PERSUASIONS ON-LINE V.35, NO.1 (Winter 2014)

“The First Soldier [She] Ever Sighed for”: Charles Pasley’s Essay and the “Governing Winds” of Mansfield Park

Kathryn Davis


Kathryn Davis (email: is a Jack Miller Center Postdoctoral Fellow in Western Heritage at Carthage College.  She has spoken at JASNA AGMs in Fort Worth and Montréal, and she was the first-place winner in the graduate division of the 2013 JASNA Student Essay Contest.  Her writing on Austen has been published in Persuasions.


in a letter to Cassandra dated 24 January 1813, Jane Austen mentions that the draft of what will become Volume II, Chapter 6 of Mansfield Park will have to be revised:  in the original version, William Price tells the Mansfield party that he was appalled by the hairstyles of the English ladies at the “Government House” at Gibraltar.  Austen explains to her sister, “I learn from Sir J. Carr that there is no Government House at Gibraltar.—I must alter it to the Commissioner’s.”  Hence, we know that Austen was still editing and amending the novel in January 1813; the first edition was released in May of 1814.


Later in the same letter, Austen writes,


We quite run over with books.  [My Mother] has got Sir John Carr’s Travels in Spain from Miss B. & I am reading a Society-Octavo, an Essay on the Military Police & Institutions of the British Empire, by Capt. Pasley of the Engineers, a book which I protested against at first, but which upon trial I find delightfully written & highly entertaining.  I am as much in love with the Author as I ever was with Clarkson or Buchanan, or even the two Mr Smiths of the city.  The first soldier I ever sighed for; but he does write with extraordinary force & spirit.1


Pasley has succeeded in “entertaining” Austen, but though her tone throughout is playful, he has also clearly moved her (Jones 226).  So much so, in fact, that she is inspired to “‘speak Shakespeare.’”  She includes a subtle allusion to Miranda’s reaction to meeting Ferdinand in the Tempest:  “This / Is the third man that e’er I saw, the first / That e’er I sigh’d for” (Tempest 1.2.445-47).  With Prospero, we see that Miranda sighs without much experience; and we might notice in the comparison forged by the allusion an unsuccessful compliment:  what self-complacency can a man derive from the admiration of a woman who only has her old father and a Caliban to compare him to?  Yet, as has often been noted, Austen frequently wrote send-ups of people and things she really did admire, and even a cursory glance at the Essay would confirm Austen’s esteem; Pasley writes with the “extraordinary force and spirit” of an officer and the grace of a liberally-educated, well-informed man.


Liberal education is the tie that binds these two authors together.  Austen’s enthusiasm springs, in part, from a recognition that she and Pasley share a common opinion about the value of such an education on both private and political grounds.  Though it is not possible to verify the precise form the influence took, the praise of British liberty and moral responsibility and the criticism of commerce and the institution of slavery crucial to Pasley’s Essay also lie in the background of Austen’s novel.2  More importantly, both the Essay and Mansfield Park endeavor to provide the kind of liberal education they simultaneously champion.  Pasley’s notions of providence, error, and the potential human beings have to reform themselves through new habits can likewise be seen in Mansfield Park:  beyond Sir Thomas, all those “not greatly in fault themselves” (MP 533) are credited with the power to change their lives in ways that both Pasley and Austen would approve.


Charles Pasley’s biography reveals a man of superlative integrity:  what he called for in his Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire, he evidently modeled in his own life.  Pasley was a renaissance man: one could speak of his valor in various battles throughout the Napoleonic Wars, his invention of underwater explosives, or his founding of the instructional establishment at Chatham.  I would like to focus, however, on his liberal education and the ways in which that education might have contributed to the composition—and the purpose—of his Essay.3  Born in Dumfriesshire, Scotland on 8 September 1780, Pasley received a classical education from an early age.  At eight he could translate the New Testament from the Greek; when he was twelve, he wrote a “history” of the “wars between the boys on either side of the River Esk, . . . translating it into Latin in the style of Livy” (Oxford).  His writings as an adult likewise reveal his breadth of learning:  in addition to Livy, he was a reader of Aristotle, Polybius, Virgil, Machiavelli, Francis Bacon, Emmerich de Vattel, David Hume, and Adam Smith.  Educated at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, he received his commission as second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in December 1797.  Wounds sustained at the Battle of Flushing (1809) rendered him no longer fit for active service, so he “devoted his energies to the good of the service and the improvement of his Corps” (Ward).


One example of his service is the Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire, which Pasley wrote in an effort both to warn his countrymen of the very serious threat posed by Napoleonic France and to suggest measures that could contribute to England’s political thriving in spite of that threat.  In 1808 he wrote the first two chapters of Volume I of his Essay—On Policy: “Introduction, and Explanation of the Plan of the Work,” and “Comparative View of the Forces and Resources of the French and British Empires.—Reflections arising from the subject, in regard to the probable decay of our Commerce, Manufactures, and Naval Power.”  Topics of subsequent chapters include the relative importance of various types of colonies; the primary and secondary causes of the army’s failures to defeat Napoleon; the politics (and diplomacy) of war; a case study of the war in Spain; the appropriate diplomatic policy the military should adopt toward enemies and allies; and the necessity of a free government when engaging in war.  The argument throughout the Essay is that Great Britain’s survival will be contingent upon the army’s adoption of a vigorous policy of action based upon the practical principle, “subdue or be subdued.”  Volume I first appeared in 1810; hugely popular, it ran into its fourth edition in November 1812.


Volume II was obviously intended but never materialized.  Instead of writing on the “Military Institutions of the British Empire,” Pasley left us, according to B. R. Ward, “the complete reorganization of one.  How effective [his overhaul of the Institution of the Engineers] has been is best seen by comparing the efficiency of [this] branch of the British service in the Waterloo, Crimean, Egyptian and South African Campaigns, with the poor results achieved by it in the Peninsular War” (78).  The majority of this reorganization took place during his tenure as “head of the instructional establishment at Chatham,” where, no longer able to lead soldiers in the field, he was instrumental in educating officers charged with that duty (ODNB).  His writings continued to influence military policy (and political prose style) for decades.  One might detect Pasley’s voice (Essay 7-8) even in Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940 following the evacuation at Dunkirk.  From the beginning of his career to the end, Pasley put his precocious, capacious mind, his patience in scientific inquiry, and his talent for organization and command as an officer and a teacher to the service of his country.


A brief word on empire


Modern scholars who read Pasley’s work in order to understand Austen’s enthusiastic appreciation puzzle over how she could “sigh” for a “soldier” who advocated imperial expansion.  His prose style is extraordinary:  was Austen simply bewitched into accepting wholesale his morally dubious position on colonization?  How can we reconcile our love for her with her love of him?  Though these questions are not explicitly asked, they are implied in the studies of some recent critics.4  With such criticism before us, it becomes difficult to stand by the claim that Austen and Pasley were at all interested in a form of liberty that we might accept as good or edifying.  But though we might find it difficult to see past his defense of empire to the deeper concerns of the Essay, it seems worth considering why Austen did not.5  My argument is that the two authors shared a belief in the value of a liberal education as the bedrock of individual and political liberty.  Though he undeniably advocates imperial expansion, Pasley’s reasons for promoting empire and his criticism of the institution of slavery deserve a closer look.


In Pasley’s view, conquest and expansion are good, but only insofar as they are means to the end of preserving British liberty.  Pasley simply proposes that his countrymen stop being hypocrites:  since Napoleon’s power through colonial expansion on the continent and overseas increases daily, the only way to preserve English interests is to keep up with him (62).  He frowns upon expansion for the sake of private gain, but he also acknowledges that there is no reversing the trend in the middle of a war.  Pasley is not interested in fattening the pocketbooks of trans-Atlantic landholders like Sir Thomas; he is not interested in securing trade routes.  Every rhetorical move he makes in the Essay is aimed at persuading his British readers that national—and, by extension, individual—liberty is at stake in battles over colonies.


Some colonies are beneficial:  large, fertile, and populous ultramarine possessions, which afford revenue to pay for civil government and garrisons, and provide troops for defense and for the army of the mother country (62).  Such colonies, however, are only as strong as the support the inhabitants willingly offer the governing power:


[T]he natives will, in all cases, as they cannot possibly be actuated by the strong incentive of national pride, take little concern in the contest; unless their existing government should have shown a fellow feeling for their prosperity, or should have given them reason to believe, that it acts, upon the whole, with more justice and moderation toward its subjects, than has been or would be shown, under the same circumstances, by its adversary.  (64)


The language of “natives” and “masters” is distasteful to us for obvious reasons.  Nevertheless, I think Austen would have been interested in the implicit challenge posed by this passage:  Pasley calls for his countrymen to adhere to a higher standard of “justice” and “moderation” than that exhibited by their French enemies.  He acknowledges that it is absurd to expect conquered people to have any kind of devotion to the cause for which the “mother country” fights—“Unless” he adds, the conquerors show “fellow feeling” for the “prosperity” of the conquered.  Whether this ideal situation ever reached actuality in any British colony I cannot say, but Pasley sets a very high standard for governance here.  “Fellow feeing” implies an honoring of common dignity; and “prosperity” is much more generous than “subsistence.”


But Pasley’s ultimate position goes beyond mere “fellow feeling” for the “prosperity” of the conquered.  He actually proposes that wholesale abolition of slavery would make it easier for the British to defend themselves against Napoleon.6  One of the West Indian islands named by Pasley as prime for liberation is Antigua, with its “40,398 . . . souls” (74).  Pasley also speaks of the “dreadful contest in St. Domingo” and speculates that even before the revolution the island “cannot be supposed to have contained more than one million and three quarters of people, computing free men and slaves, of all colours, indiscriminately” (74).  Pasley is a pragmatist to be sure, but in his estimation, “souls” are “souls,” and men are men:  what matters to him is whether they hold a gun alongside, or against, the British.  In this sense, war for Pasley is a great equalizer.7


Austen probably had not yet read Pasley’s Essay when she composed the chapter in which Fanny comments that the only thing preventing her from asking Sir Thomas questions about the “‘slave-trade’” is her fear of setting herself off at the “‘expense’” of her cousins (MP 231-32).  William Price’s anecdote about the Commissioner’s House at Gibraltar is recorded three chapters later, and if Wiltshire’s reckoning is correct, even if Austen revised at the same time that she was composing future chapters, she still would most likely already have decided on Antigua as the site for Sir Thomas’s West Indian property (xxv-xxvii).  I would merely point out, by way of confirming, if not Pasley’s influence, then at least Austen’s approval of his comments on abolition, that Fanny uses the same language to discuss hearing Sir Thomas speak of the West Indies that Austen uses in praising Pasley’s Essay:  “‘I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies.  I could listen to him for an hour together.  It entertains me more than many other things have done” (MP 230); “upon trial I find [the Essay] delightfully written and highly entertaining.”  In both cases, character and author experience as enjoyable a topic that is simultaneously edifying.  And to the extent that in Mansfield Park “taste” bears more than mere aesthetic weight (543), “entertaining” is synonymous with morally good.


The “influence . . . all men of liberal education may hope to possess”


Jane Austen was, in most respects, precisely the audience Charles Pasley had in mind when he was writing his Essay:  well-educated; firm in her convictions yet open to persuasion; moved by heroism, yet sensible and prudent.  Pasley knew to a certainty that his readers would “protest” at first, especially against the suggestion that the beloved navy was not going to be able to withstand Napoleonic aggression for much longer.  Austen had two naval brothers—Frank and Charles—of whom she thought the world, and though we cannot be sure that this was the source of her initial complaint against the Essay, it is at least the complaint that Pasley anticipates from most of his readers.


From 21 October, 1805 onward, the navy was the nation’s darling.  Park Honan lists some of the “bizarre public appreciations of Trafalgar” (224) that started to appear after the battle:  the “Trafalgar stitch”; the hugely popular romantic tale of Nelson calling out “Lady Hamilton” (with whom he had an extramarital affair) when dying; innumerable “Lives of Nelson”; and even “a ‘superb [theatrical] transparency’ showing ‘the great Nelson expiring in the Arms of Victory with Britannia pointing out his name and Deeds,—borne by the Wings of Time and the trumpet of Fame to Immortality; with a view of His Majesty’s ship Victory, which bears Nelson’s Flag, pouring irresistible thunder on the Enemy’s Fleet which appears sinking, burning, and striking under the superiority of the British Fleet’” (222-23).  Pasley endeavors to subdue the “enthusiasm” that has stirred the passion of patriotism in his countrymen to such a degree that they have become complacently secure in the omnipotence of the navy.  “Nelson” is a “deity,” “Trafalgar” is “frozen in time” (223), and Pasley has his work cut out for him.


Though he writes with contemporary issues of war and practical hierarchical problems in mind, Pasley is most deeply concerned with the relationship between the commonwealth and the formation of the private citizen.  Pasley tacitly proposes a grassroots campaign in which each individual takes himself in hand, allowing himself to be reeducated in the political arts which form the foundation of liberal education, first, through an evaluation of his own soul.  Pasley does not suggest a democratic overhaul:  the sovereign is still to be the head of the commonwealth.  But on the individual level, each man’s reason should be the governing principle of the regime within his soul.  Pasley’s political schema is loosely Aristotelian, but his purpose is not to favor any one branch or period of political theory.  Rather, Pasley’s primary rhetorical end is to remind his audience what a good (specifically British) regime looks like in hopes that they might strive to conform to the ideal themselves.  In so doing, they might become better—more historically-minded, prudent, and valorous—citizens capable of “meeting the storm to the utmost” and, if necessary, “falling” with arms in their hands “in a manner worthy of the ancient renown of the British nation, and of the sacred cause in which we should fight, for the last remains of liberty to be found in the world” (Pasley 7-8).


These individual virtues are among those most highly valued in Mansfield Park.  One need look no farther than Fanny’s speech on the “‘nobleness’” in the “‘name of Edmund’”:  “‘It is a name of heroism and renown—of kings, princes, and knights; and seems to breather the spirit of chivalry and warm affections’” (MP 246).  Fanny Price is clearly both appreciative of valor and—pace, Maria and Julia—historically-minded.  Through passages such as this, we see that Austen and Pasley shared a common sense of British political virtue.


Pasley emphasizes the responsibilities concomitant with individual liberty.  Inventing a hypothetical rhetorical situation, he speaks about himself in the third person and imagines the effect his Essay might have on the nation as a whole:


[I]f a military officer, taking advantage of the influence, which all men of liberal education may hope to possess in a nation constituted like Great Britain, endeavours to lead the public mind to a true sense of the nature of the contest in which we are engaged; he may perhaps, if his efforts are attended with any success, contribute more by his pen toward the defence of the state, than he could do by his sword, in a whole life-time spent in war, in much higher situations.  (9)


One consequence of political freedom, argues Pasley, is that an Englishman’s “mind” can be formed through “liberal education.”  His own liberal education, coupled with his expertise as a “military officer,” makes it possible for him to address an equally well educated public with a hope of “influenc[ing]”—of persuading—them of the importance of the fight against France.  Adopting Pauline imagery, Pasley suggests that for truly free people, the “pen” is more powerful than the “sword.”  Though he must employ the latter against enemies, he expresses his confidence that his countrymen can be moved by persuasion with no need of force.


In the same spirit of exhortation, Pasley intends his narrative of Napoleon’s conquest of Spain to be a cautionary tale emphasizing the importance of the kind of education that can promote both individual and political liberty:


Owing to the oppressive nature of their former political and religious institutions, the people of Spain, with many excellent qualities, can boast of few men of liberal education, or of minds cultivated by study and reflection.  Hence they carry to a great degree, a disposition which they have in common with all nations that possess much national pride; they are sanguine in the extreme, wonderfully credulous of every thing that flatters their wishes, however improbable; and equally incredulous of every thing to the contrary.  They never saw clearly the extent of their danger.  When they first took up arms, they were insensible of their own defects, and they generally believed that their raw levies, by virtue of enthusiasm, would carry every thing before them, and march straight to Paris.  (234)


It is not a want of soldiers or weapons Pasley points to as the main deficiency in Spain’s defense:  rather, it is the want of “men of liberal education” with “minds cultivated by study and reflection.”  Soldiers and weapons are worthless if they do not have a prudent governor (political leader or general) moving them, arranging them, keeping their “national pride” and credulity in check.  The downfall of the Spanish was not due to a lack of those things that make a people warlike, but to a lack of men in possession of practical judgment—and impervious to “enthusiasm,” or extreme patriotism—to lead them.  Again Pasley demonstrates the connection between individual liberty (and the political circumstances that makes it possible) and political liberty.  Pasley hopes his reflections on Spain might strike a chord in his own countrymen respecting their susceptibility to “enthusiasm.”


Pasley, lamenting that many members of his audience have allowed their liberal learning to slip, argues that their complacency could lead by degrees to annihilation.  One cause of this complacency seems to be the luxury afforded by a growth in commercial wealth.  Pasley acknowledges that commercial pursuits could serve liberty:  the “conquests” a merchant makes could actually strengthen the bonds of concord among men and nations (471).  Furthermore, since commercial endeavors can only really thrive in conditions of peace, commerce could be a deterrent to war.  Commerce might also promote the leisure necessary for liberal education and contemplation of beauty (an activity prized, as we know, by Fanny Price).8  Furthermore, commercial endeavors promote “integrity,” “perseverance,” and “even enterprise,” virtues one would hope always to have “at the head of the mercantile body” (472).  Though Tom Bertram is a member of the landed gentry, it is clear that Sir Thomas hopes, in taking him to Antigua, that his experience of commerce will make him more mature.  If a nation operates upon vigorous policy, commerce has the potential to be at once “a noble art” (472) and “a great advantage in war” (473).


Yet Pasley also cautions his readers against the dangers of commercial striving:  individualism and the temptation to place too much power exclusively in merchants’ hands (472).  “Individually,” Pasley suggests, “wealth will be power, and will be believed to confer happiness.  Every thing will be calculated by notions of profit and loss.  Valour and learning will be trampled under foot, or may altogether desert such an ungenial soil; and the laws will be destroyed either by a foreign conqueror, or by a domestic tyrant” (472).  Again we are reminded that Pasley’s Essay has as its remote end something much more profoundly important even than victory over Napoleon:  he wants his readers to pursue and to cherish those things that ennoble the human soul—courage, wisdom, and liberty in the form of good laws.  If commerce can assist Englishmen in such a pursuit, all the better.9  But Pasley challenges his audience to consider what role commerce should play in the current crisis.


If there is a novel in the Austen canon that exposes wealth as a counterfeit means to happiness, it is Mansfield Park.  Mary Crawford is described as a “young [person] of fortune” with “twenty thousand pounds” (46):  her attachment to the idea of a husband with a profession that makes luxurious living possible ends up losing her the chance at authentic happiness she might have had with Edmund Bertram.  Through characters such as Mary, Austen shows that she is as interested as Pasley in exposing the problem of placing the quest for wealth over the more enduring goods of life.


Posterity trump card


The Essay and Mansfield Park are rhetorical texts:  both Pasley and Austen endeavor to move their readers toward the formation of good habits by showing models to imitate or avoid.  In an effort to help his audience cultivate the virtue of prudence-as-forethought, Pasley appeals strongly and consistently to what I will fondly call the Posterity Trump Card.  He repeatedly encourages his readers to consider how current policies and institutions will affect future generations.  When Pasley exhorts his audience, “[L]et us, whilst it is yet in our power, embrace the opportunity of preparing for the worst; or our posterity, who may find themselves enslaved beneath the iron yoke of a foreign despot, may have reason to weep in tears of blood the improvidence and errors of their fathers” (6), he articulates by negation two expectations commonly held about fathers.


“Error” requires little explanation, but “improvidence” is more interesting.  Pasley intimates that his audience would commonly agree that fathers have a duty to be “provident” toward their sons, just as governments have the responsibility of being provident toward the governed.  Pasley speaks despairingly of those statesmen who celebrate “each new coalition, as a master-stroke of policy, and have prognosticated the happiest results from the wise distribution of our public money amongst our brave, but needy allies,” yet when these foreign princes “have been stripped of their dominions [by the French], or have suddenly turned against us, it has been ascribed to some unforeseen events, which Divine Providence, for mysterious purposes, has brought about, to confound the wisest plans of mortals” (303).  Such public ministers wish to blame Providence for their own folly.


Pasley, however, sarcastically insists that “the Almighty having thought proper, in his infinite wisdom, to govern the universe by fixed laws, has allowed for the improvement of mankind, the same effects in the political world to result, in every age, from the same causes” (303-04).  After criticizing the outrageous presumption that would reject such “fixed laws” for both “the universe” and “the political world,” Pasley reminds his readers that “posterity” will “judge of measures by their results, not by their secret motives” (305).  The children—literal or figurative—of such men cannot be expected to look charitably upon the blind pride of their fathers.  Pasley and Austen would undoubtedly agree that for a man to be truly provident, he must first be prudent, and he must collaborate with Divine Providence.  Providence takes “prudence”—wise deliberation in practical matters—and applies it to the future.  If Pasley places in the mouths of the enslaved sons the criticism of the “improvidence” of their fathers, he suggests that they failed to anticipate and prepare for future contingencies by recognizing and following the most suitable or sensible course of action now; and in doing so, they have neglected a sacred duty.10


Through the dramatic action of the plot of Mansfield Park, Austen suggests that the “error” and “improvidence” of fathers can make it very difficult for their maturing children to achieve individual liberty through self-governance.  Fanny Price has two father figures:  Mr. Price, whose providence extends to giving her life and goes very little beyond that; and Sir Thomas, who, though provident, is clearly in error on several counts, not least of which is the pressure he applies to Fanny to accept Henry Crawford as her husband.  With fathers like these, how does Fanny escape being “enslaved beneath the iron yoke of a foreign despot” like Crawford, whom Colleen Sheehan has shown to be not only the host of a tyranny of vices within his own soul but also the proponent of Machiavellian iniquity determined to spread such a disordered regime to the entire Mansfield community?11  This is where Divine Providence becomes important to Austen’s design.  Despite the various things she has been deprived of, Fanny’s commitment to collaboration with Providence is strong—likely stronger, in fact, than that of any other character in the novel.  Fanny is repeatedly put forth as the only character who knows what is due to fathers, even fathers like Sir Thomas, who allows Crawford to persist in his unwanted proposals.  But though these proposals and the strife they generate within the family threaten her composure, Fanny nevertheless displays “reason,” not simply “in the sense of something that can listen to a father” but “in the governing sense and in itself” (Aristotle 1103a).


Fanny demonstrates this governing sense of reason in the Portsmouth episode when she assumes the role of teacher.  Many readers of the novel have pointed to Fanny’s choice to take charge of her sister’s intellectual formation—and to subscribe to the circulating library to achieve that end—as a sign that she has begun to achieve intellectual maturity (MP 461).  But Austen seems to be doing something even more remarkable in the Portsmouth scene with Fanny, and I would suggest that this might be a sign of Pasley’s influence.  She makes Fanny the provident one, allowing her to make atonement in some way for the failure of the parents in the novel, and in particular, of her father, Mr. Price, who has not established a well-ordered regime within the household.  Fanny, recognizing the power of gifts and of possessing property, prudently settles Betsey and Susan’s squabble over the inherited knife by buying and gifting an equally valuable silver knife to the younger sister (459).12  Again, when Crawford asks her to “‘advise’” him, she, demurring, famously asserts, “ We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be’” (478).  Through this allusion to conscience as an aid to rational self-government, Fanny both honors and challenges Henry by suggesting that he has the capacity to govern not only his estate in Norfolk but also his own soul.13


Austen’s Posterity Trump Card comes through the movement of the plot, and in the final chapter of the novel through comments of the narrator, who shows that Sir Thomas acknowledges himself to have been in “‘error’” in raising both his daughters and his niece (535, 546).  Sir Thomas has learned, and we are encouraged to be sympathetic toward him because he acknowledges his failures.  At the same time, we are indeed encouraged to “judge of measures by their results.”


At the end of the novel, one question remains:  is it right to attribute Fanny’s imperviousness to Crawford’s betrayal to Divine Providence, as Edmund does:  “‘We were all disposed to wonder—but it seems to have been the merciful appointment of Providence that the heart which knew no guile, should not suffer’” (527)?  In this case Pasley’s correction about Providence is helpful.  Fanny “knew no guile,” but we know—and Edmund is soon to learn—that Fanny was equally preserved by something much more natural than so-called guilelessness:  her heart was safe from Crawford because it had always belonged to Edmund.  There is nothing secret or mysterious here.  On the contrary, romantic love is one of “the same causes” that has “in every age” produced “the same effects.”


But perhaps Edmund’s pious reading is partially true:  Fanny’s heart has known “no guile.”  Even here, though, there has been effort and exertion:  she has struggled to govern herself above all else to avoid succumbing to her at times overpowering feelings of jealousy (181-84).  Rather than wallow unwisely in such feelings, Fanny has struggled to maintain interior peace.  Through her exertions, Fanny has demonstrated a remarkable amount of prudence and fortitude, and in so doing, she has collaborated in a positive way with those “fixed laws” of Providence.  Again, Fanny has compensated for the improvidence and errors of her fathers.14


Most of the examples in the Essay show posterity disparaging the ill-conceived folly of the previous generations.  The conclusion of Pasley’s Essay, however, constitutes one last Posterity Trump Card, this time used with confidence.  Pasley insists that Great Britain “adopt and preserve” the “wisest, safest, and most effectual mode” of defending itself: “attacking and destroying all its enemies.”  To those “statesmen and generals among us” who “persevere in this salutary system, the gratitude of nations, and the applause of posterity, will do ample justice” (531).  Here, in an elegant final flourish, posterity is made to celebrate the prudent policy of Pasley’s contemporaries.  If they defeat France on the principles outlined in the Essay, they will be remembered forever as the saviors of the nation and indeed, of the world.


Preservation alone will enable such gratitude and applause; in Austen’s novel, the same is true.  But “attacking and destroying all enemies” in Mansfield Park is, for the most part, an interior affair.  There is still hope that Edmund, Tom, Julia, and Sir Thomas might “attack” and “destroy” their respective “enemies”:  despair, excessive spiritedness, attachment to worldly goods, and the misevaluation of character that comes from mistaken priorities (wealth over virtue, for instance).  Yet I would like suggest that Austen’s hopefulness in the final chapter extends even farther than the Bertram family.


No sensible reader of Mansfield Park will deny that many of Mary Crawford’s choices in word and deed have been bad throughout the novel, but the love-struck Edmund is also right to level a portion of the blame on the “error” and “improvidence” of her “father” (in this case, her philandering adoptive father, Admiral Crawford).15  Mary did not receive the kind of truly liberal education advocated by Pasley.  Acknowledging this fact, Mrs. Grant invites Mary and Crawford to stay with her at the parsonage in hopes that Mansfield Park might “‘cure’” them (54), but evidence throughout the novel suggests that neither has any interest in or intention of being cured.  In the end, however, I propose that Mansfield does for Mary what Mrs. Grant wanted it to do.  Mary’s time there does eventually “cure” her, but not in the way that Mrs. Grant had expected:


Mrs. Grant, with a temper to love and be loved, must have gone [from Mansfield to London for Dr. Grant’s new position] 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. . . . Mary, though perfectly resolved against ever attaching herself to a younger brother again, was long in finding . . . any one who could satisfy the better taste she had acquired at Mansfield, whose character and manners could authorise a hope of the domestic happiness she had there learnt to estimate, or put Edmund Bertram sufficiently out of her head.  (543)


This paragraph shows, by degrees, the lessons she has learned at Mansfield Park unfolding in Mary’s life.  Mrs. Grant’s “love,” “true kindness” and “rational tranquility” provide the structure for the formation of new habits.  And contemplation of Edmund’s character, which takes on an iconic quality in her mind, helps her—slowly, painfully—to revise her erroneous opinions about wealth and conquest.  Time is Austen’s provident gift to her characters, and though it must occur outside of the narrative frame of the novel, Mary has as good a reason as the rest of those “not greatly in fault themselves” to “hope” not merely for “tolerable comfort” but also for “domestic happiness” (533, 543).  After all, “long in finding” is better than the turn Persuasion’s narrator gives Elizabeth Elliot, to whom “no one of proper condition has since presented himself” (272).


Austen and Pasley agree that political liberty and the liberal education it affords—when tied to the good principles and trust in Providence that distinguish British liberty—are precious because they provide the means for authentic happiness and human flourishing.  Pasley’s “fathers” and Austen’s characters have acted on mistaken principles, but despite their “error” and “improvidence,” the Essay and Mansfield Park both hinge on the proposition that it is not too late for them to change.  That characters like Sir Thomas and Mary Crawford stand as good a chance as Fanny of receiving the “applause” of “posterity” is evident when the curtain falls on Mansfield Park.





1. Vivien Jones provides a critical apparatus for this letter by explaining the possible relationships among the counter-intuitively grouped writers Austen mentions.  Jones astutely reminds us, “It is, of course, impossible for anyone who is not Cassandra to really fathom the complex ironies of Austen’s correspondence, but this all too rare glimpse of Austen’s non-fiction reading and that of her immediate social circle nevertheless offers key evidence on the still contentious question of her political sympathies” (222).  Jones concludes that the letter provides evidence of Austen’s conservative female patriotism.


2. Verifying influence is difficult on several counts.  In his Introduction to the Cambridge edition of the novel, John Wiltshire notes that the date of the completion of Mansfield Park is contested.  Wiltshire discusses the letter to Frank Austen dated 6 July 1813, in which, referring to Mansfield Park, Jane Austen says that she has “something in hand” which she hopes “on the credit of P. & P. will sell well, tho’ not half so entertaining” (xxvii-xxviii).  Austen could mean either that she has a complete manuscript of the new novel “in hand,” or that she is presently working on that novel.  If evidence from these letters indicates that Austen was still engaged in the activity of composition in January-July 1813, it is obviously more likely that Pasley’s Essay might have had an influence on Mansfield Park, though to what extent or for what purpose Austen engaged with Pasley remain open questions.


3. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and B. R. Ward’s “The Foundation of the Royal Engineer Establishment at Chatham” provide helpful information about Pasley’s life and work.


4. I provide here a sample of recent critical comments on Pasley’s Essay and Austen’s reading of it:  Brian Southam describes the “stylishness” and “ruthlessness” of Pasley’s “imperialist polemic” and categorizes his admirer, Austen, as an “expansionist patriot” (171).  Vivien Jones suggests that Austen’s appreciation of the Essay is of a piece with her “program of conservative progress” (228).  And though he does not engage with Pasley’s Essay directly, Edward Said, in his seminal study Culture and Imperialism (1993), suggests that Mansfield Park is the text in which Austen “more clearly than anywhere else in her fiction . . . synchronizes domestic with international authority, making it plain that the values associated with such higher things as ordination, law, and property must be grounded firmly in actual rule over and possession of territory” (87).  Said chooses to include a lengthy discussion of Mansfield Park because he sees it as exemplifying the phenomenon of novel as tool for cultural promotion of empire.


5. Moreland Perkins has shown that Austen read Pasley’s Essay as a companion piece to Clarkson’s History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament.  Perkins argues that “the success of Clarkson’s reforming project reassured [Austen] about the justice of Pasley’s imperial ambition, and the charisma of Pasley’s zeal helped her to empathize with the strenuously challenging life of England’s sometimes ruthless rulers,” among whom he counts Sir Thomas Bertram.  After having read Clarkson’s book, Austen could feel herself “[e]ncouraged by her nation’s dramatic moral progress in treatment of the slave trade,” and reading Pasley’s Essay could help her to “believe Britain capable of honorable dominion over lands (allegedly) needed for its own prosperity—and (allegedly) needed for its safety too.”  Perkins’ parenthetical repetition of “allegedly” betrays some skepticism, but his overall point seems to be that Austen was right to see something in the Essay worth admiring.


6. In one of his famously long footnotes, he offers as his example “the revolution that established an independent black government in St. Domingo” (74).  The problem, in this case, is that the revolution (fought against the French) made the inhabitants of that island free, but “the great body of the natives of all the other islands [remained] slaves” (74).  This rendered English “possessions in the West Indies, as well as those of any other civilized power, weak against [French] invasion.  Otherwise, the West Indies, if inhabited by free men, and united either under a native or foreign government, to which they were attached, would offer by no means an easy conquest” (74-75).  Gabrielle D. V. White notes that “Pasley looks for cooperation with the people of countries colonised, because gratitude on their part would make for an easier life on the part of the conquering country. . . . Pasley comments that the West Indies would be more useful to Britain as an ally if its inhabitants were free men (146-47).”  The St. Domingo discussion offers proof in support of her claim.


7. The most moving example of the potential benefits of conquest for the conquered lies in Pasley’s lengthy account of the battle over Malta (386-407).  The Maltese were free citizens, but in Pasley’s estimation they were little better than peasant-slaves under the rule of the Knights of St. John.


8. Recent critics such as Sarah Emsley (107-28), Joyce Kerr Tarpley (18, 131), and Natasha Duquette and Elisabeth Lenckos (xxv, xxvii)—pointing to Fanny’s thoughts in and on the Grants’ shrubbery and her habits of study in the East room and of stargazing with Edmund—have spoken of Fanny Price as a philosophical or contemplative heroine.  Through the liberal education made possible by the regime of Mansfield Park, she has acquired a “cultivated” mind by “study and reflection.”


9. One nation certainly has not learned to use commerce as a means to these higher ends:  Pasley calls “the United States of North America” a “body whose whole soul seems wrapt up in commerce” and cautions his readers against allowing England’s “own commercial spirit” likewise to be “carr[ied] . . . to excess” (149, 472).


10. When we first meet him in the Iliad, Odysseus speaks of himself not as Laertes’s son but of Telemachus’s father (Book 2):  this definition tells us in which direction he is thinking.  Odysseus stands as a living argument for Pasley’s first qualification of a good father:  he is skilled at thinking (and acting, at least in the Iliad) providently.


11. My title is, in part, an expression of regard for Colleen Sheehan’s fascinating article “To Govern the Winds: Dangerous Acquaintances at Mansfield Park.”  Sheehan’s discussion of the political-philosophic implications of Austen’s choice to endow the Crawfords with Machiavellian motivations for action on the domestic scale is particularly worth attending to.


12. Fanny’s actions in this scene resemble those of Achilles at the funeral games of Patroklos, or of Aeneas at the funeral games of Anchises—set pieces in the classical epics used to exhibit the hero’s ability to govern wisely and to establish peace through persuasion rather than force.  Austen would have been familiar with Pope’s and Cowper’s translations of the Iliad and Dryden’s of the Aeneid.


13. One might detect an allusion to the opening scene of Henry VIII here.  When Buckingham’s anger rises up within him, Norfolk advises, “[T]here is no English soul / More stronger to direct you than yourself, / If with the sap of reason you would quench, / Or but allay, the fire of passion” (1.1.146-48).


14. For instance, Fanny establishes proper boundaries in conversation with Edmund:  she offers to listen to him when he asks to be allowed to speak about the heaviness of heart he feels after Mary tells him that she will never dance with him again—as she “never” dances with clergymen.  But when asked to advise him about Mary, she graciously yet firmly declines.  She then relents and invites him to speak, only to regret later having made herself his confidante (311-14).  Austen shows us that Fanny’s struggle to strike a balance between being generous and establishing proper boundaries is ongoing.  I am indebted to Stephanie Hilker for drawing my attention to Fanny’s struggle to achieve interior peace.


15. This material on Mary Crawford is based in part on my blog post entitled “Mary Crawford and the Mansfield ‘Cure’” which originally appeared on “An Invitation to Mansfield Park” (6 June 2014).  My gratitude is due to Sarah Emsley for allowing me to include that material here.



Works Cited


Aristotle.  Nicomachean Ethics.  Trans. Joe Sachs.  Newburyport, MA: Focus, 2002.

Austen, Jane.  Jane Austen’s Letters.  Ed. Deirdre Le Faye.   3rd ed.  New York: Oxford UP, 1995.

_____.  Mansfield Park.  Ed. John Wiltshire.  Cambridge: CUP, 2005.

_____.  Persuasion.  Ed. Janet Todd and Antje Blank.  Cambridge: CUP 2006.

Duquette, Natasha, and Elisabeth Lenckos.  “Introduction.”  Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety, and Harmony.  Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh UP, 2014.  xxiii-xlvii.

Emsley, Sarah.  Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues.  New York: Palgrave, 2005.

Honan, Park.  Jane Austen: Her Life.  New York: Ballantine, 1987.

Jones, Vivien.  “Reading for England: Austen, Taste, and Female Patriotism.”  European Romantic Review 16.2 (2005): 221-30.

Pasley, Charles W.  Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire.  4th ed.  London: Innes, 1813.

Perkins, Moreland.  Mansfield Park and Austen’s Reading on Slavery and Imperial Warfare.”  Persuasions On-Line 26.1 (Win. 2005).

Said, Edward.  Culture and Imperialism.  New York: Knopf, 1993.

Sheehan, Colleen A.  “To Govern the Winds: Dangerous Acquaintances at Mansfield Park.”  Persuasions On-Line 25.1 (2004).

“Sir Charles William Pasley.”  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Ed. Leslie Stephen.  London: Smith, 1885.

Southam, Brian.  Jane Austen and the Navy.  New York: Hambledon, 2001.

deVattel, Emmerich.  The Law of Nations.  Ed. Joseph Chitty.  Philadelphia: Johnson, 1883.

Tarpley, Joyce Kerr.  Constancy and Ethics of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.  Washington, DC: Catholic U of America P, 2011.

Ward, B. R.  “The Foundation of the Royal Engineer Establishment at Chatham.”  The Royal Engineer Journal 7.2 (Feb. 1908): 72-78.

White, Gabrielle D. V.  Jane Austen in the Context of Abolition: ‘A Fling at the Slave Trade.’  New York: Palgrave, 2006.

Wiltshire, John, ed.  Mansfield Park.  Cambridge: CUP, 2005.


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