John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

The true manly style

From chapter 6 of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, a brief conversation between Edmund Bertram and Mary Crawford:

"If I write, I will say whatever you wish me; but I do not, at present, foresee any occasion for writing."

"No, I dare say, nor if he were to be gone a twelvemonth, would you ever write to him, nor he to you, if it could be helped. The occasion would never be foreseen. What strange creatures brothers are! You would not write to each other but upon the most urgent necessity in the world; and when obliged to take up the pen to say that such a horse is ill, or such a relation dead, it is done in the fewest possible words. You have but one style among you. I know it perfectly. Henry, who is in every other respect exactly what a brother should be, who loves me, consults me, confides in me, and will talk to me by the hour together, has never yet turned the page in a letter; and very often it is nothing more than—’Dear Mary, I am just arrived. Bath seems full, and everything as usual. Yours sincerely.’ That is the true manly style; that is a complete brother’s letter."

Fanny Price contradicts this in the very next paragraph, but nevertheless I think there is perhaps some degree of truth to what Miss Crawford says about "the true manly style" of letter-writing. Specifically, I was reminded of a pair of emails I received from my father and step-mother a few years ago. Lois’s message explained that her uncle had passed away unexpectedly and that she and my dad would be going to Florida for the funeral. She provided the airline, flight number, departure time, and expected time of arrival for their flight to Tampa, and the same for their flight back to Chicago. She named the relative with whom they’d be staying, and gave the phone number of another relative through whom they could be contacted, as well as her own cell phone number.

A few hours later, my dad sent another email on the same topic. It read, in its entirety, "Going to Florida on Thursday. Lois’s uncle died on Sunday. Back Saturday night." How manly!

Tags: author: jane austen, family, reading: books

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