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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Title page from the first edition
Author Jane Austen
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher John Murray
Publication date December 1815;
title page says 1816
Media type Print

Emma, by Jane Austen, is a comic novel about the perils of misconstrued romance. The novel was first published in December 1815. As in her other novels, Austen explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian-Regency England; she also creates a lively 'comedy of manners' among her characters.

Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."[1] In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." Emma, however, is also rather spoiled; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; and she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people's lives and is often mistaken about the meanings of others' actions.


Plot summary

Emma Woodhouse, aged 20 at the start of the novel, is a young, beautiful, witty, and privileged woman in Regency England. She lives on the fictional estate of Hartfield in Surrey in the village of Highbury with her elderly widowed father, a hypochondriac who is excessively concerned for the health and safety of his loved ones. Emma's friend and only critic is the gentlemanly George Knightley, her neighbour from the adjacent estate of Donwell, and the brother of her elder sister Isabella's husband. As the novel opens, Emma has just attended the wedding of Miss Taylor, her best friend and former governess. Having introduced Miss Taylor to her future husband, Mr. Weston, Emma takes credit for their marriage, and decides that she rather likes matchmaking.

Against Mr. Knightley's advice, Emma forges ahead with her new interest, and tries to match her new friend Harriet Smith, a sweet but none-too-bright parlour boarder of seventeen —described as "the natural daughter of somebody"— to Mr. Elton, the local vicar. Emma becomes convinced that Mr. Elton's constant attentions are a result of his attraction and growing love for Harriet.

But before events can unfold as she plans, Emma must first persuade Harriet to refuse an advantageous marriage proposal. Her suitor is a respectable young gentleman farmer, Mr. Martin, but Emma snobbishly decides he isn't good enough for Harriet. Against her own wishes, the easily-influenced Harriet rejects Mr. Martin.

Emma's schemes go awry when Mr. Elton, a social climber, proposes to Emma herself. Emma's friends had understood that Mr. Elton's attentions were the result of his attraction to Emma and his ambition in marrying her, although she had not. Emma, rather shocked, tells Mr. Elton that she had thought him attached to Harriet; however Elton is outraged at the very idea of marrying the socially inferior Harriet. After Emma rejects Mr. Elton, he leaves for a while for a sojourn in Bath, and Harriet fancies herself heartbroken. Emma now tries to convince Harriet that Mr. Elton is beneath her after all.

Mr. Elton, as Emma's misconceptions of his character melt away, reveals himself to be more and more arrogant and pompous. He soon returns from Bath with another newcomer, a vulgar but rich wife who becomes part of Emma's social circle, though the two women soon loathe each other. The Eltons treat the still lovestruck Harriet deplorably, culminating with Mr Elton very publicly snubbing Harriet at a dance. Mr Knightley, who had until this moment refrained from dancing, gallantly steps in to "save" Harriet, much to Emma's gratification.

An interesting development is the arrival in the neighbourhood of Frank Churchill, Mr. Weston's son who had been given to his deceased wife's relatives to bring up. Frank is now Mrs. Weston's stepson; Emma has never met him, but she has a long-standing interest in doing so.

A third new character is the orphaned Jane Fairfax, the reserved but beautiful and elegant niece of Emma's impoverished neighbour, the talkative Miss Bates who lives with her deaf, widowed mother. Miss Bates is an aging spinster, well-meaning but increasingly poor; Emma strives to be polite and kind to her, but is irritated by her dull and incessant chattering. Jane, very accomplished musically, is Miss Bates' pride and joy; Emma envies her talent and initially dislikes her for her apparent coldness and reserve. Jane had lived with Miss Bates until she was nine, but Colonel Campbell, a friend indebted to her father for seeing him through a life-threatening illness, welcomed her into his own home where she became fast friends with his unfortunately plain daughter and received a first-rate education. On the marriage of Miss Campbell, Jane returned to her Bates relations, ostensibly to regain her health and prepare to earn her living as a governess.

In her eagerness to find some sort of fault with Jane — and also to find something to amuse her in her pleasant but dull village — Emma indulges in the fantasy, apparently shared by Frank, that Jane was an object of admiration for Miss Campbell's husband, Mr. Dixon, and that it is for this reason she has returned home instead of going to Ireland to visit them. This suspicion is further fueled by the arrival of a piano for Jane from a mysterious anonymous benefactor.

Emma tries to make herself fall in love with Frank largely because everyone says they make a handsome couple. Frank seems to everyone to have Emma as his object, and the two flirt together in public, at the evening piano and on a day-trip to Box Hill, a local beauty spot. Emma ultimately decides, however, that Frank would suit Harriet better after an episode where Frank 'saves' Harriet from a band of Gypsies. At this time, Mrs. Weston wonders if Emma's old friend Mr. Knightley might have taken a fancy to Jane. Emma promptly decides that she does not want Mr. Knightley to marry anyone, but rather than further explore these feelings, she claims that this is because she wants her little nephew Henry to inherit the family property.

When Mr. Knightley scolds her for a thoughtless insult to Miss Bates, Emma is privately ashamed and tries to atone by going to visit Miss Bates. Mr. Knightley is surprised but deeply impressed by Emma's recognition of her wrongdoing and attempt to make amends; this leads to a more meaningful affection for Emma. Meanwhile, Jane reportedly becomes ill, but refuses to see Emma or accept her gifts. Emma thinks Jane's behaviour stems from Emma's previous neglect of and coldness towards Jane. Jane also suddenly accepts an offer for a governess position from one of Mrs. Elton's friends.

Soon thereafter, Emma learns why Jane had behaved strangely: it's because Jane and Frank have been secretly engaged for almost a year. Why Frank pretended to admire Emma was to disguise his clandestine relationship with Jane. Jane's distress had been because she and Frank had quarrelled over his behaviour with Emma and his unguarded behaviour towards herself, something Jane believes could put them at risk of discovery. Then Frank's overbearing aunt, whose opposition to the engagement Frank had feared, dies, and so Frank and Jane's engagement becomes public.

When Harriet confides that she thinks Mr. Knightley is in love with her, jealousy makes Emma realize she loves him herself. Mr. Knightley has been in love with Emma all along, and after the engagement of Jane and Frank is revealed, he proposes to her, and she joyfully accepts.

Shortly thereafter, Harriet reconciles with her young farmer, Mr. Martin, and they marry. Jane and Emma reconcile before Jane and Frank go to live in Yorkshire. Finally, Emma and Mr. Knightley decide that after their marriage they will spare Emma's father loneliness and distress by living with him at Hartfield, instead of settling at the Knightley estate, Donwell.

Principal characters

Emma Woodhouse, the protagonist of the story, is a beautiful, high-spirited, intelligent, and 'slightly' spoiled young woman of 21. Her mother died when she was very young, and she has been mistress of the house ever since, certainly since her older sister got married. While she is in many ways mature for her age, Emma makes some serious mistakes, mainly due to her conviction that she is always right and her lack of real world experience. Although she has vowed she will never ever marry, she delights in making matches for others. She seems unable to fall in love, until jealousy makes her realize that she has loved Mr Knightley all along.

Mr George Knightley, about 37 or 38. He is a close friend of Emma, and her only critic, though he cares deeply for her. Mr Knightley is the owner of the neighbouring estate of Donwell, which includes extensive grounds and a farm. He is the elder brother of Mr John Knightley—the husband of Emma's elder sister Isabella. Mr Knightley is very annoyed with Emma for persuading Harriet to turn down Mr Martin, thinking that the advantage is all on Harriet's side; he also warns Emma against matchmaking Harriet with Mr Elton, correctly guessing that Mr Elton has a much higher opinion of himself. He is suspicious of Frank Churchill and his motives; although his suspicion turns out to be based mainly on jealousy of the younger man, his instincts are proven correct by the revelation that Frank Churchill is not all that he seems.

Mr Frank Churchill, Mr Weston's son by his previous marriage, an amiable young man who manages to be liked by everyone except Mr Knightley, who considers him quite immature, although this partially results from his jealously of Frank's supposed 'pursuit' of Emma. After his mother's death he was raised by his wealthy aunt and uncle, whose last name he took. Frank enjoys dancing and music and living life to the fullest. Frank may be viewed as a careless but less villainous version of characters from other Austen novels, such as Mr Wickham from Pride and Prejudice or Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility.

Jane Fairfax, an orphan whose only family consists of an aunt, Miss Bates, and a grandmother, Mrs Bates. She is regarded as a very beautiful, clever, and elegant woman, with the best of manners, and is also very well-educated and exceptionally talented at singing and playing the piano; in fact, she is the sole person that Emma envies. She has little fortune, however, and seems destined to become a governess – a prospect she dislikes.

Harriet Smith, a young friend of Emma's, is a very pretty but unsophisticated girl who is too easily led by others, especially Emma; she has been educated at a nearby school. The illegitimate daughter of initially unknown parents, she is revealed in the last chapter to be the daughter of a fairly rich and decent tradesman, although not a "gentleman". Emma takes Harriet under her wing early in the novel, and she becomes the subject of some of Emma's misguided matchmaking attempts. Harriet initially rebuffs a marriage proposal from farmer Robert Martin because of Emma's belief that he is beneath her, despite Harriet's own doubtful origins. She then develops a passion for Mr Knightley, which is the catalyst for Emma realising her own feelings. Ultimately, Harriet and Mr Martin are wed, despite Emma's meddling.

Philip Elton is a good-looking, well mannered and ambitious young vicar. Emma wants him to marry Harriet; he wants to marry Emma. Mr Elton displays his mercenary nature by quickly marrying another woman of means after Emma's rejection.

Augusta Elton, formerly Miss Hawkins, is Mr Elton's moneyed but obnoxious wife. She is a boasting, domineering, pretentious woman who likes to be the centre of attention and is generally disliked by Emma and her circle. She patronizes Jane, which earns Jane the sympathy of others.

Mrs Anne Weston, formerly Miss Taylor, was Emma's governess for sixteen years and remains her closest friend and confidante after she marries Mr Weston in the opening chapter. She is a sensible woman who adores Emma. Mrs Weston acts as a surrogate mother to her former charge and, occasionally, as a voice of moderation and reason.

Mr Weston, a recently wealthy man living in the vicinity of Hartfield. He marries Emma's former governess, Miss Taylor, and by his first marriage is father to Frank Churchill, who was adopted and raised by his late wife's brother and sister-in-law. Mr Weston is a sanguine, optimistic man, who enjoys socializing.

Miss Bates, a friendly, garrulous spinster whose mother, Mrs Bates, is a friend of Mr Woodhouse. Her accomplished niece, Jane Fairfax, is the light of her life. One day, Emma humiliates her on a day out in the country, when she pointedly alludes to her tiresome prolixity. Afterward, Mr Knightley sternly rebukes Emma. Shamed, she tries to make amends.

Mr Henry Woodhouse, Emma's father, is always concerned for his own health and that of his friends, to the point of trying to deny his visitors foods he thinks too rich. He laments that "poor Isabella" and "poor Miss Taylor" have married and been taken away from him.

Isabella Woodhouse is the elder sister of Emma and daughter of Henry. She is married to John Knightley.

John Knightley is Isabella's husband and George's younger brother. He is an old acquaintance of Jane Fairfax.

Emma Woodhouse is the first Austen heroine with no financial concerns, which, she declares to the naïve Miss Smith, is the reason that she has no inducement to marry.

In contrast to other Austen heroines Emma seems immune to romantic attraction and sexuality. Unlike Marianne Dashwood, who is attracted to the wrong man before she settles on the right one, Emma shows no romantic interest in the men she meets. She is genuinely surprised (and somewhat disgusted) when Mr Elton declares his love for her—much in the way Elizabeth Bennet singularly reacts to the obsequious Mr Collins. Notably too, Emma utterly fails to understand the budding affection between Harriet Smith and Robert Martin; it is only after Harriet Smith reveals her interest in Mr Knightley that Emma realizes her own feelings for him.

Though her family is loving and her economic status secure, Emma's everyday life is dull indeed; she has few companions her own age when the novel begins. Her determined though inept matchmaking may represent a muted protest against the narrow scope of a wealthy woman's life, especially that of a woman who is single and childless.

Film and television adaptations

Emma has been the subject of many adaptations:[2]

Emma in popular culture

  • The novel Emma is featured in the film Naked (1993) by Mike Leigh, in which the character Johnny (played by David Thewlis) confuses the title and the name of the author.
  • Emma provides the basis for the plot of Clueless (1995) by Amy Heckerling. The role is performed by Alicia Silverstone.
  • Joan Aiken wrote a companion novel, Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen's Emma.
  • Reginald Hill wrote a 1987 short story "Poor Emma" (included in the 2007 paperback There are no Ghosts in the Soviet Union) in which finances and security play the central role.
  • The Importance of Being Emma, a novel by Juliet Archer, is a modern version of Emma.
  • Emma and the Werewolves : Jane Austen and Adam Rann, a mashup novel by Adam Rann.[4] A mashup novel appropriates text and the author's name from an original source that is no longer protected by copyright, integrating new narrative into the original to create a new (mashup) story on the back of the original. Typically, the mashup story is a sendup of the original story. Also typical, the mashup publisher prints the original author's name in a manner that falsely represents the original as a joint author or collaborator in the mashup novel.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow played Emma in the 1996 movie.
  • Romola Garai played Emma in the 2009 BBC Series based on the book.

See also


  1. ^ Austen-Leigh, James Edward. A Memoir of Jane Austen. 1926. Ed. R. W. Chapman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967. p. 157
  2. ^ Jane Austen at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ "Casting announced for BBC One's Emma this Autumn" at BBC One (4 April 2009)
  4. ^ Jane Austen's Emma Meets Her Match: Werewolves

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Emma (1816) is a comic novel by Jane Austen, generally regarded as the most perfectly constructed of all her works, concerning the perils of misconstrued romance.

  • Can you trust me with such flatterers?
  • Does my vain spirit ever tell me I am wrong?
  • 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.
    • Ch. 1
  • It's such a happiness when good people get together—and they always do.
    • Ch. 3
  • I am very sorry to be right in this instance. I would much rather have been merry than wise.
    • Ch. 7
  • I do not know whether it ought to be so, but certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly.—It depends upon the character of those who handle it. Mr. Knightley, he is not a trifling, silly young man. If he were, he would have done this differently. He would either have gloried in the achievement, or been ashamed of it. There would have been either the ostentation of a coxcomb, or the evasions of a mind too weak to defend its own vanities.—No, I am perfectly sure that he is not trifling or silly.
    • Ch. 8
  • One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
    • Ch. 9
  • There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.
    • Ch. 11
  • If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. —You hear nothing but truth from me.
    • Ch. 13
  • Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct is mistaken, the feelings are not, it may not be very material.
    • Ch. 13
  • It was a delightful visit—perfect, in being much too short.
    • Ch. 13
  • It is very difficult for the prosperous to be humble.
    • Ch. 14
  • Nobody who has not been in the interior of a family can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be.
    • Ch. 18
  • Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of.
    • Ch. 22
  • Jane Fairfax is a very charming young woman - but not even Jane Fairfax is perfect. She has a fault. She has not the open temper which a man would wish for in a wife.
    • Mr. Knightley, Ch. 33
  • Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.
    • Ch. 34

External links

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From a Frankish prototheme Ermin- or Irmin- "entire",the first part of given names such as Ermintrude and Irmgard


Proper noun




  1. A female given name.

Usage notes

  • Used in England since the Norman Conquest, fashionable in the 19th century, and back in favor today.

Related terms


  • 1854 Matthew Hall: The Queens Before the Conquest: page 259-260:
    Both Saxon and Norman chroniclers unite in representing the youthful Queen Emma as in a peculiar degree gifted with elegance and beauty; so that many flattering epithets had been bestowed on her - as "the Pearl," "the Flower," or "the Fair Maid" of Normandy.
  • 1917 Carl Van Vechten: Interpreters and Interpretations. A.A.Knopf,1917. page 92:
    Emma Calvé...since Madame Bovary the name Emma suggests a solid bourgeois foundation, a country family...Emma Eames, a chilly name...a wind from the East.
  • 1980 Barbara Pym: A Few Green Leaves ISBN 0060805498 page 8:
    The cottage now belonged to Emma's mother Beatrix, who was a tutor in English literature at a women's college, specialising in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novel. This may have accounted for Emma's Christian name, for it had seemed to Beatrix unfair to call her daughter Emily, a name associated with her grandmother's servants rather than the author of The Wuthering Heights, so Emma had been chosen, perhaps with the hope that some of the qualities possessed by the heroine of the novel might be perpetuated.



Proper noun


  1. A female given name of Germanic origin.


Proper noun


  1. A female given name of Germanic origin.


Proper noun

Emma (stem Emm-*)

  1. A female given name of Germanic origin.

Related terms


Proper noun

Emma f.

  1. A female given name of Germanic origin.


Proper noun


  1. A female given name of Germanic origin.

Related terms


Proper noun


  1. A female given name of Germanic origin.


Proper noun

Emma c.

  1. A female given name of Germanic origin.

Related terms

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