By: Jane Austen Information you may want to know about this author
Published by: John Murray
Publication Date: 1815

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Sir Walter Scott’s unsigned review of Emma in The Quarterly Review praises Jane Austen’s fourth anonymously published novel with the observation that, “The author’s knowledge of the world, and the peculiar tact with which she presents characters that the reader cannot fail to recognize, reminds us something of the merits of the Flemish school of painting. The subjects are not often elegant, and certainly never grand; but they are finished up to nature, and with a precision which delights the reader.”

In Emma we find our heroine without any of the usual obstacles that make for an excellent story: she neither suffers any want nor endures any trials. Jane writes:

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

Perhaps it is more correct to say, she endures no trials, except those she brings upon herself. Having already attained everything by birth that most women could only hope to attain by an advantageous marriage, her concern is not with making a good match for herself. Instead, she turns her attention to finding partners for the unattached in her small circle of society. She fancies herself a good judge of character and compatibility, but her efforts as matchmaker do more harm than good, and show how little she understands, not only the ways of the world, but also of the microcosm that is the human heart. Nevertheless, it is because of, not in spite of, her all too human foibles and follies, themselves lending colour to her otherwise unremarkable goodness, that we find ourselves, like the man that knew and understood her best, inexplicably and inextricably drawn to her. Perhaps this is because in Emma, with her absolute relatability, the character that we cannot fail to recognize is just as likely to be ourselves.

— Written by Johanna Bittle


Emma Reprint

Reprinted in 2015 by The Folio Society
Reprint illustrated by Sam Wolfe Connelly
Reprint foreword by Fay Weldon
Available formats: Hardcover
View on the The Folio Society site

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