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Introduction by A. Walton Litz
“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.” So begins Jane Austen’s comic masterpiece Emma. In Emma, Austen’s prose brilliantly elevates, in the words of Virginia Woolf, “the trivialities of day-to-day existence, ...
Introduction by A. Walton Litz
“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.” So begins Jane Austen’s comic masterpiece Emma. In Emma, Austen’s prose brilliantly elevates, in the words of Virginia Woolf, “the trivialities of day-to-day existence, of parties, picnics, and country dances” of early-nineteenth-century life in the English countryside to an unrivaled level of pleasure for the reader. At the center of this world is the inimitable Emma Woodhouse, a self-proclaimed matchmaker who, by the novel’s conclusion, may just find herself the victim of her own best intentions.
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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 came—a gentle sorrow&mdashbut 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 kindness—the kindness, the affection of sixteen years—how she had taught and how she had played with her from five years old—how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse her in health—and 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 hers; one 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 his 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 acquaintances 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 everybody 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, though it had been entirely a match of affection, when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too; and from his habits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able to suppose that other people could feel differently from himself, he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad a thing for herself as for them, and would have been a great deal happier if she had spent all the rest of her life at Hartfield. Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she could, to keep him from such thoughts; but when tea came, it was impossible for him not to say exactly as he had said at dinner:
'Poor Miss Taylor! I wish she were here again. What a pity it is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her!'
'I cannot agree with you, papa; you know I cannot. Mr. Weston is such a good-humoured, pleasant, excellent man, that he thoroughly deserves a good wife; and you would not have had Miss Taylor live with us for ever, and bear all my odd humours, when she might have a house of her own?'
'A house of her own! but where is the advantage of a house of her own? This is three times as large; and you have never any odd humours, my dear.'
'How often we shall be going to see them, and they coming to see us! We shall be always meeting! We must begin; we must go and pay our wedding-visit very soon.'
'My dear, how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance. I could not walk half so far.'
'No, papa; nobody thought of your walking. We must go in the carriage, to be sure.'
'The carriage! But James will not like to put the horses to for such a little way; and where are the poor horses to be while we are paying our visit?'
'They are to be put into Mr. Weston's stable, papa. You know we have settled all that already. We talked it all over with Mr. Weston last night. And as for James, you may be very sure he will always like going to Randalls, because of his daughter's being housemaid there. I only doubt whether he will ever take us anywhere else. That was your doing, papa. You got Hannah that good place. Nobody thought of Hannah till you mentioned her—James is so obliged to you!'
'I am very glad I did think of her. It was very lucky, for I would not have had poor James think himself slighted upon any account; and I am sure she will make a very good servant; she is a civil, pretty-spoken girl; I have a great opinion of her. Whenever I see her, she always curtseys and asks me how I do, in a very pretty manner; and when you have had her here to do needlework, I observe she always turns the lock of the door the right way and never bangs it. I am sure she will be an excellent servant; and it will be a great comfort to poor Miss Taylor to have somebody about her that she is used to see. Whenever James goes over to see his daughter, you know, she will be hearing of us. He will be able to tell her how we all are.'
|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|
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 is the 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?
Posted June 7, 2010
While I love Pride and Prejudice the best, Emma is definitely my second favorite of Ausent's works. I prefer the story of the former novel, but other than that I can say that I love, love, absolutely love Emma. As much as I adore Mr. Darcy (Along with every other female in the world) it must be confessed that I am madly in love with Mr. Knightly, and I read the entire book just for the scenes he is in. Although Pride and Prejudice can be called perfect, I find the Declaration-of-Love scene in Emma to be much more endearing and wonderful. I find that love of Pride and Prejudice generally has to be shared, since it is such a well known story, even to the most illiterate of people. As Emma is not as ubiquitously loved, I feel like the book has a more exclusive place in my heart, and that makes me love it all the more.
21 out of 31 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 11, 2010
Emma is a hilarious novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. As I escaped into the twists and turns of the social circle in Emma's small town, I found myself laughing, crying, berating characters, and gushing about how much I loved this book. Emma's blindness to what is going on around her in the way of love endears her even more. Emma is beautiful, charming, and what every young lady in those days ought to be. She's a dutiful daughter, and usually very proper, though she has a love of matchmaking, something she really isn't very good at. She encounters very memorable characters and finds herself in the end.
13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 6, 2008
Posted January 6, 2012
Jane Austen is one of the most talented novelists I know of. The first book I read by Austen is Pride and Prejudice, and when I had the opportunity to read another for pleasure as well as academics, I couldn’t pass it up. The novel, Emma, consists of advanced vocabulary and complex word phrasing, but with a dictionary by my side, nothing was in my way.
Once I picked it up, it was hard to put it back down. In the novel Emma, Emma Woodhouse is the only lady in the house of many men. She therefore makes all the important decisions and has a degree of power and independence. Throughout the life of Emma, there are many situations in which any typical teenage girl can relate to. Emma doesn’t believe in finding her so called soul mate, so she meddles with others’ to help them find theirs. Regardless, she is admired and respected by all. One of the most powerful messages I acquired from this novel is learning that you cannot prevent the inevitable. Whatever road you are on is the one you are meant to take. To get to the man of her dreams, Mr. Knightley, it wasn't quite the simplest road ever. She goes through five weddings, a half-dozen major misunderstandings, and 400 pages pass before she learns of it, but Emma's ending is as happy and triumphant as the close of Pride and Prejudice.
In the beginning of the book up until about the 250 page mark, the story is somewhat slow, but as Emma discovers that her love matchmaking isn’t quite working out for her, Mr. Knightley’s charm speeds up the book. Although the language is somewhat difficult to interpret, it's worth the read. The story is witty, charming and full of loveable characters. I guarantee that you will have the hardest time putting the book down.
Although Emma is one of the longer books Jane Austen has written, it is inspirational in every way from beginning to end. It is a comedy of Emma as she learns to find her happily ever after. Emma is, without a doubt, one of the best books I have read in a very long time. I rarely ever have the time to pick up a well written book and read it from front to back, but I can honestly say that this book fulfilled that need; definitely a good book to pick up on a rainy weekend.
6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2012
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I Also Recommend:
Emma loves matchmaking, but is not very good at it. She is entertaining to read about and this is very romantic. She steers her friend the wrong way, and is all jumbled up at first, but in the end it is fantastic and you will be glad you took the time to read it!! I highly recommend, no faults, and have fun reading this :)
2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 29, 2010
This novel is my favorite by Miss Jane Austen. It is witty and entertaining. Despite what Miss Austen believed about her heroine in this novel, Miss Emma Woodhouse is endearing and well loved by readers.
2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 2, 2009
Posted July 8, 2014
Kids like 10+ use these so when they open up classics to buy them and look at the reviews to see if there good and all they see is YOUR nasty,racist,innapropiate comments and reviews. Reviews are to tell how much you liked the book not to be weird or gross. I think this book is gping to be GREAT. THAT is a review people!!!!! THAT IS A REVIEW!! Now spread the word is you agree with me.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 9, 2010
Jane Austen truly expresses her greatest knack for writing in her novel, Emma. Miss Woodhouse's character as well as the characters of Miss Smith, Mr. Knightley, and others show great contrast, yet great coordination and interaction between each other. Emma is definitely a must-read for everyone, from those who hardly ever have time to read to the most dedicated bibliophiles.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2006
READER BEWARE! This is one of the best of only 6 amazing completed masterpieces by Jane Austen. Despite being written so long ago Jane Austen¿s work can be as engaging (and even addicting) as any modern novel. Read this treasured title with care as the author will be unable to write another.
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Posted March 25, 2005
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