BVC Announces JAMES FAIRFAX by Jane Austen and Adam Campan

James Fairfax, by Jane Austen and Adam CampanJames Fairfax

by Jane Austen and Adam Campan

Foreword

by Adam Campan

Jane Austen

It’s been two centuries since Jane Austen’s Emma appeared. Austen’s popularity has experienced a tidal ebb and resurgence ever since, resulting in a world-wide recognition unmatched by any other writer of her period.

Some claim that Austen’s current popularity owes itself to the films. The true Janeite will maintain that the film versions, though varying in eye appeal—culminating, many claim, in Colin Firth’s famous dive, a scene that has no place whatever in Austen’s novel—are never as good as the books.

That debate belongs elsewhere.

Quaint as we may find the customs in Jane Austen’s novels, we still identify with the characters’ motivations, aspirations, fears, and hopes. The humour still works. I believe Austen’s novels remain meaningful and enthralling because she rejected the fictional stereotypes of her day, as well as the predictable storylines. Jane Austen observed the behaviours, bad, good, and ambivalent, of real people, and depicted them with such a brilliant blend of irony and compassion that her work, which contemporary readers found so very different, reshaped literature.

That is not to say that there is no evidence of individuality in the novels by Richardson, Sterne, Haywood, Fielding, Smollett, Burney, Inchbald, and the rest. Or that Austen’s novels don’t reveal the limitations of the early nineteenth century English gentry worldview. But when Lydia Bennet of Pride and Prejudice did not die of consumption, or John Willoughby of Sense and Sensibility of his duel, though they erred against morality, and when Edmund Bertram of Mansfield Park and Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey did not through predictably dramatic circumstance gain the heir’s rank and portion (though undoubtedly worthier than their elder brothers) Jane Austen changed the rules of literature. The characters had to live with the consequences of their actions—leading to insight and happiness for some, and for others, regret.

In other words, Jane Austen invented the modern novel, and by so doing, helped shape modern culture. If so, then it’s no surprise her novels are not just still in print, but are found in endless adaptation in a variety of media, usually underscoring cultural change.

The Sport of Kings

This project began as a thought experiment.

One thing apparent when one reads deeply in the period: gay relationships were far more common than at first appears. Everyone knew the confirmed bachelors or spinsters who lived together all their lives; essays and letters make reference to Damon and Pythias, Alexander and Hephaiston, and in Biblical history to David and Jonathan, and the mysterious Lilith, who may or may not have been a witch or daemon or a lover of Eve.

Royalty and aristocrats on both sides of the Channel bent the rules, not only ennobling the children of liaisons, but ennobling lovers. Thus we have the handsome George Villiers (Duke of Buckingham) beloved of two kings, and king himself in all but name so that one might almost term his assassination a regicide; on the other side of the Channel, the Bourbon kings were more often gay than not.

The question, then, is not whether same-gender relationships existed. They did. The question is, at what point might they have become legal, and thus as accepted in society as so many other forms of marriage, such as the marriage for material gain? The same copy of Spectator that my teenaged version of Emma eagerly read features essay after essay lamenting the cold-blooded cynicism of fathers selling off daughters so as to gain land and money, after which the daughters, forced into producing an heir, are afterward free to sleep with whomever they choose, man or woman. Where is the sanctity in these marriages?

The Enlightenment was about change everything. Rational thinking, new freedoms, modern thought were in the air. Let us say that Queen Christina openly married her beloved countess Ebba Sparre. In every other respect this queen was an enlightenment figure. Given this action, and no untoward result, impatient princes and princesses might have exerted their royal will to enact similar changes.

My thought experiment takes place one universe over, in which there was no French Revolution, as the French Kings had negotiated more successfully with the Estates General, each side giving in order to get. Culminating in the benevolent guidance of Cardinal Talleyrand (formerly Bishop Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord), who himself presided over the marriage of the Prince Regent and the Comte d’Artois after the death of the Princess Caroline in childbirth.

If royalty can legalise what they have been practising anyway, then fashion follows—and society adjusts. By the time the sharp-eyed daughter of a quiet countryside rector was growing up, passionate friendships between one’s gender had become acceptable, for there was no danger to anyone’s inheritance. Friendships ripened into love, and love into marriage; the laws of Enlightenment morality make irrelevant accident of gender. Jane Austen would, as she did, laud those who married for the best of reasons, and pillory those who married for the worst.

Jane Fairfax

We readers experience least, out of all Jane Austen’s significant female characters, the inward working of Jane Fairfax’s mind. And of all her heroes, we hear the most from the inner thoughts of Mr. Knightley. Jane easily becomes a James; Mr. Knightley’s regard does not alter a whit.

By changing Mr. Weston into a Mrs.—it was easily done, so generous and laughing a figure does as well for a widow as for a widower—and James for Jane, I can balance the relationships, and the reasons for marrying. The novel is not relegated to Gay Issues, that is, the characters concerned about being gay. The novel examines human issues, in specific the range of reasons for marrying, whatever one’s gender preference. Miss Taylor is wooed by a woman; Frank Churchill does not respond to Emma Woodhouse’s charms because he is in love with a man. The rocky path of his romance is not bedeviled by his beloved’s gender, but by others’ expectations of gain, of rank.

What if the ambitious Mr. Elton were to fall in love?

What does marrying for love really mean?

Everyone, including Emma, has something to learn about compassion, the risks of ambition, as well as all the permutations of love. The shape of Austen’s original is visible beneath this palimpsest, wherein the beautiful orphan is dependent on the kindness of friends. How does that change the gender dynamics? Should it change the dynamics, all other aspects being equal? Meet James Fairfax and decide.

Volume I

Chapter I

Emma Woodhouse—handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition—seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence, and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to 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, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for Emma to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses. Her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen short of a mother in remonstrance, but exceeded one in tenderness.

Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse’s family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them the intimacy of sisters had blossomed into tenderness when Emma reached the age of romantic interest, at sixteen. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint. The shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked—highly esteeming Miss Taylor’s judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.

The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself.

Sorrow came—a gentle sorrow—but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable occurrence. At sixteen passions are only eternal in poetry; benefited by the royal example ten years previous, Miss Taylor left Hartfield to marry Mrs. Weston.

It was Miss Taylor’s loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought. The wedding over and the wedding-party gone, her father and herself were left to dine together, with no sympathetic dark eyes, no sweet, soft voice and kindly smile present in the third chair to cheer a long evening. Emma’s father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.

The event had every promise of happiness for Miss Taylor—now Mrs. Taylor by preference, and the spouse of Mrs. Weston, who retained her deceased partner’s surname as her own, out of deep affection and because circumstance caused her to feel no great loyalty to her maiden name of Churchill. Mrs. Weston was a tall, handsome woman of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and pleasant manners, and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous impulse Emma had always wished and promoted the match.

And yet when she contemplated that empty chair, she could not but reflect that it was a black-cloud morning’s work for her. The want of Mrs. Taylor would be felt every hour of every day. Emma recalled her past kindness—the kindness, the affection of sixteen years—how she had taught and how she had played with Emma from five years old—how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse her in health—and how nursed her through the various illnesses of childhood. She had been a friend and companion such as few possessed: intelligent, well-informed, useful, gentle, knowing all the ways of the family, interested in all its concerns, and peculiarly interested in herself, in every pleasure, every scheme of hers—one to whom she could speak every thought as it arose, and who had such an affection for her as could never find fault.

How was Emma to bear the change? It was true that her friend was going only half a mile from them, but Emma was aware that great must be the difference between a Mrs. Taylor only half a mile from them, and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great danger 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 not married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits; for having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years, and though everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his amiable temper, his talents could not have recommended him at any time.

Emma’s sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony, being settled in London, only sixteen miles off, was beyond Emma’s daily reach. Many a long October and November evening must be struggled through at Hartfield, before Christmas brought the next visit from Isabella and her husband, and their little children to 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, and name, did really belong, afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses were first in consequence there. All looked up to them. She had many acquaintance in the place, for her father was universally civil, but not one among them who could be accepted in lieu of Mrs. Taylor for even half a day.

It was a melancholy change, 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 spirits required support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed, fond of every body that he was used to, and hating to part with them.

He hated change of every kind. Love or matrimony, as the origins of change, were always disagreeable; marriage of any kind, whether the traditional partnering of man and woman or the more recent marriage a la mode, following the lead of the Prince Regent’s union with le comte d’Artois of France. Fond of him as they were, his friends had sometimes wondered how he might have been tricked, or tricked himself, into matrimony; Mrs. Goddard, who had known him longest, maintaining he had fallen into wedlock while thinking himself at an afternoon party.

Miss Taylor’s affection for his daughter he had accepted as Emma’s due, but this new circumstance meant he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor. From his habits of gentle selfishness, and of being never able to suppose that other people could feel differently from himself, he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had done as sad a thing for herself as for them, and would have been a great deal happier if she had spent all the rest of her life at Hartfield.

Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she could, to keep him from such thoughts, but when tea came, it was impossible for him not to say exactly as he had said at dinner, “Poor Mrs. Taylor! I wish she were here again. What a pity it is that Mrs. Weston ever thought of her!”

“I cannot agree with you, papa. You know I cannot. Mrs. Weston is such a good-humoured, pleasant, excellent woman, that she thoroughly deserves to be married—and you would not have had Mrs. Taylor live with us for ever, and bear all 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 is three 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 shall be always meeting! We must begin. We must go and pay our wedding-visit very soon.”

“My dear, how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance. I could not walk half so far.”

“No, papa, nobody thought of your walking. We must go in the carriage, to be sure.”

“The carriage! But our coachman will not like to put the horses to for such a little way. And where are the poor horses to be while we are paying our visit?”

“They are to be put into Mrs. Weston’s stable, papa. You know we have settled all that already. We talked it all over with Mrs. Weston last night. And as for our coachman, you may be very sure he will always like going to Randalls, because of his daughter’s being housemaid there. I only doubt whether he will ever take us anywhere else. That was your doing, papa. You got Hannah that good place. Nobody thought of Hannah till you mentioned her—the family is so obliged to you!”

“I am very glad I did think of her. It was very lucky, for I would not have had poor Coachman think himself slighted upon any account, and I am sure she will make a very good servant. She is a civil, pretty-spoken girl. I have a great opinion 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, I observe she always turns the lock of the door the right way and never bangs it. I am sure she will be an excellent servant, and it will be a great comfort to poor Mrs. Taylor to have somebody about her that she is used to see. Whenever Coachman goes over to see his daughter, you know, she will be hearing of us. He will be able to tell her how we all are.”

Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of ideas, and hoped, by the help of backgammon, to get her father tolerably through the evening, and be attacked by no regrets but her own. The backgammon-table was placed, but a visitor immediately afterwards walked in and made it unnecessary.

Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella’s husband. He lived about a mile from Highbury, was a frequent visitor, and always welcome, and at this time more welcome 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 up to Hartfield to say that all were well in Brunswick Square. It was a happy circumstance, and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time. Mr. Knightley had a cheerful manner, which always did Mr. Woodhouse good, and his many inquiries after “poor Isabella” and her children were answered most satisfactorily. When this was over, 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 must have had a shocking walk.”

“Not at all, sir. It is a beautiful moonlight night, and so mild that I must draw back from your great fire.”

“But you must have found it very damp and dirty. I wish you may not catch cold.”

“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. It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour while we were at breakfast. I wanted Miss Taylor to put off the wedding.”

“By the bye—I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well aware of what sort of joy you must both be feeling, I have been in no hurry with my congratulations. I hope it all went off tolerably well. How did you all behave? Who cried most?”

Mr. Woodhouse shook his head sadly. “Ah! poor Mrs. Taylor! ’Tis a sad business.”

“Poor Mr. and Miss Woodhouse, if you please. but I cannot possibly say ‘poor Mrs. Taylor.’ I have a great regard for you and Emma, but when it comes to the question of dependence or independence! At any rate, it must be better to have only 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 you would 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. Knightley to mean you. What a horrible idea! Oh no! I meant only myself. Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me, you know—in a joke—it is all a joke. We always say what we like to one another.”

Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less so to her father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by every body.

“Emma knows I never flatter her,” said Mr. Knightley, “but I meant no reflection on any body. Mrs. Taylor has been used to have two persons to please. 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 body was punctual, every body in their best looks: not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen. Oh no. We all felt that we were going to be only half a mile apart, 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 Mrs. Taylor, and I am sure she will miss her more than she thinks.”

Emma turned away her head, divided between tears and smiles. “It is impossible that Emma should not miss such a companion,” said Mr. Knightley. “We should not like her so well as we do, sir, if we could suppose it, but she knows how much this move is to Mrs. Taylor’s advantage. She knows how very acceptable it must be, at Mrs. 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, and therefore cannot allow herself to feel so much pain as pleasure. Every friend of Mrs. Taylor must be glad to have her so happily settled.”

“And you have forgotten one matter of joy to me,” said Emma, “and a very considerable one—that I made the match myself. I made the match, you know, four years ago. To have it take place, and be proved in the right, when so many people said Mrs. Weston would remain alone, may comfort me for any thing.”

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 say always comes to pass. Pray do not make any more matches.”

“I promise you to make none for myself, papa, but I must, indeed, for other people. It is the greatest amusement in the world! And after such success, you know!—Every body said that Mrs. Weston would never find love. Oh dear, no! Mrs. Weston, who had been a widow so long, and who seemed so perfectly comfortable alone, so constantly occupied either in her home or visiting her friends here, always acceptable wherever she went, always cheerful—Mrs. Weston need not spend a single evening in the year alone if she did not like it. Oh no! Mrs. Weston certainly would never find love. Some people even talked of a promise to her husband on his deathbed, and others of the son and the uncle not letting her. All manner of solemn nonsense was talked on the subject, but I believed none of it.

“Ever since the day—about four years ago—that Miss Taylor and I met with her in Broadway Lane, when, because it began to drizzle, she turned off her path at once, with so much sweetness, and borrowed two umbrellas for us from Farmer Mitchell’s, I made up my mind on the subject. I planned the match from that hour. And when such success has blessed me in this instance, dear papa, you cannot think that I shall leave off match-making.”

“I do not understand what you mean by ‘success,’” said Mr. Knightley. “Success supposes endeavour. Your time has been properly and delicately spent, if you have been endeavouring for the last four years to bring about this match. A worthy 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, your saying to yourself one idle day, ‘I think it would be a very good thing for Miss Taylor if Mrs. Weston were to notice her,’ and saying it again to yourself every now and then afterwards, why do you talk of success? Where is your merit? What are you proud of? You made a lucky guess, and that is all that can be said.”

“And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a lucky guess? I pity you. I thought you cleverer—for, depend upon it a lucky guess is never merely luck. 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 claim to it. You have drawn two pretty pictures, but I think there may be a third—a something between the do-nothing and the do-all. If I had not promoted Mrs. Weston’s visits here, and given many little encouragements, and smoothed many little matters, it might not have come to any thing after all. I think you must know Hartfield enough to comprehend that.”

“A straightforward, open-hearted woman like Mrs. Weston, and a rational, unaffected woman like Miss Taylor, may be safely left to manage their own concerns. You are more likely to have done harm to yourself, than good to them, by interference.”

“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 more matches. 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 spouse for him. There is nobody in Highbury who deserves him—and he has been here a whole year, and has fitted up his house so comfortably, that it would be a shame to have him single any longer—and I thought when he was joining their hands to-day, he looked so very much as if he would like to have the same kind office done for him! I think very well of Mr. 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 better thing. 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 the chicken, but leave him to chuse his own match. Depend upon it, a man of six or seven-and-twenty can take care of himself.”

Chapter II

Mr. Weston had been a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family, which for the last two or three generations had been rising into gentility and property. He had received a good education, but, on succeeding early in life to a small independence, had become indisposed for any of the more homely pursuits in which his brothers were engaged, and had satisfied an active, cheerful mind and social temper by entering into the militia of his county, then embodied.

Captain Weston was a general favourite, and when the chances of his military life had introduced him to Miss Churchill, of a great Yorkshire family, and Miss Churchill turned to him in her desire to be free of her family, nobody was surprized, except her brother and his wife, who had never seen him, and who were full of pride and importance, which the connexion would offend. She was not yet of age, and so could not set up housekeeping on her own, and though she had at least one tender friend, this was in the days before royal decree would overthrow the ancient custom that confin’d marriage to man and woman only.

Miss Churchill would be granted on her marriage full command of her fortune—though her fortune bore no proportion to the family-estate. She was therefore not to be dissuaded from the marriage, and it took place, to the infinite mortification of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, who threw her off with due decorum.

Despite its being deemed an unsuitable connexion, for as long as her fortune lasted, it produced great happiness. Mrs. Weston had found a husband whose warm heart and sweet temper stayed even when the money was gone, though she missed the luxuries of her former home. They lived beyond their income, though not in a style to compare with Enscombe. She cared for her husband, but she missed the tender female companions of her days as Miss Churchill of Enscombe.

Captain Weston, who had been considered, especially by the Churchills, as making such an amazing match, was proved to have much the worst of the bargain; for after living on such a scale that the couple ran through her fortune after three years, the good living told on his health, and he died, leaving his wife poor, and with a child to maintain.

From the expense of the child, however, she was soon relieved. The boy had, with the additional softening claim of the lingering illness of his father’s, been the means of a sort of reconciliation. Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, having no children of their own, nor any other young creature of equal kindred to care for, offered to take the whole charge of the little Frank soon after his father’s decease. Some scruples and some reluctance the widow felt, but as they were overcome by other considerations, the child was given up to the care and the wealth of the Churchills, which Mrs. Weston regretted the more deeply once she found herself left to endure relative poverty alone.

A complete change of life became desirable. She invested what she had left with Captain Weston’s brothers in trade. She had still a small house in Highbury, and between useful occupation and the pleasures of society, the next eighteen or twenty years of her life passed cheerfully away. She had, by that time, realised an easy competence—enough to secure the purchase of a secluded little estate adjoining Highbury, which she had always longed for—enough to live according to the wishes of her own friendly and social disposition.

It was then that Miss Taylor had begun to influence Mrs. Weston’s schemes. The couple were now beginning a new period of existence, with every probability of greater happiness than in any yet passed through. She had never been an unhappy woman. Her own temper had secured her from that, even in marriage. But her second relationship must give her the pleasantest proof of its being a great deal better to chuse than to be chosen, to excite gratitude than to feel it.

As to Frank, who was tacitly brought up as his uncle’s heir, it had become so avowed an adoption as to have him assume the name of Churchill on coming of age. It was most unlikely, therefore, that he should ever want his mother’s assistance.

The aunt was a capricious woman, and governed her husband entirely, but it was not in Mrs. Weston’s nature to imagine that any caprice could be strong enough to affect one so dear, and, as she believed, so deservedly dear. She saw her son every year in London, and was proud of him; and her fond report of him as a very fine young man had made Highbury feel a sort of pride in him too. He was looked on as sufficiently belonging to the place to make his merits and prospects a kind of common concern.

Mr. Frank Churchill was one of the boasts of Highbury, and a lively curiosity to see him prevailed, though the compliment was so little returned that he had never been there in his life. His coming to visit his mother had been often talked of but never achieved.

Now, upon his mother’s marriage, it was very generally proposed, as a most proper attention, that the visit should take place. There was not a dissentient voice on the subject, either when Mrs. Perry drank tea with Mrs. and Miss Bates, or when Mrs. and Miss Bates returned the visit. Now was the time for Mr. Frank Churchill to come among them, and the hope strengthened when it was understood that he had written not only to his mother but to Mrs. Taylor on the occasion.

For a few days, every morning visit in Highbury included some mention of the handsome letter Mrs. Taylor had received. “I suppose you have heard of the handsome letter Mr. Frank Churchill has written to Mrs. Taylor? I understand it was a very handsome letter, indeed. Mr. Woodhouse told me of it. Mr. Woodhouse saw the letter, and he says he never saw such a handsome letter in his life.”

It was, indeed, a highly prized letter. Mrs. Taylor had, of course, formed a very favourable idea of the young man. Such a pleasing attention was an irresistible proof of his great good sense, and a most welcome addition to every source and every expression of congratulation which her new home had already secured. She felt herself a most fortunate woman. She had lived long enough to know how fortunate she might well be thought, where the only regret was for a partial separation from friends whose friendship for her had never cooled, and who could ill bear to part with her.

She knew that at times she must be missed, and could not think, without pain, of Emma’s losing a single pleasure, or suffering an hour’s ennui, from the want of her companionableness: but dear Emma was of no feeble character; she was more equal to her situation than most girls would have been, and had sense, and energy, and spirits that might be hoped would bear her well and happily through its little difficulties and privations. And then there was such comfort in the very easy distance of Randalls from Hartfield, so convenient for even solitary female walking, and in Mrs. Weston’s disposition and circumstances, which would make the approaching season no hindrance to their spending half the evenings in the week together.

Her situation was altogether the subject of hours of gratitude to Mrs. Weston, and of moments only of regret. Her satisfaction—her more than satisfaction—her cheerful enjoyment, was so just and so apparent, that Emma, well as she knew her father, was sometimes taken by surprize at his being still able to pity ‘poor Mrs. Taylor,’ when they left her at Randalls in the centre of every domestic comfort, or saw her go away in the evening attended by her pleasant companion in a carriage of her own. But never did she go without Mr. Woodhouse’s giving a gentle sigh, and saying, “Ah, poor Mrs. Taylor! She would have been very glad to stay.”

There was no recovering Miss Taylor—nor much likelihood of ceasing to pity her, but a few weeks brought some alleviation to Mr. Woodhouse. The compliments of his neighbours were over, and he was no longer teased by being wished joy of so sorrowful an event. The wedding cake, which had been a great distress to him, was all eaten up. His own stomach could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from himself. What was unwholesome to him he regarded as unfit for any body, and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having any cake at all. When that proved vain, as earnestly he tried to prevent any body’s eating it, and had been at the pains of consulting Mr. Perry, the apothecary, on the subject.

Mr. Perry was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were one of the comforts of Mr. Woodhouse’s life; and upon being applied to, he could not but acknowledge (though it seemed rather against the bias of inclination) that wedding cake might certainly disagree with many—perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately. With such an opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence every visitor of the newly married pair, but still the cake was eaten. There was no rest for his benevolent nerves till it was all gone.

There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being seen with a slice of Mrs. Taylor’s wedding cake in their hands, but Mr. Woodhouse would never believe it.

Chapter III

Mr. Woodhouse was fond of society in his own way. He liked very much to have his friends come and see him, and from his long residence at Hartfield, and his good nature, from his fortune, his house, and his daughter, he could in great measure command the visits of his own little circle as he liked.

Real, long-standing regard brought Mrs. Weston, Mrs. Taylor, and Mr. Knightley, as well as Mrs. Goddard and the Bates family. Recently this small circle of friends had been joined by Mr. Philip Elton, a young man living alone without liking it. He welcomed with flattering alacrity the privilege of exchanging any vacant evening of his own blank solitude for the elegancies and society of Mr. Woodhouse’s drawing-room.

Mr. Elton was newly come to Highbury. Young men as well as young women attending divine service now had an handsome face to look at instead of saintly Mr. Bates’s hoary whiskers. Mr. Elton proved to be a convivial companion, settling on a favourite, Mr. Thomas Cole, with whom he was often seen, but Mr. Elton had matrimony in mind. Perhaps marriage a la mode would have suited his happiness, but it did not suit his ambition. Mr. Thomas Cole was the son of a merchant, and though Mr. Cole’s success in business had gained him wealth, he had a quiver of children to settle. Mr. Elton looked about him for someone equal in smiles and fortune. He so enjoyed the elegancies of Mr. Woodhouse’s drawing-room that he determined the smiles of Mr. Woodhouse’s lovely daughter would be in no danger of being thrown away.

Aside from these constant visitors to Hartfield came the ladies so briefly mentioned above. The most frequent and come-at-able were Mrs. and Miss Bates, and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies almost always at the service of an invitation from Hartfield.

Mrs. Bates, the widow of the former vicar of Highbury, was a very old lady, almost past every thing but tea and quadrille. She lived with her single daughter in a very small way, and was considered with all the regard and respect which a harmless old lady, under such untoward circumstances, can excite. Her daughter enjoyed a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young, handsome, rich, nor married. Miss Bates had no intellectual superiority to frighten those who might hate her into outward respect. She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness.

Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without goodwill. It was her own universal goodwill and contented temper which worked such wonders. She loved every body, was interested in every body’s happiness, and quicksighted to every body’s merits. She thought herself a most fortunate creature, surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother, and so many good neighbours and friends, and a home that wanted for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body, and a mine of felicity to herself. She was a great talker upon little matters, which exactly suited Mr. Woodhouse, full of trivial communications and harmless gossip.

Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School—not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality, upon new principles and new systems—and where young ladies for enormous pay might be scolded and flattered out of health and into vanity—but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies.

Mrs. Goddard’s school was in high repute—and very deservedly, for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy spot. She had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands. It was no wonder that a train of twenty young couples now walked after her to church. She was a plain, motherly kind of woman, who had worked hard in her youth, and now thought herself entitled to the occasional holiday of a tea-visit. Having formerly owed much to Mr. Woodhouse’s kindness, she felt his particular claim on her to leave her neat parlour, hung round with fancy-work, whenever she could, and win or lose a few sixpences by his fireside.

These were the ladies whom Emma found herself very frequently able to collect, and happy was she, for her father’s sake; though, as far as she was herself concerned, it was no remedy for the absence of Mrs. Taylor. She was delighted to see her father look comfortable, and very much pleased with herself for contriving things so well, but the quiet prosings of three old women made her feel that every evening so spent was indeed one of the long evenings she had fearfully anticipated.

As she sat one morning, looking forward to exactly such a close of the present day, a note was brought from Mrs. Goddard, requesting, in most respectful terms, to be allowed to bring Miss Smith with her. It was a most welcome request. Miss Smith was a girl of seventeen, whom Emma knew very well by sight, and had long felt an interest in, on account of her beauty. A very gracious invitation was returned, and the evening no longer dreaded by the fair mistress of the mansion.

Miss Smith was a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort which Emma particularly admired. She was short, plump, and fair, with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness, and, before the end of the evening, Emma was as much pleased with her manners as her person, and quite determined to continue the acquaintance.

She was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Miss Smith’s conversation, as her most frequent exclamation was, “Oh, Miss Woodhouse!”

“Have you read ‘Marmion’?”

“Oh, Miss Woodhouse! We read it together, I mean the great girls and the parlour-boarders and I, when the little girls were not by, and how we wept over Constance’s fate!”

“Constance,” Emma stated, “was a fool.”

‘Oh, Miss Woodhouse!”

“Did you read ‘The Giaour’? Or however it is to be said?”

“Oh, Miss Woodhouse.” The exclamation was achieved with a soft voice, and a deepened breath. Miss Smith ventured a question, when she did not meet with the same languishing sigh. “Did you not like it, Miss Woodhouse?”

“Oh, I liked it well enough, in places, but others I found it a great deal of nonsense. Vampyrs! What sensible person would read such? Literature ought to confine itself to the doings of men and women. There is entertainment enough there.”

“But—the poets are always, that is, one always meets with fauns and zephyrs and djinn—and the Greek gods and goddesses—”

Emma waved her fan, dismissing the ‘zephyrs’ in action, if not in word. She would not err by introducing the topic of satyrs in her father’s drawing room, even to instruct. “I make no claim to knowing the business of poets. Here. What a splendid shade your hair is, when the light is just so through the window! If were not to confine it back quite so much . . .”

“Oh Miss Woodhouse,” Miss Smith said doubtfully. “Mrs. Goddard thinks it proper.”

“So it is—when you are not quite sixteen. Come. Let us just attempt something . . .”

Miss Smith was very willing to have her hair dressed, and to try one of Miss Woodhouse’s gowns, and in short, to play the part of a doll. Emma was very well pleased with the effect, for Miss Smith was prettier than ever. As will happen, the primping turned to petting, which ended with a kiss upon the cheek.

“Oh, Miss Woodhouse!”

o0o

Harriet—she was very soon ‘Harriet’—was so far from pushing, shewing so proper and becoming a deference, seeming so pleasantly grateful for being admitted to Hartfield, and so artlessly impressed by the appearance of every thing in so superior a style to what she had been used to, that she was immediately endearing.

Harriet Smith, in short, was the type of girl who must be petted, but if Emma must pet her, she must also improve her. Those soft blue eyes, and all those natural graces, should not be wasted on the inferior society of Highbury and its connexions.

Emma knew that Miss Smith was the natural daughter of someone. Harriet’s beauty, and her generous allowance, made the next step easy: she must be the daughter of someone of rank, and wanted only a little more knowledge and elegance to be quite perfect. She would notice Harriet. She would improve her. She would detach her from her low acquaintance, such as the family of the name of Martin, whom Emma well knew by character, as renting a large farm of Mr. Knightley, and residing in the parish of Donwell. Very good sort of people—Mr. Knightley thought highly of them, Emma knew—but rough and uncouth. Emma would introduce Harriet Smith into good society. She would form her opinions and her manners. It would be an interesting, and certainly a very kind undertaking, highly becoming her own situation in life, her leisure, and powers.

She was so busy in admiring those soft blue eyes, in talking and admiring, and forming all these schemes in the in-betweens, that the evening flew away at a very unusual rate. The supper-table, which always closed such parties, and for which she had been used to sit and watch the due time, was all set out and ready, and moved forwards to the fire, before she was aware. With an alacrity and the spirit of doing every thing well and attentively, did she all the honours of the meal, and help and recommend the minced chicken and scalloped oysters, with an urgency which she knew would be acceptable to the early hours and civil scruples of their guests.

Upon such occasions poor Mr. Woodhouse’s feelings were in sad warfare. He loved to have the cloth laid, because it had been the fashion of his youth, but his conviction of suppers being very unwholesome made him rather sorry to see any thing put on it. While his hospitality would have welcomed his visitors to everything, his care for their health made him grieve that they would eat.

Such another small basin of thin gruel as his own was all that he could, with thorough self-approbation, recommend. He might constrain himself, while the ladies were comfortably clearing the nicer things, to say, “Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see—one of our small eggs will not hurt you. Miss Bates, let Emma help you to a little bit of tart—a very little bit. Ours are all apple-tarts. You need not be afraid of unwholesome preserves here. I do not advise the custard. Mrs. Goddard, what say you to half a glass of wine? A small half-glass, put into a tumbler of water? I do not think it could disagree with you.”

Emma allowed her father to talk—but supplied her visitors in a much more satisfactory style, and on the present evening had particular pleasure in sending them away happy. The happiness of Miss Smith was quite equal to her intentions. Miss Woodhouse was so great a personage in Highbury, that the prospect of the introduction had given as much panic as pleasure, but the humble, grateful girl went off with highly gratified feelings, delighted with the affability with which Miss Woodhouse had treated her all the evening, and actually kissed her tenderly on her farewell.

Chapter IV

Harriet Smith’s intimacy at Hartfield was soon a settled thing. As a walking companion, Emma had very early foreseen how useful she might find her. In that respect Mrs. Taylor’s loss had been important. Her father never went beyond the shrubbery, where two divisions of the ground sufficed him for his long walk, or his short, as the year varied, and since Mrs. Taylor’s marriage Emma’s exercise had been too much confined. She had ventured once alone to Randalls, but it was not pleasant. A Harriet Smith, therefore, one whom she could summon at any time to a walk, would be a valuable addition to her privileges. But in every respect, as she saw more of her, she approved her, and was confirmed in all her kind designs.

Harriet certainly was not clever, but she had a sweet, docile, grateful disposition, was totally free from conceit, and only desiring to be loved and guided. Altogether Emma was quite convinced of Harriet Smith’s being exactly the young admirer she wanted—exactly the something which her home required. Such a companion as Mrs. Taylor was out of the question. Two such could never be granted. Two such she did not want. It was quite a different sort of thing, a sentiment distinct and independent. Mrs. Taylor was the object of a regard which had its basis in gratitude and esteem. Harriet would be loved as one to whom she could be useful. For Mrs. Weston there was nothing to be done; for Harriet every thing.

Emma’s first attempts at usefulness were in an endeavour to find out who were the parents, but Harriet could not tell. She was ready to tell every thing in her power, but on this subject questions were vain. Emma was obliged to fancy what she liked—but she could never believe that in the same situation she should not have discovered the truth. Harriet had no penetration. She had been satisfied to hear and believe just what Mrs. Goddard chose to tell her, and looked no farther.

Mrs. Goddard, and the teachers, and the girls and the affairs of the school in general, formed naturally a great part of Harriet’s conversation—and but for her acquaintance with the Martins of Abbey-Mill Farm, it must have been the whole. But the Martins occupied her thoughts a good deal. She had spent two very happy months as Elizabeth Martin’s companion, and now loved to talk of the pleasures of her visit, and describe the many comforts and wonders of the place. Emma encouraged her talkativeness—amused by such a picture of another set of beings, and enjoying the youthful simplicity which could speak with so much exultation of Mrs. Martin’s having “two parlours, two very good parlours, indeed, one of them quite as large as Mrs. Goddard’s drawing-room!” And of her having an upper maid who had lived five-and-twenty years with her. And of their having eight cows, two of them Alderneys, and one a little Welch cow, a very pretty little Welch cow indeed. And of Mrs. Martin’s saying as Harriet was so fond of it, it should be called her cow. And of their having a very handsome summer-house in their garden, where some day next year they were all to drink tea—a very handsome summer-house, large enough to hold a dozen people.

For some time Emma was amused, without thinking beyond the immediate cause, but as she came to understand the family better, other feelings arose. She had taken up a wrong idea, fancying it was a mother and daughter, a son and son’s wife, who all lived together. When it appeared that the Mr. Martin who bore a part in the narrative, and was always mentioned with approbation for his great good-nature in doing something or other, was a single man, that there was no young Mrs. Martin, no wife in the case, Emma did suspect danger to her poor little friend from all this hospitality and kindness. If she were not taken care of, Harriet might sink herself forever. The beautiful Harriet Smith, daughter of someone quite high, thrown away to become a farm wife? So great an offense must not be!

With this inspiriting notion, Emma’s questions increased in number and meaning. She particularly led Harriet to talk more of Mr. Martin, and there was evidently no dislike to it. Harriet was very ready to speak of the share he had had in their moonlight walks and merry evening games. She dwelt a good deal upon his being so very good-humoured and obliging. He had gone three miles round one day in order to bring her some walnuts, because she had said how fond she was of them, and in every thing else he was so very obliging. He had his shepherd’s son into the parlour one night on purpose to sing to her. She was very fond of singing. He could sing a little himself. She believed he was very clever, and understood everything. His mother and sister were very fond of him. Mrs. Martin had told her one day (and there was a blush as she said it) that it was impossible for anybody to be a better son, and therefore she was sure, whenever he married, he would make a good husband. Not that she wanted him to marry. She was in no hurry at all.

“Well done, Mrs. and Miss Martin!” thought Emma. “You know what you are about.”

“And when I had to come away, Mrs. Martin was so very kind as to send Mrs. Goddard a beautiful goose—the finest goose Mrs. Goddard had ever seen. Mrs. Goddard had dressed it on a Sunday, and asked all the three teachers, Miss Nash, and Miss Prince, and Miss Richardson, to sup with her.”

“Mr. Martin, I suppose, is not a man of information beyond the line of his own business? He does not read?”

“Oh yes!—that is, no—I do not know—but I believe he has read a good deal—but not what you would think anything of. He reads the Agricultural Reports, and some other books that lay in one of the window seats—but he reads all them to himself. But sometimes of an evening, before we went to cards, he would read something aloud out of the Elegant Extracts, very entertaining. And I know he has read the Vicar of Wakefield. He never read the Romance of the Forest, nor The Children of the Abbey. He had never heard of such books before I mentioned them, but he is determined to get them now as soon as ever he can.”

The next question was, “What sort of looking man is Mr. Martin?”

“Oh! Not handsome—not at all handsome. I thought him very plain at first, but I do not think him so plain now. One does not, you know, after a time. But did you never see him? He is in Highbury every now and then, and he is sure to ride through every week in his way to Kingston. He has passed you very often.”

“That may be, and I may have seen him fifty times, but without having any idea of his name. A young farmer, whether on horseback or on foot, is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity. The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do. A degree or two lower, and a creditable appearance might interest me. I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or other. But a farmer can need none of my help, and is, therefore, in one sense, as much above my notice as in every other he is below it.”

“To be sure. Oh yes! It is not likely you should ever have observed him, but he knows you very well indeed—I mean by sight.”

“I have no doubt of his being a very respectable young man. I know, indeed, that he is so, and, as such, wish him well. What do you imagine his age to be?”

“He was four-and-twenty the 8th of last June, and my birthday is the 23rd just a fortnight and a day’s difference—which is very odd.”

“Only four-and-twenty. That is too young to settle. His mother is perfectly right not to be in a hurry. They seem very comfortable as they are, and if she were to take any pains to marry him, she would probably repent it. Six years hence, if he could meet with someone in the same rank as his own, with a little money, it might be very desirable.”

“Six years hence! Dear Miss Woodhouse, he would be thirty years old!”

“Well, and that is as early as most men can afford to marry, who are not born to an independence. Mr. Martin, I imagine, has his fortune entirely to make, cannot be at all beforehand with the world.”

“To be sure, so it is. But they live very comfortably. They have no indoors man, else they do not want for anything, and Mrs. Martin talks of taking a boy another year.”

“I wish you may not get into a scrape, Harriet, whenever he does marry. The misfortune of your birth ought to make you particularly careful as to your associates. There can be no doubt of your being a gentleman’s daughter, and you must support your claim to that station by every thing within your own power, or there will be plenty of people who would take pleasure in degrading you.”

“To be sure. Yes. Not that I think Mr. Martin would ever marry any body but what had had some education—and been very well brought up. However, I do not mean to set up my opinion against yours. I shall always have a great regard for the Miss Martins, especially Elizabeth, and should be very sorry to give them up.”

Emma watched her through the fluctuations of this speech, and saw no alarming symptoms of love. The elder sister had been the first admirer, intending Harriet for her brother, as it was clear that Harriet responded to man or woman, if they were pleasing to the eye, and spoke softly and kindly. Emma trusted there was no other hold, and that there would be no serious difficulty, on Harriet’s side, to oppose any friendly arrangement of her own.

They met Mr. Martin the very next day, as they were walking on the Donwell road. He was on foot, and after looking very respectfully at her, looked with most unfeigned satisfaction at her companion. Emma was not sorry to have such an opportunity of survey, and walking a few yards forward, while they talked together, soon made her quick eye sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Robert Martin. His appearance was very neat, and he looked like a sensible young man, but his person had no other advantage.

They remained but a few minutes together, as Miss Woodhouse must not be kept waiting. Harriet then came running to her with a smiling face, and in a flutter of spirits, which Miss Woodhouse hoped very soon to compose.

“Only think of our happening to meet him! How very odd! It was quite a chance, he said, that he had not gone round by Randalls. He did not think we ever walked this road. He thought we walked towards Randalls most days. He has not been able to get the Romance of the Forest yet. He was so busy the last time he was at Kingston that he quite forgot it, but he goes again tomorrow. So very odd we should happen to meet! Well, Miss Woodhouse, is he like what you expected? What do you think of him? Do you think him so very plain?”

“He is very plain, undoubtedly—remarkably plain, but that is nothing compared with his entire want of gentility. I had no right to expect much, and I did not expect much, but I had no idea that he could be so very clownish, so totally without air. I had imagined him, I confess, a degree or two nearer gentility.”

“To be sure,” said Harriet, in a mortified voice, “he is not so genteel as real gentlemen.”

“I think, Harriet, since your acquaintance with us, you have been repeatedly in the company of some such very real gentlemen, that you must yourself be struck with the difference in Mr. Martin. At Hartfield, you have had very good specimens of well educated, well bred men. I should be surprized if, after seeing them, you could be in company with Mr. Martin again without perceiving him to be a very inferior creature—and rather wondering at yourself for having ever thought him at all agreeable before.”

“Certainly, he is not like Mr. Knightley. He has not such a fine air and way of walking as Mr. Knightley. I see the difference plain enough. But Mr. Knightley is so very fine a man!”

“Mr. Knightley’s air is so remarkably good that it is not fair to compare Mr. Martin with him. You might not see one in a hundred with gentleman so plainly written as in Mr. Knightley. But he is not the only gentleman you have been lately used to. What say you to Mr. Elton? Compare Mr. Martin with him. You must see the difference.”

“Oh yes! There is a great difference.”

“Which makes good manners the more valuable. The older a person grows, Harriet, the more important it is that their manners should not be bad. The more glaring and disgusting any loudness, or coarseness, or awkwardness becomes. What is passable in youth is detestable in later age. Mr. Martin is now awkward and abrupt. What will he be at fifty?”

“There is no saying, indeed,” replied Harriet rather solemnly, with a degree of grave displeasure which Emma thought might be safely left to itself.

She, therefore, said no more for some time. Her next beginning was, “In one respect, perhaps, Mr. Elton’s manners are superior to Mr. Knightley’s. They have more gentleness. They might be more safely held up as a pattern. Mr. Knightley’s downright, decided, commanding sort of manner, though it suits him very well—his figure, and look, and situation in life seem to allow it. But if any young man were to set about copying him, he would not be sufferable. On the contrary, I think a young man might be very safely recommended to take Mr. Elton as a model. Mr. Elton is good-humoured, cheerful, obliging, and gentle. He seems to me to be grown particularly gentle of late.”

An idea darted into Emma’s brain; she remembered her idle wish to be making another happy match. Here was material for matrimonial happiness right at hand! “I do not know whether he has any design of ingratiating himself with either of us, Harriet, by additional softness, but it strikes me that his manners are softer than they used to be. If he means any thing, it must be to please you. Did not I tell you what he said of you the other day?”

She then repeated some warm personal praise which she had drawn from Mr. Elton, and now did full justice to. Harriet blushed and smiled, and said she had always thought Mr. Elton very agreeable, but the second-hand praise began to raise a tentative idea. With her emphasis on gentle manners, was not Miss Woodhouse making a case for something very different?

For the first time, Harriet began to consider whether a lovely woman—a wealthy one, who appeared to think only of Harriet’s well-being—might do as well as a gentleman of means, or better? Harriet had never been encouraged toward ambition, but as Miss Woodhouse talked about the importance of gentility and the good manners of good society, Harriet saw herself the mistress of a very pretty carriage, pulled by two horses with ribbons in their manes and tails—and all her very own.

Miss Woodhouse was encouraged by Harriet’s softened expression, the distant gaze of reverie. She could congratulate herself on having given Harriet’s mind a turn in the right direction. Mr. Elton was the very person she now fixed on for driving the young farmer out of Harriet’s head. She thought it would be an excellent match. The longer she considered it, the greater was her sense of its expediency. Mr. Elton’s situation was most suitable, quite the gentleman himself, and without low connexions. At the same time, not of any family that could fairly object to the doubtful birth of Harriet. He had a comfortable home for her, and Emma imagined a very sufficient income, for though the vicarage of Highbury was not large, he was known to have some independent property. She thought very highly of him as a good-humoured, well-meaning, respectable young man.

_____________________

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BVC Announces JAMES FAIRFAX by Jane Austen and Adam Campan — 4 Comments

  1. “In other words, Jane Austen invented the modern novel… ”

    Preposterous! Are you forgetting DON QUIXOTE? Cervantes is the writer univerally praised as the one who invented the modern novel!

    • So is Aphra Behn . . . and Mary Davys . . . and Madame de la Fayette . . .

      • Hmm. Maybe the person who invented the modern novel varies by your definition of “modern.” (I claim no expertise and have no opinion. I was not an English major.)

        • Exactly. Some point to this or that writer. Myself? I think that distinction belongs to Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott, whose novels did things that none of these others did–and which are invisible to modern writers now, because pretty much everyone followed after.