Friday, 28 May 2010


Tomorrow is Emma's day so I'm putting  order among my several notes and materials and wanted to share some other bits with you.


Reviewing Emma for the Quarterly Review (1816), Sir Walter Scott characterized its strengths and weaknesses:

The author's knowledge of the world, and the peculiar tact with which she presents characters that the reader cannot fail to recognize, reminds us something of the merits of the Flemish school of painting. The subjects are not often elegant, and certainly never grand; but they are finished to nature, and with a precision which delights the reader....
Her merits consist much in the force of a narrative conducted with much neatness and point, and a quiet yet comic dialogue, in which the characters of the speakers evolve themselves with dramatic effect. The faults arise from the minute detail which the author's plan comprephends. Characters of folly or simplicity, such as those of old Woodhouse and Miss Bates, are ridiculous when first presented, but if too often brought forward or too long dwelt upon, their prosing is apt to become as tiresome in fiction as in real society.


1. Emma is clever but continually mistaken, kindhearted but capable of callous behavior. Austen commented that Emma is a heroine “no one but myself will much like.” Do you find Emma likable? Why or why not? How can a character as intelligent as Emma be wrong so often?
2. Emma experiences several major revelations in the novel that fundamentally change her understanding of herself and those around her. Which revelation do you think is most important to Emma’s development, and why?
3.Emma is filled with dialogue in which characters misunderstand each other. How does humor work in the novel?
4. Emma both questions and upholds traditional class distinctions. What message do you think the novel ultimately conveys about class?
5. In what ways, if at all, might Emma be considered a feminist novel?
6. Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightley represent two different sets of values and two different embodiment of manhood. What values  does each of them represent? How does the novel judge these values?
7. Is Mr Knightley a father figure to Emma? Are they a perfect match?

8. In Emma we have - just hinted at - the stories of two children separated from their families for financial difficulties, Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. Then Emma and her father's relationship, Miss Bates and her mother's. How are family ties depicted in this novel?
9. Love courtship and marriage are among the main themes in this novel too. After reading 4 novels, what else do we get about these issues in the 5th, Emma?
10. If compared to the disappointing quick ( or skipped)   final declarations and proposals in the other novels, Mr Knightley's eventual revelation of his feelings is really detailed and touching . What do you think about these scene which can be considered rather unusual in Austen so far? Is the ending as genuinely happy as it is presented to be, or does Austen subtly inject a note of subversive irony into it?


1/11 What do we deduce from the fact that, in twenty-one years Emma has not met the Martin family?
The Martins live in the adjoining Donwell village/parish, not Highbury, hence Emma is likely to see them on a daily basis. And, as she explains to  Harriet, they are prosperous farmers, neither poor nor gentry. So on the one hand there is no reason for her to think of them as possible recipients of her charity, and on the other hand she cannot know them as social equals. They, of course, know her by sight.

1/12 Who did Miss Nash's sister marry (very advantageously)?
A linen-draper.

1/13 Who is the best whist player in Highbury?
Mr Elton. He is not, we deduce, 'high church'.

1/14 How large a contingent of servants and cattle does it take to get the five-strong Woodhouse party three-quarters of a mile to Randalls, on Christmas Eve?
Four servants and four horses.

1/15 What piece of land separates Randalls from Hartfield?
The  'common field', symbolically enough.

1/16 How long is it since Jane Fairfax was in Highbury?
Two years—about the same time that Mr Elton came and, presumably, the old vicar died.

1/17 Who was Jane Fairfax's father?
Lieutenant Fairfax, an infantry officer, who married Mrs Bates's youngest daughter. He subsequently died in action abroad. She followed with a consumption.

1/18 How much money did Miss Campbell bring to her marriage, by way of dowry? And how much are the other eligible ladies in the novel worth?
Miss Campbell brought her lucky husband £12,000. Augusta Hawkins (later Elton) is worth £10,000 and Emma, most desirable of all, £30,000. These sums can be multiplied fifty-fold to reach approximate modern-day values.

1/19 What is Mr Elton's first name? And Mr Knightley's? And Mrs Weston's? And Mr Woodhouse's?  Philip, George, Anne, Henry

1/20 What does Mr Knightley do with his last stored apples of the year?
He gives them to the Bateses—more particularly to the visibly ailing Jane. Vitamin deficiency was known, if not by name, then by the sufferer's pallid complexion (the blemish in Jane which the duplicitous Frank points out to Emma). The apples furnish the only lie we catch Mr Knightley in when he reassures the Bateses he has plenty of the fruit left—something later indignantly contradicted by his steward, William Larkins, who evidently disapproves of Donwell's bounty being given away.

1/21 With whom did Augusta Hawkins principally reside at Bath?
Mrs Partridge—chaperone and (genteel) boarding-house keeper. The name suggests hunting: not, of course, for game, but marriage partners.

1/22 What is the name of Mrs Elton's cook?
Wright. Mrs Elton is assiduous in collecting 'receipts' (that is, recipes) for Wright from the Highbury families. She intends to entertain in style. One assumes that when she served the bachelor vicar, life was easier for Wright.

1/23 Who is whose caro sposo and who is whose caro sposa?
Mr Elton—his wife (or possibly Jane Austen, or possibly some proofreader at John Murray's) is not sure about Italian gender.

1/24 What is Mrs Weston doing when she breaks the news of Frank's duplicity to Emma?
She is at 'her work'—seven months pregnant, she is sewing in preparation, we may assume, for her soon-to-be-born child. Knitting was considered somewhat low class and would have been less likely for someone of Mrs Weston's station. Specifically, she is sewing her 'broad hems', that
is, dresses for the baby with a large turn-up at the hem, so that it can be let down as the child grows. She has also, we learn, made a first set of caps.
1/25 How long has Mr Knightley been in love with Emma?
'Since you were thirteen at least'. Presumably he found Isabella toostupid (and like her father) for his taste and let John take her.


Anonymous said...

I love "Emma", it is one of my favourite Austen novels and I really like the main character. She has everything due to her wealth, but this has made her spoilt and if we mix that we the fact that she was the mistress of her house from a very early age we can see why she thinks she can go bossing around. I don't see Mr Knightley as a father figure to Emma, for more that she respects him she cannot see him as a father. That's why I think their relationship works. I really liked the way you decided to compare Mr Knightley and Frank, I really don't know how Jane Fairfax could endure his behaviour! Goo luck at your meeting tomorrow!

iz4spunk said...

Hello Maria,
I have my library's Emma meeting tomorrow led by a young professor. I think for fun I'll bring your answers to questions just for fun. And since I'm too obsessed with things RA, I haven't managed to finish the book. I have read it before and have seen all the TV adaptation; I know doesn't quite make up for it. I'll be listening to the rest of the old audioversion I got from the library to speed things up...


I hope you'll enjoy your meeting. To my standards, you are en expert! Have you read the journal of my club's 5th meeting? But, please, audioversions and film adaptations, try to finish reading Emma. A trick? Apply your RA obsession (as you called it) to your reading: just imagine him as Mr Knightley ...perfect age, wonderful gent,...I think it may work. ;-)

iz4spunk said...

HAha Maria, great idea! Superimpose RA unto 3 different Mr.Knightly's, I can't help seeing the characters when I read/listen (unabbreviated) to the book.
Our bookclub is much more motivated, I did read your post, not everyone finished their books either but all love JA, having read her before!!
Its a dilemma but blogreading cuts into my bookreading...and the funny thing is that apart from the professor I am the youngest!

iz4spunk said...

PS.:when i heard her mentioning audiobooks i couldn't resist recommeding Venetia & Sylvester and shared with her my recordings of Clarissa!


I'm glad to hear your club readers are more motivated. Sigh! Most of my mates are so young! Apart from Letizia, Pina and Maria Rosaria ... I'm the oldest! Most of the girls are (my) students in fact.
Lovely new avatar! Or siggy?

iz4spunk said...

First off some info that might fascinate you. Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts are being digitalized by Univ of Oxford and King's College in London.

Our moderator teaches college students and to appeal to a younger audience she likes to point out the sexyness about austen and her society and claustrophic world by looking for what is hidden, and is not been said.

Perhaps you've also heard off the recent book I just picked up from my library?
Jane's Fame - How Jane Austen conquered the world by Claire Harman.

I discovered TygerMag on photobucket and couldn't resist her brandnew icon. I even had to look up what siggy meant!! I am cool with ipod technology but know nothing of graphics or vidding. btw love your Monet icon, I said it before I think he is my favorite artist and then I discovered Klimt.


Thanks for all these precious tips!
But ... do you mean the failure in my club last time was ...the moderator's fault ... that is ...ME?!? Maybe... but , please, tell me you can understand how difficult it is to moderate a JA club in which some of the readers are not at all interested in Jane Austen and her world!
But, probably you're right. I didn't succeed in transmitting them at least part of my enthusiasm!
Sexyness? Do you know sig.ra Pina thinks Jane is an obscene writer? She's always asking why we don't read Dante Alighieri? Willoughby and Marianne disappeared for hours?!?!What did they do while alone!?!? Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram get married in the end?!?! But that's incestuous!!! So... can you imagine what she should think of me talking about sexyness in JA?
Thanks for your interest, anyway!