Jane Austen Book Club: Mansfield Park

Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Mansfield Park (1814) was Quintessentially English's Jane Austen Book Club's novel for August. In previous months I have finished Jane Austen's novels long before month-end but with Mansfield Park I really struggled. I found it really hard to get interested in the story and once I put the book down, I would forget about it. Fanny Price might have been the paradigm of wholesome values in the 1800s, but for my modern perspective she is a timid goody-two-shoes!

Unlike Austen's previous heroines, I found it incredibly difficult to sympathise with Fanny, there is not one ounce of her character that I could take in a modern light. The most obvious example of her "goodness" is when she refuses to take part in the play as she believes the content is inappropriate (it contains adultery) and that her uncle, Sir Thomas, would not approve. Even her cousin, Edmund, who dreams of being a vicar agrees to take a role in play. True he only agrees after he finds out that Mary Crawford would play his love interest, but still, come on Fanny!

Billie Piper as Fanny Price in ITV's Mansfield Park (2007)
Billie Piper as Fanny Price in ITV's Mansfield Park (2007)

Besides the fact that Mansfield Park has an annoying heroine, Jane Austen's third novel is also her most controversial. Like Jane Austen's early works, Mansfield Park is a social commentary on the gentry-class but what makes this novel controversial is it's illusion to slavery.

Sir Thomas Bertram, the wealthy owner of Mansfield Park, is also the owner of a sugar plantation in Antigua. Although not expressly mentioned in the novel, it is clear to readers that the estate of Mansfield Park was made possible through slave labour. When Sir Thomas leaves for a year to deal with the problems at the estate in Antigua, the rest of the characters seem perfectly oblivious to the situation. You would think considering their entire livelihoods rely on how things go in Antigua they would care a bit more.

To be truthful my favourite part of Mansfield Park was finally reading about the namesake of Harry Potter's Mrs. Norris. J.K. Rowling said she named Argus Filch's cat after Mansfield Park's Mrs. Norris because the cat "is similarly odious and is hanging around in the background a lot."[1]

Mrs Norris with her owner, Argus Filch
Mrs. Norris with her owner, Argus Filch

With Mansfield Park done and dusted, it's time to move on to Jane Austen's fourth book and fourth month in Quintessentially English's Jane Austen Book Club - Emma. I started reading it last night, three chapters in and I already prefer it to Mansfield Park!

Q: What did you think about Mansfield Park?

Erin x

Quintessentially English's Jane Austen Book Club

London's 10 Best Kept Secrets

Thursday, 12 September 2013
London is the political, economical, and cultural capital of England, with a vast history that stretches back thousands of years. Visitors to London will, of course, want to visit the usual haunts such as: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, and the Royal Parks. But there is so much more to London that your average tourist guides don't cover. 

Last week, Marriott London Hotels contacted me and asked if I would be interested in hosting an exclusive infographic with my readers about the secret London that most tourists don't know about. Of course I said yes! So here they are, London's 10 Best Kept Secrets;

  1. Transport for London's Lost Property Office, Baker Street. This little-known museum houses anything and everything that has ever been left behind on one of London's tubes, trains, or buses.
  2. Pineapple, Camden. Not your typical London pub, Pineapple hosts a vintage market on Sundays and Bring-Your-Own-Cheese Thursdays.
  3. Mount Street Gardens, Mayfair.  Mount Street Gardens allows you to escape the hustle and bustle of central London in a bit of green space.
  4. Burger and Lobster, Ascot Race Course. Growing in popularity, this quirky restaurant gives you a taste of the high life at £20 per head!
  5. Daunt Books, Marylebone. This Edwardian-era bookshop is the perfect escape for any literature lover. The books are arranged by country allowing you to travel the world without ever leaving the shop.
  6. Experimental Cocktail Club, West End. Book your spot before 5pm Tuesdays to Sundays then negotiate with the bouncers. Seems like a lot of trouble for a cocktail but I'm told this place is well worth it!
  7. The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace. At the back of the Palace you will find the home of the imperial horses and the carriages used for important state occasions, including the 4-ton Gold State Coach which takes 8 horses to pull.
  8. The Palm Tree, East End. Darts lovers head to The Palm Tree to see a special dart board known as East London Fives which is split into just 12 segments, which feature the numbers 20, 15, 10, and 5 three times each. 
  9. The Laughing Halibut, Scotland Yard. Around the corner from Scotland Yard, this chip shop is known to be one of the best chippies in town with queues reaching around the corner. Don't be surprised to find an off-duty copper or two!
  10. London Friday Night Skate, Hyde Park. Remember when roller rinks were all the rage? Well London has a massive one known as Hyde Park! The Friday Night Skate is a weekly skate around central London.

Infographic: London's 10 Best Kept Secrets

Q: Have you been to any of London's best kept secrets? Do you have a London secret yourself?

Erin x

*This post is sponsored by Marriott London Hotels, to see the full infographic and interactive map please visit the Secret Guide to London. I only collaborate with companies if I believe their product to be valuable to my readers. All opinions are my own.
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