Today’s lesson is from the book of Northanger Abbey, Vol. I, Chapter I.
Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as any body might expect, she still lived on — lived to have six children more — to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number…
It has been observed that Jane Austen’s mother characters are often absent or ineffectual (or in the case of Mrs. Norris, who is not a mother but certainly a maternal figure, downright horrible). We don’t think Mrs. Morland falls into the “ineffectual” category, though some have placed her there.
She is probably not the sympathetic maternal confidante that many heroines enjoy, or even that modern audiences expect or desire, but as Austen herself wrote, she is “a women of useful plain sense” and rarely does wrong in guiding her daughter. She is not a “smother” either, overwhelming her children with sometimes misplaced affection, but is busy doing her best to launch ten children into the world. We’ll take her. Here endeth the lesson.
Wishing a happy Mother’s Day to all those celebrating today (and an extra virtual hug to all those who are especially missing someone today).