Jane Austen, Emma: Vol. 2, Ch. 14

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When the visit was returned, Emma made up her mind. She could then see more and judge better. From Harriet's happening not to be at Hartfield, and her father's being present to engage Mr. Elton, she had a quarter of an hour of the lady's conversation to herself, and could composedly attend to her; and the quarter of an hour quite convinced her that Mrs. Elton was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own importance; that she meant to shine and be very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school,d pert and familiar; that all her notions were drawn from one set of people, and one style of living; that if not foolish she was ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good.

Harriet would have been a better match. If not wise or refined herself, she would have connected him with those who were; but Miss Hawkins, it might be fairly supposed from her easy conceit, had been the best of her own set. The rich brother-in-law near Bristol was the pride of the alliance, and his place and his carriages were the pride of him.

The very first subject after being seated was Maple Grove,d "My brother Mr. Suckling's seat;"d—a comparison of Hartfield to Maple Grove. The grounds of Hartfield were small, but neat and pretty; and the house was modern and well-built. Mrs. Elton seemed most favourably impressed by the size of the room, the entrance, and all that she could see or imagine. "Very like Maple Grove indeed!—She was quite struck by the likeness!—That room was the very shape and size of the morning-roomh at Maple Grove; her sister's favourite room."—Mr. Elton was appealed to.—"Was not it astonishingly like?—She could really almost fancy herself at Maple Grove."

"And the staircase—You know, as I came in, I observed how very like the staircase was; placed exactly in the same part of the house. I really could not help exclaiming! I assure you, Miss Woodhouse, it is very delightful to me, to be reminded of a place I am so extremely partial to as Maple Grove. I have spent so many happy months there! (with a little sigh of sentiment). A charming place, undoubtedly. Every body who sees it is struck by its beauty; but to me, it has been quite a home. Whenever you are transplanted, like me, Miss Woodhouse, you will understand how very delightful it is to meet with any thing at all like what one has left behind. I always say this is quite one of the evils of matrimony."

Emma made as slight a reply as she could; but it was fully sufficient for Mrs. Elton, who only wanted to be talking herself.d

"So extremely like Maple Grove! And it is not merely the house—the grounds, I assure you, as far as I could observe, are strikingly like. The laurels at Maple Grove are in the same profusion as here, and stand very much in the same way—just across the lawn; and I had a glimpse of a fine large tree, with a bench round it, which put me so exactly in mind! My brother and sister will be enchanted with this place. People who have extensive grounds themselves are always pleased with any thing in the same style."

Emma doubted the truth of this sentiment. She had a great idea that people who had extensive grounds themselves cared very little for the extensive grounds of any body else; but it was not worth while to attack an error so double-dyedw, and therefore only said in reply,

"When you have seen more of this country, I am afraid you will think you have overrated Hartfield. Surry is full of beauties."

"Oh! yes, I am quite aware of that. It is the garden of England, you know. Surry is the garden of England."

"Yes; but we must not rest our claims on that distinction. Many counties, I believe, are called the garden of England, as well as Surry."

"No, I fancy not," replied Mrs. Elton, with a most satisfied smile. "I never heard any county but Surry called so."w

Emma was silenced.

X [d] manners which had been formed in a bad school…


Mrs. Elton's parents being commercial parvenus and the social circle in which they moved resembling them, her acquisition of more refined manners hinges on the school to which she was sent.

There were many private boarding schools for girls, but few taught much of any substance and even fewer could provide the environment to teach something so intangible as natural manners and good…

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X [d] Maple Grove,

Writing & Reading

Mrs. Elton's conversation, captured in free indirect discourse, is hardly less trivial than Miss Bates's and no less compulsive but differs in being strategically self-serving. Her marrying Elton and being transported into the Highbury circle gratifies her ambitions but also exposes her insecurities.…

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X [d] Mr. Suckling's seat;"

Writing & Reading

Mrs. Elton's brother-in-law. The name may remind some readers of an English Renaissance poet, but Austen intends the name, preceded by Hawkins and soon followed by Partridge, Bird, and Tupman (tup: a ram) to evoke a suckling pig. It's worth noting here that an elt is in dialect a young pig or sow. (Whether Austen knew this is uncertain; the OED lists the first recorded use as 1842). But at the least Mrs. Elton's relatives and friends constitute a bestiary.…

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X [h] morning-room

Daily Life

These became fashionable in the early 19th c. and were like a breakfast-room except reserved for sitting. Mrs. Elton wants it known that the Sucklings have money to spend on new fashions.  

X [d] talking herself.

Writing & Reading

Austen's novels proceed primarily through conversation, and it is therefore natural that she observe the practice of conversation itself. Mrs. Elton prefers the aggressive dramatic monologue intended to cow her listener; Miss Bates's effusions are defensive.

X [w] double-dyed

Similar. But there is little actual likeness between Hartfield and Maple Grove. Mrs. Elton is aiming for the invidious comparison that shows Hartfield at a disadvantage.

X [w] "I never heard any county but Surry called so…

The presumption behind this is that if she hadn't heard it, it can't be true.