The Slave House (Kindle Single)

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All images are copyrighted by the Library of Congress and the Cocke family. Used with permission. All rights reserved. The barn at Upper Bremo, built by enslaved masons learning the craft in order to build the big house. The Slaves Have Names content in any physical or digital format, including books, audio, and video programs may not be reproduced, in part or in whole, in any media format, without express written permission from Andi Cumbo-Floyd. This includes, but is not limited to, the use of any text regardless of length of excerpt , chart, figure, table, image, or audio or video recording.

Permission must be obtained even in cases where there is no intention to charge for the work in which the copyrighted material would be contained. Overview When my family moved to these Central Virginia plantations when I was 14, I had no sense of the history of slavery that was at the heart in this place.

Apple Books. It is a symbolic forerunner of the future moral transgressions of Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford.

Colleen Sheehan compares the scenario to the Eden of Milton 's Paradise Lost , where the locked iron gates open onto a deep gulf separating Hell and Heaven. The characters themselves exploit Sotherton's allegorical potential. Maria responds, "Do you mean literally or figuratively? She complains of being trapped behind the gate that gives her "a feeling of restraint and hardship". The dialogue is full of double meanings. Even Fanny's warnings about spikes, a torn garment and a fall are unconsciously suggestive of moral violence.

Henry suggests subtlety to Maria that, if she "really wished to be more at large" and could allow herself "to think it not prohibited", then freedom was possible. Later in the novel, when Henry Crawford suggests destroying the grounds of Thornton Lacy to create something new, his plans are rejected by Edmund who insists that although the estate needs some improvements, he wishes to preserve the substance of what has been created over the centuries.

Edmund's reformist conservatism marks him out as a hero. Jocelyn Harris views Austen's main subject in Mansfield Park as theatricality in which she brings to life a controversy as old as the stage itself. Some critics have assumed that Austen is using the novel to promote anti-theatrical views, possibly inspired by the Evangelical movement. Harris says that, whereas in Pride and Prejudice , Austen shows how theatricality masks and deceives in daily life, in Mansfield Park, "she interrogates more deeply the whole remarkable phenomenon of plays and play-acting".

Returning after two years from his plantations in Antigua, Sir Thomas Bertram discovers the young people rehearsing an amateur production of Elizabeth Inchbald 's Lovers' Vows adapted from a work by the German playwright, August von Kotzebue. Predictably, it offends his sense of propriety, the play is abandoned and he burns all unbound copies of the play.

Fanny Price on reading the script had been astonished that the play be thought appropriate for private theatre and she considered the two leading female roles as "totally improper for home representation—the situation of one, and the language of the other so unfit to be expressed by any woman of modesty". Claire Tomalin says that Mansfield Park , with its strong moralist theme and criticism of corrupted standards, has polarised supporters and critics. It sets up an opposition between a vulnerable young woman with strongly held religious and moral principles against a group of worldly, highly cultivated, well-to-do young people who pursue pleasure without principle.

Jonas Barish, in his seminal work, The Antitheatrical Prejudice , adopts the view that by Austen may have turned against theatre following a supposed recent embracing of evangelicalism. In childhood her family had embraced the popular activity of home theatre. She had participated in full-length popular plays and several written by herself that were performed in the family dining room at Steventon and later in the barn supervised by her clergyman father.

Paula Byrne records that only two years before writing Mansfield Park , Austen, who was said to be a fine actress, had played the part of Mrs Candour in Sheridan 's popular contemporary play, The School for Scandal , with great aplomb. Byrne also argues strongly that Austen's novels, and particularly Mansfield Park , show many signs of theatricality and have considerable dramatic structure which makes them particularly adaptable for screen representation.

Over eight chapters, several aspects of anti-theatrical prejudice are explored; shifting points of view are expressed. Edmund and Fanny find moral dilemmas; even Mary is conflicted, insisting she will edit her script. Theatre as such is never challenged. The questions about theatrical impropriety include the morality of the text, the effect of acting on vulnerable amateur players, and performance as an indecorous disruption of life in a respectable home.

Other aspects of drama are also discussed. Austen's presentation of the intense debate about theatre tempts the reader to take sides and to miss the nuances. Edmund, the most critical voice, is actually an enthusiastic theatre-goer. Fanny, the moral conscience of the debate, "believed herself to derive as much innocent enjoyment from the play as any of them". She thought Henry the best actor of them all. Stuart Tave , emphasises the challenge of the play as a test of the characters' commitment to propriety. Norris sees herself as the guardian of propriety. She is trusted as such by Sir Thomas when he leaves for Antigua but fails completely by allowing the preparation for Lovers' Vows.

Mr Rushworth's view that, "we are a great deal better employed, sitting comfortably here among ourselves, and doing nothing", is affirmed only by Sir Thomas himself. Historically, Fanny's anti-theatrical viewpoint is one of several first formulated by Plato, and which continued to find expression well into the 20th century. This fills her with misery but also jealousy. Tave points out that, in shutting down Lovers' Vows , Sir Thomas is expressing his hidden hypocrisy and myopia. His concern is with an external propriety, not the propriety that motivates beneficial behaviour.

He is content to destroy the set and props without considering what had led his children to put on such a play. A common anti-theatrical theme also stemming from Plato is the need to avoid acting i. Henry Crawford, the life and soul of any party or society event, constantly acts; he has many personas but no depth, consistency or identity. Thomas Edwards says that even when Henry, during a discussion about Shakespeare, tries to please Fanny by renouncing acting, he is still performing.

He measures his every word and carefully watches the reaction on her face. He is a man who constantly reinvents himself. At the first suggestion of a theatre at Mansfield Park, Henry, for whom theatre was a new experience, declared he could undertake "any character that ever was written". Later still, in reading Henry VIII aloud to Lady Bertram, Henry effectively impersonates one character after another, [98] even impressing the reluctant Fanny with his skill. Even the hopeful Sir Thomas recognises that the admirable Henry is unlikely to sustain his performance for long.

Edwards suggests that the inherent danger of Lovers' Vows for the young actors is that they cannot distinguish between acting and real life, a danger exposed when Mary says, "What gentleman among you am I to have the pleasure of making love to? David Selwyn argues that the rationale behind Austen's apparent anti-theatricality is not evangelicalism but its symbolic allusion to regency political life. Mansfield Park is a book about the identity of England.

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Tom, whose lifestyle has imperilled his inheritance, and the playboy Henry are regency rakes, intent on turning the family estate into a playground during the master's absence. If the Regent, during the King's incapacity, turns the country into a vast pleasure ground modelled on Brighton, the foundations of prosperity will be imperilled. To indulge in otherwise laudable activities like theatre at the expense of a virtuous and productive life leads only to unhappiness and disaster.

Following the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra, mentioning her proposed Northamptonshire novel. Brodrick describes the Georgian church as "strenuously preventing women from direct participation in doctrinal and ecclesiastical affairs". However, disguised within the medium of the novel, Austen has succeeded in freely discussing Christian doctrine and church order, another example of subversive feminism. In several set pieces, Austen presents debates about significant challenges for the Georgian church. Dr Grant who is given the living at Mansfield is portrayed as a self-indulgent clergyman with very little sense of his pastoral duties.

Edmund, the young, naive, would-be ordinand, expresses high ideals, but needs Fanny's support both to fully understand and to live up to them. Locations for these set pieces include the visit to Sotherton and its chapel where Mary learns for the first time and to her horror that Edmund is destined for the church; the game of cards where the conversation turns to Edmund's intended profession, and conversations at Thornton Lacey, Edmund's future 'living'. Austen often exposed clergy corruption through parody. Edmund attempts its defence without justifying its failures.

On the basis of close observations of her brother-in-law, Dr Grant, Mary arrives at the jaundiced conclusion that a "clergyman has nothing to do, but be slovenly and selfish, read the newspaper, watch the weather and quarrel with his wife. His curate does all the work and the business of his own life is to dine. In the conversation at Sotherton, Mary applauds the late Mr Rutherford's decision to abandon the twice daily family prayers, eloquently describing such practice as an imposition for both family and servants.

She derides the heads of households for hypocrisy in making excuses to absent themselves from chapel. She pities the young ladies of the house, "starched up into seeming piety, but with heads full of something very different—specially if the poor chaplain were not worth looking at". Although Mary's view is presented as a resistance to spiritual discipline, there were other positive streams of spirituality that expressed similar sentiments.

Mary also challenges the widespread practice of patronage; she attacks Edmund's expectation for being based on privilege rather than on merit. Although Sir Thomas has sold the more desirable Mansfield living to pay off Tom's debts, he is still offering Edmund a guaranteed living at Thornton Lacey where he can lead the life of a country gentleman.

In the final chapter, Sir Thomas recognises that he has been remiss in the spiritual upbringing of his children; they have been instructed in religious knowledge but not in its practical application. The reader's attention has already been drawn to the root of Julia's superficiality during the visit to Sotherton when, abandoned by the others, she was left with the slow-paced Mrs Rushworth as her only companion.

To what extent Austen's views were a response to Evangelical influences has been a matter of debate since the s. She would have been aware of the profound influence of Wilberforce 's widely read Practical Christianity, published in , and its call to a renewed spirituality. Austen was deeply religious, her faith and spirituality very personal but, unlike contemporary writers Mary Wollstonecraft and Hannah More , she neither lectured nor preached.

Many of her family were influenced by the Evangelical movement and in Cassandra recommended More's 'sermon novel', Coelebs in Search of a Wife. Austen responded, parodying her own ambivalence, "I do not like the Evangelicals. Of course I shall be delighted when I read it, like other people, but till I do, I dislike it. The one thing that is certain is that, as always, she was deeply aware of the change of feeling around her.

In a scene in chapter 34 in which Henry Crawford reads Shakespeare aloud to Fanny, Edmund and Lady Bertram, Austen slips in a discussion on sermon delivery. Henry shows that he has the taste to recognise that the "redundancies and repetitions" of the liturgy require good reading in itself a telling criticism, comments Broderick. He offers the general and possibly valid criticism that a "sermon well-delivered is more uncommon even than prayers well read".

As Henry continues, his shallowness and self-aggrandisement becomes apparent: "I never listened to a distinguished preacher in my life without a sort of envy. But then, I must have a London audience.

I could not preach but to the educated, to those who were capable of estimating my composition. Although Edmund laughs, it is clear that he does not share Henry's flippant, self-centred attitude. Neither it is implied will Edmund succumb to the selfish gourmet tendencies of Dr Grant. Edmund recognises that there are some competent and influential preachers in the big cities like London but maintains that their message can never be backed up by personal example or ministry. Ironically, the Methodist movement, with its development of lay ministry through the "class meeting", had provided a solution to this very issue.

Mary in her angry response to Edmund as he finally leaves her, declares: "At this rate, you will soon reform every body at Mansfield and Thornton Lacey; and when I hear of you next, it may be as a celebrated preacher in some great society of Methodists, or as a missionary in foreign parts. When Mary learns at Sotherton that Edmund has chosen to become a clergyman, she calls it "nothing". Edmund responds, saying that he cannot consider as "nothing" an occupation that has the guardianship of religion and morals, and that has implications for time and for eternity. He adds that conduct stems from good principles and from the effect of those doctrines a clergyman should teach.

The nation's behaviour will reflect, for good or ill, the behaviour and teaching of the clergy. Rampant pluralism, where wealthy clerics drew income from several 'livings' without ever setting foot in the parish, was a defining feature of the Georgian church. In chapter 25, Austen presents a conversation during a card evening at Mansfield. Sir Thomas's whist table has broken up and he draws up to watch the game of Speculation.

Informal conversation leads into an exposition of the country parson's role and duties.

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Sir Thomas argues against pluralism, stressing the importance of residency in the parish,. Edmund might, in the common phrase, do the duty of Thornton, that is, he might read prayers and preach, without giving up Mansfield Park; he might ride over, every Sunday, to a house nominally inhabited, and go through divine service; he might be the clergyman of Thornton Lacey every seventh day, for three or four hours, if that would content him.

But it will not. He knows that human nature needs more lessons than a weekly sermon can convey, and that if he does not live among his parishioners, and prove himself by constant attention their well-wisher and friend, he does very little either for their good or his own. Sir Thomas conveniently overlooks his earlier plan, before he was forced to sell the Mansfield living to pay off Tom's debts, that Edmund should draw the income from both parishes. This tension is never resolved.

Austen's own father had sustained two livings, itself an example of mild pluralism.

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It is generally assumed that Sir Thomas Bertram's home, Mansfield Park, being a newly built Regency property, had been erected on the proceeds of the British slave trade. The Slave Trade Act had been passed in , four years before Austen started to write Mansfield Park , and was the culmination of a long campaign by abolitionists , notably William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson.

In chapter 21, when Sir Thomas returns from his estates in Antigua, Fanny asks him about the slave trade but receives no answer. The pregnant silence continues to perplex critics. Claire Tomalin , following the literary critic, Brian Southam, argues that in questioning her uncle about the slave trade, the usually timid Fanny shows that her vision of the trade's immorality is clearer than his. Our judgement must be our own. It is widely assumed that Austen herself supported abolition.

In a letter to her sister, Cassandra, she compares a book she is reading with Clarkson's anti-slavery book, "I am as much in love with the author as ever I was with Clarkson". In his book, Culture and Imperialism , the American literary critic Edward Said implicated Mansfield Park in western culture's casual acceptance of the material benefits of slavery and imperialism. He cited Austen's failure to mention that the estate of Mansfield Park was made possible only through slave labour.

Said argued that Austen created the character of Sir Thomas as the archetypal good master, just as competent at running his estate in the English countryside as he was in exploiting his slaves in the West Indies. He further assumed that this reflected Austen's own assumption that this was just the natural order of the world.

All the evidence says that even the most routine aspects of holding slaves on a West Indian sugar plantation were cruel stuff. And everything we know about Jane Austen and her values is at odds with the cruelty of slavery. Fanny Price reminds her cousin that after asking Sir Thomas about the slave trade, "there was such a dead silence" as to suggest that one world could not be connected with the other since there simply is no common language for both.

That is true. The Japanese scholar Hidetada Mukai understands the Bertrams as a nouveau riche family whose income depends on the plantation in Antigua. Austen may have been referring to this crisis when Sir Thomas leaves for Antigua to deal with unspecified problems on his plantation. Said's thesis that Austen was an apologist for slavery was again challenged in the film based on Mansfield Park and Austen's letters.

The Canadian director, Patricia Rozema , presented the Bertram family as morally corrupt and degenerate, in complete contrast to the book. Rozema made it clear that Sir Thomas owned slaves in the West Indies and by implication, so did the entire British elite. The essence of the Triangular trade was that after the ships had transported the slaves from Africa to the Caribbean, they would return to Britain loaded only with sugar and tobacco.


Then, leaving Britain, they would return to Africa, loaded with manufactured goods. Gabrielle White also criticised Said's condemnation, maintaining that Austen and other writers admired by Austen, including Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke , opposed slavery and helped make its eventual abolition possible. Margaret Kirkham points out that throughout the novel, Austen makes repeated references to the refreshing, wholesome quality of English air.

In the court case Somerset v Stewart , where slavery was declared by the Lord Justice Mansfield to be illegal in the United Kingdom though not the British Empire , one of the lawyers for James Somerset, the slave demanding his freedom, had said that "England was too pure an air for a slave to breathe in".

He was citing a ruling from a court case in freeing a Russian slave brought to England. I had much rather be myself the slave And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him. We have no slaves at home — then why abroad? And they themselves, once ferried o'er the wave That parts us, are emancipate and loosed. Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are free, They touch our country and their shackles fall. Austen's references to English air are considered by Kirkham to be a subtle attack upon Sir Thomas, who owns slaves on his plantation in Antigua, yet enjoys the English air, oblivious of the ironies involved.

Austen would have read Clarkson and his account of Lord Mansfield's ruling. Austen's subtle hints about the world beyond her Regency families can be seen in her use of names. The family estate's name clearly reflects that of Lord Mansfield, just as the name of the bullying Aunt Norris is suggestive of Robert Norris, "an infamous slave trader and a byword for pro-slavery sympathies". The newly-married Maria, now with a greater income than that of her father, gains her London home in fashionable Wimpole Street at the heart of London society, a region where many very rich West Indian plantation owners had established their town houses.

Lascelles had enriched himself with the Barbados slave trade and had been a central figure in the South Sea Bubble disaster. When William Price is commissioned, Lady Bertram requests that he bring her back a shawl, maybe two, from the East Indies and "anything else that is worth having". Edward Said interprets this as showing that the novel supports, or is indifferent towards, colonial profiteering. Others have pointed out that the indifference belongs to Lady Bertram and is in no sense the attitude of the novel, the narrator or the author.

Propriety is a major theme of the novel, says Tave. She believes that Austen's society put a high store on propriety and decorum because it had only recently emerged from what was seen as a barbarous past. Propriety was believed essential in preserving that degree of social harmony which enabled each person to lead a useful and happy life. The novel puts propriety under the microscope, allowing readers to come to their own conclusions about deadening conformity and hypocrisy. Tave points out that while Austen affirms those like Fanny who come to understand propriety at its deeper and more humane levels, she mocks mercilessly those like Mrs.

Norris who cling to an outward propriety, often self-righteously and without understanding. Decline sets in at Sotherton with a symbolic rebellion at the ha-ha. It is followed later by the morally ambiguous rebellion of play-acting with Lovers' Vows , its impropriety unmasked by Sir Thomas's unexpected return. This manuals E-books that published today as a guide.

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