Logo: The Walrus and the Carpenter, from the illustrations to Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through the Looking-Glass", 1872

Jane Austen's Emma

Jane Austen's Emma. Illustrated by Hugh Thomson.

Image: Jane Austen - Emma,

Now available in the US and UK: ISBN 1905921071

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About the book

Jane Austen's masterpiece of romantic fiction, "Emma", with notable illustrations by Hugh Thomson. The illustrations in this edition have been photographed directly from the original antiquarian book, and digitally cleaned.

Book Excerpts

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 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, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

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 it was more the intimacy of sisters. 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; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend 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; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.


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“Mr. Weston would undoubtedly support me, if he were here, for he thinks exactly as I do on the subject. We were speaking of it only yesterday, and agreeing how fortunate it was for Emma, that there should be such a girl in Highbury for her to associate with. Mr. Knightley, I shall not allow you to be a fair judge in this case. You are so much used to live alone, that you do not know the value of a companion; and, perhaps no man can be a good judge of the comfort a woman feels in the society of one of her own sex, after being used to it all her life. I can imagine your objection to Harriet Smith. She is not the superior young woman which Emma’s friend ought to be. But on the other hand, as Emma wants to see her better informed, it will be an inducement to her to read more herself. They will read together. She means it, I know.”

“Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old. I have seen a great many lists of her drawingup at various times of books that she meant to read regularly through— and very good lists they were— very well chosen, and very neatly arranged — sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other rule. The list she drew up when only fourteen— I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now. But I have done with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma. She will never submit to any thing requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding. Where Miss Taylor failed to stimulate, I may safely affirm that Harriet Smith will do nothing.— You never could persuade her to read half so much as you wished.— You know you could not.”


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Miss Bates, in her real anxiety for Jane, could hardly stay even to be grateful, before she stept forward and put an end to all farther singing. Here ceased the concert part of the evening, for Miss Woodhouse and Miss Fairfax were the only young lady performers; but soon (within five minutes) the proposal of dancing— originating nobody exactly knew where—was so effectually promoted by Mr. and Mrs. Cole, that every thing was rapidly clearing away, to give proper space. Mrs. Weston, capital in her country-dances, was seated, and beginning an irresistible waltz; and Frank Churchill, coming up with most becoming gallantry to Emma, had secured her hand, and led her up to the top.

While waiting till the other young people could pair themselves off, Emma found time, in spite of the compliments she was receiving on her voice and her taste, to look about, and see what became of Mr. Knightley. This would be a trial. He was no dancer in general. If he were to be very alert in engaging Jane Fairfax now, it might augur something. There was no immediate appearance. No; he was talking to Mrs. Cole— he was looking on unconcerned; Jane was asked by somebody else, and he was still talking to Mrs. Cole.

Emma had no longer an alarm for Henry; his interest was yet safe; and she led off the dance with genuine spirit and enjoyment. Not more than five couple could be mustered; but the rarity and the suddenness of it made it very delightful, and she found herself well matched in a partner. They were a couple worth looking at.

Two dances, unfortunately, were all that could be allowed. It was growing late, and Miss Bates became anxious to get home, on her mother’s account. After some attempts, therefore, to be permitted to begin again, they were obliged to thank Mrs. Weston, look sorrowful, and have done.

“Perhaps it is as well,” said Frank Churchill, as he attended Emma to her carriage. “I must have asked Miss Fairfax, and her languid dancing would not have agreed with me, after your’s.”


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It was well to have a comfort in store on Harriet’s behalf, though it might be wise to let the fancy touch it seldom; for evil in that quarter was at hand. As Frank Churchill’s arrival had succeeded Mr. Elton’s engagement in the conversation of Highbury, as the latest interest had entirely borne down the first, so now upon Frank Churchill’s disappearance, Mr. Elton’s concerns were assuming the most irresistible form.—His wedding-day was named. He would soon be among them again; Mr. Elton and his bride. There was hardly time to talk over the first letter from Enscombe before “Mr. Elton and his bride” was in every body’s mouth, and Frank Churchill was forgotten. Emma grew sick at the sound. She had had three weeks of happy exemption from Mr. Elton; and Harriet’s mind, she had been willing to hope, had been lately gaining strength. With Mr. Weston’s ball in view at least, there had been a great deal of insensibility to other things; but it was now too evident that she had not attained such a state of composure as could stand against the actual approach—new carriage, bell-ringing, and all.

Poor Harriet was in a flutter of spirits which required all the reasonings and soothings and attentions of every kind that Emma could give. Emma felt that she could not do too much for her, that Harriet had a right to all her ingenuity and all her patience; but it was heavy work to be for ever convincing without producing any effect, for ever agreed to, without being able to make their opinions the same. Harriet listened submissively, and said “it was very true— it was just as Miss Woodhouse described—it was not worth while to think about them—and she would not think about them any longer” but no change of subject could avail, and the next half-hour saw her as anxious and restless about the Eltons as before. At last Emma attacked her on another ground.


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Emma could hardly understand him; he seemed in an odd humour. He walked off to find his father, but was quickly back again with both Mr. and Mrs. Weston. He had met with them in a little perplexity, which must be laid before Emma. It had just occurred to Mrs. Weston that Mrs. Elton must be asked to begin the ball; that she would expect it; which interfered with all their wishes of giving Emma that distinction.—Emma heard the sad truth with fortitude.

“And what are we to do for a proper partner for her?” said Mr. Weston. “She will think Frank ought to ask her.”

Frank turned instantly to Emma, to claim her former promise; and boasted himself an engaged man, which his father looked his most perfect approbation of—and it then appeared that Mrs. Weston was wanting him to dance with Mrs. Elton himself, and that their business was to help to persuade him into it, which was done pretty soon.— Mr. Weston and Mrs. Elton led the way, Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Woodhouse followed. Emma must submit to stand second to Mrs. Elton, though she had always considered the ball as peculiarly for her. It was almost enough to make her think of marrying. Mrs. Elton had undoubtedly the advantage, at this time, in vanity completely gratified; for though she had intended to begin with Frank Churchill, she could not lose by the change. Mr. Weston might be his son’s superior.— In spite of this little rub, however, Emma was smiling with enjoyment, delighted to see the respectable length of the set as it was forming, and to feel that she had so many hours of unusual festivity before her.— She was more disturbed by Mr. Knightley’s not dancing than by any thing else.—There he was, among the standers-by, where he ought not to be; he ought to be dancing,—not classing himself with the husbands, and fathers, and whist-players, who were pretending to feel an interest in the dance till their rubbers were made up,—so young as he looked!— He could not have appeared to greater advantage perhaps anywhere, than where he had placed himself. His tall, firm, upright figure, among the bulky forms and stooping shoulders of the elderly men, was such as Emma felt must draw every body’s eyes; and, excepting her own partner, there was not one among the whole row of young men who could be compared with him.—He moved a few steps nearer, and those few steps were enough to prove in how gentlemanlike a manner, with what natural grace, he must have danced, would he but take the trouble.—Whenever she caught his eye, she forced him to smile; but in general he was looking grave. She wished he could love a ballroom better, and could like Frank Churchill better.— He seemed often observing her. She must not flatter herself that he thought of her dancing, but if he were criticising her behaviour, she did not feel afraid. There was nothing like flirtation between her and her partner. They seemed more like cheerful, easy friends, than lovers. That Frank Churchill thought less of her than he had done, was indubitable.


About the author

Born on December 16th, 1775; Jane Austen was the 7th child among 8 children of Rev. George Austen, and Cassandra Leigh. Jane Austen's only sister, Cassandra, was her closest confidante and friend throughout her life, and the other sibling closest to Jane Austen was her brother Henry, a banker and later Anglican clergyman. Henry also acted as her literary agent and it was through his circle of friends (bankers, merchants, publishers, painters, and actors) Jane Austen formed her views about the social worlds.

Jane Austen’s father tutored her early education until she left for boarding school with her sister. After returning from boarding, Jane Austen continued her education under her father’s and brothers’ tutelage. Her father was quiet liberal on his children’s upbringing and even encouraged Jane Austen and her sister to continue writing (hardly considered an ideal trait in women of those days)

Jane Austen’s writing started during her teenage years, which was later compiled as Juvenilia. Jane Austen's first novel, 'Sense and Sensibility', appeared in 1811, and was followed by the favourably reviewed 'Pride and Prejudice' (described by her as her "own darling child") in 1813. 'Mansfield Park' published in 1814, was a huge hit in the public, and was followed by 'Emma' in 1816. All of Jane Austen's novels were published anonymously (her name being revealed after the publication of her nephew's A Memoir of the Life of Jane Austen, in 1870). 'Persuasion' and 'Northanger Abbey' were published posthumously and a final novel, Sanditon was left incomplete.

One of the most studied and debated pieces of literature, Jane Austen's works still have a tremendous fan following and are regularly adapted in various forms of media.


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