It’s almost that time of year. The time when people resolve to get healthier, spend less money, write a novel, run a marathon, review 120 books on Goodreads, climb a mountain, or check some other box equally impressive and shareable on social media.
But what would Jane Austen think of such an impulse? One of Austen’s less popular novels (Mansfield Park) provides some clue in which the wealthy and privileged Henry Crawford spends a night with the brother of the woman he has been courting:
He longed to have been at sea, and seen and done and suffered as much. His heart was warmed, his fancy fired, and he felt the highest respect for a lad who, before he was twenty, had gone through such bodily hardships and given such proofs of mind. The glory of heroism, of usefulness, of exertion, of endurance, made his own habits of selfish indulgence appear in shameful contrast; and he wished he had been a William Price, distinguishing himself and working his way to fortune and consequence with so much self-respect and happy ardour, instead of what he was!
The wish was rather eager than lasting.
The life of William Price of the Royal Navy sounds very exciting to the moneyed Henry Crawford. But to actually change his ways to deserve such glory, well, that’s quite another matter. And the idea of the desire to change being eager rather than lasting in the moment foreshadows Henry’s lapse with the married Maria Rushworth (née Bertram).
So may your resolutions be lasting as well as eager! Or, perhaps set the bar very low, like reading 25 novels this year rather than all of Les Misérables in a month, or running 6 miles rather than 26 miles for your first race, and not sleeping with the cousin of the lady you just friggin’ proposed to like, last week. Baby steps, Henry, baby steps.
Happy Mansfield Monday! Read more Austen!