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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, September 12, 2010

P.S. re Mary Crawford's Sisterly Consolation

I was just rereading the message I just sent out, when I realized I had failed to recollect a wonderfully wicked idea which first popped into my head a few years ago, which relates directly to the following comment by myself about Mrs. Grant, and which, when you get to the end of this short message, bears dramatically on the questions discussed in my message to which this is a P.S.:

"Mrs. Grant is one of those women who probably thinks she drew the short straw in winding up with her own husband, rather than Sir Thomas."

As I wrote my earlier message today, in focusing on the question of whether Mary's reference to Sir Thomas as a perfect husband was sincere or ironic, I had neglected to consider the possibility that Mrs. Grant's attitude toward husbands might itself NOT have been as straightforward as Diana presented it, and I did not question.

I now recollected my earlier wicked idea which was based on the following passage from the last chapter of the novel, which took on fresh new meaning in the light of all that I had just written about Mary and Mrs. Grant and their respective points of view about marriage:

"Mrs. Grant, with a temper to love and be loved, must have gone with some regret from the scenes and people she had been used to; but the same happiness of disposition must in any place, and any society, secure her a great deal to enjoy, and she had again a home to offer Mary; and Mary had had enough of her own friends, enough of vanity, ambition, love, and disappointment in the course of the last half–year, to be in need of the true kindness of her sister’s heart, and the rational tranquillity of her ways. They lived together; and when Dr. Grant had brought on apoplexy and death, by three great institutionary dinners in one week, they still lived together...."

I think I might also have subliminally recalled that Christy had, a few months ago, posted the following comment made by Virginia Woolf:

"A divine justice is meted out; Dr. Grant, who begins by liking his goose tender, ends by bringing on "apoplexy and death, by three great institutionary dinners in one week".

"A divine justice is meted out" was not quite the wicked idea I recalled--rather, I had wickedly inferred that Dr. Grant's death (like Mrs. Churchill's death) was a little too convenient not to be very suspicious indeed, i.e., to suggest more than a little bit of HUMAN justice! (and by the way, as I will reveal in my book, I am NOT the first person to speculate in print about the suspicious nature of Dr. Grant's death!)

So, what we are hearing in that narration in the last chapter is that when Mary came to actually live with Mrs. Grant, this was a sharp change in circumstances, and who amongst you would have thought that Mary and Dr. Grant were going to be the best of friends living in close quarters? So isn't it more than just a little bit possible that in the great debate over good and bad husbands, that perhaps it was Mary who convinced her sister that Dr. Grant was a satyr as to whom satire alone would NOT be sufficient to make him tolerable? And that Mary may have just been talking about how convenient it would be for Tom Bertram to make an "early exit" from the quotidian dramas of Mansfield Park, but that in crunchtime, she showed herself, perhaps fortified by the aid and abetting of her sister, ready, willing, and quite capable of ACTING, and putting some poison where Dr. Grant's mouth was!

Visions of Philomel and her sister serving Tereus a main course that no man would ever wish to eat, and then dispatching him to the Great Mythological Beyond, also suddenly flooded my brain!

And then the piece de resistance occurred to me, as I recalled the lines of Brown's satirical poem on the hypocrisy of power, which Mary Crawford quotes:

"Blest leaf! whose aromatic gales dispense To Templars modesty, to Parsons sense."

" PARSONS sense..."

Hmm....Dr. Grant was after all a "parson", a man of "sense" who lived in a "parsonage". Hmmm.... I went back and experienced a frisson of delight when I read the lines which immediately FOLLOWED the lines which Mary had quoted and then parodied:

"So raptured priests, at famed Dodona’s shrine Drank inspiration from the steam divine. Poison that cures, a vapour that affords Content more solid than the smile of lords"

"POISON that cures" Hmm................... Hmmm..............................

A poisoned parson---just the kind of subliminal wordplay Mary Crawford (and JA) would have dearly loved!

Sounds to me like Mary and Mrs. Grant administered just enough poison, spread over three large dinners, to bring about a permanent "cure" to the parsonly "affliction" which Mrs. Grant had borne so forbearingly for so long.



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