I can check another of Jane Austen’s masterpieces off my list. Last night, I finished Emma, which Jane wrote and which was published in 1816, the year before she died.
It includes the dedication which is a major part of the Jane Austen mystery, Jane and the Waterloo Map, by Stephanie Barron. The dedication says: To His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, This work is, by his Royal Highness’s Permission, most respectfully dedicated, by His Royal Highness’s dutiful and obedient humble servant, The Author. No wonder the royals were so sure they were always right!
The Cincinnati Library provided this in a large type edition – it was 684 pages. And I now know probably almost all of the prevailing rules about who calls on whom, when, how and why in English manners and society in the early 1800s. Whew! I am glad life is so much simpler now. And texting doesn’t involve a lot of social rules.
Emma is a 21-year-old member of the gentry, wealthy in her own right, sweet and naive in some ways, but also quite sure she knows who belongs with whom, how things should be done, and is very willing to act on those beliefs to arrange and fix the lives of her friends. We definitely would recognize Emma today, though this book is over 200 years old. She is also living in a fairly backwater part of England, which gives her just a small segment of society to work on, and we get to know them all very well.
Needless to say, Emma is almost always, and flamingly, wrong. So there is a lot of Jane’s subtle humor in these pages. Emma is, though, very good hearted, and very smart in some ways, while also missing clues right in front of her. As well as always insisting she herself, while working to marry off friends and acquaintances, will never marry.
The book ends well, which I always appreciate. And is fairly lighted-hearted and fun. It also could have been written yesterday or tomorrow, thus demonstrating Jane’s genius and gifts. Enjoy!