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Jane Austen's Emma (1816) tells the story of the coming of age of Emma Woodhouse, "handsome, clever, and rich," who "had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." Typical for the novel's time, Emma's transition to womanhood is accomplished through courtship—both of those around her and, ultimately, her own. As in other Austen works, education and courtship go hand in hand, and Emma's process of learning to relinquish the power of having her own way is also a process of falling in love. However, in Emma this classic plot is both complicated by and reflective of a collection of contemporary issues, assumptions, and anxieties that highlight just how "political" even the most conventional of courtship plots can be.
This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and an extensive collection of historical documents relating to the composition and reception of the novel, the social implications of England's shift from a rural agrarian to an urban industrial economy, the role of women in provincial society, and the contemporary preoccupation with health and the treatment of illness.
Jane Austen: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
Appendix A: The Composition and Reception of the Novel
1. Austen's Correspondence with John Murray and James Stanier Clarke
2. Austen's "Plan of a Novel, According to Hints from Various Quarters"
3. Review of Emma by Sir Walter Scott, The Quarterly Review (1815-1816)
4. Critical Notices of Emma (The British Critic, 1816; The Gentleman's Magazine, 1816)
Appendix B: Social Class and Landed Society
1. [Figure] Offchurchbury, Warwickshire, seat of the Knightley family, c. 1818
2. From Jane Austen, "The History of England"
3. From Edmund Burke, On Taste (1756)
4. From Samuel Richardson, The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1754)
Appendix C: The Landless: Gypsies and Bastards
1. From William Cowper, The Task (1785)
2. From "Notices Concerning the Scottish Gypsies," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (April 1817)
3. From William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765)
Appendix D: Women, Married and Unmarried
1. From William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765)
2. From Hannah More, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799)
3. From the Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter (1791-1811)
Appendix E: The Social Meaning of Illness
1. From Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)
2. From The Gentleman's Magazine (December 1815)
3. From Thomas Trotter, A View of the Nervous Temperament (1807)
Appendix F: The Sale of Human Intellect
1. From The Times (4 January 1815)