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A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself; and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man’s heart. (55) Is this a description of female genitals? Perhaps not, but the harp seems brimful of meaning to Edmund. Fanny is not impervious either to the pleasures she intuits. Prior to her acquaintance of Miss Crawford she had been unable to appreciate a duet, and had shown no interest in music whatsoever (see 13-4, 17). But it seems that in this, as in everything that Edmund may enjoy, there is ‘a good chance of her thinking like him’: ‘Fanny could not wonder that Edmund was at the parsonage every morning; she would gladly have been there too, might she have gone in uninvited and unnoticed to hear the harp… ’ (56). Her desire to hear the harp is eventually satisfied when Fanny shelters from the rain in the Grants’ house, to the delight of her friend. As we have seen, Miss Crawford makes Fanny change her wet clothes,xxvipresumably making her wear her own,xxviiand plays the harp for her after Fanny’s… … acknowledgement of her wishing very much to hear it, and a confession which could hardly be believed, of her having never yet heard it since its being in Mansfield. To Fanny herself it appeared a very simple and natural circumstance (…) –and “shall I play to you now?” –and “what will you have?” were questions immediately following with the readiest good humour.
English Language and Literature Studies Vol. 3, No. 1; 2013 7 She played accordingly; happy to have a new listener, and a listener who seemed so much obliged, so full of wonder at the performance, and who shewed herself not wanting in taste. She played till Fanny’s eyes, straying to the window on the weather’s being evidently fair, spoke what she felt must be done. “Another quarter of an hour”, said Miss Crawford, “and we shall see how it will be. Do not run away the first moment of its holding up”. (172) A reading of the scene as a ‘good humoured’ version of an erotic encounter –a patient and solicitous lover with a somewhat nervous, eager yet inexperienced partner- is supported by Mary’s asking Fanny to stay and listen to Edmund’s favorite piece. Fanny agrees, and imagines him in her place as she enjoys the music. … she fancied him sitting in that room again and again, perhaps in the very spot where she sat now, listening with constant delight to the favourite air, played, as it appeared to her, with superior tone and expression… (173) Some inconsistent behavior ensues. Fanny is “more sincerely impatient to go away at the conclusion of [the air] than she had been before” (ibid). But when she eventually leaves, ‘… she was so kindly asked to call again (…), to come and hear more of the harp, that she felt it necessary to be done, if no objection arose at home’ (ibid). Curiously, no more private harp playing is reported in the novel. Necessity, however (it was ‘necessary’ for Fanny to return), takes on a new meaning.