thoughts naturally find proper words.

Category: Manners & Morals | Type: Discussion | Title: Emma (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Vol: Volume I | Ch: Chapter VII

The little phrase emphasizing "naturally" takes us to Emma's core, Austen's ideas on manners and language.

Our spoken or written words spring from our thoughts. We must be both quick and self-censoring if we're to meet drawing-room standards for the fast repartee of conversation.

Filtering involves elimination, arrangement, and refinement. Too much, and there's artifice; too little, and there's a grating coarseness. 

The "naturally" indicates a connective tissue linking words to thoughts in a manner that demands of the speaker candor without self-indulgence, excess, or self-aggrandizement. Austen's characters must thread a path between saying too much or too little: not all of their thoughts or feelings but not so few that the person lacks emotion or is too reserved. Neither hot nor cold; neither confessional nor guarded.

Knightley speaks naturally, and Martin writes naturally. Emma claims that Martin's writing a letter leaves him time to contrive to be natural (she even goes so far as to suggest that he himself didn't write it). She prefers as proof the spontaneous demands of speech, which becomes a sort of lie detector. Under such conditions habits of thought and unconscious reflexes of language preclude conscious artifice. Either way, however, our words in even banal conversation contain for Austen and her society the outline of what is most fixed and deep in us, our character.

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