Emma, Jane Austen
Jane Austen
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Emma, by Jane Austen, is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance. The story takes place in the fictional village of Highbury and the surrounding estates of Hartfield, Randalls, and Donwell Abbey and involves the relationships among individuals in those locations consisting of "3 or 4 families in a country village". The novel was first published in December 1815, with its title page listing a publication date of 1816. As in her other novels, Austen explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian–Regency England; she also creates a lively comedy of manners among her characters and depicts issues of marriage, gender, age, and social status.


Jane Austen

Volume I

Chapter I

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable homeand happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings ofexistence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with verylittle to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate,indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister’s marriage, beenmistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had diedtoo long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance ofher caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman asgoverness, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse’s family, less as agoverness than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularlyof Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even beforeMiss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, themildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint;and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had beenliving together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emmadoing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor’s judgment, butdirected chiefly by her own.

The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the power of havingrather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little toowell of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy toher many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived,that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.

Sorrow came — a gentle sorrow — but not at all in the shape of anydisagreeable consciousness. — Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor’sloss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of thisbeloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought of anycontinuance. The wedding over, and the bride-people gone, her father andherself were left to dine together, with no prospect of a third to cheera long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, asusual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.

The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Westonwas a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, andpleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in consideringwith what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished andpromoted the match; but it was a black morning’s work for her. The wantof Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day. She recalled herpast kindness — the kindness, the affection of sixteen years — how she hadtaught and how she had played with her from five years old — how she haddevoted all her powers to attach and amuse her in health — and hownursed her through the various illnesses of childhood. A large debt ofgratitude was owing here; but the intercourse of the last sevenyears, the equal footing and perfect unreserve which had soon followedIsabella’s marriage, on their being left to each other, was yet adearer, tenderer recollection. She had been a friend and companion suchas few possessed: intelligent, well-informed, useful, gentle, knowingall the ways of the family, interested in all its concerns, andpeculiarly interested in herself, in every pleasure, every scheme ofhers — one to whom she could speak every thought as it arose, and who hadsuch an affection for her as could never find fault.

How was she to bear the change? — It was true that her friend was goingonly half a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must be thedifference between a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them, and a MissTaylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic,she was now in great danger of suffering from intellectual solitude. Shedearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her. He could notmeet her in conversation, rational or playful.

The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse hadnot married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits;for having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity ofmind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years; and thougheverywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his amiabletemper, his talents could not have recommended him at any time.

Her sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony, beingsettled in London, only sixteen miles off, was much beyond her dailyreach; and many a long October and November evening must be struggledthrough at Hartfield, before Christmas brought the next visit fromIsabella and her husband, and their little children, to fill the house,and give her pleasant society again.

Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting to a town,to which Hartfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and shrubberies, andname, did really belong, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouseswere first in consequence there. All looked up to them. She had manyacquaintance in the place, for her father was universally civil, butnot one among them who could be accepted in lieu of Miss Taylor for evenhalf a day. It was a melancholy change; and Emma could not but sigh overit, and wish for impossible things, till her father awoke, and made itnecessary to be cheerful. His spirits required support. He was a nervousman, easily depressed; fond of every body that he was used to, andhating to part with them; hating change of every kind. Matrimony, as theorigin of change, was always disagreeable; and he was by no means yetreconciled to his own daughter’s marrying, nor could ever speak of herbut with compassion, though it had been entirely a match of affection,when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too; and from hishabits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able to suppose thatother people could feel differently from himself, he was very muchdisposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad a thing for herself as forthem, and would have been a great deal happier if she had spent all therest of her life at Hartfield. Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfullyas she could, to keep him from such thoughts; but when tea came, it wasimpossible for him not to say exactly as he had said at dinner,

“Poor Miss Taylor! — I wish she were here again. What a pity it is thatMr. Weston ever thought of her!”

“I cannot agree with you, papa; you know I cannot. Mr. Weston is sucha good-humoured, pleasant, excellent man, that he thoroughly deservesa good wife; — and you would not have had Miss Taylor live with us forever, and bear all my odd humours, when she might have a house of herown?”

“A house of her own! — But where is the advantage of a house of her own?This is three times as large. — And you have never any odd humours, mydear.”

“How often we shall be going to see them, and they coming to see us! — Weshall be always meeting! We must begin; we must go and pay weddingvisit very soon.”

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