And what, you may be wondering, is a ha-ha? If you recall, in Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Edmund and Mary go off to explore the woods at Sotherton, leaving poor tired Fanny on a bench overlooking this mysterious creature, the ha-ha. So what is it?
I stayed up last night later than I will admit to reading a book about Jane Austen's works, entitled Miniatures and Morals by Peter J. Leithart, and in the section on Mansfield Park, I found no less than a full description of a ha-ha. As you can imagine, I was overjoyed, and resolved to share this new-found knowledge with the world. So here it is, the definition of a ha-ha--
"The idea of a ha-ha was to keep cattle/deer/people out of an area without ugly fences breaking up the vista. A ditch was dug and a fence of some sort placed at the bottom. The way across was by an unditched area closed off by a wrought iron gate. These gates usually had further barriers stretching from the gatepost to the edge of the ditch shaped rather like a quarter of a bicycle wheel with the spokes and with spikes protruding beyond each spoke. This is the barrier that Henry Crawford and Maria climbed around in Mansfield Park while poor Mr. Rushworth has hurried off to get the key to the gate that will let them into the park."
So there you have it! You now know what a ha-ha is.
Ah, Mansfield Park. Such a book. The high point of English literature. I think I shall read it again.........