That’s a good question, Lona. And so is the reverse…if Mary were to marry Edmund would it have been good for her? Or would she end up wanting more and feeling dissatisfied?

  6.  

    It was easy to view Mary more critically because she was more worldly than Fannie, but this debate has me eager not only to read your books, but to take another visit to Austen’s Manfield. Thank you!

  7.  

    Wonderful post, ladies. Thoroughly enjoying the Mary Vs Fanny debate!

  8.  

    Alas, my co-debater Lona Manning has informed me I can’t JUST put the Team Mary people into the drawing for the prizes, even though they are clearly the most worthy 😉

  9.  

    It is true that Fanny’s reactions to Portsmouth open her up to the charge of snobbery. But in her defense, Austen’s narrative shows Fanny being self-conscious and ashamed of her own reactions. I can’t remember the exact wording, but she reproaches herself for expecting the rooms to be larger and less shabby and hopes that her parents didn’t notice her facial expressions. And I can’t remember if she ever learns to make tea, but she does chip in and help in other ways once she is settled into Portsmouth, such as with all that sewing that has to be done for the brothers. And I think that perhaps Mrs. Price’s ignoring of Fanny hurts more than Lady Bertram’s because in Mansfield she has been used to thinking herself the least deserving of notice, but Mrs. Price is her MOTHER, and a mother who hadn’t seen her for years. It seems to me that with all of her self-centeredness, Aunt Bertram probably does pay more attention to Fanny than Mrs. Price does, in part, of course, because Fanny is so useful to her.

  10.  

    Hi Meredith,
    Thanks for sponsoring such an interesting debate!.
    Lona and Kyra, I also want to thank you for bringing us this “battle” involving “Mansfield Park”, a novel not always understood or liked by readers. First of all I have to say I’m from Fanny team (I’m sorry, Kyra LOL). I think she is a sensible character and has a deep understanding of human mind (or at least about people around her although she almost failed with Henry Crawford…me too) and I don’t think she has a shallow personality. She is shy and kind but she isn’t brilliant as Lizzy Bennet or Mary Crawford what doesn’t mean she is fool. When she goes to visit her “real” family and she feel uncomfortable I don’t think it’s a proof of her preferring “The inner ring” but a sign of not having any in common with her real family. It’s a pity but the reality is that she was raised in Mansfield Park by the Bertrams.I think Fanny is a kind of Eliza Doolittle from “My Fair Lady” when returning her old life she discovers she has nothing to do with it, there’s no sense of belonging to her “real ” family.
    Besides I think she ‘ s the perfect match for Edmund because she really loves him and loves the country life like him.
    Having said that and although I don’t like Mary I think, as Kyra, that she might be able to live in the Ton without falling in its worst vices because she is clever and practical but…only marrying a man sensible, practical and who loves City life…And It’s not Edmund.So, Mary, you have to look for suitors in another places…(like Rupert Everett in “an ideal husband” bases in Oscar Wilde ‘s work).
    Thanks for this debate and thanks for the giveaway!

    •  

      My pleasure, Teresa! I am thankful to both Lona and Kyra for putting this all together! I’m glad everyone is enjoying it! Great comparison to My Fair Lady! And I agree, it is almost as if Fanny feels like she can’t fit with her old family like she used to.

  11.  

    Although I haven’t read the two lovely books written by our esteemed debaters, I have studied and written academic essays on MP, and specifically on the character of Fanny. After reading the debate, I have more compassion for Mary Crawford, but she still seemed to be so focused on being part of the “Inner Ring” of the ton that she could not accept Edmund’s desire to be a country parson and almost seemed to desire Tom’s death so that Edmund could inherit Mansfield.

    I’ve always held Fanny in high esteem as a paragon of virtue and quiet strength. And yes, while she was not happy in Portsmouth, she seemed more aghast at the manners of her family than their poverty although the latter wasn’t pleasant, either. But she sees an innate goodness and brightness in her younger sister, Susan, and encourages her to better herself via reading. Susan later taking her place at Mansfield when Fanny marries Edmund raises another child out of poverty and gives her the opportunity to better herself. I can see some slight hypocrisy in Fanny, but it makes her more “real” than if she were “perfect”…which she seems very much close to being. Austen seems to admire Fanny above her other heroines…or perhaps that’s my own admiration showing through as I attribute my own admiration to Fanny’s creator.

    A lovely, lively debate, ladies! Thank you!!

    Warmly,
    Susanne 🙂

    •  

      Thank you, Susanne. Kyra and I are both interested in the context in which Mansfield Park was written — Kyra’s book provides a lot more Regency background, for example — and the aspects of Fanny’s character and the novel which unfortunately prevent some people from relating to it today. I had written “A Contrary Wind” before I ever read about the “conduct novel,” such as Hannah More’s “Coelebs in Search of a Wife.” It has thrown a new light on Mansfield Park for me, and in the future I will share more information about that — if its interesting to people as MP-obsessed as me!

    •  

      Very well said, Susanne! I agree about Fanny being close to perfect and I agree Mary’s dislike for Edmund’s profession and her positive attitude regarding Tom’s death are still two points in her disfavor. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  12.  

    A lovely debate as always. You guys do a great job defending your respective heroines. As for which one is more shallow, I would have to go with Mary but with these debates, she has been growing on me so by the end I just might be team Mary yet.

  13.  

    I think both like the ‘plenty’ over the ‘poverty, but I believe Fanny would stick it out just to be near Edmund even if it was slowly killing her. Mary, on the other hand, could not accept Edmund being a clergyman but in the end would have accepted him (if he had asked) if his brother didn’t recover and he would be the heir. In the end, both are willing to sacrifice to be a part of the ‘Inner Ring’ as it related to them.

  14.  

    I think the kicker is, for me, that Mary was ‘active’ and reminded me of Austen’s other heroines much more than Fanny. She had Lizzie Bennett’s mix of sweetness & archness & internal cynicism about romance. She had Elinor Dashwood’s scepticism. She had Emma’s loving snobbery. She had Anne Elliot’s internal monologue regarding the foibles of others. And she had Henry Tilney’s (he was the more developed character in Northanger Abbey to me) wry mockery but genuine feelings. While I can see the appeal of Jane Bennett and Fanny Price (and to some extent, Elinor Dashwood) or other ‘idealised’ Austen protagonists, I like the ones with flaws a lot better. I like to see them learn and overcome and prevail over their own lack of awareness. Emma drove me nuts with her officiousness, but I liked her anyway. Marianne Dashwood needed a swift kick in the butt, but I liked her anyway. Catherine Moreland was still a silly girl, but I liked her anyway. And then of course — like everyone — I love the tart-tongued and strong-willed future Mrs Darcy. Mary, for me, deserves no less to be in their company. I think Austen may have felt that way as well, since she let it be known that Mary WOULD find someone deserving of her dowry and looks one day.

    As for Fanny Price — I dislike her in a way I NEVER disliked Jane Bennett or Eleanor Tilney or Elinor Dashwood. I dislike her because she seems too fond of her own humility, to glory in her degradation, and to wallow in her servility. I don’t trust the sincerity of her abnegation, because she is resolute when she wishes to be — when it is best for her. Everything about her is covert, is hidden, is kept quiet beneath her outwardly obliging surface. She dislikes Mary Crawford, but Mary Crawford is completely duped by Fanny’s false friendship. Mary opens her heart, and Fanny judges it unworthy. Even if Mary’s heart really IS unworthy, it doesn’t absolve Fanny’s mendacious enmity. There is, to me, a reason sly and shy differ only by a letter. I prefer honest sinners to veiled saints … even when the saints are INDEED saintly.

    •  

      Oh, are we going to start this up all over again! Mary Crawford and Kyra always like to have the last word, you know. Fanny, being timid and gentle, will yield against her wishes and even against her better judgement in the smaller things, but she refused Henry Crawford’s proposal of marriage. She refused a man of wealth, of stature, of address — and you say that saying ‘no’ to Henry Crawford is “best for her”? She was turning down financial security for herself and her family, over an important matter of principle. And she was convinced they would both be miserable. Anyway, it’s been a pleasure, Kyra!!

  15.  

    I’ve really enjoyed this debate this week. I’ve always been team Fanny but this has really made me think. However, I just can’t like Mary! She’s too harsh, if that’s the right word, for me. I only reread Mansfield last year but I feel another reread coming up after this. It’s tickled my taste buds 🙂

    •  

      That’s great! Rereading any Jane Austen book is always an excellent choice! I especially like when you learn something new with each reread or you look at things with a different perspective, as I’m sure many of us will after this debate!

  16.  

    Meredith, thank you so much for hosting the final day of our debate. Your’s was the first blog to promote “A Contrary Wind,” so you were my introduction to JAFF-dom and I will never forget your kindness and support. It might interest you to know that I can contact your blog from China this morning, even though I can’t contact Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or gmail. “Austenesque Reviews” is okay with the Chinese government! Maybe there is an Austen fan among the Chinese censors.

    •  

      My pleasure, Lona! I’m very honored to take part in this series and for being a part of both your earlier blog tours! It has been so much fun to celebrate both these books and I know I’m not alone in thank both you and Kyra for writing about Jane Austen’s often neglected novel!!!

      Too funny! I’m so thankful for that, but that is a shame about not being able to access all the other sites!

  17.  

    Wow! Great debate. I love seeing the different opinions regarding Mary and Fanny. I guess I’m Team Fanny. I tried to find a parallel between her Portsmouth home and Mansfield. Sister, Mrs. Price really wanted her wealthy relations to help sponsor the boys. However, it was Fanny that was sent to Mansfield Park. None of the Mansfield girls were taught to be in the kitchen so Fanny had no idea of how to make the tea, but was taught to serve the tea in a proper fashion. When she was returned to the chaos of her parents house… her mother was not very receptive of her, didn’t seem to communicate well with her, and really wasn’t appreciative when Fanny helped with the sewing of her brother’s things. At least at Mansfield Park, Lady Bertram welcomed her help.

  18.  

    I do think that Fanny preferred the genteel life as compared to her early childhood life. Mary Crawford always struck me as very self centred.

  19.  

    Well, I appreciated the debate. Won’t say ‘loved,’ but that is in no way disparaging of the two authors or their books. In fact the banter between them makes me want to read the books! It’s just that Mansfield Park makes me nearly ill…..sorry MP fans, truly. The only character in the book I remotely like is William Price.

    I guess I’m reluctantly on team Fanny only to come to her defense regarding her discomfort with her family back in Portsmouth. She gets sent away to MP as a little kid and grows up there, yes with uncomfortable pseudo family, but in physical comfort (when she can leave her freezing garret) and quiet, and with books. Her family surroundings in P. were chaotic to put it mildly.

    I just think it’s too complicated to applaud or defile any of them as the winner or loser. They all just make me want to smack them up the sides of their collective heads. Mrs. Norris I actually want to push over a cliff.

    And I have to say ‘Oh Yeah!’ to Teresa’s comment about ‘An Ideal Husband.’ Woo

    •  

      Why has no one written a variation where William Price pushes Mrs Norris over a cliff?

    •  

      Hi Michelle!
      I’m glad we ‘ re the same opinion: Rupert is a cool choice! 😉

    •  

      I want to echo both sentiments about William Price – I would love to read ANY kind of book about him. He would make an interesting hero!

      •  

        I hope I’m not playing the broken record here, because I think I mentioned this book on SOME Jane related site, possibly here. But, there is a wonderful William Price book out there, by Sarah Waldock, (it’s $1.99) for Kindle right now. I liked this story so much, I’m soooo hoping she will write a series of his adventures. It’s called, William Price and The Thrush. Unfortunately he doesn’t shove Mrs. Norris off a cliff in this one. Maybe someone should suggest that to the author. 🙂

  20.  

    I’m still with Mary as her character interest me more after reading these posts.

  21.  

    Fanny was born poor, has some of the amenities of the ton, but yet she’s not given equal status in the family. She doesn’t stand up for herself until it’s almost too late.

    Mary is doing every and anything she can to hold on to her status. She’s a fighter, a survivor.

    denise

  22.  

    I would never vote for Mary to win Edmund over Fanny. Fanny deserves him and will support him in his chosen profession. Can you imagine how Edmund would have lived with a wife who was constantly nagging him to make this or that connection to gain a better career – even if he stayed in the church profession.

  23.  

    I am loving this debate, it just keep getting more interesting!

  24.  

    So enjoying these posts, lots to considder & who’s side to pick… 🙂

  25.  

    Well Meredith, do you usually sense when one of your posts will spark such a response as this one? This has been so thought provoking. I’m embarrassed now that I dissed Mansfield Park in my comment above, my opinion still stands on that though. That’s probably because I have this feeling that ‘the ax is going to fall’ hanging over my head during the entire story. I give the authors great credit for inspiring the debate, and I will read the books.

    It’s been awhile since I read MP and now I really believe I need to reread it….even with the ‘ax thing.’ Even though at times I really disliked Mary and she made me uncomfortable, I felt sorry for her at the end of the book. She and Fanny both were in the proverbial situation of ‘being between a rock and a hard place,’ due to their gender, their birth and upbringing, and social situations.

    I read a JAFF continuation/variation years ago now where Mary Crawford mixed into the social company somehow across multiple Jane Austen worlds. She came to understand herself more in this variation and confessed her remorse and sadness over losing Edmund to an older relative or confidant, because of her own folly. Does this ring a bell with anyone?

  26.  

    Wow, u all are cracking me up w this rigorous debate!!! Mostly ’cause I’m picturing a non-Janeite reading this, and wondering WHAT the heck is GOING ON!!!???!! LOL!!! AND because of Kyra’s brilliant conception re M. Norris n the cliff!!! Lol. Again!

    Now u’ve added four! BKS to my TBR, and it’s dubious that I will live long enough to read all that was already on there! This was a hoot – convoluted n crazy , n ever so entertaining. Thank u so much!

    Please, someone, push M. N. over!!!

  27.  

    I’d be interested in books featuring either Mary or Fanny, although I probably prefer Fanny.

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