Emma by Jane Austen Read-along: Volume 1


I shall begin a post on Jane Austen’s Emma with a quote from Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream, for if Jane herself included it in Volume 1, it must be indicative of what is to come:

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Of course, how can it run smoothly at the hands of our well-meaning Emma? If I didn’t somehow trust her character, I would throw the book down in disgust at her interfering, meddlesome ways. She is convinced that her friend, Harriet Smith, should not become the wife of Mr. Robert Martin, of Abbey-Mill Farm, but instead be engaged to the vicar, Mr. Elton. In her conviction, she does not see that Mr. Elton’s eyes are on Emma herself. Emma is “too eager and busy in her own previous conceptions and views to hear him impartially, or see him with clear vision…”

It isn’t until the carriage ride home from the Christmas party at Randalls, to which Harriet could not attend due to her cold and sore-throat, that Mr. Elton makes his interest in Emma known. She is horrified that he is enamored of her, rather than Harriet, after such promptings on her part to put the two together. The very contrition on Emma’s part makes me feel affection for her; at least she has the sense to realize she has made a terrible blunder in her match-making attempt.

The first error, and the worst, lay at her door. It was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together. It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be serious, a trick of what ought to be simple. She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more.

We shall see if she changes her ways in Volumes 2 and 3. But, before I leave Volume 1, I must admit to feeling vaguely sympathetic to Mr. John Knightley’s views on parties. I am the sort of person who much prefers the quiet intimacy of one or two guests, three or four at the most, and often live in dread of being invited to large gatherings during the Christmas season. The introvert in me loved this passage, while recognizing there is a certain uncharitable quality inherent to its expression:

‘A man,’ said he, ‘must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to leave their own fire-side, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest absurdity- actually snowing at this moment! The folly of not allowing people to be comfortable at home – and the folly of people’s not staying comfortably at home when they can! If we were obliged to go out on such an evening as this, by any call of duty or business, what a hardship we should deem it; – and here are we, probably with rather thinner clothing than usual, setting forward voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of the voice of nature, which tells man in every thing given to his view or his feelings, to stay at home himself, and keep all under shelter that he can; – here are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in another man’s house, with nothing to say or hear that was not said and heard yesterday, and may not be said and heard again to-morrow. Going in dismal weather, to return probably in worse; – four horses and four servants taken out for nothing but to convey fie idle, shivering creatures into colder rooms and worse company than they might have had at home.

I suspect that Jane Austen may have struck a chord with many people who live in Chicago and find little better to do in the winter than complain about the weather. But, it isn’t the snowy evening that I object to, it is the tediousness of keeping up a steady stream of chatter when I’d rather be reading.

And now I will close with other quotes I adored from Volume 1:

I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him. If she can hesitate as to ‘Yes,’ she ought to say ‘No’ directly.


Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief.


It was a delightful visit; – perfect in being much too short.


A sore throat! – I hope not infectious. I hope not of a putrid infectious sort.


This is quite the season, indeed, for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.


Before I go, here is the view walking into school on Monday morning, a most fetching scene for December, is it not? And, I want to ask, “What parts of Emma did you find most endearing? Or, interesting?” Please leave a link to your review so that I can visit you.


Emma by Jane Austen: An Invitation to Read Along With Us This December


There’s been a conversation on Twitter about reading Emma as a read-along. It began with Audrey, who commented on my post announcing the special edition by saying she’d like to read it this December. That sounded like perfect timing to me, since German Lit Month would just be ending, and so I readily agreed. Soon Nadia said she’d like to join us. Then Frances. And just tonight JoAnn said it seemed silly to keep saving it for later.

So, it’s time to make it official!

If you would like to join us for the Emma read-along this December, please “sign up” in the comments below. Feel free to put the button on your blog, as a reminder and an invitation to others. I am thrilled that a group of us will read-along because there’s nothing quite so enriching as sharing the thoughts of a novel read together. Especially with a novel celebrating its 200th year anniversary. (When was it first published? December, 1815.)

Emma Read Along button

Do join in with:

  1. A Reader of Literature
  2. Amanda
  3. Amanda (nerdybookgirl)
  4. Audrey
  5. BJ
  6. Beatrice
  7. Bellezza
  8. Deepika
  9. Diane
  10. Dorian
  11. Frances
  12. Jane
  13. JoAnn
  14. Judy B.
  15. Kat
  16. Kay
  17. Kristen
  18. Laurie C.
  19. Linda W.
  20. Lisa
  21. Lory
  22. mf4strings
  23. Nadia
  24. Nancy
  25. o
  26. Pam
  27. Rebecca
  28. Ruby
  29. Sharon
  30. Sylvie
  31. The Book Cottage
  32. Thomas
  33. Tom (Amateur Reader)
  34. TJ
  35. Where There’s Ink There’s Paper

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Okay, if I’m going to be perfectly frank? I had a hard time getting through Northanger Abbey. Catherine, while sweet, is a bit of a ninny. Obsessed with the novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Mr. Tilney, she was concerned with very little of consequence beyond her imagination.

“I never look at it,” said Catherine, as they walked along the side of the river, “without thinking of the south of France.”

“You have been abroad then?” said Henry, a little surprised.

“Oh! No, I only mean what I have read about. It always puts me in mind of the country that Emily and her father travelled through, in The Mysteries of Udolpho. But you never read novels, I dare say?” (p. 88)

Now, nobody loves a good novel more than I. But, Jane Austen seems to poke fun of those who mock her very craft by saying they are silly things, then she goes ahead and creates a silly female character.

I had no patience for Catherine. While it was endearing to read of her friendship with Eleanor, and her romance with Henry Tilney (“Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.”), it was annoying to endure her fantasies while staying at Northanger Abbey. Too reminiscent of Jane Eyre, in my opinion, is her pondering what the General has done with his dead wife. Perhaps, Catherine wonders, she is not dead at all; merely locked away and fed inglorious meals.

As in most romance novels, everything works out perfectly in the end, but it was all too trite for me. In this round of Austen vs. Dickens? Most certainly Dickens has my vote. Or, perhaps, Ms. Radcliffe, once I’ve read The Mysteries of Udolpho.

Find more reviews on Austen or Dickens this month at The Classics Circuit.

A New Austen Blog Opens Today

It is named Austen Authorsbegun by Sharon Lathan and Abigail Reynolds. They have contacted 20 contributors of Jane Austen fiction which will be contributing to their new group blog.

“Starting on September 6, daily blogs posts will be put up, celebrations of new books going into stores will be had, and for the launch month of the blog, many giveaways and contests will be held!”, writes a publicist from Sourcebooks to me, and I wanted to be sure to spread the word so you could have a chance to win.

This Winter I’ll be reviewing A Darcy Christmas, which will be published in October, so also look for a give-away of that Austen novel. In the meantime, happy Austen reading! (Oh, and Happy Labor Day! I hope you’re taking the day off. 😉