Jane Austen uses “habit” and its variants four times as often in Mansfield Park as she does in her previous novel, Pride and Prejudice. In what seems, then, to be a deliberate exploration of habit, the novel repeatedly recalls Aristotle's views on habit, which could well have been conveyed to Austen through eighteenth‐century divines who saw them as compatible with their Anglican theology. Like Aristotle, Austen emphasizes habit as crucial to an ethic that defines virtue not as self‐denial, but as fulfillment within a well‐governed polis, or, in her case, within an idealized estate. But as Austen explores the promise of habit in Mansfield Park, she also reveals the problems it can create. Most prominently, Austen's novel reminds us that the conditions for cultivating virtue through habituation can also function to cultivate vice or, what is more insidious, virtue understood as resignation and passivity rather than as active principle.
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Peggy Thompson; The Promise and Problem of Habit in Austen's Mansfield Park. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 September 2023; 47 (3): 1–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-10690067
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