Three Novels That Should Have Ended in Boston Marriage

For the Untutored

1. Fanny Price and Mary Crawford

“Should have ended” is not quite right here. Mansfield Park is a perfect book and cannot be improved, and if Mary Crawford is less monstrous than her Grendelesque brother, that is a testament to him, not her.

But entertain the possibility for a brief moment.

Mary, after losing Edmund’s love, sees the error of her wicked ways and clasps her arms around Fanny’s knees in a plea for forgiveness and redemption. Fanny, for her part, is too heartsick at Edmund’s obdurate preference for Mary and complicity in his family’s abuse of her to want anything more to do with him; besides, the deep wells of mercy in her are touched by the repentant sinner, and she takes Mary into her arms and under her wing. Mary’s income and abandonment of expensive vice enable them to rent a cottage: retired, secluded, not too far from Mansfield, where Mary’s moral education begins. She and Fanny read together, and Fanny teaches her the names of the constellations on clear nights. Mary grows every day in appreciation of Fanny’s sterling worth, as well as in her desire to protect and emulate her. She gives Fanny a hitherto unimaginable gift: a home where she is never mocked, never trampled on, never made to feel inferior, where her tastes are consulted, her opinions sought, her fears gently allayed, where Mary’s adroitness and acumen have turned to delicacy and solicitude in the care of Fanny’s feelings.   Mary teaches Fanny how to gallop, and Fanny gives Mary a conscience. Mary teases Fanny with the teasing of security and intimacy and equal familiarity, and Fanny begins to love it more than civility.

Mary becomes good, and Fanny quietly merry.

At one point. Edmund half-heartedly attempts to renew his advances to one or both parties. He is rejected but always welcomed in the cottage.

Henry dies of syphilis, and only Mary mourns.

2. Elizabeth Bennett and Charlotte Lucas

This only works if Lizzy gets Pemberley, so we will have to make her a recently bereft widow by a terrible pond-diving accident. In the mean-time, Charlotte has numbed herself to the horrors of days and nights as Mrs. Collins, and is accustomed to praying only for the sweet release of death when she gets the note from Lizzy.

“My dearest Charlotte,

In this sudden grief I have only one consolation—that I am now able to offer you a home. Pemberley is far too large for me to wander its halls alone with any comfort or propriety; and though I cannot promise that you shall ever dine with Lady Catherine should you join me here, I trust that the remembrance of our long friendship will induce you to overlook these deficiencies.

Your affectionate,

Lizzy”

That night, Charlotte brings up Lizzy’s proposal at the Collins family dinner table. Her husband not enthusiastic. That his wife should leave the protection of her own hearth, not to speak of her duties to husband, to parish, to her patroness—no, it was not to be borne.

“But consider, my love: Mr. Darcy was such a particularly beloved nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and if his widow condescends to call on me to condole with her in this time of affliction, I hardly know how to refuse . The greater the sacrifice of your comfort, the more your patroness must honor you for making it.”

Mrs. Collin’s bags are packed that night.

Mr. Collins soon finds he can bear the loss of his better half remarkably well, and Lizzy and Charlotte spend their days rambling about the grounds, educating Lydia’s children, and curating Pemberley’s library.

The only men regularly found on the premises are in livery.

3. Mary Garth and Dorothea Brooke

Throw Mary and Dorothea together before any of their massively inferior suitors get hold of them and you’ve got a partnership up there with Clare and Francis, Benedict and Scholastica. Dorothea would give Mary the intellectual companionship she’s never had, a relationship in which she is not the only adult, and scope for her talents unencumbered by the narrowing grind of penury and drudgery it imposes. Mary would temper Dorothea’s vision, not with fussy nay-saying, but with a grim practicality unfazed by the obstacles at which Dorothea’s sheltered delicacy quails. No one else can do this for Dorothea—not Cecilia, not Chettam, not her uncle, not Mrs. Cadwallader, not Will, not anyone who is less than her equal. The most they can do is suppress, or, in Will’s case, divert her visionary zeal. Mary would root Dorothea in the ground, and Dorothea would draw Mary up to the skies.

Will goes off to Italy to make sad pre-Raphaelitish paintings of Dorothea look-alikes. Fred learns to content himself with Mary’s stern motherly guidance. Casaubon finishes his book, or doesn’t. Mary and Dorotha found an egalitarian farming collective, several beguinages, and die within hours of each other at the ripe age of one hundred and five.

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