Name: Edmund Bertram
Hobbies: Reading, star gazing, listening to the harp, and moralizing.
Most charming quality: General goodness, combined with a perception for the best in others.
Most detrimental tendency: Blindness
Greatest strength: Strong moral character
Truest friend: Fanny Price
Worst enemy: Himself
Prospects: For a second son, quite good. He has the living of Thornton Lacy, worth 700 pounds, to which he adds Mansfield, worth "less than a thousand a year".
"Poor Fanny! not allowed to cheat herself as she wishes!""If you are against me, I ought to distrust myself..."
"Believe me, I have no pleasure in the world superior to that of contributing to yours. No, I can safely say, I have no pleasure so complete, so unalloyed. It is without a drawback.""She does not think evil, but she speaks it, speaks it in playfulness; and though I know it to be playfulness, it grieves me to the soul."
"You are the only being upon earth to whom I should say what I have said; but you have always known my opinion of her; you can bear me witness, Fanny, that I have never been blinded.""I was playing the fool with my eyes open."
Observant followers might notice that I avoided the descriptive "favorite", per my habit, when listing quotations taken from Mr. Bertram. It is not that he doesn't say anything I particularly enjoy (though that is very nearly true), but I have opted to take this character sketch in a slightly different direction. In the name of disclosure, let me loudly proclaim that Edmund is my least favorite of all Austen's heroes, and while I find him agonizingly frustrating, it does not mean that I do not care for him at all. My challenge here is to articulate what it is that redeems him, and I hope the quotes selected above will assist me in that effort.
Above all else, Edmund is worthy of his hero status because of his ability to properly value Fanny. It is upon this fact that Austen builds her entire premise for his being worthy of the heroine's affection. Though Austen illustrates his good qualities throughout the book, it is mostly through acts of kindness to his cousin. As I looked at his statements in the text, I was struck by the fact that pretty much all of the quotes I preferred were addressed to Fanny. Granted, the story is from her perspective, but he says a great deal in conversation with others (actually speaking far more than most of Austen's heroes). So I began with those quotations which seemed to best illustrate his relationship to Fanny, for here lies his foundation.
Interesting that in Mansfield Park, while Austen usually subjects all her heroes and heroines to some sort of journey towards self-discovery, we meet a Fanny Price already fully self-aware. It instead becomes Edmund's burden (shared with his father) to illustrate the all importance of knowing thyself, and I'm not sure he succeeds. He says when recounting his last leave of Mary:
I only said in reply, that from my heart I wished her well, and earnestly hoped that she might soon learn to think more justly, and not owe the most valuable knowledge we could any of us acquire, the knowledge of ourselves and of our duty, to the lessons of affliction, and immediately left the room.This is just like him - to make declarative statements and offer advice without applying any of it to himself. How ironic that such recommendation of self-discovery comes from this most obtuse gentleman! In the same speech he argues with Fanny over Mary's cruelty, as if his opinion on the subject can still can be considered credible. Further, he is so oblivious that he actually considers that speaking of Mr. Crawford might pain Fanny, as if she ever had the slightest attachment to him and wasn't the one to mistrust him from the very first! I have no patience for him at all. I will conclude by repeating the notion that Edmund is only worthy because Fanny finds him so. In her judgement, certainly, we can have faith.