Mansfield Park Mansfield Park discussion


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FIRST COUSINS

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Asia I'm just starting to read the book and I cannot get over the fact that Fanny and Edmund are first cousins! For heaven's sake. That's just sick.


Cassie Wicks It was a very common practice in those days. In researching my family tree I found I have a family where the first cousins married in one generation and then their children married second cousins. Not much branching going on there. And, this was not the stereotypical poor Southern family, but an affluent Northern one.


message 3: by willaful (new)

willaful It's also mostly an American taboo, a lot of people from outside the States find our problem with it odd.


Susan Pearson It was very common place in Britain in that era, the majority of families had similar instances, what was also not too rare would be for a widower to marry his late wife's sister, in my family this happened so that I have relatives who are cousins via their mothers and siblings via their father - very confusing!


message 5: by Jas (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jas It makes sense particularly in wealthier families to keep the affluence & reputation within the family. It isn't at all that strange. What is generally considered unacceptable is marrying one's own siblings (i.e. brothers and sisters). Certainly, I can see your shock at it but it isn't at all unusual. Moreover, most incest laws don't prohibit marriage with first cousins. It's also commonplace in a number of Asian countries, such as Pakistan.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

It's not uncommon now, either. I have a friend who is the child of first cousins (not from this country). It's mostly a US hang-up.


Pola It was not so uncommon back then.. but what really puzzles me and slightly annoys me is on Edmund's side.. i mean, he was hopelessly in love with Mary Crawford and he could not imagine another woman by his side.. but in the end he suddenly realizes that he loves Fanny.. is that realistic?


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I couldn't agree more, Pola. That was my hang-up. This is a very unromantic novel but I did like it, because it didn't follow the typical Austen formula. It had a lot more realism. I think that's why Persuasion is my favourite Austen, because of the realism but also the hope in there too.


First cousins, not uncommon at the time and as I see the book as a product of its time, I don't have a problem with it. I didn't find it sick but again, I had no connection to Edmund for the reasons Pola outlined, so it wouldn't have bothered me anyway.


Gabrielle First cousins married all the time it was completly natural back then.


message 10: by Lily (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lily One of our colleagues on another board indicated that the knowledge about hemophilia that seemed to prevail in royal circles in Europe was one of the factors that eventually led to publicity about the dangers of intermarriage between closely related family members.

I have never looked into the literature on when the risks of matching recessive genes became widely known.


Farrah It is a common practice. Especially to keep a bloodline pure. There is a negative stigma about it here in the states.


Linda I agree with the statements about Edmund supposedly being madly in love with Mary Crawford and then switching suddenly to loving Fanny.

I read a lot of historicaly fiction, and this theme of marrying first cousins is pretty common. I've heard that the royal families from Europe used to marrying within the family, as Farrah said to "keep a bloodline pure." Wasn't Cleopatra supposed to have been married to at least 2 of her brothers?

I thought one of the reasons it was dangerous to marrying such closely in the bloodline was it was causing mental defect (such is insanity).

I'v heard that here in the U.S., we aren't able to even marry second cousins, although not sure how they would know unless the couple happened to have the same last name. I was recently married, and for the city marriage rules, we aren't allowed to marry anyone we've been related to even by marriage, ie: step-parents, step-siblings, or even in-laws. Pretty crazy if you ask me, especially if the kids weren't brought up together.


Leslie Pola wrote: "It was not so uncommon back then.. but what really puzzles me and slightly annoys me is on Edmund's side.. i mean, he was hopelessly in love with Mary Crawford and he could not imagine another woma..."

That bothered me too. Lots. I couldn't quite forgive him for that and always felt that Mansfield Park lacked a male lead, or, hero.


Farrah Linda wrote: "I agree with the statements about Edmund supposedly being madly in love with Mary Crawford and then switching suddenly to loving Fanny.

I read a lot of historicaly fiction, and this theme of mar..."


Cleopatra did marry her brothers. I know it was also rumored she married one of her sons but I think that was disproved.

I'm not sure of the biological ramifications of incestuous marriages but I think the ultimate fear of such an outcome originally stems from the church. Although there is a higher likelihood that if disease is in a person's genetic history, it will be passed on and possibly mutated through a relationship with someone of similar genetic make-up, ie a brother...
But I think the damnation and fear is also fueled by religions and general social disgust of the practice.


Brian It's perfectly lawful in the UK, even now, to marry your first cousin.

Back in the day, the higher nobility were all related and were constantly marrying various grades of cousin as anyone else was 'below' them. Check out any medieval noble pedigree for proof.


DeeDee How funny! I have never, ever thought that the fact that they are 1st cousins was even remotely disgusting. I have just never even given it a second thought. But then as Brian rightly says, it is legal in my country (UK) to marry your cousins, and I have always accepted it as such. BTW, I have never, ever wanted to marry any of my cousins (just in case you were wondering!)


message 17: by Miss.terri (last edited Aug 05, 2011 07:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Miss.terri My brain registered it (the first cousins thing) but I did not give it too much thought because I know that was the way it was back in the day. (and currently in the UK as well as other countries.)


Miss.terri Leslie wrote: "Pola wrote: "It was not so uncommon back then.. but what really puzzles me and slightly annoys me is on Edmund's side.. i mean, he was hopelessly in love with Mary Crawford and he could not imagine..."

If I remember correctly, Jane wrote that she was not going to put a time frame on Edmund's broken heart and leave it up to the reader to determine it.


message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 10, 2011 11:21AM) (new)

Edmund didn't just randomly switch from Mary to Fanny. He realized that Mary's thinking was morally flawed when she spoke about Maria's living with Henry, and I think he sort of just gradually stopped loving her. He couldn't put up with her moral flaws anymore.

The first cousin thing is slightly disturbing to the American mind, and it's wrong (for Christians), but when I read the book I knew that it was done, so I just ignored it. Didn't bother me much after that.


Brian 'The first cousin thing is slightly disturbing to the American mind, and it's wrong (for Christians)'

Depends what branch of Christianity you follow. The Book of Common Prayer (published 1662 for English Anglicans) has a table in it of persons you are not allowed to marry, and first cousins are not included, so the Church of England is fine with this.

In the Roman Catholic faith I believe you can get a dispensation - you certainly could back in the day.

I hasten to add I am not married to my cousin - she is not even a distant one!


JJ The Book Boss Asia,
I hear ya. I couldn't get over it either. I quit reading halfway through. I did watch the movie though.

I looooooooove Persuasion and P & P !!


Steven I just made a comment about this last night, while I watched the movie version of Mansfield Park on TV. It is strange to see how common it was for cousins to marry. If anyone is familiar with The Godfather 3, the movie, you know that Michael's daughter was sleeping with her cousin. We're talking here in the US and set in the 90's, I believe.


Ashley In that time period it was okay.


message 24: by Adria (new) - added it

Adria As others have said it was definitely a common practice in those days because it was to keep the bloodline going.


message 25: by Lis (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lis Carey I'v heard that here in the U.S., we aren't able to even marry second cousins, although not sure how they would know unless the couple happened to have the same last name.

In some states it's illegal to marry first cousins, and possibly second cousins, though I'm not specifically aware of a state that bans that. In others, including my own state of Massachusetts, marrying your first cousin is perfectly legal. The Catholic Church bans marriage within three degrees of consanguinity, i.e., you can't even marry your third cousin--but most Protestant churches do not.

Some states do ban marriages between people related by marriage if it is within the same degree of relationship that would be banned if they were blood relatives. Meaning, no, you can't marry your step-parent because you can't marry your parent, and you can't marry your step-sibling because you can't marry your sibling. The underlying purpose of this is that if the kids were raised together, or the step-parent truly had a parental relationship with the step-child, for them to marry creates very weird, unhealthy, unstable family dynamics. It's why people were so creeped out by Woody Allen having a relationship with Mia Farrow's daughter, even though they were no blood relationship: Allen and Farrow, though not married, had been together a long time, and he had essentially a parental relationship with at least the younger children.

In Mansfield Park, Fanny, although "raised together" with Edmund and her other cousins, is never allowed to feel like one of the children of the family. And, as others have said, marrying cousins was far more common then, especially among the gentry and upper middle class.

Austen doesn't, generally, portray her central characters as behaving in ways considered shocking at the time.


JJ The Book Boss Oh, it totally was common practice then. But some of us find it yucky to read about today.


Nicole D. That's how it was back then.Jane Austen's brother Henry married there cousin Eliza.


Kimberly Simmons Pola wrote: "It was not so uncommon back then.. but what really puzzles me and slightly annoys me is on Edmund's side.. i mean, he was hopelessly in love with Mary Crawford and he could not imagine another woma..."

I think it's realistic enough. I have seen it happen. Whether it makes him likable or not is a different question.


Kimberly Simmons Toria wrote: "Edmund didn't just randomly switch from Mary to Fanny. He realized that Mary's thinking was morally flawed when she spoke about Maria's living with Henry, and I think he sort of just gradually sto..."

The Bible doesn't say it's wrong to marry a cousin. So where some Christians get the idea that this is wrong, I am not sure.


Valerie There's little to nothing wrong with this from a genetic sense unless there has been a lot of intermarrying. The chance of genetic defects is small. It was outlawed in the US on moral grounds as it fell out of favor when a lot of popular figures came out against the practice add a little bad science to the mix and you get the laws changed. At the time the book was written it was the norm and encouraged.


Bookishnymph *needs hea* It was quite common back then.


Bookishnymph *needs hea* Kimberly said, "The Bible doesn't say . . ."

True.


message 33: by Donna (new)

Donna Susan wrote: "It was very common place in Britain in that era, the majority of families had similar instances, what was also not too rare would be for a widower to marry his late wife's sister, in my family this..."

The laws of consanguinity during the Regency Period prohibit a man from marrying his late wife's sister. It allowed him to house her under his protection, same as a sister, without damaging her reputation. To read more on this, try www.eclectic.com/allison lane/common regency errors


message 34: by Michelle (new)

Michelle It may have been somewhat common for cousins to marry during this time period, however, it was not without hesitation in Mansfield Park. Sir Thomas had reservations, he thought "about cousins in love" until Mrs. Norris convinced him otherwise. She said, it would be "the least likely to happen, brought up as they would be, always together, like brothers and sisters". Mrs. Norris went on to say of the scenario she suggested, "it would be morally impossible". So it was a concern well before Fannie arrived at Mansfield Park, at least for Sir Thomas.


message 35: by Deb (last edited Apr 05, 2017 05:06PM) (new)

Deb Smythe Haha, cousin marriage was most definitely not a concern in Austen's day, and is not a concern now outside the United States. First cousins are still marrying in many cultures around the world, and it is biologically proven beyond any doubt that any genetic risk to their children is no higher than for unrelated partners. The increase in birth defect rate is about the same as the increased risk of a woman giving birth aged 40 versus when she is 30. Not many people would advocate banning a 40-year-old woman from having children.

As for Mrs. Norris, she was putting forward any excuse she could think of, because she did not want to care for Fanny herself. As a clergyman's wife she would have known perfectly well that cousin marriage was not forbidden by the Church of England - as it still is not. And by the way, Mr. Natural Selection - Charles Darwin - was married to his own first cousin, as was Albert Einstein.


message 36: by Deb (new)

Deb Smythe Michelle wrote: "It may have been somewhat common for cousins to marry during this time period, however, it was not without hesitation in Mansfield Park. Sir Thomas had reservations, he thought "about cousins in lo..."

It was not "somewhat" common, it was extremely common. Experts have in fact estimated that across history, as many as 80 PERCENT of ALL marriages have been between first and second cousins. http://discovermagazine.com/2003/aug/...


Victoria Prescott It's a long time since I've read MP - was Sir Thomas concerned not because of the cousins issue, but more because he didn't want either of his sons falling in love with Fanny because he hoped they would make better marriages?

Philip II of Spain married his niece, with a Papal dispensation. In the Habsburgs' case, it wasn't a single marriage to a cousin or a niece that mattered, it was the fact that they kept doing it, generation after generation. That's when it becomes unwise.


Linton Darling There are a lot of examples of marrying first cousins in 19th century literature... Bleak House and Shirley spring to mind.


Elizabeth Famous My problem is that they were not just blood cousins but considered themselves to have a brother/sister relationship from her childhood.


message 40: by Lis (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lis Carey They were close, but the adults reminded them that she was Lesser, so, no. They ought to have had a brother/sister relationship, but the same people that were counting on that ensured that it didn't happen.


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