The Thinking 

Wisdom from Jane

October 26, 2012


Giovanna Garzoni

PENNY writes:

I was paging through my copy of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen last evening and ran across a couple of passages that really jumped out at me, probably because of some of the things you’ve been writing about.

The first concerns Fanny and her cousin Edmund.

“Kept back as she was by everybody else, his single support could not bring her forward; but his attentions were otherwise of the highest importance in assisting the improvement of her mind, and extending its pleasures. He knew her to be clever, to have a quick apprehension as well as good sense, and a fondness for reading, which, properly directed, must be an education in itself. Miss Lee taught her French, and heard her read the daily portion of history; but he recommended the books which charmed her leisure hours, he encouraged her taste, and corrected her judgment: he made reading useful by talking to her of what she read, and heightened its attraction by judicious praise. In return for such services she loved him better than anybody in the world except William: her heart was divided between the two.”

This sounds a great deal like Miss Austen’s relationship with her father, as you mentioned in an earlier post, and is related to your previous discussions about whether women need a college education.

The other passage is the thoughts of Sir Thomas after his eldest daughter has left her husband to run off with another man and his youngest daughter has eloped:

“Here had been grievous mismanagement; but, bad as it was, he gradually grew to feel that it had not been the direful mistake in his plan of education. Something must have been wanting within, or time would have worn away much of its ill effect. He feared that principle, active principle, had been wanting; that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice. To be distinguished

for elegance and accomplishments, the authorised object of their youth, could have had no useful influence that way, no moral effect on the mind. He had meant them to be good, but his cares had been directed to the understanding and manners, not the disposition; and of the necessity of self–denial and humility, he feared they had never heard from any lips that could profit them.

Bitterly did he deplore a deficiency which now he could scarcely comprehend to have been possible. Wretchedly did he feel, that with all the cost and care of an anxious and expensive education, he had brought up his daughters without their understanding their first duties, or his being acquainted with their character and temper.”

Judging by the bits I catch of Dr. Phil and other shows of that ilk, I think there might be a lot of Sir Thomas’s out there today.

—– Comments —–

Hannon writes:

Quite apart from the subject of this post, I was struck by the curious central figure in the painting by Giovanna Garzoni. It is not related to the fruits at the bottom left and right. The pinnately compound leaves, zygomorphic flowers and apparently temperate origin gives it away as the Gas Plant, Dictamus albus.

It is in the citrus or rue family, most of whose members are often large, tropical trees. It is rather uncommon in gardens so a treat to see it here.

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