Last updated: 6/30/2023
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The Novel

Mr. George Knightley, "a sensible man of about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella's husband," John Knightley. With "a cheerful manner, which always did him good," Mr. Knightley is the voice of maturity and reason in Emma's life. He - along with his more acerbic younger brother, John - sees the truth of all matters with a striking clarity which eludes her.

Characters: George & John Knightley

Sixteen years Emma's senior, Mr. Knightley has for twenty-one years acted as the sensible older brother/father figure she's lacked. Despite her youthfully foolish blindness, he understands the depth of her potential and undertakes to gently steer her away from the dangerous influences of boredom, her own imagination, and the famously flaky Frank Churchill.

According to my friend Kay, Mr. Knightley is an "ISTJ" personality type according to the Myers-Briggs classification system. This means that he's an Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging sort of person, big on tradition, duty, and getting the world in correct and running order. He's perfectly complementary to Emma's "ENFP." Sounds like our Mr. Knightley! For more information on Jungian personality typing, go to David Keirsey's site. There, the Keirsey family has posted a personality typing test based on the same dichotomies as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test.

Austen Only presents an article on George Knightley's duties as a county magistrate.

You may continue reading about Mr. George Knightley, or skip down to Mr. John Knightley.

Mr. Knightley and Emma

Mr. knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them... "Emma knows I never flatter her..."

On her painting of Harriet, as sole detractor: "You have made her too tall, Emma."

On Emma's interference in Harriet's love life: "Upon my word, Emma, to hear you abusing the reason you have...better be without sense than misapply it as you do."

After the disagreement:

Emma: "...our discordancies must always arise from my being in the wrong."

Mr. Knightley: "Yes...and reason good. I was sixteen years old when you were born."

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

Mr. Knightley: "Yes, a good deal nearer."

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

Mr. Knightley: "I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years' experience 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."

At the Crown Ball:

Mr. Knightley: "Whom are you going to dance with?"

Emma: "With you if you will ask me."

Mr. Knightley: "Will you?" said he, offering his hand.

Emma: "Indeed I will. You have shown that you can dance, and you know that we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper."

Mr. Knightley: "Brother and sister! No indeed."

Mr. Knightley, attempting to gently break his suspicions re: Frank and Jane to Emma: "My dear Emma,"said he at last, with earnest kindness, "do you think you perfectly understand the degree of acquaintance between the gentleman and lady we have been speaking of?"

Mr. Knightley reprimands Emma after her insult of Miss Bates, upset at Frank's apparent influence: "Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do; a priviledge rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation? Emma, I had not thought it possible.

"...Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honor - to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her - and before her neice, too - and before others, many of whom (certainly some ) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her. This is not pleasant for you, Emma - and it is far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will - I will tell you the truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.

Mr. Knightley's Character:

Mr. Knightley on duty: "There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chooses, and that is, his duty; not by maneuvering and finessing, but by vigor and resolution."

Ms. Elton, upon notice of Mr. Knighltey's rescuing Harriet at the Crown Ball: "Knightley has taken pity on poor Miss Smith! Very good-natured, I declare."

As Mrs. Elton offers to take over as Lady Patroness of Mr. Knightley's strawberry-picking party

Mr. Knightley: "No," he calmly replied, "there is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell and that one is -"

Mrs. Elton: "Mrs. Weston, I suppose," rather mortified.

Mr. Knightley: "No - Mrs. Knightley; and until she is in being, I will manage such matters myself."

Emma, upon the realization that she may have lost Mr. Knightley forever: "Harriet, I will only venture to declare, that Mr. Knightley is the last man in the world who would intentionally give any woman the idea of his feeling for her more than he really does." How long had Mr. Knightley been so dear to her, as every feeling declared him now to be? When had his influence, such influence begun? When had he succeeded to that place in her affection which Frank Churchill had once, for a short period, occupied? She looked back; she compared the two - compared them, as they had always stood in her estimation, from the time of the latter's becoming known to her - and as they must at any time have been compared by her, had it - oh! had it, by any blessed felicity, occurred to her to institute the comparison. She saw that there never had had been a time when she did not consider Mr. Knightley the infinitely superior, or when his regard for her had not been infinitely the most dear. She saw, that in persuading herself, in fancying, in acting to the contrary, she had been entirely under a delusion, totally ignorant of her own heart - and, in short, that she had never really cared for Frank Churchill at all!

Emma, once she is secure in Mr. Knightley's love for her: What had she to wish for? Nothing, but to grow more worthy of him, whose intentions and judgement had been ever so superior to her own. Nothing but that the lessons of her past folly might teach her humility and circumspection in the future.

Mr. Knightley's Perception

Mr. Knightley on Emma's infatuation with Harriet, and the disparity of their opinions of Robert Martin: "Not Harriet's equal!" exclaimed Mr. Knightley, loudly and warmly; and with calmer asperity added, a few moments afterwards, "No, he is not her equal, indeed, for he is as much her superior in sense as in situation. Emma, your infatuation with that girl blinds you." "Robert Martin has no great loss - if he can but think so; and I hope it will not be long before he does. Your views for Harriet are best known to yourself; but as you have made no secret of your love of match-making, it is fair to suppose that views, and plans, and projects you have; and as a friend I shall just hint to you, that if Elton is the man, I think it will be all labor in vain...depend upon it, Elton will not do. Elton is a very good sort of man, and a very respectable vicar of Highbury, but not at all likely to make an imprudent match...Elton may talk sentimentally, but he will act rationally."

Foretelling problems with Harriet for Emma: "Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief."

Emma admits to herself the Knightley brothers were right about Mr. Elton: To Mr. John Knightley was she indebted for her first idea on the subject, for the first start of its possiblility. There was no denying that those brothers had penetration. She remembered what Mr. Knightley had once said to her about Mr. Elton...and blushed to think how much a truer knowledge of his character had been there shown than any she had reached herself.

Mr. Knightley, at the Crown Ball, after he saves Harriet from Mr. Elton's slight: "They aimed at more than wounding Harriet...Emma, why are they [the Eltons] your enemies?"

Emma admits to Mr. Knightley that he had been right about Frank and Jane all along: "You probably have been less surprised than any of us, for you have had your suspicions. I have not forgotten that you once tried to give me a caution. I wish I had attended to it - but I seem to have been doomed to blindness."

Mr. Knightley admits his love for Emma: "I cannot make speeches, Emma," he soon resumed, and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing. "If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it."

Mr. Knightley, to Emma, on Frank and the value of honesty: "Mystery; Finesse--how they pervert the understanding! My Emma, does not every thing serve to prove more and more the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?"

Mr. Knightley's person and manner Harriet Smith on Mr. Robert Martin and Mr. Knightley: "Certainly he is not like Mr. Knightley. he has not such a fine air and way of walking as Mr. knightley. I see the difference plain enough. But Mr. Knightley is so very fine a man!"

Emma, in response: "Mr. Knightley's air is so remarkably good that it is not fair to compare Mr. Martin with him. You might not see one in a hundred with gentleman so plainly written as in Mr. Knightley."

Emma, on Mr. Knightley's manner: "...downright, decided, commanding..." He always moved with the alertness of a mind which could neither be undecided nor dilatory...

Emma, on Mr. Knightley's appearance, at the Crown Ball: She was more disturbed by Mr. Knightley's not dancing than by anything else. There he was, among the standers-by, where he ought not to be; he ought to be dancing, not classing himself with the husbands and fathers, and whist-players, who were pretending to feel an interest in the dance till their rubbers were made up, so young as he looked! He could not have appeared to greater advantage perhaps anywhere, than where he had placed himself. his tall, firm, upright figure, among the bulkiy forms and stooping shoulders of the elderly men, was such as Emma felt must draw everybody's eyes; and, excepting her own partner [Frank], there was not one among the whole row of young men who could be compared with him. He moved a few steps nearer, and those few steps were enough to prove how gentlemanlike a manner, with what natural grace, he must have danced, would he but take the trouble.

John Knightley

From the novel: Mr. John Knightley was a tall, gentleman-like, and very clever man, rising in his profession; domestic, and respectable in his private character: but with reserved manners which prevented his being generally pleasing; and capable of being sometimes out of humor. He was not an ill-tempered man, not so often unreasonably cross 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...He was not a great favorite with his sister-in-law. Nothing wrong in him escaped her.

On Mr. Elton:

Emma: "There is such a perfect good temper and good-will in Mr. Elton, as one cannot but value."

John: "Yes," said Mr. John Knightley presently, with some slyness, "he seems to have a great deal of good-will towards you."

Emma: "Me!" she replied with a smile of astonishment; "are you imagining me to be Mr. Elton's object?"

John: "Such an imagination has crossed me, I own, Emma; and if it never occurred to you before, you may as well take it into consideration now."

Emma: "Mr. Elton in love with me! What an idea!"

John: "I do not say it is so; but you will do well to consider whether it is so or not, and to regulate your behavior accordingly. I think your manners to him encouraging. I speak as a friend, Emma. You had better look about you, and ascertain what you do, and what you mean to do."

On trudging out to the Weston's Christmas party...:

"A man," said he, "must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest absurdity - actually snowing at this moment! The folly of not allowing people to be comfortable at home, and the folly of people's not staying comfortably at home when they can! If we were obliged to go out such an evening as this by any call of duty or business, what a hardship we should deem it; and here we are, probably with rather thinner clothing than usual, setting forward voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of the voice of nature, which tells man, in everything given to his view or his feelings, to stay home himself, and keep all under shelter that he can; here are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in another man's house, with nothing to say or to hear that was not said and heard yesterday, and may not be said and heard again tomorrow. Going in dismal weather, to return probably in worse; four horses and four servants taken out for nothing but to convey five idle, shivering creatures into colder rooms and worse company than they might have had at home."

...And having endured Mr. Elton's chattering

Mr. Elton: "I had no idea that the law had been so great a slavery. Well, sir, the time must come when you will be paid for all this, when you will have Little labour and great enjoyment"

John: "My first enjoyment will be to find myself safe at Hartfield again."

As the party arrives at the party:

Some change of countenence was necessary for each gentleman as they walked into Mrs. Weston's drawing-room; Mr. Elton must compose his joyous looks, and Mr. John Knightley disperse his ill-humor. Mr. Elton must smile less, and Mr. John Knightley more, to fit them for the place.

John, Jane, the Post, and the Rain:

"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 teh 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."

John on the efficiency of the Post:

"The clerks grow expert from habit. They must begin with some quickness of sight and hands, and exercise improves them. If you want any further explanation," continued he, smiling, "they are paid for it. That is the key to a great deal of capacity. The public pays and must be served well."

Mr. Knightley explains his brother's feelings on the marriage:

"John enters like a brother into my happiness," continued Mr. Knightley, "but he is no complimenter; and thought I well know him to have, likewise, a most brotherly affection for you, he is so far from making flourishes, that any other young woman might think him rather cool in her praise. But I am not afraid of your seeing what he writes." "He writes like a sensible man," replied Emma, when she had read the letter. "I honour his sincerity. It is very plain that he considers the good fortune of the engagement as all on my side, but that he is not without hope of my growing, in time, as worthy of your affection as you think me already. Had he said anything to bear a different construction, I should not have believed him."