Early life and marriage
Sir Thomas married Miss Maria Ward, elevating her to the rank of a baronet's lady. When Maria's elder sister got married to Mr. Norris, he offered his brother-in-law the parish at Mansfield. When his wife's other sister, Fanny, married a man for love even though he had nothing else to recommend him, he was about to send help and advice when a rift broke the sisters. His wife cut her sister out of her life, and so did Mrs. Norris after writing her a very angry letter.
They had no news from Mrs. Price for 11 long years, until they received a letter from her asking for help and advice. Sir Thomas was very affable and offered career advice for the boys, his nephews. Lady Bertram sent money and baby-linens for Mrs. Price's ninth child. Peace was officially restored.
Mrs. Norris introduced the idea of bringing her sister's second child and first daughter, ten year old Fanny Price to Mansfield, in order to offer her education and to further help her poor sister. Sir Thomas, at first, was opposed to the idea, but was soon convinced. He did say that if Fanny proved unteachable and unmannerly, they would send her back. When Fanny arrived, she was in awe and shock. Sir Thomas tried to make her feel at ease but failed; Lady Bertram was kind and installed herself as her young niece's favorite. The girl proved to be kind and gentle, which meant that the Bertrams did not need to send her away for possible vulgarity.
Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram provided for Fanny's education. She shared Miss Lee, the governess, with her female cousins Maria and Julia. Sir Thomas continued to send help to Mrs. Price and her family, showing his further generosity to his in-laws.
Sir Thomas's eldest son and heir, Thomas became guilty of overspending and extravagance in London. His debts forced his father to sell the parsonage that should have been Edmund's. Sir Thomas was incredibly disappointed, and did not hesitate to tell his eldest son that. The parsonage passed to Dr. Grant instead.
Sir Thomas and his eldest son traveled for Antigua, where Sir Thomas owned an estate that was not doing so well. It became necessary for them to go in order to go over the accounts or else the Bertrams would lose a lot more than just the parsonage. Before they left, Sir Thomas told Fanny Price that her elder brother would probably not find her all that different than how she was when she was 10. After Sir Thomas and Tom had gone, a letter came later saying they arrived safely in Antigua. While he was away Mrs. Norris played matchmaker and brought an engagement between Maria and James Rushworth, a wealthy gentleman with £12,000 per year. The family had to write to Sir Thomas abroad to ask his consent, and he was ultimately pleased by so good a match.
Sir Thomas was supposed to return the September of that year, but he decided to stay, as he had not concluded his business. Tom Bertram did return safely, and brought news of Sir Thomas's continued good health.
Return to England
Sir Thomas returned from his travels at a rather inconvenient time for his family, as they were putting on a play and knew he would not have approved if he had been there. His daughter Julia warned the rest of the house of his arrival. His children knew that his displeasure would be enormous, but Mr. Yates and Mr. Rushworth were none the wiser. Fanny remained with their guests, knowing that Sir Thomas did not hold such a large affection for her to presume to count among his children. However, he asked for her and treated her with affection and tenderness, and shocked Fanny with his altered mannerisms. He treated Mr. Yates very cordially, as was due the other man's station as the son of a peer, and was pleasantly surprised with Mr. Rushworth.
Notes and references
- Mansfield Park, Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19