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Emma, Chapter 19
Emma Volume II, Chapter XIX: Quotes, Questions, and Discussion
August 28, 2016
1:47 PM
Austen Authors
Forum Posts: 70
Member Since:
December 27, 2014
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Has Emma learned her lesson in volume one? She has certainly expressed remorse for her mistakes, but in this new volume she seems to be up to her old tricks.

They were just approaching the house where lived Mrs. and Miss Bates. She determined to call upon them and seek safety in numbers. There was always sufficient reason for such an attention; Mrs. and Miss Bates loved to be called on, and she knew she was considered by the very few who presumed ever to see imperfection in her, as rather negligent in that respect, and as not contributing what she ought to the stock of their scanty comforts.

She had had many a hint from Mr. Knightley and some from her own heart, as to her deficiency–but none were equal to counteract the persuasion of its being very disagreeable,–a waste of time–tiresome women–and all the horror of being in danger of falling in with the second-rate and third-rate of Highbury, who were calling on them for ever, and therefore she seldom went near them. But now she made the sudden resolution of not passing their door without going in–observing, as she proposed it to Harriet, that, as well as she could calculate, they were just now quite safe from any letter from Jane Fairfax.

“The very few who ever presumed to see imperfection in her …”. I hear Mr. Knightley acting as her conscience even before his name is referred to in the second paragraph. But she doesn’t listen to her own best instincts and visits the Bates only as a distraction to Harriet, one that conveniently won’t subject to her to another tedious letter from Jane Fairfax. The best laid plans …

Emma’s politeness was at hand directly, to say, with smiling interest–

“Have you heard from Miss Fairfax so lately? I am extremely happy. I hope she is well?”

“Thank you. You are so kind!” replied the happily deceived aunt, while eagerly hunting for the letter.–“Oh! here it is. I was sure it could not be far off; but I had put my huswife upon it, you see, without being aware, and so it was quite hid, but I had it in my hand so very lately that I was almost sure it must be on the table. I was reading it to Mrs. Cole, and since she went away, I was reading it again to my mother, for it is such a pleasure to her–a letter from Jane–that she can never hear it often enough; so I knew it could not be far off, and here it is, only just under my huswife–and since you are so kind as to wish to hear what she says;–but, first of all, I really must, in justice to Jane, apologise for her writing so short a letter–only two pages you see–hardly two–and in general she fills the whole paper and crosses half. My mother often wonders that I can make it out so well. She often says, when the letter is first opened, ‘Well, Hetty, now I think you will be put to it to make out all that checker-work’–don’t you, ma’am?–And then I tell her, I am sure she would contrive to make it out herself, if she had nobody to do it for her–every word of it–I am sure she would pore over it till she had made out every word. And, indeed, though my mother’s eyes are not so good as they were, she can see amazingly well still, thank God! with the help of spectacles. It is such a blessing! My mother’s are really very good indeed. Jane often says, when she is here, ‘I am sure, grandmama, you must have had very strong eyes to see as you do–and so much fine work as you have done too!–I only wish my eyes may last me as well.'”

My dear Miss Bates! I’m so glad we’ve come to her part of the story, and I’m thrilled to have gotten the privilege of introducing her. She’s a marvelous character. 

So here we have Emma in grand hypocrite mode. To be fair, she’s kind of been hoisted by her own petard. What would you do but smile, nod, and take your medicine?

“Yes, so I imagined. I was afraid there could be little chance of my hearing any thing of Miss Fairfax to-day.”

Cleverly said, Emma. How fortunate your hostess is so obligating as to put the best spin on anything you utter! Unfortunately, Emma is equally imaginative, still conjuring intrigues and love affairs out of thin air. 

At this moment, an ingenious and animating suspicion entering Emma’s brain with regard to Jane Fairfax, this charming Mr. Dixon, and the not going to Ireland, she said, with the insidious design of farther discovery,

“You must feel it very fortunate that Miss Fairfax should be allowed to come to you at such a time. Considering the very particular friendship between her and Mrs. Dixon, you could hardly have expected her to be excused from accompanying Colonel and Mrs. Campbell.”

“Very true, very true, indeed. The very thing that we have always been rather afraid of; for we should not have liked to have her at such a distance from us, for months together–not able to come if any thing was to happen. But you see, every thing turns out for the best. They want her (Mr. and Mrs. Dixon) excessively to come over with Colonel and Mrs. Campbell; quite depend upon it; nothing can be more kind or pressing than their joint invitation, Jane says, as you will hear presently; Mr. Dixon does not seem in the least backward in any attention. He is a most charming young man. Ever since the service he rendered Jane at Weymouth, when they were out in that party on the water, and she, by the sudden whirling round of something or other among the sails, would have been dashed into the sea at once, and actually was all but gone, if he had not, with the greatest presence of mind, caught hold of her habit–(I can never think of it without trembling!)–But ever since we had the history of that day, I have been so fond of Mr. Dixon!”

“But, in spite of all her friends’ urgency, and her own wish of seeing Ireland, Miss Fairfax prefers devoting the time to you and Mrs. Bates?”

“Yes–entirely her own doing, entirely her own choice; and Colonel and Mrs. Campbell think she does quite right, just what they should recommend; and indeed they particularly wish her to try her native air, as she has not been quite so well as usual lately.”

“I am concerned to hear of it. I think they judge wisely. But Mrs. Dixon must be very much disappointed. Mrs. Dixon, I understand, has no remarkable degree of personal beauty; is not, by any means, to be compared with Miss Fairfax.”

“Oh! no. You are very obliging to say such things–but certainly not. There is no comparison between them. Miss Campbell always was absolutely plain–but extremely elegant and amiable.”

“Yes, that of course.”

So what is our heroine about? Has she learned nothing from her disastrous meddling with Mr. Elton and Harriet? Are her imaginings harmless, or is she setting herself up for another disaster?

August 31, 2016
11:05 AM
rebecca jamison

Though she’s promised not to play matchmaker, Emma can’t help inventing stories about a secret romance between Jane Fairfax and Mr. Dixon. What’s funny is that she’s almost right. Jane is having a secret romance, just not with Mr. Dixon. It’s a nice way of throwing us off the scent of Jane’s attachment to Frank because at this point, we’re going, “Come on, Emma, quit imagining things! Stop being such a snob.” As usual, her instincts are just a little off.

I love how you brought out the funny parts of Emma’s dialogue where she admits that she didn’t see much chance of hearing from Jane. Emma is full of double meanings, and this is a great example.

I love Miss Bates’ dialogue–how she goes on and on and on about nothing. I’m not sure the modern reader would put up with it as much as Regency folks did, but I think it’s hilarious and so true to life. We all know someone like her. She’s sweet, but she also tries our patience.

August 31, 2016
5:34 PM
Austen Authors
Forum Posts: 43
Member Since:
August 14, 2015
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Sigh….she’s back…the Emma I don’t care for. Ah, well, I guess you’ll have that with her — small moments of “oh I think she’s improving” just to have your hopes dashed. She really is a snob — perhaps not in appearance to most of those around her just yet, but definitely inwardly, she is. But then, that is the trend in this tale…very few things are as they appear. 

Ah, Miss Bates! God love her! I am sure I would not be able to tolerate her for very long, and I might even become deaf to her constant nattering. (I wonder just how deaf her mother is? 😉 Selective listening, perhaps? ) Her character with her little hints of truth in such rambling, seemingly unimportant speech is another perfect example of Jane Austen showing us a character as one thing when they are actually another (I went on about this a bit last week) So Miss Bates is presented as a rambling old maid who says very little that is important and easily ignored when in reality she is rambling on about things that are important and should not be ignored.  

My first moments of intent interest in this story are happening now — so many secondary characters to learn a little about and then wonder about the rest.   I would love to know more about the Coles and Jane Fairfax’s parents and what Jane’s life is like in town and what exactly is Miss Dixon like and…. 🙂 I do enjoy playing what if.