Mansfield Park: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen

It's been a few months, and I am a huge nerd, so it's time for one of my favorite literary indulgences: reviewing annotated Jane Austen novels! Today I'll be complaining about Harvard University Press's recent edition of Mansfield Park. As always, please note: this is not a review of Austen's novel (this is, though); it's an examination of this particular edition's notes and supplementary materials.

Let's start off with the positives: this is a beautiful, oversized edition, with heavy paper, colorful illustrations, and historically-appropriate cover art. I found the introductory essay (by editor Deidre Shauna Lynch) thoughtful and persuasive, if a little digressive, and many of the annotations were new to me.

Unfortunately, the list of cons is a bit longer. All of the books in this series are painfully expensive ($35). Some of Lynch's notes are debatable (see examples below), and even more struck me as unnecessary—I would hope that the target audience for a pricey edition of Austen's least-popular book could figure out the meaning of a line like “They could not but hold her cheap upon finding that she had but two sashes” from context clues. I also have no idea why the publishers chose to include several full-color images from Patricia Rozema's ghastly 1999 film adaptation of Mansfield Park. Still, I own plenty of annotated editions that are both more patronizing and less useful (including two of the books from this very line), so I'm giving this sucker a perfectly respectable A-.


1. I disagree with Lynch's suggestion that Fanny's work boxes, which Austen describes as “very pretty presents” from her cousins, are meant to suggest deprivation. Women from all walks of life had work boxes; I'm pretty sure all this scene illustrates is Tom Bertram's unimaginative gift-giving habits.

2. Lynch identifies the word “work” in the line “Fanny could read, work, and write, but she had been taught nothing more” as “needlework”. I think “work” here refers to arithmetic (i.e., “to work sums”).
Posted by: Julianka


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