I am rereading Mansfield Park and I am very much enjoying the character studies Jane Austen provides. One more thing that interests me is how religion and especially Mary Crawford’s dislike of clergyman is such a prominent feature in the book. When Mary remarked the following, I could not help but think how very modern we would think such notions today. And how I think if you ask the general population, her ideas of former times are exactly how we think about Jane Austen’s time. I know that our conceptions of religion, the idea that you could be secular, originated at the end of the eighteenth century, but somehow I never expected to find it in the work of Austen.
At any rate, it is safer to leave people to their own devices on such subjects. Everybody likes to go their own way – to choose their own time and manner of devotion. The obligation of attendance, the formality, the restraint, the length of time – altogether it is a formidable thing, and what nobody likes: and if the good people who used to kneel and gape in that gallery could have foreseen that the time would ever come when men and women might lie another ten minutes in bed, when they woke with a headache, without danger of reprobation, because chapel was missed, they would have jumped with joy and envy.