Jane Austen’s Emma: English verdure – a sweet view

Illustration from Emma, by Phillip Gough, Macdonald & Co (1948)It was hot; and after walking some time over the gardens in a scattered, dispersed way, scarcely any three together, they insensibly followed one another to the delicious shade of a broad short avenue of limes, which stretching beyond the garden at an equal distance from the river, seemed the finish of the pleasure grounds. It led to nothing; nothing but a view at the end over a low stone wall with high pillars, which seemed intended, in their erection, to give the appearance of an approach to the house, which never had been there. Disputable, however, as might be the taste of such a termination, it was in itself a charming walk, and the view which closed it extremely pretty. The considerable slope, at nearly the foot of which the Abbey stood, gradually acquired a steeper form beyond its grounds; and at half a mile distant was a bank of considerable abruptness and grandeur, well clothed with wood; and at the bottom of this bank, favourably placed and sheltered, rose the Abbey-Mill Farm, with meadows in front, and the river making a close and handsome curve around it.  

It was a sweet view — sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive. Narrator, Emma, Chapter 42 

We are having exceptionally fine weather in my neck of the woods in the country near Seattle, with nary a cloud in the sky and warm temperatures. The fruit trees are blooming and spring is in full flower. There is green everywhere, reminding me of this beautiful passage in Emma. As Austen describes the sweet view of the English landscape that her characters are experiencing, I am amazed how similar it is to my local landscape on a rare day when it is not raining or overcast. One wonders if Austen was feeling the same amazement with a fine clear day as I am, close to 200 years later. 

Wishing everyone a great holiday weekend in the states. 

*Illustration by Phillip Gough from Emma by Jane Austen, Macdonald & Co Publishers, London (1948)

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3 thoughts on “Jane Austen’s Emma: English verdure – a sweet view

  1. I rewatched Emma the other day, and wish I wouldn’t get so caught up in the words and watch their garden walk and their allee or what ever that long arbored walk is called and they end up in a cleared area with pillars. I wish I could see pictures of the set they used. Or a garden like it. You can see flowers are twined around the various pillars in the various scenes and when she is in the hot house or plants area it is to die for place. No wonder why we glamorize the movie era.

    Imagine a table set up by the help with tea.out doors in the middle of something. The same for those white flawless tents set up so she can sit and write outdoors.

    with gaming air conditioning and television we have lost so much of being out doors.

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    • Having been trained as a landscape designer Jo, I always enjoy the pleasure of a beautiful garden or a nature park. I so appreciate the outdoors elements in Emma: the walks in the shrubberies, the picnic at Box Hill, the strawberry picking at Donwell Abbey. In fact, I had not realized until you mentioned it that so much of the novel’s action happens outdoors. I do appreciate the movies of Austen’s novels for the visual splendor – especially the outdoor scenes at Pemberley and Mansfield Park. Austen obviously loved nature and its beauty. Thanks for visiting today.

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