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Opinions of Jane Austen’s Emma

Jane Austen's Emma

Opinions of Jane Austen’s Emma

As she had done with Mansfield Park the previous
year, when Jane Austen’s Emma was released in 1815, Jane Austen, like any proud artist collected opinions on her work from
friends and family. These candid reflections give us a wonderful insight into how Jane Austen’s Emma was received in its day.

Captn. Austen. [1]–liked it extremely, observing that though there might be more Wit in P & P–& an higher
Morality in MP–yet altogether, on account of it’s peculiar air of Nature throughout, he preferred it to either.

Mrs F. A. [2]–liked & admired it very much indeed, but must still prefer P & P.

Mrs J. Bridges–preferred it to all the others.

Miss Sharp–better than M P.–but not so well as P. & P.–pleased with the Heroine for her Originality,
delighted with Mr K–& called MrsElton beyond praise.– dissatisfied with Jane Fairfax.

Cassandra–better than P. & P.–but not so well as M. P.–

Fanny K. [3]–not so well as either P. & P. or M P.–could not bear Emma herself.–Mr Knightley delightful.–
Should like J. F.–if she knew more of her.–

Mr & Mrs J. A. [4]– did not like it so well as either of the 3 others. Language different from the others; not
so easily read.–

Edward [5]–preferred it to M P.–only. –Mr K. liked by every body.

Miss Bigg–not equal to either P & P. or M P.–objected to the sameness of the subject (Match-making) all
through.–Too much of Mr Elton & H. Smith. Language superior to the others.–

My Mother–thought it more entertaining than M P.–but not so interesting as P. & P.–No characters in it equal
to Ly Catherine & Mr Collins.–

Miss Lloyd [6]–thought it as clever as either of the others, but did not receive so much pleasure from it as
from P. & P–& M P.–

Mrs & Miss Craven–liked it very much, but not so much as the others.–

Fanny Cage–liked it very much indeed & classed it between P & P.–& M P.–

Mr Sherer–did not think it equal to either M P–(which he liked the best of all) or P & P.–displeased with my
pictures of Clergymen.–

Miss Bigg–on reading it a second time, liked Miss Bates much better than at first, & expressed herself as
liking all the people of Highbury in general, except Harriet Smith–but cd not help still thinking her too silly in
her Loves.

The family at Upton Gray–all very much amused with it.–Miss Bates a great favourite with Mrs Beaufoy.

Mr & Mrs Leigh Perrot–saw many beauties in it, but cd not think it equal to P. & P.–Darcy & Elizth had spoilt
them for anything else.–Mr K. however, an excellent Character; Emma better luck than a Matchmaker often
has.–Pitied Jane Fairfax–thought Frank Churchill better treated than he deserved.–

Countess Craven–admired it very much, but did not think it equal to P & P.–which she ranked as the very first
of it’s sort.–

Mrs Guiton–thought it too natural to be interesting.

Mrs Digweed–did not like it so well as the others, in fact if she had not known the Author, could hardly have
got through it.–

Miss Terry–admired it very much, particularly Mrs Elton.

Henry Sanford–very much pleased with it–delighted with Miss Bates, but thought Mrs Elton the best-drawn
Character in the Book.–Mansfield Park however, still his favourite.

Mr Haden–quite delighted with it. Admired the Character of Emma.–

Miss Isabella Herries–did not like it–objected to my exposing the sex in the character of the
Heroine–convinced that I had meant Mrs & Miss Bates for some acquaintance of theirs–People whom I never heard of

Miss Harriet Moore–admired it very much, but M. P. still her favourite of all.–

Countess Morley–delighted with it.–

Mr Cockerelle–liked it so little, that Fanny wd not send me his opinion.–

Mrs Dickson–did not much like it–thought it very inferior to P. & P.–Liked it the less, from there being a
Mr. and Mrs Dixon in it.–

Mrs Brandreth–thought the 3d vol: superior to anythin I had ever written–quite beautiful!–

Mr B. Lefroy–thought that if there had been more Incident, it would be equal to any of the others.–The
Characters quite as well drawn & supported as in any, & from being more everyday ones, the more entertaining.–Did
not like the Heroine so well as any of the others. Miss Bates excellent, but rather too much of her. Mr & Mrs Elton
admirable & John Knightley a sensible Man.–

Mrs B. Lefroy–rank’d Emma as a composition with S & S.–not so Brilliant as P. & P–nor so equal as M
P.–Preferred Emma herself to all the heroines.–The Characters like all the others admirably well drawn &
supported–perhaps rather less strongly marked than some, but only the more natural for that reason.–Mr Knightley
Mrs Elton & Miss Bates her favourites.–Thought one or two of the conversations too long.–

Mrs Lefroy–preferred it to M P–but like M P. the least of all.

Mr Fowle–read only the first & last Chapters, because he had heard it was not interesting.–

Mrs Lutley Sclater–liked it very much, better than M P– & thought I had “brought it all about very cleverly in
the last volume.”–

Mrs C. Cage wrote thus to Fanny–“A great many thanks for the loan of Emma, which I am delighted with. I like it
better than any. Every character is thouroughly kept up. I must enjoy reading again with Charles. Miss Bates is
incomprable, but I was nearly killed with those precious treasures! They are Unique, & really with more fun than I
can express. I am at Highbury all day, & I can’t help feeling I have just got into a new set of acquaintance. No one
writes such good sense. & so very comfortable.

Mrs Wroughton–did not like it so well as P. & P.–Thought the Authoress wrong, in such times as these, to draw
such Clergymen as Mr Collins and Mr Elton.

Sir J. Langham–thought it much inferior to the others.–

Mr Jeffery (of the Edinburgh Review) was kept up by it three nights.

Miss Murden–certainly inferior to all the others.–

Capt. C. Austen [7] wrote–“Emma arrived in time to a moment. I am delighted with her, more so I think than even
with my favourite Pride and Prejudice, & have read it three times in the Passage.”

Mrs D. Dundas–thought it very clever, but did not like it so well as the others.

  1. Francis William; his brother Charles is below.
  2. Francis’s wife.
  3. Knight
  4. James Austen
  5. James Edward
  6. Martha
  7. Charles John

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Rereading Jane Austen’s Novels: Emma

This time round, they didn’t seem so comic.

Mama is foolish, dim or dead. Papa’s

a sort of genial, pampered lunatic.

No one thinks of anything but class.

Talk about rural idiocy! Imagine

a life of teas with Mrs. and Miss Bates,

of fancywork and Mr. Elton’s sermons!

No wonder lively girls get into states —

No school! no friends! A man might dash to town

just to have his hair cut in the fashion,

while she can’t walk five miles on her own.

Past twenty, she conceives a modest crush on

some local stuffed shirt in a riding cloak

who’s twice her age and maybe half as bright.

At least he’s got some land and gets a joke —

but will her jokes survive the wedding night?

The happy end ends all. Beneath the blotter

the author slides her page, and shakes her head,

and goes to supper — Sunday’s joint warmed over,

followed by whist, and family prayers, and bed.



This poem, by Katha Pollitt, was published in The New Republic, August 7 & 14, 1989.

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Regency Head Colds and Care

Regency Tea

She is tolerably well…she would tell you herself that she has a dreadful cold in the head at present; but I have not much compassion for colds in the head without fever or sore throat.

Jane Austen to Cassandra, February 8, 1807


Imagine a time before Sudafed and Benedryl. A time when there was no Tylenol Cold and Flu or Robtussin. What would you do if you caught a cold? Read through Jane Austen’s novels and you will see everyone from Miss Bates to Mrs. Bennet worrying and plotting about catching a cold. Beyond chicken soup, most people would be forced to grin and bear it, but even then, Regency apothecaries had their cures.

Dr. Twiton’s Recipe for a Cold:
Take volitile salt of ammonia 32 gms– salt of Petre 40 gms. Put them in a marble mortar to a fine powder, then add one oz of Syrup of Balsam and on oz of oyl of sweet almonds, add 6 ozs of pump water. The whole of the above will make four draughts, one of which should be taken three times in 24 hours and to the night one add one dram of paragoria.
-From Martha Lloyd’s Household Book

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