Lesson #225 (Part 1): Reviewing Expressions of Place and Movement (through Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’)

For a couple of years now, I have been re-reading Mansfield Park (one of my favourite novels) on my birthday. I am fond of this book for many reasons, one being that it emphasises the importance of making space in our lives for quietness, thoughtfulness, and real gratitude. 🌼

A walk in the woods with my family this year has reminded me of a memorable scene in Mansfield Park: a scene where Fanny Price, the main character, goes for a walk in a woodland park with her cousins and some friends. In the course of this walk, she becomes tired and is left to rest herself on a bench, while her friends – some in pairs, others on their own – pass her by several times as they run in circles trying to find one another.

This novel is deeply symbolic and probably Austen’s most profound novel. 🕯️ (If you stay with me to the end of this Lesson, I will be sharing the ‘hidden meaning’ – as some other writers interpret it – behind this passage in the novel).

Austen described this ‘walk in the Sotherton woods’ scene by using many expressions of place and movement, which will be the topic of today’s Lesson.

✍️ I will highlight 25 useful adverbs and prepositions in context (thanks to Austen), while providing you with synonyms that you can use in similar sentences of your own.

💡 For some of you, this will be more of a review lesson; still, I am sure that whatever your English language level, you will find something new here (I certainly did)!

Note: I am quoting from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park in chronological order (as it happened in time or sequence), so that by reading the quotations, you should have an idea of how this part of the novel unfolds.

📝 #1 AT THE END OF, AT THE BOTTOM OF

The story’s background: 📜 Fanny Price, her cousin Edmund Bertram, and their friend Mary Crawford, are walking in the woods on a pleasant day. These woods are part of the landed estate of a rich man called Mr Rushworth who is engaged to marry Maria Bertram, Edmund’s sister. The first scene shows us Fanny, Edmund, and Mary wandering about together …

📘 ‘A few steps farther brought them out at the bottom of the very walk they had been talking of; and standing back, well shaded and sheltered, and looking over a ha-ha into the park, was a comfortable-sized bench, on which they all sat down.’

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

at the bottom of: This expression is often used in a different sense to mean ‘the root cause of [something]’. For example, ‘pride was at the bottom of all his problems’. However, Jane Austen uses it here in the sense of ‘at the end of [a place]’.

📝 #2 IN

The story continues: 📜 Fanny is not very strong, so being tired, Edmund and Mary urge her to rest on the bench. They sit down beside her for a while, even though they are not as tired.

📘 ‘ “I shall soon be rested,” said Fanny; “to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” ‘

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

📝 #3 UP [THE ROAD, PATH, WALK]; DOWN [THE ROAD, PATH, WALK, ETC]

The story continues: 📜 Mary stands up after a short while, impatient to keep walking with Edmund. They have been discussing just how long the walk has been.

📘 ‘Edmund left the seat likewise. “Now, Miss Crawford, if you will look up the walk, you will convince yourself that it cannot be half a mile long, or half half a mile.” ‘

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

up the walk: In English we often use ‘up’ or ‘down’ to describe a journey along a walk, street, path, road, etc. For example, ‘the shop you are looking for is just up [or down] the road’ – in other words, it is very near, only a few paces along the road.

📝 #4 AROUND, ABOUT

📘 ‘At last it was agreed that they [Edmund and Miss Crawford] should endeavour to determine the dimensions of the wood by walking a little more about it.’

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

about: We usually mean ‘concerning’ or ‘on the subject of something’ when we use ‘about’; e.g., ‘we were talking about the book’ – we were talking on the subject of the book.

However, here we see ‘about’ used as an adverb, something that is more common in British English. It simply means ‘moving within an area’. So when Edmund and Mary talk about ‘walking a little more about [the wood]’, they mean walking around within the wood.

✍️ NOTE: Be careful not to confuse either ‘about’ or ‘around’ with ‘around about’ which means ‘approximately’. For example, in answer to the question: ‘How many people were at the concert?’

✒️ ‘I would say there were around about [approximately, roughly, generally] a hundred people there.’

📝 #5 BY THE SIDE OF / NEXT TO / BESIDE

📘 ‘They would go to one end of it, in the line they were then in— for there was a straight green walk along the bottom by the side of the ha-ha— and perhaps turn a little way in some other direction, if it seemed likely to assist them, and be back in a few minutes.’

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

📜 The story continues, here in Jane Austen’s own words:

📘 Fanny said she was rested, and would have moved too, but this was not suffered. Edmund urged her remaining where she was with an earnestness which she could not resist, and she was left on the bench to think with pleasure of her cousin’s care, but with great regret that she was not stronger. She watched them till they had turned the corner, and listened till all sound of them had ceased.

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

✏️ VOCABULARY NOTE: The ‘ha-ha’ here is a kind of landmark, a dip, hollow, or trench along a level lawn (level grassy land in a garden), that gave the impression to anyone looking at it from a distance that there are more two lawns. It was a popular garden feature in the 18th and 19th centuries, and called a ‘ha-ha’ because sometimes carriages tumbled down into them if they didn’t notice the dip in time – not a funny matter if you were unlucky enough to be in the carriage yourself!

Here is a photo of one ‘ha-ha’ on the grounds of Charlecote Park that I took last year. You can see how there is a dip or trench in the ground between the wall and the grassy area – from a distance you do not see the hollow (or the wall), but get the impression that there is an extended lawn beyond the lawn you are standing in.

A 'ha ha' landmark at Carlecote Park, Wiltshire, UK LearnEnglishThroughLiterature.com ©2021

📝 #6 IN FRONT OF / BEFORE

📘 A quarter of an hour, twenty minutes, passed away, and Fanny was still thinking of Edmund, Miss Crawford, and herself, without interruption from any one. She began to be surprised at being left so long, and to listen with an anxious desire of hearing their steps and their voices again. She listened, and at length she heard; she heard voices and feet approaching; but she had just satisfied herself that it was not those she wanted, when Miss Bertram, Mr. Rushworth, and Mr. Crawford issued from the same path which she had trod herself, and were before her.

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

before: We usually think of ‘before’ as meaning ‘preceding something in time’: ✒️ e.g., ‘I drink a glass of water before meals’, meaning first I drink water, then I eat my meals.

But it can also mean (as it does in the context above) simply ‘in front of’. Fanny looked up to see Miss Bertram, Mr Rushworth, and Mr Crawford before or in front of her.

📝 #7 ON EACH SIDE [OF] / ON EITHER SIDE [OF]

The story continues: 📜 Fanny’s cousin Maria Bertram, Maria’s fiancé Mr Rushworth, and their friend Mr Crawford (with whom Maria is falling in love) appear on the scene. They are busy talking about how the woodlands and park can be improved.

📘 ‘[Maria Bertram] then seating herself with a gentleman on each side, she resumed the conversation which had engaged them before, and discussed the possibility of improvements with much animation.’

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

📝 #8 THROUGH

📘 ‘After some minutes spent in this way, Miss Bertram, observing the iron gate, expressed a wish of passing through it into the park, that their views and their plans might be more comprehensive.’

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

The story continues: 📜 Maria Bertram wants to pass through the iron gate, but as it is locked, Mr Rushworth hurries away to get the key which he has left behind him in his house. He is gone for a long while, during which Henry Crawford and Maria Bertram flirt.

Tired of waiting, they notice a gap in the gate through which they could squeeze through …

📝 # 9 SO FAR FROM

The story continues: 📜 Henry Crawford is restless, wanting to pass through the gate one way or another, even if that means squeezing uncomfortably through a gap …

📘 ‘ “It is undoubtedly the best thing we can do now, as we are so far from the house already,” said Mr. Crawford, when [Mr Rushworth] was gone.’

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

NOTE: The antonym (opposite) of ‘so far from’ is ‘so near to’.

📝 #10 TO / TOWARDS

The story continues: 📜 Maria talks about how she feels, literally and figuratively (metaphorically, not in the literal sense but symbolically), that she is ‘trapped’ and ‘cannot get out’ of the situation she is in. This hints at how uncomfortable she is beginning to feel to realise that she loves Henry but is engaged to another man.

📘 ‘As [Maria] spoke, and it was with expression, she walked to the gate: [Henry] followed her.’

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

NOTE: ✍️ Austen could also have written ‘she walked towards the gate’ and it would have been grammatically correct.

‘To’ means directly to a destination or a fixed spot, whereas ‘towards’ emphasises moving in the general direction of something.

👉 If Maria walked to the gate, she went straight to it and stood at it.

👉 If she walked towards the gate, she would have walked in the direction as if going to the gate, but not necessarily reaching it or finishing by standing at the gate.

It is a subtle (hardly noticeable) difference, but worth understanding all the same!

📝 #11 ROUND

The story continues: 📜 Henry Crawford quietly teases her to ‘get out’ of the situation she is in …

📘 “And for the world you would not get out without the key and without Mr. Rushworth’s authority and protection, or I think you might with little difficulty pass round the edge of the gate, here, with my assistance; I think it might be done, if you really wished to be more at large, and could allow yourself to think it not prohibited.”

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

round: As an adverb, ‘round’ means that something is being rotated or swung as to face in the opposite direction. On the other hand, to go ‘around’ something means that you walk or move in a circular path around something else.

By using ‘round’ in this context, Henry is suggesting that Maria rotates herself round the edge of the gate, rather than walk in a circular path around the gate (which she couldn’t do in this context, as there isn’t enough space for that).

📝 #12 NEAR

📘 [Maria] “Prohibited! nonsense! I certainly can get out that way, and I will. Mr. Rushworth will be here in a moment, you know; we shall not be out of sight.”

[Henry] “Or if we are, Miss Price will be so good as to tell him that he will find us near that knoll: the grove of oak on the knoll.”

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

The story continues: 📜 Fanny is distressed, feeling strongly that this is wrong. She tries to urge (encourage) her cousin Maria to stay, but is ignored.

Maria and Henry squeeze through the gap and leave Fanny behind to tell Mr Rushworth, when he comes back, where they have gone.

📝 #13 ON THE OTHER SIDE [OF]

📘 ‘Her cousin was safe on the other side while these words were spoken, and, smiling with all the good-humour of success, she said, “Thank you, my dear Fanny, but I and my gown are alive and well, and so good-bye.” ‘

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

📝 #14 BEYOND

📘 ‘By taking a circuitous, and, as it appeared to her, very unreasonable direction to the knoll, they were soon beyond [Fanny’s] eye; and for some minutes longer she remained without sight or sound of any companion.’

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (emphasis mine)

beyond: This means ‘at or to the further side of something’; in other words, Henry and Maria were soon at the farthest end of what Fanny could see. ‘Beyond’ can also mean ‘after a specific time or event’ in other contexts (e.g., ‘she said she would visit at the weekend, but stayed on beyond Sunday’).

We have covered the most important place and movement expression so far! 👉 Join me in the next post for Part 2 of this Lesson, where we look at a few more such expressions in English.