Title: Domestic virtues and national importance: sailors, commerce, and virtue in Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and The Wealth of Nations
Authors: Heather King
Addresses: Department of English, University of Redlands, 1200 E. Colton Ave., Redlands, CA 92373, USA
Abstract: Many scholars have noted the ways in which Jane Austen's narratives bring to life elements of Adam Smith's moral philosophy as articulated in Theory of Moral Sentiments. His economic treatise Wealth of Nations is also worth considering. Looking at the representations of sailors in Mansfield Park and Persuasion, this essay traces connections to Wealth of Nations to argue that Austen is cautiously but increasingly accepting the role of commerce in her society. Through her portrayal of naval officers, she conceptualises commercial ambition and domestic affection as intertwined rather than in tension. This connection provides a check to acquisitiveness and mercantile urges. She also appears to reject specialisation as a desirable human occupation. As a result, she unites the sympathies of The Theory of Moral Sentiments with the entrepreneurial energy of The Wealth of Nations. While Fanny Price and Anne Elliot are each, in their own ways, exemplary women, it is noteworthy that Austen gives us William Price and Captain Wentworth as exemplary, naval, commercial, men.
Keywords: Wealth of Nations; Jane Austen; Adam Smith; commerce; Persuasion; Mansfield Park; 18th century economics; entrepreneurship; domestic virtues; national importance; sailors; moral philosophy; naval officers; commercial ambition; domestic affection.
International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education, 2016 Vol.7 No.2, pp.183 - 197
Received: 02 Jul 2015
Accepted: 26 Apr 2016
Published online: 03 Sep 2016 *