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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Gobble, gobble

As I contemplated my holiday cooking earlier this week, I found myself wondering whether Jane Austen ever mentions The Bird – our beloved, maligned turkey. And the answer is yes! (Thank you, searchable database.) In chapter 22 of Mansfield Park, a turkey actually plays a rather important cameo role, as Mrs. Grant sighs over the necessity of quickly serving a bird she had hoped to save for her clergyman husband’s Sunday meal. This turkey, and the debate it instigates on housekeeping in the city versus the country, indirectly inspires one of Mary Crawford’s most famous lines, as well as the less famous sentence that follows it: “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. It certainly may secure all the myrtle and turkey part of it.” Luckily for us Americans, turkey can be secured today even in the absence of a particularly large income. (I’m not sure about myrtle, though.) Here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving day provides many recipes for happiness.


Nov 30 2014 01:46AM by A. Marie

Turkeys (or, in JA's spelling, "turkies") are also mentioned at the end of Emma. Indeed, they (or, rather, their disappearance from Mrs. Weston's poultry house) are responsible for reconciling Mr. Woodhouse to Emma's marriage with Mr. Knightley sooner than Emma expects! And a happy late Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Nov 30 2014 02:34AM by Deborah Yaffe

Good point -- I missed that one! (This is the problem with searchable databases -- they're only as clever as the person doing the searching. . .) Can an academic paper on Jane Austen and the turkey be far behind?


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