Jane Austen, Emma: Vol. 1, Ch. 11

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Chapter XI

Mr. Elton must now be left to himself. It was no longer in Emma's power to superintend his happiness or quicken his measures. The coming of her sister's family was so very near at hand, that first in anticipation, and then in reality, it became henceforth her prime object of interest; and during the ten days of their stay at Hartfield it was not to be expected—she did not herself expect—that any thing beyond occasional, fortuitous assistance could be afforded by her to the lovers. They might advance rapidly if they would, however; they must advance somehow or other whether they would or no. She hardly wished to have more leisure for them. There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.

Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, from having been longer than usual absent from Surry,h were exciting of course rather more than the usual interest. Till this year, every long vacation since their marriage had been divided between Hartfield and Donwell Abbey; but all the holidays of this autumn had been given to sea-bathing for the children, and it was therefore many months since they had been seen in a regular way by their Surry connexions, or seen at all by Mr. Woodhouse, who could not be induced to get so far as London, even for poor Isabella's sake; and who consequently was now most nervously and apprehensively happy in forestalling this too short visit.

He thought much of the evils of the journey for her, and not a little of the fatigues of his own horses and coachman who were to bring some of the party the last half of the way; but his alarms were needless; the sixteen miles being happily accomplished, and Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, their five children, and a competent number of nursery-maids, all reaching Hartfield in safety. The bustle and joy of such an arrival, the many to be talked to, welcomed, encouraged, and variously dispersed and disposed of, produced a noise and confusion which his nerves could not have borne under any other cause, nor have endured much longer even for this; but the ways of Hartfield and the feelings of her father were so respected by Mrs. John Knightley, that in spite of maternal solicitude for the immediate enjoyment of her little ones, and for their having instantly all the liberty and attendance, all the eating and drinking, and sleeping and playing, which they could possibly wish for, without the smallest delay, the children were never allowed to be long a disturbance to him, either in themselves or in any restless attendance on them.

Mrs. John Knightley was a pretty, elegant little woman, of gentle, quiet manners, and a disposition remarkably amiable and affectionate; wrapt up in her family; a devoted wife, a doating mother, and so tenderly attached to her father and sister that, but for these higher ties, a warmer love might have seemed impossible. She could never see a fault in any of them.d She was not a woman of strong understanding or any quickness; and with this resemblance of her father, she inherited also much of his constitution; was delicate in her own health, over-careful of that of her children, had many fears and many nerves, and was as fond of her own Mr. Wingfield in town as her father could be of Mr. Perry. They were alike too, in a general benevolence of temper, and a strong habit of regard for every old acquaintance.

Mr. John Knightley was a tall,h gentleman-like, and very clever man; rising in his profession, domestic, and respectable in his private character; but with reserved mannersh which prevented his being generally pleasing; and capable of being sometimes out of humour. He was not an ill-tempered man, not so often unreasonably crossw as to deserve such a reproach; but his temper was not his great perfection; and, indeed, with such a worshipping wife, it was hardly possible that any natural defects in it should not be increased. The extreme sweetness of her temper must hurt his.d He had all the clearness and quickness of mind which she wantedw, and he could sometimes act an ungracious, or say a severe thing.

X [h] Surry,


Or Surrey. Gentle farming country south of London. Surry or Surrey is real, Highbury fictional. Attempts have been made to find a model for it. None exist, and as R. W. Chapman, Austen's first and preeminent editor, points out, she appears to have constructed the distances to the real places to situate Highbury where no other village is: "the precision of these figures was perhaps designed to preclude the possibility of a false identification" (Emma, 521).

X [d] She could never see a fault in any of them.


A bouquet of benign adjectives—pretty, elegant, gentle, quiet, amiable, affectionate, devoted, doating—leads us to the short, adjective-less, and devastating sentence, "She could never see a fault in any of them." This entire lack of discernment will compromise her improvement of the children. …

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X [h] tall,


How tall was tall? Both Knightleys are tall but probably under 6' and closer to 5' 9" or 5' 10". George Washington was at least 6' 2", though not heavy, and regarded as exceptionally tall. 

X [h] reserved manners

Manners & Morals

Stiff and cool, as Emma complains about Jane Fairfax.

X [w] not so often unreasonably cross

Even reasonably cross can be disagreeable in the confines of a drawing room.

X [d] The extreme sweetness of her temper must hurt…

Love & Marriage

This marriage so stretches the Austen idea of a couple's complementing one another that they go from reinforcing to enabling one another.

X [w] wanted