Last updated: 6/30/2023
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The Novel

Jane Fairfax is the mysteriously reserved niece of tiresomely talkative Miss Bates. The somewhat ill, orphaned daughter of Lieutenant and Mrs. Fairfax, twenty-one-year-old Jane has spent the chief of her existence under the guardianship of the family of Colonel Campell, friends of her father's. Though without fortune, she has grown up in the good society of the Campbells in London, becoming an extremely accomplished young lady, most notably at the fortepiano.

Characters: Jane Fairfax & Miss Bates

Though the same age as Emma, Jane's elegant beauty, truly distinguished accomplishments, and quiet manner repulse our slightly jealous Miss Woodhouse. It's been two years since Jane has made an appearance in Highbury, and while everyone else looks forward to seeing her again, Emma dreads even discussing the visit.

You may continue reading about Jane, or skip down to Miss Bates.

Isabella on Jane:

"That sweet, amiable Jane Fairfax! it is so long since I have seen her, except now and then for a moment accidentally in town. What happiness it must be for her good old grandmother and excellent aunt, when she comes to visit them! I always regret excessively, on dear Emma's account, that she cannot be more at Highbury; but now their daughter is married, I can suppose Colonel and Mrs. Campbell will not be able to part with her at all. She would be such a delightful companion for Emma."

Mr. Woodhouse agreed to it all, but added: "Our little friend, Harriet Smith, however, is just such another pretty kind of young person. You will like Harriet. Emma could not have a better companion than Harriet."

"I am most happy to hear it; but only Jane Fairfax one knows to be so very accomplished and superior, and exactly Emma's age."

Miss Bates, on receiving a letter from her niece:

"Jane caught a bad cold, poor thing! so long ago as the 7th of November (as I am trying to read to you), and has never been well since. A long time, is it not, for a cold to hang upon her? She has never mentioned it before, because she would not alarm us. Just like her! So considerate! But, however, she so far from well, that her kind friends the Campbells think she had better come home, and try an air that always agrees with her; and they have no doubt that three or four months at Highbury will entirely cure her; and it is certainly a great deal better that she should come here than to Ireland, if she is unwell. Nobody could nurse her as we should do."

"And so she is to come to us next Friday or Saturday, and the Campbells leave town in their way to Holyhead the Monday following, as you will find from Jane's letter. So sudden! You may guess, dear Miss Woodhouse, what a flurry it has thrown me in. If it was not for the drawback of her illness - but I am afraid we must expect to see her grown thin, and looking very poorly..."

Narration on Jane Fairfax:

Jane Fairfax was an orphan, the only child of Mrs. Bates' youngest daughter.

The marriage of Lieut. Fairfax, of the _____ regiment of infantry, and Miss Jane Bates, had had its day of fame and pleasure, hope and interest; but nothing now remained of it save the melancholy remembrance of him dying in action abroad, of his widow sinking under consumption and grief soon afterwards, and this girl.

By birth she belonged to Highbury; and when, at three years old, on losing her mother she became the property, the charge, the consolation, the fondling of her grandmother and aunt, there had seemed every probability of her being permanently fixed there; of her being taught only what very limited means could command, and growing up with no advantages of connection or improvement, to be engrafted on what nature had given her ina pleasing person, good understanding, and warm-hearted, well-meaning relations...

But the compassionate feelings of a friend of her father gave a change to her destiny...The plan was that she would be brought up for educating others; the very few hundred pounds which she inherited from her father making independence impossible. To provide for her otherwise was out of Colonel Campbell's power...but, by giving her an education, he hoped to be supplying the means of respectable subsistence hereafter.

Such was Jane Fairfax's history. She had fallen into good hands, known nothing but kindness from the Campbells, and had been given an excellent education. Living constantly with right-minded and well-informed people, her heart and understanding had received every advantage of discipline and culture; and Colonel Campbell's residence being in London, every lighter talent had been done full justice to, by the attendance of first-rate masters. Her disposition and abilities were equally worthy of all that friendship could do; and at eighteen or nineteen she was, as far as such an early age can be, qualified for the care of children, fully competent to the office of instruction herself, but she was too much beloved to be parted with...The evil day was put off. It was easy to decide that she was still too young, and Jane remained with them, sharing as another daughter, in all the rational pleasures of an elegant society, and a judicious mixture of home and amusement, with only the drawback of the future - the sobering suggestions of her own good understanding - to remind her that all this might soon be over.

Jane's break:

...she had now reached the age which her own judgement had fixed on for beginning. She had long resolved that one-and-twenty should be the period. With the fortitude of a devoted novitiate, she had resolved one-and-twenty to complete the sacrifice, and retire from all the pleasures of life, of rational intercourse, equal society, peace and hope, to penance and mortification for ever.

Emma's dislike of Jane:

Emma was sorry to have to pay civilities to a person she did not like through three long months! to be always doing more than she wished, and less than she ought! Why she did not like Jane Fairfax might be a difficult question to answer; Mr. Knightley had once told her it was because she saw in her the really accomplished young woman which she wanted to be thought herself; and though the accusation had been eagerly refuted at the time, there were moments of self-examination in which her conscience could not quite acquit her. But "she could never get acquainted with her; she did not know how it was, but there was such coldness and reserve; such apparent indifference whether she pleased or not; and then, her aunt was such an eternal talker! - and she was made such a fuss with by everybody! - and it had been always imagined that they were to be so intimate; because their ages were the same, everybody supposed they must be so fond of eachother." These were her reasons, she had no better.

Emma's Impressions of Jane's Appeareance:

It was a dislike so little just - every imputed fault was so magnified by fancy - that she never saw Jane Fairfax, the first time after any considerable absence, without feeling that she had injured her; and now, when the due visit was paid on her arrival, after a two years' interval, she was particualrly struck with the very appearance and manners which for those two whole years she had been depreciating. Jane Fairfax was very elegant, remarkably elegant, and she had herself the highest value for elegance. her height was pretty, just such as almost everybody would think tall, and nobody could think very tall; her figure particularly graceful; her size a most becoming medium, between fat and thin, though a slight appearance of ill-health seemed to point out the likliest evil of the two. Emma could not help but feel all this; and then, her face - her features - there was more beauty in them all together than she had remembered; it was not regular, but it was very pleasing beauty. Her eyes, a deep grey, with dark eyelashes and eyebrows, had never been denied their praise; but the skin, which she had been used to cavil at, as wanting color, had a clearness and delicacy which really needed no fuller bloom. It was a style of beauty of which elegance was the reigning character, and as such, she must, in honour, by all her principles, admire it; elegance which, whether of person or of mind, she saw so little in Highbury. There, not to be vulgar, was disctinction and merit.

Emma's Feelings on Jane, after Meeting Her for the First Time in years:

Upon the whole, Emma left her with such softened, charitable feelings, as made her look around in walking home, and lament that Highbury afforded no young man worthy of giving her independence - nobody that she could wish to scheme about for her.

These were charming feelings, but not lasting. Before she had committed herself by any public profession of eternal friendship for Jane Fairfax, or done more towards a recantation of past prejudices and errors, than saying to Mr. Knightley, "She certainly is handsome: she is better than handsome!" Jane had spent an evening at Hartfield with her grandmother and aunt, and everything was relapsing much into its usual state. Former provocations reappeared...They had music: Emma was obliged to play; and the thanks and praise which necessarily followed appeared to her an affectation of candour, an air of greatness, meaning only to show off in higher style her own very superior performance. She was, besides, which was the worst of all, so cold, so cautious! There was no getting at her real opinion. Wrapped up in a cloak of politeness, she seemed determined to hazard nothing. She was disgustingly, was suspiciously reserved.

Upon the News of Mr. Elton's Betrothal:

Jane's curiosity did not appear of that absorbing nature as to wholly occupy her.

..."You are silent, Miss Fairfax - but I hope you mean to take an interest in this news. You, who have been hearing and seeing so much of late on these subjects, who must have been so deep in the business on Miss Campbell's account - we shall not excuse your being indifferent about Mr. Elton and Miss Hawkins."

"When I have seen Mr. Elton," replied Jane, 'I dare day I shall be interested - but I believe it requires that with me. And as it is some months since Miss Campbell married, the impression may be a little worn off."

Mrs. Cole, When the News Breaks that Jane Fairfax has Received the Mysterious Pianoforte Gift:

" was but yesterday I was telling Mr. Cole I really was ashamed to look at our new grand piano in the drawing-room, while I do not know one note from another, and our little girls, who are but just beginning, perhaps may never make anything of it; and there is poor Jane Fairfax, who is mistress of music, has not anything of the nature of an instrument, not even the pitifullest old spinet in the world, to amuse herself with."

Harriet on Jane and Emma at the Pianoforte:

"Oh, if I could but play as well as you and Miss Fairfax!"

"Don't class us together, Harriet. My playing is no more like hers than a lamp is like sunshine."

Harriet Wonders about Jane:

The Coxes were wondering last night whether she would get into any great family...

Emma, on Jane's Refusal to Join the Dixons in Ireland, and her Endurance of Mrs. Elton:

"She must have some motive, more powerful than appears, for refusing this invitation," was Emma's conclusion. "She must be under some sort of penance, inflicted iether by the Campbells or herself. Ther is great fear, great caution, great resolution somewhere. She is not to be with the Dixons. The decree is issued by somebody. But why must she consent to be with the Eltons? here is quite a separate puzzle."

Mr. Knightley on Why Jane must be content with Mrs. Elton:

"Miss Fairfax is as capable as any of us of forming a just opinion of Mrs. Elton. Could she have chosen with whom to associate, she would not have hosen her. But" (with a reproachful smile at Emma) "she receives attentions from Mrs. Elton, which nobody else pays her...

"...Miss Fairfax awes Mrs. Elton by her superiority both of mind and manner; and that, face to face, Mrs. Elton treats her with all the respect whcih she has a claim to. Such a woman as jane Fairfax probably never fell in Mrs. Elton's way before - and no degree of vanity can prevent her acknowledging her own comparative littleness in action, if not in conscience."

Mr. Knightley on Why he Wouldn't Marry Jane Fairfax:

"Jane Fairfax is a very charming young woman - but not even Jane Fairfax is perfect. She has a fault. She has not the open temper which a man would wish for in a wife...

"Jane Fairfax has feeling...I do not accuse her of want of feeling. Her sensibilities, I suspect, are strong, and her temper excellent in its power of forbearance, patience, and self-control; but it wants openness. She is reserved; mosre reserved, I think, than she used to be; and I love an open temper."

Jane, the Post, and the Rain (a Conversation With John Knightley):

"I hope you did not venture far, Miss Fairfax, this morning, or I am sure you must have been wet. We scarcely got home in time. I hope you turned directly."

"I went only to the post-office," said she, "and reached home before the rain was much. It is my daily errand. I always fetch the letters when I am here. it saves trouble, and is a something to get me out. A walk before breakfast does me good."

"Not a walk in the rain, I should imagine."

"No, but it did not absolutely rain when I set out."

Mr. John Knightley smiled, and replied:

"That is to say, you chose to have your walk, for you were not six yards from your own door when I had the pleasure of meeting you; and Henry and John had seen more drops than they could count long before. The post-office had a great charm at one period of our lives. When you have lived to my age, you will begin to think letters are never worth going through the rain for."

There was a little blush, and then this answer -

"I must not hope to be ever situated as you are, in the midst of every dearest connection, and therefore I cannot expect that simply growing older should make me indifferent about letters."

"Indifferent! Oh no! I never conceived you could become indifferent. Letters are not matters of indifference; they are generally a very positive curse."

"You are speaking of letters of business; mine are letters of friendship."

"I have often thought them the worst of the two," replied he, coolly. "Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does."

"Ah! you are not serious now. I know Mr. John Knightley too well - I am very sure he understands the value of friendship as well as anybody. I can easily believe that letters are very little to you, much less than to me; but it is not your being ten years older than myself whcih makes the difference; it is not age, but situation. You have everybody dearest to you at hand, I probably, never shall again; and therefore, till I have outlived all my affections, a post-office, I think, must always have power to draw me out, in worse weather than to-day."

"When I talked of your being altered by time, by the progress of years," said John Knightley, "I meant to imply the change of situation which time usually brings. I consider one as including the other. Time will generally lessen the interest of every attachment not within the daily circle - but that is not the change I had in view for you. As an old friend, you will allow me to hope, Miss Fairfax, that ten years hence you may have as many concentrated objects as I have."

It was kindly said, and far from giving offence. A pleasant "thank you" seemed meant to laugh it off; but a blush, a quivering lip, a tear in the eye, showed that it was felt beyond a laugh.

Jane, Determined in the Face of Mrs. Elton's Insistence:

"Excuse me," said Jane earnestly, "I cannot by any means consent to such an arrangement, so needlessly troublesome to your servant. If ther errand were not a pleasure to me, it could be done, as it always is when I am not here, by my grandmamma's -"

"Oh! My dear; but so much Patty has to do! And it is a kindness to employ our men."

Jane looked as if she meant not to be conquered; but, instead of answering, she began speaking again to Mr. John Knightley.

"The post-office is a wonderful establishment!" said she. "The regularity and dispatch of it! If one thinks of all that it had to do, and all that it does so well, it is really astonishing!...So seldom that any negligence or blunder appears! So seldom that a letter, among the thousands that are constantly passing about the kingdom, is even carried wrong - and not one in a million, I suppose, actually lost! And when one considers the variety of hands, and of bad hands too, that are to be deciphered, it increases the wonder."

Mrs. Elton Insists on Employing Jane Right Away:

"Here is April come," said she; "I get quite anxious about you. June will soon be here."

"But I have never fixed on June or any other month - merely looked forward to the summer in general."

"But have you really heard of nothing?"

"I have not even made any inquiry; I do not wish to make any yet."

"Oh! my dear, we cannot begin too early; you are not aware of the difficulty of procuring exactly the desirable thing."

"I not aware!" said Jane, shaking her head; "dear Mrs. Elton, who can have thought of it as I have done?"

"But you have not seen so much of the world as I have. You do not know how many candidates there always are for the first situations. I saw a vast deal of that in the neighborhood round Maple Grove. A cousin of Mr. Suckling, Mrs. Bragge, had such an infinity of applications; everybody was anxious to be in her family, for she moves in the first circle. Wax-candles in the school-room! You can imagine how desirable! Of all houses in the kingdom, Mrs. Bragge's is the one I would most wish to see you in."

..."Excuse me, ma'am, but this is by no means my intention: I make no inquiry myself, and should be sorry to have any made by my friends. When I am quite determined as to the time, I am not at all afraid of being long unemployed. There are places in town, offices, where inquiry would soon produce something - offices for the sale, not quite of human flesh, but of human intellect."

"Oh! my dear, human flesh! You quite shock me; if you mean a fling at the slave trade, I assure you Mr. Suckling was always rather a friend to the abolition."

"I did not mean - I was not thinking of the slave-trade," replied Jane; "governess-trade, I assure you, was all that I had in view; widely different, certainly, as to the guilt of those who carry it on; but as to the greater misery of the victims, I do not know where it lies. But I only mean to say that there are advertising offices, and that by applying to them I should have no doubt of very soon meeting with something that would do."

At Donwell, Mrs. Elton Continues to Deluge Jane About Employment:

Still Mrs. Elton insisted on being authorized to write an acquiescence by the morrow's post. How Jane could bear it at all, was astonishing to Emma. She did look vexed, she did speak pointedly - and at last, with a decision of action unusual to her, proposed a removal. "Should they not walk? Would not Mr. Knightley show them the gardens - all the gardens? She wished to see the whole extent." The pertinacity of her friend seemed more than she could bear.

Jane Snaps:

...Emma walked into the hall for the sake of a few moments' free observation of the entrance and ground-plot of the house, and was hardly there when Jane Fairfax appeared, coming quickly in from the garden, and with a look of escape. Little expecting to meet Miss Woodhouse so soon, there was a start at first; but Miss Woodhouse was the very person she was in quest of.

"Will you be so kind," said she, "when I am missed, "as to say that I am gone home! I am going this moment. My aunt is not aware how late it is, nor how long we have been absent; but I am sure we shall be wanted, and I am determined to go directly. I have said nothing about it to anybody. It would only be ginving trouble and distress. Some are gone to the ponds, and some to the lime-walk. Til they all come in I shall not be missed; and when they do, will you have the goodness to say that I am gone?"

"Certainly, if you wish it; but you are not going to walk to Highbury alone?"

"Yes; what should it hurt me? I walk fast. i shall be home in twenty minutes."

"But it is too far, indeed it is, to be walking quite alone. Let my father's servant go with you. Let me order the carriage. it can be round in five minutes."

"Thanks you, thank you - but on no account - I would rather walk. And for me to be afraid of walking alone! - I, who may soon have to guard others!"

She spoke with great agitation; and Emma very feelingly replied; "That can be no reason for your being exposed to danger now. I must order the carriage. The heat even would be a danger. You are fatigued already."

"I am," she answered, "I am fatigued; but it is not the sort of fatigue - quick walking will refresh me. Miss Woodhouse, weall know at times what it is to be wearied in spirits. Mine, I confess, are exhausted. The greatest kindness you can show me will be to let me have my own way, and only say that I am gone when it is necessary."

Emma had not another word to oppose. She saw it all; and entering into her feelings, promoted her quitting the house immediately, and watched her safely off with the zeal of a friend. her parting look was grateful; and her parting words, "Oh! miss Woodhouse, the comfort of sometimes being alone!" seemed to burst from an overchanged heart, and to describe somewhat of the continual endurance to be practised by her, even towards some of those who loved her best.

Frank and Jane Spat at Box Hill:

[On the Eltons] "Happy couple!" said Frank Churchill, as soon as they were out of hearing; "how well they suit one another! Very lucky - marrying as they did, upon an acquaintance formed only in a public place! They only knew each other, I think, a few weeks in Bath! Peculiarly lucky! For as to any realy knowlede of a person's disposition that Bath, or any public place, can give - it is all nothing; there can be no knowledge. It is only by seeing women in their own homes, among their own set, just as they always are, that you can form any just judgement. Short of that, it is all guess and luck - and will generally be ill-luck. How many a man has committed himself on a short acquaintance, and rued it all the rest of his life!"

Miss Fairfax, who had seldom spoken before, except among her own confederates, spoke now.

"Such things do occur, undoubtedly." She was stopped by a cough. Frank Churchill turned towards her to listen.

"You were speaking," said he gravely. She recovered her voice.

"I was only going to observe, that though such unfortunate circumstances do something occur both to men and women, I cannot imagine them to be very frequent. A hasty and imprudent attachment may arise - but there is generally time to recover from it afterwards. I would be understood to mean, that it can be only weak, irresolute characters (whose happiness must be always at the mercy of chance), who will suffer an unfortunate acquaintance to be an inconvenience, an oppression for ever."

He made no answer; merely looked, and bowed in submission; and soon afterwards said, in a lively tone:

"Well, I have so little confidence in my own judgement, that whenever I marry, I hope somebody will choose my wife for me...

"Now ma'am," said Jane to her aunt, "shall we join Mrs. Elton?"

Mrs. Weston tells Emma the News, and they Agree that Jane is Not to be Blamed for the Deception:

"...It is not a connection to gratify; but if Mr. Churchill does not feel that, why should we? and it may be a very fortunate circumstance for him - for Frank, I mean - that he should have attached himself to a girl of such steadiness of character and good judgement as I have always given her credit for, and still am disposed to give her credit for, in spite of this one great deviation from the strict rule of right. And how much may be said, in her sitation, for even that error!"

"Much indeed cried Emma feelingly. "If a woman can ever be excused for thinking only of herself, it is in a situation like Jane Fairfax's. Of such, one may almost say, that 'the world is not theirs, nor the world's law.'"

Mrs. Weston Quotes Jane to Emma:

"On the misery of what she had suffered, during the concealment of so many months,' continued Mrs. Weston, "she was energetic. This was one of her expressions: 'I will not say that since I entered into the engagement I have not had some happy moments; but I can say, that I have never known the blessing of one tranquil hour;' and the quivering lip, Emma, which uttered it was an attestation that I felt at my heart."

"Poor girl!" said Emma. "She thinks herself wrong, then for having consented to a private engagment?"

"Wrong! No one, I believe, can blame her more than she is disposed to blame herself. 'The consequence,' said she, 'has been a state of perpetual suffering to me; and so it ought. But after all the punishment that misconduct can bring, it is still not less misconduct. Pain is no expiation. I can never be blameless. I have been acting contrary to all my sense of right; and the fortunate turn that everything has taken, and the kindness I am now receiving, is what my conscience tells me ought not to be. Do not imagine madam,' she continued, 'that I was taught wrong. Do not let any reflection fall on the principles or the care of the friends who brought me up. The error has been all my own and I do assure you that, with all the excuse that the present circumstances may appear to give, I shall yet dread making the story known to Colonel Campbell.'"

"Poor girl!" said Emma again. "She loves him, then, excessively, I suppose. It must have been from attachment only that she could be led to form the engagement. Her affection must have overpowered her judgement."

After Emma Apologizes to Jane:

"Oh!" cried Jane, with a blush and an hesitation which Emma thought infinitely more becoming to her than all the elegance of all her usual composure - "there would have been no danger. The danger would have been of my wearying you. You could not have gratified me more than by expressign an interest - Indeed, Miss Woodhouse" (speaking more collectedly), "with the consciousness which I have of misconduct - very great misconduct - it is particularly consoling to me to know that those of my friends whose good opinion is most worth preserving, are not disgusted to such a degree as to - I have not time for half that I could wish to say. I long to make apologies, excuses, to urge something for myself. I feel it so very due. But, unfortunately - in short, if your compassion does not stand my friend -"

"Oh! you are too scrupulous, indeed you are," cried Emma warmly, and takin gher hand. "You owe me no apologies; and everybody to whom you might be supposed to owe them is so perfectly satisfied, so delighted even -"

"You are very kind, but I know what my manners were to you. So cold and artificial! I had always a part to act. It was a life of deceit! I know that I must have disgusted you."

"Pray say no more. I feel that all the apologies should be on my side. let us forgive eachother at once. We must do whatever is to be done quickest, and I think our feelings will lose no time there. i hope you have pleasant accounts from Windsor?"


"And the next news, I suppose, will be, that we are to lose you - just as I begin to know you."

"Oh! as to all that, of course nothing can be thought of yet. I am here till claimed by Colonel and Mrs. Campbell."

"Nothing can be actually settled yet, perhaps," replied Emma, smiling - "but, excuse me, it must be thought of."

"The smile was returned as Jane Answered:

"You are very right; it has been thought of. And I will own to you (I am sure it will be safe), that so far as our living with Mr. Churchill at Enscombe, it is settled. There must be three months, at least, of deep mourning; but when they are over, I imagine there will be nothing more to wait for."

"Thank you, thank you. This is just what I wanted to be assured of. Oh! if you knew how much I love everything that is decided and open! Good-bye, good-bye."

Miss Bates

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