Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Next
Emma

Emma

Jane Austen

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1

  • Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happ_isposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and ha_ived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or ve_er.
  • She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgen_ather; and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been mistress of hi_ouse from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her t_ave more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place ha_een supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little shor_f a mother in affection.
  • Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as _overness than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly o_mma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even before Mis_aylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of he_emper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow o_uthority being now long passed away, they had been living together as frien_nd friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highl_steeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.
  • The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rathe_oo much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments.
  • The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by an_eans rank as misfortunes with her.
  • Sorrow came—a gentle sorrow—but not at all in the shape of any disagreeabl_onsciousness.—Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's loss which firs_rought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emm_irst sat in mournful thought of any continuance. The wedding over, and th_ride-people gone, her father and herself were left to dine together, with n_rospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself t_leep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of wha_he had lost.
  • The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston was a ma_f unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and pleasan_anners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self- denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; bu_t was a black morning's work for her. The want of Miss Taylor would be fel_very hour of every day. She recalled her past kindness—the kindness, th_ffection of sixteen years—how she had taught and how she had played with he_rom five years old—how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse he_n health—and how nursed her through the various illnesses of childhood. _arge debt of gratitude was owing here; but the intercourse of the last seve_ears, the equal footing and perfect unreserve which had soon followe_sabella's marriage, on their being left to each other, was yet a dearer, tenderer recollection. She had been a friend and companion such as fe_ossessed: intelligent, well-informed, useful, gentle, knowing all the ways o_he family, interested in all its concerns, and peculiarly interested i_erself, in every pleasure, every scheme of hers—one to whom she could spea_very thought as it arose, and who had such an affection for her as coul_ever find fault.
  • How was she to bear the change?—It was true that her friend was going onl_alf a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must be the differenc_etween a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them, and a Miss Taylor in th_ouse; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in grea_anger of suffering from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful.
  • The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had no_arried early) was much increased by his constitution and habits; for havin_een a valetudinarian all his life, without activity of mind or body, he was _uch older man in ways than in years; and though everywhere beloved for th_riendliness of his heart and his amiable temper, his talents could not hav_ecommended him at any time.
  • Her sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony, bein_ettled in London, only sixteen miles off, was much beyond her daily reach; and many a long October and November evening must be struggled through a_artfield, before Christmas brought the next visit from Isabella and he_usband, and their little children, to fill the house, and give her pleasan_ociety again.
  • Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting to a town, to whic_artfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and shrubberies, and name, di_eally belong, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses were first i_onsequence there. All looked up to them. She had many acquaintance in th_lace, for her father was universally civil, but not one among them who coul_e accepted in lieu of Miss Taylor for even half a day. It was a melanchol_hange; and Emma could not but sigh over it, and wish for impossible things, till her father awoke, and made it necessary to be cheerful. His spirit_equired support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond of every bod_hat he was used to, and hating to part with them; hating change of ever_ind. Matrimony, as the origin of change, was always disagreeable; and he wa_y no means yet reconciled to his own daughter's marrying, nor could eve_peak of her but with compassion, though it had been entirely a match o_ffection, when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too; and from hi_abits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able to suppose that othe_eople could feel differently from himself, he was very much disposed to thin_iss Taylor had done as sad a thing for herself as for them, and would hav_een a great deal happier if she had spent all the rest of her life a_artfield. Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she could, to keep hi_rom such thoughts; but when tea came, it was impossible for him not to sa_xactly as he had said at dinner,
  • "Poor Miss Taylor!—I wish she were here again. What a pity it is that Mr.
  • Weston ever thought of her!"
  • "I cannot agree with you, papa; you know I cannot. Mr. Weston is such a good- humoured, pleasant, excellent man, that he thoroughly deserves a goo_ife;—and you would not have had Miss Taylor live with us for ever, and bea_ll my odd humours, when she might have a house of her own?"
  • "A house of her own!—But where is the advantage of a house of her own? This i_hree times as large.—And you have never any odd humours, my dear."
  • "How often we shall be going to see them, and they coming to see us!—We shal_e always meeting! We must begin; we must go and pay wedding visit very soon."
  • "My dear, how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance. I could no_alk half so far."
  • "No, papa, nobody thought of your walking. We must go in the carriage, to b_ure."
  • "The carriage! But James will not like to put the horses to for such a littl_ay;—and where are the poor horses to be while we are paying our visit?"
  • "They are to be put into Mr. Weston's stable, papa. You know we have settle_ll that already. We talked it all over with Mr. Weston last night. And as fo_ames, you may be very sure he will always like going to Randalls, because o_is daughter's being housemaid there. I only doubt whether he will ever tak_s anywhere else. That was your doing, papa. You got Hannah that good place.
  • Nobody thought of Hannah till you mentioned her—James is so obliged to you!"
  • "I am very glad I did think of her. It was very lucky, for I would not hav_ad poor James think himself slighted upon any account; and I am sure she wil_ake a very good servant: she is a civil, pretty-spoken girl; I have a grea_pinion of her. Whenever I see her, she always curtseys and asks me how I do, in a very pretty manner; and when you have had her here to do needlework, _bserve she always turns the lock of the door the right way and never bang_t. I am sure she will be an excellent servant; and it will be a great comfor_o poor Miss Taylor to have somebody about her that she is used to see.
  • Whenever James goes over to see his daughter, you know, she will be hearing o_s. He will be able to tell her how we all are."
  • Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of ideas, and hoped, b_he help of backgammon, to get her father tolerably through the evening, an_e attacked by no regrets but her own. The backgammon-table was placed; but _isitor immediately afterwards walked in and made it unnecessary.
  • Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not only _ery old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected wit_t, as the elder brother of Isabella's husband. He lived about a mile fro_ighbury, was a frequent visitor, and always welcome, and at this time mor_elcome than usual, as coming directly from their mutual connexions in London.
  • He had returned to a late dinner, after some days' absence, and now walked u_o Hartfield to say that all were well in Brunswick Square. It was a happ_ircumstance, and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time. Mr. Knightley had _heerful manner, which always did him good; and his many inquiries after "poo_sabella" and her children were answered most satisfactorily. When this wa_ver, Mr. Woodhouse gratefully observed, "It is very kind of you, Mr.
  • Knightley, to come out at this late hour to call upon us. I am afraid you mus_ave had a shocking walk."
  • "Not at all, sir. It is a beautiful moonlight night; and so mild that I mus_raw back from your great fire."
  • "But you must have found it very damp and dirty. I wish you may not catc_old."
  • "Dirty, sir! Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them."
  • "Well! that is quite surprising, for we have had a vast deal of rain here. I_ained dreadfully hard for half an hour while we were at breakfast. I wante_hem to put off the wedding."
  • "By the bye—I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well aware of what sort o_oy you must both be feeling, I have been in no hurry with my congratulations; but I hope it all went off tolerably well. How did you all behave? Who crie_ost?"
  • "Ah! poor Miss Taylor! 'Tis a sad business."
  • "Poor Mr. and Miss Woodhouse, if you please; but I cannot possibly say `poo_iss Taylor.' I have a great regard for you and Emma; but when it comes to th_uestion of dependence or independence!—At any rate, it must be better to hav_nly one to please than two."
  • "Especially when one of those two is such a fanciful, troublesome creature!"
  • said Emma playfully. "That is what you have in your head, I know—and what yo_ould certainly say if my father were not by."
  • "I believe it is very true, my dear, indeed," said Mr. Woodhouse, with a sigh.
  • "I am afraid I am sometimes very fanciful and troublesome."
  • "My dearest papa! You do not think I could mean you, or suppose Mr. Knightle_o mean you. What a horrible idea! Oh no! I meant only myself. Mr. Knightle_oves to find fault with me, you know— in a joke—it is all a joke. We alway_ay what we like to one another."
  • Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emm_oodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and though this was no_articularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less s_o her father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstanc_s her not being thought perfect by every body.
  • "Emma knows I never flatter her," said Mr. Knightley, "but I meant n_eflection on any body. Miss Taylor has been used to have two persons t_lease; she will now have but one. The chances are that she must be a gainer."
  • "Well," said Emma, willing to let it pass—"you want to hear about the wedding; and I shall be happy to tell you, for we all behaved charmingly. Every bod_as punctual, every body in their best looks: not a tear, and hardly a lon_ace to be seen. Oh no; we all felt that we were going to be only half a mil_part, and were sure of meeting every day."
  • "Dear Emma bears every thing so well," said her father. "But, Mr. Knightley, she is really very sorry to lose poor Miss Taylor, and I am sure she will mis_er more than she thinks for."
  • Emma turned away her head, divided between tears and smiles. "It is impossibl_hat Emma should not miss such a companion," said Mr. Knightley. "We shoul_ot like her so well as we do, sir, if we could suppose it; but she knows ho_uch the marriage is to Miss Taylor's advantage; she knows how very acceptabl_t must be, at Miss Taylor's time of life, to be settled in a home of her own, and how important to her to be secure of a comfortable provision, an_herefore cannot allow herself to feel so much pain as pleasure. Every frien_f Miss Taylor must be glad to have her so happily married."
  • "And you have forgotten one matter of joy to me," said Emma, "and a ver_onsiderable one—that I made the match myself. I made the match, you know, four years ago; and to have it take place, and be proved in the right, when s_any people said Mr. Weston would never marry again, may comfort me for an_hing."
  • Mr. Knightley shook his head at her. Her father fondly replied, "Ah! my dear, I wish you would not make matches and foretell things, for whatever you sa_lways comes to pass. Pray do not make any more matches."
  • "I promise you to make none for myself, papa; but I must, indeed, for othe_eople. It is the greatest amusement in the world! And after such success, yo_now!—Every body said that Mr. Weston would never marry again. Oh dear, no!
  • Mr. Weston, who had been a widower so long, and who seemed so perfectl_omfortable without a wife, so constantly occupied either in his business i_own or among his friends here, always acceptable wherever he went, alway_heerful— Mr. Weston need not spend a single evening in the year alone if h_id not like it. Oh no! Mr. Weston certainly would never marry again. Som_eople even talked of a promise to his wife on her deathbed, and others of th_on and the uncle not letting him. All manner of solemn nonsense was talked o_he subject, but I believed none of it.
  • "Ever since the day—about four years ago—that Miss Taylor and I met with hi_n Broadway Lane, when, because it began to drizzle, he darted away with s_uch gallantry, and borrowed two umbrellas for us from Farmer Mitchell's, _ade up my mind on the subject. I planned the match from that hour; and whe_uch success has blessed me in this instance, dear papa, you cannot think tha_ shall leave off match-making."
  • "I do not understand what you mean by `success,'" said Mr. Knightley. "Succes_upposes endeavour. Your time has been properly and delicately spent, if yo_ave been endeavouring for the last four years to bring about this marriage. _orthy employment for a young lady's mind! But if, which I rather imagine, your making the match, as you call it, means only your planning it, you_aying to yourself one idle day, `I think it would be a very good thing fo_iss Taylor if Mr. Weston were to marry her,' and saying it again to yoursel_very now and then afterwards, why do you talk of success? Where is you_erit? What are you proud of? You made a lucky guess; and that is all that ca_e said."
  • "And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a lucky guess?— I pit_ou.—I thought you cleverer—for, depend upon it a lucky guess is never merel_uck. There is always some talent in it. And as to my poor word `success,'
  • which you quarrel with, I do not know that I am so entirely without any clai_o it. You have drawn two pretty pictures; but I think there may be a third—_omething between the do-nothing and the do-all. If I had not promoted Mr.
  • Weston's visits here, and given many little encouragements, and smoothed man_ittle matters, it might not have come to any thing after all. I think yo_ust know Hartfield enough to comprehend that."
  • "A straightforward, open-hearted man like Weston, and a rational, unaffecte_oman like Miss Taylor, may be safely left to manage their own concerns. Yo_re more likely to have done harm to yourself, than good to them, b_nterference."
  • "Emma never thinks of herself, if she can do good to others," rejoined Mr.
  • Woodhouse, understanding but in part. "But, my dear, pray do not make any mor_atches; they are silly things, and break up one's family circle grievously."
  • "Only one more, papa; only for Mr. Elton. Poor Mr. Elton! You like Mr. Elton, papa,—I must look about for a wife for him. There is nobody in Highbury wh_eserves him—and he has been here a whole year, and has fitted up his house s_omfortably, that it would be a shame to have him single any longer—and _hought when he was joining their hands to-day, he looked so very much as i_e would like to have the same kind office done for him! I think very well o_r. Elton, and this is the only way I have of doing him a service."
  • "Mr. Elton is a very pretty young man, to be sure, and a very good young man, and I have a great regard for him. But if you want to shew him any attention, my dear, ask him to come and dine with us some day. That will be a much bette_hing. I dare say Mr. Knightley will be so kind as to meet him."
  • "With a great deal of pleasure, sir, at any time," said Mr. Knightley, laughing, "and I agree with you entirely, that it will be a much better thing.
  • Invite him to dinner, Emma, and help him to the best of the fish and th_hicken, but leave him to chuse his own wife. Depend upon it, a man of six o_even-and-twenty can take care of himself."