I’ve made no secret of the fact that Mansfield Park is my least favorite Austen novel, particularly because I dislike Fanny Price. It seems I am in good company, because Austen’s own mother found Fanny “insipid.”
The British Library has made available Austen’s record of comments made by family and friends about Mansfield Park and Emma. In her iconic hand, she records direct quotes (probably from letters?) and more generally commentary, some possibly relayed secondhand. Many of the commenters compare the work to P&P (Pride and Prejudice) or S&S (Sense and Sensibility), which are probably still her most popular works.
Rebecca Onion has a nice transcript here on her The Vault blog for Slate (don’t worry–this article is worth reading, unlike the last one I linked from Slate).
It seems many people enjoyed the “Portsmouth scene,” in which Fanny visits her family and is visited in turn by Henry Crawford, which I admit is a highlight of the book for me.
It also seems that many people either like Fanny, or like Mrs. Norris, but no one seems to like them both! I obviously fall in the Mrs. Norris camp. My real complaint with Fanny is that she is so judgmental. And, she’s in love with her cousin. Gross.
Austen’s own family gave fairly unvarnished opinions (above). But I personally find critique less harsh coming from people that really know me, so she may have appreciated the constructive criticism.