I’m doing yet another read-through/edit of my first novel with the thought of e-publishing if no other options break soon. I labeled the file “Final!!!!!” months ago (so as to distinguish it from an earlier incarnation now named “not-so-final-after-all”), and yet I continue to fuss over and finesse it, never quite satisfied.
Anyway, today I read through a chapter where Mr. Darcy reveals some of his views on his impending fatherhood. It made me stop and think about the odd assortment of fathers who inhabit Jane Austen’s novels: Mr. Bennet (endearing, but indolent and negligent), Mr. Woodhouse (hypochondriac, self-absorbed), Sir Walter Elliot (irresponsible, vain), Mr. Dashwood (dead), General Tilney (greedy, vindictive). Only Mr. Morland seems kind and reasonable, but then we don’t get to spend much time with him. The prize for Austen’s all-time, lousy father-figure probably goes to Mr. Price, however. To ease the financial strain on the family, Fanny was sent away as a young child to be raised by her rich aunt and uncle at Mansfield Park. Years later, as punishment for displeasing her uncle/surrogate-dad, she’s uncerimoniously returned to her home of origin, only to find things even worse than she’d remembered:
It was the abode of noise, disorder, and impropriety. Nobody was in their right place, nothing was done as it ought to be. She could not respect her parents, as she had hoped. On her father, her confidence had not been sanguine, but he was more negligent of his family, his habits were worse, and his manners coarser, than she had been prepared for… He swore and he drank, he was dirty and gross. She had never been able to recall anything approaching to tenderness in his former treatment of herself. There had remained only a general impression of roughness and loudness; and now he scarcely ever notice her, but to make her the object of a coarse joke. (Mansfield Park, chapter 39)
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we find our hero Mr. Darcy. I foresee that he will be a model father – better than even he at first supposes. (See the new excerpt from The Darcys of Pemberley I’ve just posted.)