Author Interviews, Jane Austen's Emma

Q&A with Juliette Wells, Editor of Emma: 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen

Emma 200th Anniversary Edition edited by Juliette Wells 2015 x 200We hit another publication milestone this year with the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s most lauded novel, Emma. I have previously reviewed the novel and the 2010 film adaptation extensively, so I thought for this new 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition by Penguin Deluxe Classics that you might enjoy hearing from another source—someone who is an Austen scholar, college professor and all-around-friend of Jane—editor Juliette Wells. Here is an informative interview with her publisher that I am happy to share.

When we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Emma, what in particular are we celebrating? What’s new about this edition? 

We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma’s original publication, in London in December 1815. The date of publication is a little confusing because “1816” was printed on the title page of the first edition of the novel, but it was actually released in December 1815. I think this gives us the right to celebrate for a whole year! Continue reading “Q&A with Juliette Wells, Editor of Emma: 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen”

Jane Austen's Emma, Jane Austen's Works

Rare Presentation of Copy of Jane Austen’s Emma Commands £325,000

Jonkers Rare Books, of Hart Street, Henley-on-Thames has announced today that an undisclosed British collector has paid £325,000 for the rare first edition presentation copy of Jane Austen’s novel Emma once owned by her dear friend Anne Sharp. Jonkers has owned the three volume set since June 2008 when it outbid all other participants at Bonham’s Auction House in London. The £180,000 sales price set a new auction record for a printed book by the British author. 

Bookshop director Christiaan Jokers revealed some amazing facts in his statement to the Henley Standard regarding the copy of Emma that I find quite debatable. 

“The important thing is the signature of Jane Austen to her best friend. That’s what moves it from being a £20,000 book to a £300,000 book.” 

“The fact that it is the only presentation copy is also really something.” 

When the copy was presented for sale in 2008, Bonham’s researched the history of its provenance and the hand writing prior to listing for auction. Since this was a presentation copy sent directly to Anne Sharpe from Jane Austen’s publisher John Murray, Bonham’s did not believe that the inscription was Jane Austen’s but had been written by her publisher before it was sent to Anne. I also doubt that it is the only known remaining presentation copy of Emma. Out of the twelve copies sent, nine went to her family and one to the Prince Regent. There must be another one still in the family or in the Royal library. 

Come what may, I am quite pleased that the sale was to a British collector and hope that it was to a museum or a certain millionairess in Chawton who will exhibit it to the public. 

  • Read my original post regarding the history of Anne Sharp’s presentation copy and her relationship with Jane Austen.

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Jane Austen Book Sleuth, Jane Austen's Emma, Jane Austen's Works

James Fairfax: A Gender Bending Alternate Regency Universe Will be the Next Austen Mash-up

James Fairfax, by Jane Austen and Adam Campan (2009)Gentle Readers: In yet the third announcement in less than a week, another publisher is jumping on the classic literary re-imagining/mash-up band wagon and hitching their star to Austen’s prose. Independent publisher Norilana Books has announced today a new novel entitled James Fairfax, combining Jane Austen’s original text of Emma with new scenes by Adam Campan. Described as a “re-envisioning of Jane Austen’s world, where gay marriage is commonplace and love is gender-blind,” one is all astonishment as to this new premise.

Here is the publicity blurb:

In this stunning, gender-bending, stylish dance-of-manners version of Jane Austen’s beloved classic novel EMMA — an alternate Regency where gay marriage is commonplace and love is gender-blind — matchmaking Emma Woodhouse tries to find a suitable spouse for her lover Harriet Smith, and is embroiled in the secrets of the relationship between the mysterious and accomplished James Fairfax and the handsome Frank Churchill…

Last week Quirk Books, the publisher of the surprising best-seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, revealed its next Austen mash-up would be Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, followed by Beautiful Books announcement of Murder at Mansfield Park on Monday. With recent deluge of Jane Austen inspired books, this writer like Austen’s character Mary Bennet, “wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.”

Further reading

Jane Austen's Emma, Jane Austen's Works

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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Jane Austen Humor, Jane Austen's Emma, Jane Austen's Works

Austen at Large: Mr. Elton on Facebook

My class assignment taken to the fullest extent!

Mr. Elton on Facebook

 

 And of course he must have his say.

Mr. Elton's Facebook Page Notes

Virginia Claire

Virginia Claire, our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland.

Jane Austen's Emma, Jane Austen's Works

Emma: Mr. Knightley’s Proposal – Marriage or Merger?

Illustration by Willian C. Cooke, Emma, J. M. Dent & Co (1892)“And now, let me talk to you of something else. I have another person’s interest at present so much at heart, that I cannot think any longer about Frank Churchill. Ever since I left you this morning, Emma, my mind has been hard at work on one subject.”  

The subject followed; it was in plain, unaffected, gentleman-like English such as Mr. Knightley used even to the woman he was in love with, how to be able to ask her to marry him, without attacking the happiness of her father. Emma’s answer was ready at the first word. “While her dear father lived, any change of condition must be impossible for her. She could never quit him.” Part only of this answer, however, was admitted. The impossibility of her quitting her father, Mr. Knightley felt as strongly as herself; but the inadmissibility of any other change, he could not agree to. He had been thinking it over most deeply, most intently; he had at first hoped to induce Mr. Woodhouse to remove with her to Donwell; he had wanted to believe it feasible, but his knowledge of Mr. Woodhouse would not suffer him to deceive himself long; and now he confessed his persuasion, that such a transplantation would be a risk of her father’s comfort, perhaps even of his life, which must not be hazarded. Mr. Woodhouse taken from Hartfield! No, he felt that it ought not to be attempted. But the plan which had arisen on the sacrifice of this, he trusted his dearest Emma would not find in any respect objectionable; it was, that he should be received at Hartfield; that so long as her father’s happiness — in other words his life — required Hartfield to continue her home, it should be his likewise.  

Of their all removing to Donwell, Emma had already had her own passing thoughts. Like him, she had tried the scheme and rejected it; but such an alternative as this had not occurred to her. She was sensible of all the affection it evinced. She felt that, in quitting Donwell, he must be sacrificing a great deal of independence of hours and habits; that in living constantly with her father, and in no house of his own, there would be much, very much, to be borne with. She promised to think of it, and advised him to think of it more; but he was fully convinced, that no reflection could alter his wishes or his opinion on the subject. He had given it, he could assure her, very long and calm consideration; he had been walking away from William Larkins the whole morning, to have his thoughts to himself. Mr. Knightley & Emma Woodhouse, Chapter 51 

I have always been disappointed in Mr. Knightley’s marriage proposal to our heroine Emma Woodhouse. If you are not paying close attention, you might miss it altogether! No long speech declaring his esteem, admiration and love. No “will you be mine dearest, loveliest Emma?” No ardent realization that they are destined to be together. No jubilant acceptance by her. Nothing! And Emma is also at fault. She is as much about the business transaction as Knightley, concerned more about her father’s reaction and comforts, Mr. Knightley’s estate manager Mr. Larkins being inconvenienced by Mr. Knightey’s absence if they should live at Hartfield, and finally Harriet’s reaction to the news. This is more business merger negotiations than the final romantic reward for the build up by Jane Austen over the last 448 pages of the novel. For me, it is the biggest weakness in the plot to an otherwise brilliant story. If Austen had given us a romantic and moving marriage proposal, Emma might be more favorably accepted. I know that sounds shallow, but there your have it from this hopeless romantic.     

* Illustration by William C. Cooke, “Mr. Knightley’s proposal”, Emma, The Novels of Jane Austen, J. M. Dent & Co, London (1892)

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Jane Austen's Emma, Jane Austen's Works

Emma Woodhouse: Poverty, Marriage & Pedestals!

Illustration by Edmund H. Garrett, Emma, Roberts Bros, Boston (1892)“Dear me! it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!”  

“I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe few married women are half as much mistress of their husband’s house, as I am of Hartfield; and never, never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as I am in my father’s.”  

“But then, to be an old maid at last, like Miss Bates!”  

“That is as formidable an image as you could present, Harriet; and if I thought I should ever be like Miss Bates! so silly — so satisfied — so smiling — so prosing — so undistinguishing and unfastidious — and so apt to tell every thing relative to every body about me, I would marry to-morrow. But between us, I am convinced there never can be any likeness, except in being unmarried.”  

“But still, you will be an old maid — and that’s so dreadful!”  

“Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else. And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper. Harriet Smith and Emma Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 10 

Miss Emma Woodhouse is such a prig! She proclaims that only poverty makes an old maid contemptible. Oh really? She need not marry because it offers her nothing that she does not already possess: fortune, employment or consequence. Arrogance! The first time a read Emma, I scowled so much my face hurt. 

Some readers complain that they can not identify with Emma. Jane Austen has certainly created “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.” It is difficult for a reader to sympathize with her struggles, because her arrogance is her biggest fault, and who can feel empathy with that? When I think of other literary heroines we love to hate, I think of Scarlet O’Hara, that smug southern belle in Gone With the Wind. Even though we want to give them both a swift kick in the rear, we are mesmerized over the prospect of what silliness they will do next and who will eventually knock them off their self appointed pedestals. It’s along fall, but worth the wait! 

*Illustration by Edmund H. Garrett, Emma, Chapter 10, Roberts Bros, Boston (1892)

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