Here we are in the middle of summer, but Christmas is coming at Hartfield, and the family gathers to celebrate it together. Emma’s sister Isabella – Mrs John Knightley – is finally making the long-awaited visit, along with her growing brood and her (rather brooding) husband, whom Emma is not that fond of. Not because Mr John Knightley has any great defects. Just a handful that Emma can’t quite stomach.
Firstly, although he’s not an inattentive husband, he seems impatient with his wife’s fussing (not that much of a surprise, given that his wife is a female version of Mr Woodhouse).
Secondly (and here Emma is a little redeemed) she can’t quite forgive him for his lack of ‘respectful forbearance’ towards her father.
And last but not least (and with that we’re back to not liking her much) he’s not that flattering towards his sister-in-law, otherwise some of his shortcomings might have been overlooked:
“… she might have passed over more had his manners been flattering to Isabella’s sister, but they were only those of a calmly kind brother and friend, without praise and without blindness.”
Much as Emma tries to keep the conversation away from tricky subjects (such as the wholesomeness of gruel) sparks do fly when Mr Woodhouse tries to tell Mr John Knightley how to run his household and where he should tale his family for sea-air (the snappy son-in-law is priceless 😀 ).
Still, at least the family get-together gives Emma a good opportunity to make peace with the elder brother regarding their disagreement about Mr Elton and Harriet Smith. That’s such a sweet scene, and if we could take our 21-century glasses off so that we don’t have issues with the fact that he’s 16 years older, I think here we have Mr (George) Knightley at his best: affectionate, teasing, a little mischievous and ready to forsake past grievances.
“To be sure—our discordancies must always arise from my being in the wrong.”
“Yes,” said he, smiling—”and reason good. I was sixteen years old when you were born.”
“A material difference then,” she replied—”and no doubt you were much my superior in judgment at that period of our lives; but does not the lapse of one-and-twenty years bring our understandings a good deal nearer?”
“Yes—a good deal nearer.”
“But still, not near enough to give me a chance of being right, if we think differently.”
“I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years’ experience, and by not being a pretty young woman and a spoiled child. Come, my dear Emma, let us be friends, and say no more about it. Tell your aunt, little Emma, that she ought to set you a better example than to be renewing old grievances, and that if she were not wrong before, she is now.”
You can find Chapters 11 and 12 at mollands.net Hope you’ll like them.
Do come for a chat at Writers’ Block Emma Read Along Chapters 11 & 12 for your share in the conversation!