Jane Austen, Emma: Vol. 2, Ch. 6

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Chapter VI

The next morning brought Mr. Frank Churchill again. He came with Mrs. Weston, to whom and to Highbury he seemed to take very cordially. He had been sitting with her, it appeared, most companionably at home, till her usual hour of exercise; and on being desired to chuse their walk, immediately fixed on Highbury.—"He did not doubt there being very pleasant walks in every direction, but if left to him, he should always chuse the same. Highbury, that airy, cheerful, happy-looking Highbury, would be his constant attraction."—Highbury, with Mrs. Weston, stood for Hartfield; and she trusted to its bearing the same construction with him. They walked thither directly.

Emma had hardly expected them: for Mr. Weston, who had called in for half a minute, in order to hear that his son was very handsome, knew nothing of their plans; and it was an agreeable surprize to her, therefore, to perceive them walking up to the house together, arm in arm. She was wanting to see him again, and especially to see him in company with Mrs. Weston, upon his behaviour to whom her opinion of him was to depend. If he were deficient there, nothing should make amends for it. But on seeing them together, she became perfectly satisfied. It was not merely in fine words or hyperbolicalw compliment that he paid his duty; nothing could be more proper or pleasing than his whole manner to her—nothing could more agreeably denote his wish of considering her as a friend and securing her affection. And there was time enough for Emma to form a reasonable judgment, as their visit included all the rest of the morning. They were all three walking about together for an hour or two—first round the shrubberies of Hartfield, and afterwards in Highbury. He was delighted with every thing; admired Hartfield sufficiently for Mr. Woodhouse's ear; and when their going farther was resolved on, confessed his wish to be made acquainted with the whole village, and found matter of commendation and interest much oftener than Emma could have supposed.

Some of the objects of his curiosity spoke very amiable feelings. He begged to be shewn the househ which his father had lived in so long, and which had been the home of his father's father; and on recollecting that an old woman who had nursed him was still living, walked in quest of her cottage from one end of the street to the other; and though in some points of pursuit or observation there was no positive merit, they shewed, altogether, a good-will towards Highbury in general, which must be very like a merit to those he was with.

Emma watched and decided, that with such feelingsd as were now shewn, it could not be fairly supposed that he had been ever voluntarily absenting himself; that he had not been acting a part, or making a parade of insincere professionsh; and that Mr. Knightley certainly had not done him justice.

Their first pause was at the Crown Inn, an inconsiderable house, though the principal one of the sort, where a couple of pair of post-horsesh were kept, more for the convenience of the neighbourhood than from any run on the road; and his companions had not expected to be detained by any interest excited there; but in passing it they gave the history of the large room visibly added; it had been built many years ago for a ball-room, and while the neighbourhood had been in a particularly populous, dancing state, had been occasionally used as such;—but such brilliant days had long passed away, and now the highest purpose for which it was ever wanted was to accommodate a whist club established among the gentlemen and half-gentlemenh of the place. He was immediately interested. Its character as a ball-room caught him; and instead of passing on, he stopt for several minutes at the two superior sashed windows which were open, to look in and contemplate its capabilities, and lament that its original purpose should have ceased. He saw no fault in the room, he would acknowledge none which they suggested. No, it was long enough, broad enough, handsome enough. It would hold the very number for comfort. They ought to have balls there at least every fortnight through the winter. Why had not Miss Woodhouse revived the former good old days of the room?—She who could do any thing in Highbury! The want of proper families in the place, and the conviction that none beyond the place and its immediate environs could be tempted to attend, were mentioned; but he was not satisfied. He could not be persuaded that so many good-looking houses as he saw around him, could not furnish numbers enough for such a meeting; and even when particulars were given and families described, he was still unwilling to admit that the inconvenience of such a mixture would be any thing, or that there would be the smallest difficulty in every body's returning into their proper place the next morning. He argued like a young man very much bent on dancing; and Emma was rather surprized to see the constitution of the Weston prevail so decidedly against the habits of the Churchills. He seemed to have all the life and spiritd, cheerful feelings, and social inclinations of his father, and nothing of the pride or reserve of Enscombe. Of pride, indeed, there was, perhaps, scarcely enough; his indifference to a confusion of rank,d bordered too much on inelegance of mind. He could be no judge, however, of the evil he was holding cheap. It was but an effusion of lively spirits.

X [w] hyperbolical

Exaggerated, with here a touch of verbal elegance.

X [h] house

Places

We learn that Weston has relatively humble roots in Highbury and that Randalls is prepossessing by contrast. The change underscores Austen's sense of the slow, positive progress from generation to generation that in fact reflects the middle class's experience over the past century.

X [d] such feelings

Education

Emma values strong, sincere feelings such as kindness and affection in both men (her notice of the Knightley brothers' coldness) and women. But she herself does not exemplify deep feeling except in her attachment to her father.

The reference to feelings continues a discussion of the matter of sentiment begun in Chapter 1 with Mr. Woodhouse's remarks about his horses.

X [h] acting a part, or making a parade of insincer…

A return to the Emma-Knightley debate about sincerity. The terms are important.

X [h] post-horses

Transportation

Horses to be rented and dropped off at the next post or stage, where they'd wait until travelers returning would rent and convey them back to their home stables. 

The Crown, close to the Bates's lodging, is "inconsiderable," which is to say unworthy of notice. A few lines below we learn that a large room was added as a "ball-room" or assembly room, a typical later 18th-c. addition to accommodate especially young, single people as they entered the marriage market.…

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X [h] half-gentlemen

Class

More or less prosperous people in trade such as Perry or Ford or a yeoman farmer such as Martin, a "half-gentleman" as Knightley describes him. The half-gentlemen include those who are permitted to socialize with the gentry, if only because the latter need bodies to fill out a whist table or a ball.…

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X [d] life and spirit

Cheerful feelings and social inclinations (gregariousness) as opposed to Enscombe's pride and reserve.

Jane Fairfax further irritates Emma by lacking the pride of place and position that might at least warrant such remoteness.

X [d] confusion of rank,

Class

Emma, always concerned with rank and its coordinate for her, manners, worries that Frank reflects too much the age's democratizing spirit and inadequate attention to fine distinctions (and in that parallels Knightley, though is Frank being sincere?). But Frank is no snob. His very willingness to muddy distinctions suggests to her that he suffers from "inelegance of mind."