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Mansfield Park BBC 1983

1983 BBC Mansfield Park

1983 BBC Mansfield Park

As part of my year of Mansfield Park, I have been watching the 1983 BBC version. I’ve only watched one episode (the Crawfords have just arrived).

I don’t have a favourite Mansfield Park adaptation – this one is closest to the novel, but the production values are poor by which I mean it is not very pretty to look at!

I have only watched one episode, but I have to say it is growing on me – particularly the two leads they do seem well-suited to each other and to their parts. I suspect fashions in acting have changed in the past 30 years because to me there seems to be a lot of over acting, but I imagine that was how the actors were directed.

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Mansfield Park


I have started re-reading Mansfield Park and even though it is my least favourite Austen I am loving it.

Quotes like this …

But there are certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as pretty women to deserve them


The division of gratifying sensations ought not, in strict justice, to have been equal; for Sir Thomas was fully resolved to be the real and consistent patron of the selected child, and Mrs Norris had not the least intention of being at any expense whatever in her maintenance. As far as walking, talking and contriving reached, she was thoroughly benevolent, and nobody knew better how to dictate liberality to others; but her love of money was equal to her love of directing, and she knew quite as well how to save her own as to spend that of her friends.


Though perhaps she might so little know herself as to walk home from the Parsonage, after this conversation, in the happy belief of being the most liberal-minded sister and aunt in the world.


He was just entering into life, full of spirits, and with all the liberal dispositions of an eldest son, who feels born only for expense and enjoyment.

So fabulous and I am only in the early pages.

By the way, I have a great  ebook version from here.

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Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park

It is the two hundredth anniversary of the publishing of Mansfield Park this year (in May). It is not my favourite Austen, but as I have grown older, I do appreciate it more. I can now see that Fanny (although a bit dull) is stoic and courageous.

I do intent to do some Mansfield Park activities this year – like re-read the novel. I also have three adaptations to watch; Mansfield Park (BBC 1983), Mansfield Park (1999) and Mansfield Park (2007)  – Mansfield Park is obviously very tricky to adapt because none of these is brilliant. The first, the BBC one, is closet to the novel, but it is very dated and the last two are more free adaptations.

I also have some critical studies I shall try to read.

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Jane Austen’s Regency World

In the latest Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine there is an interesting article (by Paul A Bethel) on the similarities between Emma and Mansfield Park.

Here’s a small excerpt:

Rather, she [Austen] simply began with the premise: “What if a character much like Mary Crawford should have grown up in a small village outside London? What kind of life would she have lead?” Few novelists have been more acutely aware of the twin influences of nature and nurture upon individual character; and this is the key difference between Mary and Emma.  Having similar natures’ their upbringing could not be more different. And that is why, ultimately, Emma is capable of reformation and redemption, while Mary is not.

He then goes on to highlight the similarities in their opinions. He then compares other characters; Fanny and Jane Fairfax, Henry Crawford and Frank Churchill, Edmund and Mr Knightley, Lady Bertram and Mr Woodhouse.

None of this had ever occurred to me; as Emma is my favourite novel and Mansfield Park my least favourite I was surprised to find areas in common.

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Mansfield Park – Mary Crawford

In the past I have thought Mary very similar to Elizabeth Bennet, but after my last reading I have decided she is too worldly and materialistic.

‘Matrimony was her object, provided she could marry well, and having seen Mr Bertram in town, she knew that objection could no more be made to his person than to his situation in life.’


‘Tom Bertram must have been thought pleasant, indeed at any rate; he was the sort of young man to be generally liked, his agreeableness was of the kind to be oftener found agreeable than some endowments of a higher stamp, for he had easy manners, excellent spirits, a large acquaintance, and a great deal to say; and the reversion of Mansfield Park, and a baronetcy, did no harm to all this. Miss Crawford soon felt, that he and his situation might do. She looked about her with due consideration, and found almost everything in his favour, a park, a real park five miles round, a spacious modern-built house so well placed and well screened as to deserve to be in any collection of engravings of gentleman’s seats in the kingdom, and wanting only to be completely new furnished – pleasant sisters, a quiet mother and an agreeable man himself – with the advantage of being tied up from much gaming at present, by a promise to his father, and of being Sir Thomas hereafter. It might do very well; she believed she should accept him; …


‘I shall understand all of your ways in time; but coming down with the true London maxim, that everything is to be got with money, I was a little embarrassed at first by the sturdy independence of your country customs.’


A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.

Edmund is completely blinded by her charms – he even deludes himself about her true nature.

‘The right of a lively mind, Fanny, seizing whatever might contribute to its own amusement or that of others; perfectly allowable, when untinctured by ill humour or roughness; and there is not a shadow of either in the countenance or manner of Miss Crawford, nothing sharp or loud or coarse. She is perfectly feminine, except in the instances we have been speaking of. There she cannot be justified. I am glad you saw it all as I did.’

It is clear she dislikes the idea of marrying a clergyman.

‘A clergyman is nothing.’

She determines never to dance with him after his ordination and she writes to Fanny about Tom’s illness …

It was a foolish precipitation last Christmas (Edmund’s ordination), but the evil of a few days may be blotted out in part. Varnish and gilding hide many stains.


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Mansfield Park

I’ve been reading Mansfield Park – I’ve changed my mind about Mary. In the past I thought her witty and interesting, but this time I’ve noticed her selfishness and worldly views.

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Mansfield Park 1983 BBC

This is a six part adaptation that is very faithful to the novel. It first aired in the UK in 1983. Check out the IMDb site.

To a modern audience familiar with the beautiful recent Austen adaptations, such as Sense and Sensibility, this seems dated and dull. And very quiet – there is no music in the background. It definitely lacks sparkle and prettiness (we need Andrew Davies involved).

Having said that, the acting is brilliant and as the screenplay follows the novel closely, it’s our only choice if we want to watch a faithful adaptation.

Here are some screen shots …

Opening Screen

Young Fanny and Edmund

Fanny Price

Miss Crawford, Edmund and Fanny

Miss Bertram and Mr Crawford

Fanny and Edmund

The Wedding!

Here are some more reviews…

From the Jane Austen Centre


From Screen Online



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Everything Austen Challenge – Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park is my least favourite Austen novel. I’ve always secretly preferred Mary Crawford, didn’t think the theatricals was that bad and hoped that Fanny and Henry Crawford would get married. I thought the Everything Austen Challenge was a great opportunity to read it again.

It contains some fabulous Austen quotes – such as …

But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.


A large income is the best recipe of happiness I ever heard of


 Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.

What I really noticed this time was how isolated and powerless Fanny Price was – nobody, apart from Edmund, seems to think about her at all (and Mrs Norris is simply evil).

She has amazing strength of character to hold out when everyone (including Edmund) wants her to marry Henry Crawford – I’m not sure how I would go in similar circumstances.

Mary and Henry Crawford are witty and engaging, but it’s all on the surface. They are both selfish and vain thinking only of themselves. Austen seems to making a point (a bit like Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice) that surface appearances can be misleading. The theatricals to a modern mind don’t seem too bad, but it’s more about the intimacy generated by repeated rehearsals – just think of all of those Hollywood actors who fall in love with their co-stars.

And one final thought, did Austen provide Fanny with more strength than she herself had (when accepting and the rejecting Harris Bigg Wither’s proposal)?

I shall think highly of Mansfield Park from now on … Fanny might even be my favourite heroine.

Next up Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster – look I’ve almost caught up now I just need to get Lost in Austen finished by the end of september.


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Everything Austen Challenge

Stephanie’s written word is offering an ‘Every Austen Challenge’. In this challenge you have to read or watch six Austen related items in six months (July to December 2009).

Now my six Austen things are…

Jane’s Fame by Claire Harman

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster

The Absenteeby Maria Edgeworth – Possible influence on Austen (does that count?)

Lesley Castle by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park BBC (1983)


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