“If You Could Discover Whether Northamptonshire Is a Country of Hedgerows”
Jane Austen's request to her sister Cassandra in her letter written on January 29, 1813 that she "discover whether Northamptonshire is a county of Hedgerows" has so often been cited as an indication of the author's concern with literary realism that the mystery of its actual purpose has been usually overlooked. Why Austen decided to set Mansfield Park in Northamptonshire has never been satisfactorily explained. One possibility is that a "county of hedgerows" signifies an enclosed landscape, and that Austen is concerned with the kind of relationships that might exist between her imaginary estate of Mansfield Park and the surrounding countryside. If Austen, who had never visited Northamptonshire, had wanted to provide her novel with a plausible location, consulting such maps would have provided her with suitable names and distances. The hypothesis that the area provides the location for Mansfield Park can be further supported by considering the distance of the park from London.