Last updated: 6/30/2023
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The Novel

The following passages from Emma deal with music, musical instruments, and dance.

Emma Music Quotations

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.'"

It's important to note that back then, an elegant instrument such as the one Frank bought for Jane would have cost a small fortune - in 1802, a Broadwood Square from London, complete with damper petals, cost 35 pounds!

Emma, Jane, and the pianoforte:

"She knew the limitations of her own powers too well to attempt more than she could perform with credit; she wanted neither taste nor spirit in the little things which are generally acceptable, and could accompany her own voice well...

'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.'"

Frank and Jane and their inside jokes:

"If you are very kind, said he, "it will be onw of the waltzes we danced last night; let me live them over again. You did not enjoy them as I did: you appeared tired the whole time. I believe you were glad we danced no longer; but I would have given worlds - all the worlds one ever has to give - for another half-hour."

"What felicity it is to hear a tune again which has made one happy! If I mistake not, that was danced a Weymouth."

She looked up at him for a moment, coloured deeply, and played something else. He took some music from a chair near the pianoforte, and turning to Emma, said:

"Here is something quite new to me. Do you know it? Cramer [ Johann Baptist Cramer, 1771-1858, a popular composer and concert performer]. And here are a new set of Irish melodies [Robin Adair...]. That, for such a quarter, one might expect. This was all sent with the instrument. Very thoughtful of Colonel Campbell, was not it? He knew Miss Fairfax could have no music here. I honour that part of the attention particularly; it shows it to have been so thoroughly from the heart. Nothing hastily done, nothing incomplete. True affection only could have prompted it."

Emma and Frank gossip about Jane & Mr. Dixon..."

"...I have now a key to all her odd looks and ways. Leave shame to her. If she does wrong, she ought to feel it." "She is not entirely without it, I think." "I do not see much sign of it. She is playing Robin Adair at this moment - his favourite."

Gotta Dance:

It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively without being at a ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind; but when a beginning is made - when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt - it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.

Mr. Knightley on balls and dancing:

"Pleasure in seeing dancing! - not I, indeed - I never look at it - I do not know who does. - Fine dancing, I believe, like virtue, must be its own reward. Those who are standing by are usually thinking of something very different."

Emma at the ball, on Mr. Knightley:

Emma was smiling with enjoyment, delighted to see the respectable length of the set as it was forming, and to feel that she had so many hours of unusual festivity before her. - She was more disturbed by Mr. Knightley's not dancing than by any thing 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 bulky forms and stooping shoulders of the elderly men, was such as Emma felt must draw every body's eyes; and, excepting her own partner, 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 in how gentlemanlike a manner, with what natural grace, he must have danced, would he but take the trouble. - Whenever she caught his eye, she forced him to smile; but in general he was looking grave. She wished he could love a ballroom better, and could like Frank Churchill better. - He seemed often observing her. She must not flatter herself that he thought of her dancing, but if he were criticising her behaviour, she did not feel afraid.

At the ball, Mr. Knightley saves Harriet from the mortification of Mr. Elton's rejection:

Mr. Knightley leading Harriet to the set! - Never had she been more surprized, seldom more delighted, than at that instant. She was all pleasure and gratitude, both for Harriet and herself, and longed to be thanking him; and though too distant for speech, her countenance said much, as soon as she could catch his eye again.

...and he can dance:

His dancing proved to be just what she had believed it, extremely good; and Harriet would have seemed almost too lucky, if it had not been for the cruel state of things before, and for the very complete enjoyment and very high sense of the distinction which her happy features announced.