Jane Austen, Emma: Vol. 1, Ch. 12

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Chapter XII

Mr. Knightley was to dine with them—rather against the inclination of Mr. Woodhouse, who did not like that any one should share with him in Isabella's first day. Emma's sense of right however had decided it; and besides the consideration of what was due to each brother, she had particular pleasure, from the circumstance of the late disagreement between Mr. Knightley and herself, in procuring him the proper invitation.

She hoped they might now become friends again. She thought it was time to make up. Making-up indeed would not do. She certainly had not been in the wrong, and he would never own that he had. Concession must be out of the question; but it was time to appear to forget that they had ever quarrelled; and she hoped it might rather assist the restoration of friendship, that when he came into the room she had one of the children with her—the youngest, a nice little girl about eight months old, who was now making her first visit to Hartfield, and very happy to be danced about in her aunt's arms. It did assist; for though he began with grave looks and short questions, he was soon led on to talk of them all in the usual way, and to take the child out of her arms with all the unceremoniousness of perfect amity. Emma felt they were friends again; and the conviction giving her at first great satisfaction, and then a little sauciness, she could not help saying, as he was admiring the baby,

"What a comfort it is, that we think alike about our nephews and nieces. As to men and women, our opinions are sometimes very different; but with regard to these children, I observe we never disagree."

"If you were as much guided by natured in your estimate of men and women, and as little under the power of fancy and whim in your dealings with them, as you are where these children are concerned, we might always think alike."

"To be sure—our discordancies must always arise from my being in the wrong."

"Yes," said he, smiling—"and reason good. I was sixteen years old when you were born."

"A material difference then," she replied—"and no doubt you were much my superior in judgment at that period of our lives; but does not the lapse of one-and-twenty years bring our understandings a good deal nearer?"

"Yes—a good deal nearer."

"But still, not near enough to give me a chance of being right, if we think differently."

"I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years' experience,d and by not being a pretty young woman and a spoiled child. Come, my dear Emma, let us be friends, and say no more about it. Tell your aunt, little Emma, that she ought to set you a better example than to be renewing old grievances, and that if she were not wrong before, she is now."

"That's true," she cried—"very true. Little Emma, grow up a better woman than your aunt. Be infinitely cleverer and not half so conceited. Now, Mr. Knightley, a word or two more, and I have done. As far as good intentions went, we were both right, and I must say that no effects on my side of the argument have yet proved wrong. I only want to know that Mr. Martin is not very, very bitterly disappointed."

"A man cannot be more sod," was his short, full answer.

"Ah!—Indeed I am very sorry.—Come, shake hands with me."

This had just taken place and with great cordiality, when John Knightley made his appearance, and "How d'ye do, George?"h and "John, how are you?" succeeded in the true English style,d burying under a calmness that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.

X [d] guided by nature


What to Knightley is objective and uninfluenced by Emma's "power of fancy." 

X [d] the advantage of you by sixteen years' experi…


The premise makes this just the sort of discussion parents relish and children detest. Knightley may be a paragon but he's not perfect. His authoritative claim is disproven by his very neighbor and dinner companion, Mr. Woodhouse. Even an older person can be "a spoiled child." Knightley errs as Harriet does in grading as it were by the pound, years equated with improvement.

X [d] A man cannot be more so

A reminder that painful, humiliating consequences can result from Emma's caprices.

X [h] George?"


Knightley's first name derives presumably from King George III.

The country gentry had an instinctive dislike for the Pitt administration, which was urban, Whig (allied with the powerful commercial interests), and sought a greater centralization of power in London, which would come at the expense of the landed gentry and the counties. 

X [d] true English style,


 "Indifference" or reserve in family relations. The brothers show no special affection for one another though they would "do every thing for for the good of the other." Austen observe in Mansfield Park how sisters behave so differently, and Jane's relation with Cassanandra was that of the most intimate of friends.

Austen maintains that the deepest form of love is that between siblings, which supersedes even conjugal love because of the bonds of childhood experience.