Sparkling comedy of provincial manners concerns a well-intentioned young heiress and her matchmaking schemes that result in comic confusion for the inhabitants of a 19th-century English village. Droll characterizations of the well-intentioned heroine-one of Austen's immortal creations-and her hypochondriacal father-plus many other finely drawn personalities. This sparkling satire of provincial life is one of Jane Austen's finest novels.
About the Author
Adela Pinch is the author of Strange Fits of Passion: Epistemologies of Emotion, Hume to Austen (Stanford UP, 1996) and numerous articles on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English literature and culture.
Date of Birth:December 16, 1775
Date of Death:July 18, 1817
Place of Birth:Village of Steventon in Hampshire, England
Place of Death:Winchester, Hampshire, England
Education:Taught at home by her father
Read an Excerpt
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.
Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.
The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.
Sorrow camea gentlesorrowbut not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness.Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought of any continuance. The wedding over, and the bride-people gone, her father and herself were left to dine together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.
The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her. The want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day. She recalled her past kindnessthe kindness, the affection of sixteen yearshow she had taught and how she had played with her from five years oldhow she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse her in healthand how nursed her through the various illnesses of childhood. A large debt of gratitude was owing here; but the intercourse of the last seven years, the equal footing and perfect unreserve which had soon followed Isabella's marriage, on their being left to each other, was yet a dearer, tenderer recollection. She had been a friend and companion such as few possessed: intelligent, well-informed, useful, gentle, knowing all the ways of the family, interested in all its concerns, and peculiarly interested in herself, in every pleasure, every scheme of hersone to whom she could speak every thought as it arose, and who had such an affection for her as could never find fault.
How was she to bear the change?It was true that her friend was going only half a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must be the difference between a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them, and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful.
The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had not married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits; for having been a valetudinarian all hi's life, without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years; and though everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his amiable temper, his talents could not have recommended him at any time.
Her sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony, being settled in London, only sixteen miles off, was much beyond her daily reach; and many a long October and November evening must be struggled through at Hartfield, before Christmas brought the next visit from Isabella and her husband, and their little children, to fill the house, and give her pleasant society again.
Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting to a town, to which Hartfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and shrubberies, and name, did really belong, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses were first in consequence there. All looked up to them. She had many acquaintance in the place, for her father was universally civil, but not one among them who could be accepted in lieu of Miss Taylor for even half a day. It was a melancholy change; and Emma could not but sigh over it, and wish for impossible things, till her father awoke, and made it necessary to be cheerful. His spirits required support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond of every body that he was used to, and hating to part with them; hating change of every kind. Matrimony, as the origin of change, was always disagreeable; and he was by no means yet reconciled to his own daughter's marrying, nor could ever speak of her but with compassion. . .
Table of Contents
|About the Series||v|
|About This Volume||vii|
|About the Text||xi|
|Part 1||Emma: The Complete Text in Cultural Context|
|Introduction: Biographical and Historical Contexts||3|
|The Complete Text||21|
|Contextual Documents and Illustrations||382|
|from Unfortunate Situation of Females, Fashionably Educated, and Left without a Fortune. (1787)||387|
|from Letter to His Son (1750)||389|
|from Essays on the Picturesque (1810)||390|
|from Our Domestic Policy. No I. (1829)||391|
|Opinions of Emma (Ca. 1816)||392|
|Crossed Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra (June 20, 1808)||398|
|The Frolics of the Sphynx (1820)||399|
|Square Pianoforte (1805)||400|
|A Barouche Landau (1805)||401|
|A View of Box Hill, Surrey (1733)||401|
|The Lincolnshire Ox (1790)||402|
|Part 2||Emma: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism|
|A Critical History of Emma||405|
|Gender Criticism and Emma||425|
|What Is Gender Criticism?||425|
|Gender Criticism: A Selected Bibliography||437|
|A Gender Studies Perspective: Claudia L. Johnson, "Not at all what a man should be!": Remaking English Manhood in Emma||441|
|Marxist Criticism and Emma||456|
|What Is Marxist Criticism?||456|
|Marxist Criticism: A Selected Bibliography||470|
|A Marxist Perspective: Beth Fowkes Tobin, Aiding Impoverished Gentlewomen: Power and Class in Emma||473|
|Cultural Criticism and Emma||488|
|What Is Cultural Criticism?||488|
|Cultural Criticism: A Selected Bibliography||503|
|A Cultural Perspective: Paul Delany, "A Sort of Notch in the Donwell Estate": Intersections of Status and Class in Emma||508|
|The New Historicism and Emma||524|
|What Is the New Historicism?||524|
|The New Historicism: A Selected Bibliography||538|
|A New Historicist Perspective: Casey Finch and Peter Bowen, "The Tittle-Tattle of Highbury": Gossip and the Free Indirect Style in Emma||543|
|Feminist Criticism and Emma||559|
|What Is Feminist Criticism?||559|
|Feminist Criticism: A Selected Bibliography||569|
|A Feminist Perspective: Devoney Looser, "The Duty of Woman by Woman": Reforming Feminism in Emma||577|
|Combining Perspectives on Emma||594|
|Combining Perspectives: Marilyn Butler, Introduction to Emma||597|
|Glossary of Critical and Theoretical Terms||615|
|About the Contributors||635|
What People are Saying About This
"To me, as an American critic, Emma seems the most Englilsh of English novels....It is Austin's masterpiece, the largest triumph of her vigorous art."
"No one creates silly English characters better than Austen, and Wanda McCaddon is up to the challenge." -AudioFile
Reading Group Guide
1. Describe the class and rank of various characters in the village of Highbury. Compare the positions of Mr. Weston, Mr. Elton, Miss Taylor, Harriet, and Emma with others in Highbury. How do matters of class affect the interaction of these characters, and would you describe class as being rigid or flexible as it is depicted by Jane Austen? To what extent can class be said to be of central importance to the development of the novel, since it is one of the most important considerations in marriage? Does class seem to be treated differently by those in Highbury than it does by outsiders, for example Frank Churchill and Mrs. Elton? Do you think it is significant that no woman in Highbury is of Emma's age and rank?
2. How does the relationship between Mr. Knightley and Emma change throughout the course of the novel? Although Austen does not directly tell us what their relationship was like during Emma's childhood, their long and intimate friendship is established at the novel's opening. In light of their occasional quarrels and Knightley's criticisms of Emma, for example, the criticism he made on Box Hill, how does Mr. Knightley feel about Emma? Do Mr. Knightley's feelings change as the novel progresses? If they do, what incidents account for the changes in his feelings?
3. Does Emma act as a good friend to Harriet Smith? Are Emma's concerns for Harriet's education and refinement born of an honest desire to help, or is it something less altruistic? Are Mr. Knightley's criticisms of Emma's interference with Mr. Martin's marriage proposal justified? Does Harriet ultimately benefit from Emma's friendship or her attempts to help her?
4. While matchmaking isthe central device in Emma, both for the plot and as a backdrop to develop characters, not all of the matches made in the novel are good. Compare the matches made between Mr. Weston and Miss Taylor, Emma and Mr. Knightley, Harriet and Mr. Martin, Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, and Mr. Elton and Mrs. Elton. Which are good matches and which are bad? What character traits in the couples make them suited or unsuited for each other? Why are the mismatches so important to the story?
5. In the final analysis, is Emma a sympathetic character? Does she seem to have good intentions only marred by a slight desire to interfere with other people's lives, or is she thoughtless and unconcerned with the effects she has on others? In your estimation, is Emma ultimately moral or immoral? What specific incidents in the novel lead you to that conclusion?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When I first discovered Jane Austen, tearing through my one-volume edition of her works in a two-week period, Emma was certainly my least favorite. It was long, and nothing really momentous seemed to happen, and I just didn't like Emma as much as Austen's other heroines. I was hoping that my feelings would be softened after rereading, and they have been. I feel I am finally appreciating Emma for its brilliant character sketches, sly, understated humor, and firm moral footing. Be warned, this review contains spoilers.Emma is the brightest, most accomplished young woman in her retired country neighborhood of Highbury. She lives with her invalid father at their estate at Hartfield, enjoying her position of prominence. Everyone adores clever, pretty Emma... everyone, that is, except her brother-in-law George Knightley. He claims the right of a family friend to see Emma's faults and to sometimes make her see them as well, so that she might change. Despite this honesty and the disparity in their ages (Knightley was sixteen when Emma was born), the two are good friends. But when Emma turns matchmaker and begins to direct the romantic affairs of her new protegé, Harriet Smith, Knightley warns her she is not helping her friend. Emma, not lacking faith in her own wisdom, is sure she knows more about matchmaking than any mere man could and pursues her plans anyways.Emma really is a great character. I didn't dislike her this time around, probably because I finally admitted to myself our similarities. Her dislike of Jane Fairfax and neglect of Mrs. and Miss Bates spring from a fault I must also own to. What makes Emma likeable is not her offenses, but how she responds when they are pointed out to her. She makes some foolish and even spiteful mistakes, but sincerely repents and tries to make amends. Honest friends are precious, even when the truths they speak are unpleasant to hear. Emma is a smart, generally kind person who nevertheless makes some bad mistakes ¿ and learns from them. It doesn't make sense not to like Emma. She gives us hope!The characters are pure Austen and very funny and poignant indeed. Miss Bates is quite funny; her speeches must have been such fun to write. Mrs. Elton is the odious woman you love to hate, always conniving for compliments and treating others with a most disgusting familiarity. Her speech when they are picking strawberries made me laugh out loud. Her husband, Mr. Elton, thoroughly deserves her. His behavior really is cruel, and unlike Emma, he never repents of it. Rather, he and his wife rejoice at how they score off Emma by slighting Harriet at the ball. There's really no hope for change when people are proud of their bad behavior! One thing I realized on this reread is how badly fathers fare in Austen's work. I can't think of a single father who is portrayed in a good light; either the father is not present or is ridiculous. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet is loving but indolent, more interested in his own comfort than in the affairs of his family. In Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot is a social-climbing and vain fop. In Northanger Abbey, General Tilney is a grasping, greedy, ill-mannered man. And in Emma, Mr. Woodhouse is a hypochondriac who is incapable of imagining that others could feel differently from himself, especially on matters of health and marriage. He is always denying his guests the delicacies that Emma tries to provide, because he honestly believes those tidbits will ruin their digestion. He is much beloved, of course, and very polite and well liked in his circle, but still utterly ridiculous. I suppose the leading men represent the male of the species well enough to make up for the deficiencies of the fathers, but it's still rather troubling that fatherhood gets such a one-sided portrayal in Austen's world. Some readers are disturbed by the difference in Emma's and Knightley's ages; when the story opens she is twenty-one and he thirty-s
Love it! Love the interaction between the love interests, and how it changes depending on what people/socity say/think.
What can I say, I love Jane Austen; she was an amazingly talented author. I hadn't read her books since I took a class on her works in college, and since it's been about four years since then I figured it was time to reread them all. I really enjoyed "Emma"- if I remember correctly it isn't my favorite Austen book, but I do really like it. I read through this one faster than I did my recent reread of "Pride and Prejudice" probably because I found this one a bit more interesting. I'm not a fan of Emma's character, but I think that's probably the point Austen intended. She's not the most likable character (well, she's pretty flawed, not really unlikable, I guess), but she's certainly well-developed, so my dislike of her has everything to do with how well she was written. What I mean is Austen made a believably flawed character who is human enough to get on my nerves as a reader- that takes far more skill than writing a poorly-developed character who gets on my nerves because they're so poorly written! I did really like the character of Mr. Knightley, so I think that made up for my annoyance at Emma.I like any story where the characters are well-developed, interesting, and rounded (if you couldn't already tell, well-written characters are what make a story great for me), and I don't think I've ever found fault with any of Austen's. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars, mostly because Emma tended to get on my nerves, especially with her matchmaking, so that kept it from being five stars. However, the interesting plot and all the character development worked in the book's favor.
All Jane Austen books should be re-read on a continual basis. Thoroughly enjoyable and lighthearted. Pair with Masterpiece Theater for great results.
I don't know what it is about Jane Austen's novels, but I've read two of them now and I find that I really do enjoy them. The characters that she creates come alive on the page and even though nothing terribly exciting happens besides the usual day to day, I find myself drawn into the lives and events anyway. In the introduction to my version of Emma, there is a comment that Emma is basically a book about nothing. While this is true in a way, Emma is about a lot more than nothing and gives the reader a fascinating glimpse into the world of Emma's England. There is also the great intrigue (insert tongue into cheek a bit) of whom will be matched up with whom and when these courtships will commence, etc. Ms. Austen's easy to read style and sense of humor really do make this an enjoyable book to read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a lighthearted frolic through classic literature in old England.
Austen's best work. Emma's very believable heroine -- witty and intelligent, but flawed with self-importance. The story itself concerns rich kid Emma fancying herself a matchmaker and deals with the difficulty of reading the feelings of others. Emma undergoes a greater transformation than any of Austen's other heroines as she learns empathy, kindness, and the power of riddles.The Gwyneth Paltrow film version was pretty good but, as usual, the book is much, much better. If you liked Pride and Prejudice, you'll love Emma.
For me, reading Jane Austen¿s novel Emma is a delight. However, not all readers have been in agreement with me over the years including Jane Austen herself who warned her family before publication ¿I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.¿ She was of course making fun of herself in her own satirical way - her critics on the other hand, were quite serious. When the book was published in 1815, Austen sent a copy to her contemporary author Maria Edgeworth who gave up reading the novel after the first volume, passing it on to friend and complaining, ¿There is no story in it.¿ Others had mixed feelings offering both praise and blame for its focus on the ordinary details of a few families in a country village. One important advocate of Emma was Sir Walter Scott, whose essay published in the Quarterly Review of 1815 represents the most important criticism on Austen¿s writing during her lifetime. Even though the review was published anonymously, she must have been quite giddy when the reviewer heralded her Emma as a `new style of novel¿ designed to `suit modern times¿. Heady stuff to be sure. When it was later learned that Scott had contributed the review, it would placed Jane Austen in a whole other league of writers. Emma can be enjoyed on different levels, and for pure humour and witty dialogue it may reign as Austen¿s supreme triumph. Just Google quotes from Emma and you might agree that it has the best bon mots of any of her novels. Modern critics claim it as her masterpiece, and I do not doubt it. Pride and Prejudice may be the most beloved and well know of her works, but Emma represents Austen at the height of her writing skill and power as a story teller. Like some of Austen¿s contemporaries, the modern reader might find challenges in its minutiae and supposed lack of story. Not to worry. There are many sources available to assist in understanding Jane Austen¿s subtle and often witty dialogue, her unique characterizations, and help place the novel in historical context. One source to consider is the new 2008 edition of Emma, by Oxford World¿s Classics. Recently revised in 2003, this re-issue contains the same supplemental and textual material with a newly designed cover. For a reader seeking a medium level of support to help them along in their understanding you will be happy to find a thoughtful 23 page introduction by associate Professor of English and Women¿s Studies Adela Pinch of the University of Michigan. The essay contains a brief introduction, and segments on Shopping and Suburbia, Narrative Voices: Gossip and the Individual, The Politics of Knowledge, and Emma: Much Ado About Nothing?. Her emphasis is on understanding Austen¿s choice of writing about the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of the lives of its heroine Emma Woodhouse and her circle of family and friends in Highbury, a small English village in which she sets about to match make for all of its singletons blundering hilariously along the way. I particularly appreciated Prof. Pinch¿s positive comments throughout the essay. ¿Austen makes voices stick in the mind through her use of free indirect discourse, which makes character¿s voice seem indelible, capable of soaking into other beings. But she also uses the same technique for representing thought. Her cultivation of this mode of representing her heroines¿ minds has made her novels crucial to the history of the English novel, markers of a movement when the novel as a literary genre perfects its inward turn, and begins to claim human psychology as its territory. Above all it creates the feeling of intimacy with her heroines that many readers prize.¿ Page xvii-xviii If I may be so bold and interject as the everyman Austen reader for a moment, parts of this essay are scholarly and touch on areas beyond my immediate understanding, especially when she delves into the philosophical and psychological pedantry. For the most part, Prof. Pinch¿s essay is written in accessib