The Scene from Lovers Vows: A Mirror of the Whole Novel

Dorothy Gannon has asked for someone to quote from those speeches from the scene between Amelia and Anhalt which Mary sticks at. I'd like to quote this to show how it mirrors various scenes in Mansfield Park, mirrors the inner life of Mary and Edmund, and presents two views of marriage, one disillusioned, the other idealistic both of which are to be seen in the behavior, choices of partner, and final fates of Austen's characters.

Mary herself parallels Amelia closely. Neither is a hesitant maiden who waits for a man to declare himself; they both go up to the males they desire and boldly demand what they want of them--love. In a key scene in Chapter 15 Mary's boldness to Edmund foreshadows the boldness of Amelia in the courting scene Edmund and Mary rehearse in front of Fanny in Chapter 18. I refer to the scene where, having taken the part of Amelia, Mary attempts first to maneuver, and when that doesn't work embarrass Edmund into the part of Anhalt. Like Amelia, Mary's tones are strained and forced, but like Amelia she comes forward here calls out for a comer. She asks, for example, very playfully yet very seductively, if in a light tone, whom is she to look forward to "having the pleasure of making love to?" Of course she aims herself at Edmund (Mansfield ParkChapman 1:15, 143). In the later scene she of course finds she needs "hardening" (1:19, 168).

One might have thought Mary was bold enough here; many a woman today would hesitate to make herself so plain. But when Edmund does not offer to take the part--and in so doing, openly snubs her--she has no qualms about going up to him and urging him with elephantine hints, e.g., "'My. Edmund Bertram, as you do not act yourself, you will be a disinterested adviser; and therefore, I apply to you. What shall we do for an Anhalt? Is it practicable for any of the others to double it? What is your advice." When he ignores the thrust, she gets more explicit: "'If any part could tempt you to act, I suppose it would be Anhalt...for he is a clergyman you know.'" This elicits the slightly bitter riposte that all the more would he refuse, for he would not want to make such a character "ridiculous." He has not forgotten her contempt for the profession of clergyman, and pays her back. Only then is she silenced. Indeed she is "mortified" and feels "resentment" and moves away to watch Mrs Norris which shows a sly bit of comedy on Austen's part (Mansfield ParkChapman, I:15, 144-5; cf 11:110-1).

In Mrs Inchbald's scene Amelia is similarly more than a little embarrassed, and we are similarly hard put to decide whether and where Amelia is going so far that Mary says these words are just too bold for her to speak. I suggest the place in Inchbald's play occurs where Mary more than once explicitly vows she loves Anhalt. The first time he appears not to get it, so she repeats the idea more forcibly. This was nervy then, and would be so still. At this Arnalt does not respond in any clear way. He appears to understand she means she loves him, but he does not reassure her with his love. So she then goes further and offers to teach him how to love. Again we have some passages which embarrass Mary Crawford.

It should be said that throughout the dialogue Anhalt is not obtuse in the way Edmund can be. Anhalt has been sent by Amelia's father to ask her if she is willing to marry, to sound her out on her notions of what a wife and mother ought to be, and then to see if she will marry the oafish, lecherous but rich Count Cassell. Thus Anhalt will not openly say he loves Amelia back because he fears his low status will be disdained by her after all, and he at one point says to her comment that she will teach him "whatever I know, and you don't," "There are some thing I had rather never know." So she says that as he taught her mathematics, so she will teach him about women. Many of Amelia's lines are coquettish in the manner of Mary Crawford's-- as well as emotional: Amelia plays with or upon Anhalt's emotions and vulnerabity or low status and years as her tutor. When, for example, he says he wants to talk about marriage, she says "I accept the proposal," which makes him uncomfortable: "'you misconceive and confound me."

Here then is most of the scene (it's long so I cut a bit) which concludes with the idealized picture of married love which so overwhelms Fanny that she turns away rather than see Edmund speak the lines to Mary. Anhalt's dismal picture of a marriage without love (which he is driven to describe because of course he does not want Amelia to marry Cassel) begins the emotional parts of the dialogue:

"When convenience, and fair appearance joined to folly and and ill-humour, forge the fetters of matrimony, they gall with their weight the married pair. Discontented with one another--at variance in opinions--their mutual aversion increases with the years they live together. They contend most, where they should most unite; torment, where they should most soothe. In this rugged way, choaked with the weeds of suspicion, jealoousy, anger, and hatred, they take their daily journey, till one of these _also_ sleep in death. The other then lifts up his dejected head, and calls out in acclamations of joy--Oh, liberty! dear liberty!
Amelia. I will not marry.
Anhalt. You mean to say, you will not fall in love.
Amelia. Oh no! [ashamed] I am in love.
Ahalt. Are in love! [starting] And with the Count?
Amelia. I wish I was.
Anhalt. Why so?
Amelia. Because _he_ would, perhaps not love me again.
Anhalt [warmly]. Who is there that would not?

And here we come to the first places in the scene which I suggest make Mary uncomfortable:

Amelia. would you?
Anhalt. I--I--me--I--I--am out of the question.
Amerlia. No; you are the very person to whom I have put the question.
Anhalt. What do you mean?
Amelia. I am glad you don't understand me. I was afraid I had spoken too plainly [in confusion].
Anhalt. Understand you!--as to that--I am not dull.
Amelia. I know you are not--And as you have for a long time instructed me, why should I not begin to teach you?

Teach him how to love of course, and a bit later, teach him how to understand a woman ("make her out"). Then she coquets: "I am sure I always learnt [mathematics?] faster from you than the old clergyman who taught me before you came," which appears to embarrass him:

Anhalt. This is nothing to the subject.
Amelia. What is the subject?
Anhalt. ----Love.

And again I think the following gestures as well as words are strikingly nervy even today (just a bit):

Amelia [going up to him]. Come, then, teach it me-- teach it me as you taught me geography, languages, and other important things.
Anhalt [turning from her]. Pshaw!
Amelia. Ah! you won't--You know you have already taught me that, and you won't begin again.

Here he says she "misconstrues" his motives and deliberately misunderstands his purpose in coming to her; he is to talk to her about marriage as such. She "accepts" his "proposal," he explodes that she has again "misconceive[d]" and "confound[ed]" him. And so she accuses him of not wanting what? not just to marry her but to be the one who deflowers her (so to speak). The lines have sexual double entendres which provoke from him an eruption in which he declares his love and describes a longing to return to the (usually love-laden) idylls of Arcadia:

Amelia. Ay, I see how it is--You have no inclination to experience with me 'the good part of matrimony;' I am not the female with whom you would like to go 'hand in hand up hills, and through labyrinths' with whom you would like to 'root up thorns; with whomn you would delight to plant lilies and roses.' No you had rather call out, 'O liberty, dear liberty.' Anhalt. Why do you force from me, what it is villainous to own?--I love you more than life--Oh Amelia! had we lived in those golden times, which the poets picture, no one but you-- but as the world is changed, your birth and fortune make our union impossible (for the scene in the back of Chapman's edition of Mansfield Park, see pp 504-7, III:2).

The scene then suddenly veers into a discussion of whether Anhalt has the "daring" to propose" his marriage to Amelia to her father; and she says "He has commanded me never to conceal or disguise the truth. I will propose it to him." She will not marry Cassel; he "conjures" her "not to think of exposing yourself and me to his resentment." Mary begins to imagine her father saying yes, hugging her, and they are interrupted.

I'd like to point out two further elements in this scene which Austen does not overtly play upon in Chapter 19, but which she might have expected us to know about. First there is the disillusioned picture of marriage which dissolves into contention and a wish to be freed by death which opens the scene. Some of Mary Crawford's earliest words shows she has the same disillusioned expectation of marriage from what she has seen as Anhalt depicts. Austen's novels themselves show us a number of couples who torment each other in an ordinary kind of way, and not just in marriage--I think of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax before marriage.

Second Anhalt's sense of himself as utterly beneath Amelia and his refusal to admit he ever thought of her because then he could be accused of and punished for temerity recalls Fanny's attitude towards Henry's proposal and Fanny's desperate and continuous attempt throughout the novel to hide her love for Edmund. Among the many reasons she is often silent is she has a secret which burns her heart utterly; the pain Fanny must quell in Chapter 19 is matched later in the book when Edmund turns to his newspaper and pretends not to see--and certainly will not stop--Henry Crawford from pressing himself upon Fanny: e.g, Crawford's

"What did that shake of the head mean? ...What was it meant to express?" (Mansfield Park Chapman III:4, 342-3)

to which Edmund turns a blind eye, showing he has no sense of sexual possessiveness over Fanny which of course signals the absence of any erotic love).

Ellen Moody

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Update 10 January 2003