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Emma Chapters 32 & 33
Emma Volume II, Chapters XIII and XIV
October 18, 2016
5:26 PM
Austen Authors
Forum Posts: 23
Member Since:
December 27, 2014
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Today is going to be quick and fun. Just one question about Mrs. Elton and one gush fest over Mr. Knightley.

First, I wanted to talk about modernizing Mrs. Elton. What celebrity or public figure do you think might resemble Mrs. Elton? (No politics, though. This is all for fun, even if a certain someone may spring to mind rather quickly.)

Mrs. Elton is such a funny character, so much like Miss Bates in the way she chatters on, but also a bit self-centered. 

Here are a few quotes to help:

Mrs. Elton was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own importance; that she meant to shine and be very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school, pert and familiar; that all her notions were drawn from one set of people, and one style of living; that if not foolish she was ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good.

I can’t help but think there might be a little irony here, with Emma criticizing Mrs. Elton, who formed her notions from one set of people and one style of living. Hmm. Sounds a little like our heroine, but I digress. We’re talking about Mrs. Elton. Here’s a snippet of her conversation with Emma. Emma speaks first:


“When you have seen more of this country, I am afraid you will think you have overrated Hartfield. Surry is full of beauties.”

“Oh! yes, I am quite aware of that. It is the garden of England, you know. Surry is the garden of England.”

“Yes; but we must not rest our claims on that distinction. Many counties, I believe, are called the garden of England, as well as Surry.”

“No, I fancy not,” replied Mrs. Elton, with a most satisfied smile.” I never heard any county but Surry called so.”

Emma was silenced.

Emma says she has heard of Mrs. Elton’s musical accomplishments. Mrs. Elton speculates about forming a musical club with Emma to induce her to practice. They then go on to argue over whether a married woman can keep up her musical pursuits. 

Emma, finding her so determined upon neglecting her music, had nothing more to say.

The greatest offense that Mrs. Elton can give Emma, though, is that she becomes friends with Jane Fairfax, and Jane accepts her friendship–something that never happened to Emma.

This leads to an interesting conversation with Mr. Knightley about Jane Fairfax. He, of course, approves of Mrs. Elton’s efforts to befriend Jane. Emma, of course, has been suspicious of Mr. Knightley’s feelings regarding Jane, and she finally gets up her courage to ask him what he really feels. I love, love, love this conversation. It’s so well done.

“I know how highly you think of Jane Fairfax,” said Emma. Little Henry was in her thoughts, and a mixture of alarm and delicacy made her irresolute what else to say.

“Yes,” he replied, “any body may know how highly I think of her.”

“And yet,” said Emma, beginning hastily and with an arch look, but soon stopping–it was better, however, to know the worst at once–she hurried on–“And yet, perhaps, you may hardly be aware yourself how highly it is. The extent of your admiration may take you by surprize some day or other.”

Mr. Knightley was hard at work upon the lower buttons of his thick leather gaiters, and either the exertion of getting them together, or some other cause, brought the colour into his face, as he answered,

“Oh! are you there?–But you are miserably behindhand. Mr. Cole gave me a hint of it six weeks ago.”

He stopped.–Emma felt her foot pressed by Mrs. Weston, and did not herself know what to think. In a moment he went on–

“That will never be, however, I can assure you. Miss Fairfax, I dare say, would not have me if I were to ask her–and I am very sure I shall never ask her.”

Emma returned her friend’s pressure with interest; and was pleased enough to exclaim,

“You are not vain, Mr. Knightley. I will say that for you.”

He seemed hardly to hear her; he was thoughtful–and in a manner which shewed him not pleased, soon afterwards said,

“So you have been settling that I should marry Jane Fairfax?”

“No indeed I have not. You have scolded me too much for match-making, for me to presume to take such a liberty with you. What I said just now, meant nothing. One says those sort of things, of course, without any idea of a serious meaning. Oh! no, upon my word I have not the smallest wish for your marrying Jane Fairfax or Jane any body. You would not come in and sit with us in this comfortable way, if you were married.”

Mr. Knightley was thoughtful again. The result of his reverie was, “No, Emma, I do not think the extent of my admiration for her will ever take me by surprize.–I never had a thought of her in that way, I assure you.” And soon afterwards, “Jane Fairfax is a very charming young woman–but not even Jane Fairfax is perfect. She has a fault. She has not the open temper which a man would wish for in a wife.”

Emma could not but rejoice to hear that she had a fault. “Well,” said she, “and you soon silenced Mr. Cole, I suppose?”

“Yes, very soon. He gave me a quiet hint; I told him he was mistaken; he asked my pardon and said no more. Cole does not want to be wiser or wittier than his neighbours.”

“In that respect how unlike dear Mrs. Elton, who wants to be wiser and wittier than all the world! I wonder how she speaks of the Coles–what she calls them! How can she find any appellation for them, deep enough in familiar vulgarity? She calls you, Knightley–what can she do for Mr. Cole? And so I am not to be surprized that Jane Fairfax accepts her civilities and consents to be with her. Mrs. Weston, your argument weighs most with me. I can much more readily enter into the temptation of getting away from Miss Bates, than I can believe in the triumph of Miss Fairfax’s mind over Mrs. Elton. I have no faith in Mrs. Elton’s acknowledging herself the inferior in thought, word, or deed; or in her being under any restraint beyond her own scanty rule of good-breeding. I cannot imagine that she will not be continually insulting her visitor with praise, encouragement, and offers of service; that she will not be continually detailing her magnificent intentions, from the procuring her a permanent situation to the including her in those delightful exploring parties which are to take place in the barouche-landau.”

“Jane Fairfax has feeling,” said Mr. Knightley–“I do not accuse her of want of feeling. Her sensibilities, I suspect, are strong–and her temper excellent in its power of forbearance, patience, self-controul; but it wants openness. She is reserved, more reserved, I think, than she used to be–And I love an open temper. No–till Cole alluded to my supposed attachment, it had never entered my head. I saw Jane Fairfax and conversed with her, with admiration and pleasure always–but with no thought beyond.”

“Well, Mrs. Weston,” said Emma triumphantly when he left them, “what do you say now to Mr. Knightley’s marrying Jane Fairfax?”

“Why, really, dear Emma, I say that he is so very much occupied by the idea of not being in love with her, that I should not wonder if it were to end in his being so at last. Do not beat me.”


Can I just say how much I love Mr. Knightley? This passage sums him up perfectly. He’s bashful and sensible all at once. What do you all like about Mr. Knightley?

October 21, 2016
10:17 AM
Austen Authors
Forum Posts: 43
Member Since:
August 14, 2015
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Oh, I dislike Mrs. Elton greatly! I thought it quite obvious from the beginning of her speaking that Mr. E had told her all about Emma and Harriet and Mr. Woodhouse and whatever else he thought he could to make himself look good.  I believe he might just be the sort to put another down to lift himself up — despicable!  I do find the contrast between Mrs. Elton and Miss Woodhouse to be interesting.  Both think well of themselves but when contrasted with the “vulgar” Mrs. Elton, Miss Woodhouse appears so much better! Yes, I said it.  Mrs. Elton has made me like Emma just a bit more 🙂 I also loved Emma’s reaction to Mrs. Elton’s suggestion to promote (matchmake) Miss Fairfax since Emma has been known to do just that for others (ie Harriet and Mr. Elton). 

I also thought of the contrast between Mrs. Elton and Miss Bates. Both run on and on at the mouth but the difference in the motivation and therefore tolerance of the action is so different for each character for me.  

Modern example of Mrs. Elton? You know that person who moves to a new town or a new school and constantly says at my old school or in whatever place we did it this way implying that the way you do things is obviously incorrect because you do not do them as they do at the former place?  Yeah, Mrs. Elton is that annoying person that you do not want to spend any time with! 🙂

I wonder if Mr. Knightley has yet discovered the way the Eltons make fun of Emma and Harriet?  I can’t imagine he would approve.  Mr. Knightley remains at this point just as I have always seen him — kind but a know it all bossy pants.  I do find the blushing a bit endearing however. AND I can’t help but think that Poor Miss Taylor (I love how Mr. Woodhouse always calls her that!) could be right in her final statement.