Last updated: 6/30/2023
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The Novel

Here are various items which may assist you in reading the novel. The charades and puzzles, information on literary allusions, and more are included.

Miscellaneous Emma Notes

Jump to Notes on allusions to literature and poetry here.

Mr. Elton's Charades

Do them in order...and don't peek!

To Miss______

My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,
Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
Another view of man my second brings,
Behold him their, the monarch of the seas!

But ah! united, what reverse we have!
Man's boasted power and freedom, all are flown:
Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,
And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.

Thy ready wit will soon supply,
May its approval beam in that soft eye!



His Other Charade...

My first doth affliction denote,
Which my second is destin'd to feel,
And my whole is the best antidote
That affliction to soften and heal



Mr. Woodhouse's Riddle

By Mr. Garrick, published in The New Foundling Hospital for Wit, Fourth Part, 1771, as found by R.W. Chapman

Kitty, a fair but frozen maid,
Kindled a flame I still [ftill] deplore;
The hood-wink'd boy I call'd in aid,
Much of his near approach afraid,
So fatal to my suit [fuit] before.

At length, propitious to my pray'r,
The little urchin came;
At once he fought the midway air,
And soon [foon] he clear'd, with destrous care,
The bitter relics of my flame.

To Kitty, Fanny now succeeds [fucceeds],
She kindles slow [flow], but lasting [lafting] fires:
With care my appetite she [fhe] feeds;
Each day some [fome] willing victim bleeds,
To satisfy [fatisfy] my strange [frange] desires [defires].

Say, by what title, or what name,
Must [muft] I this youth address [addrefs]?
Cupid and he are not the same [fame],
Tho' both can raise [raife], or quench a flame -
I'll kiss [kifs] you, if you guess [guefs].


Frank's Puzzles at Hartfield

First, to Jane, in respect to nearly giving away the relationship: B-L-U-N-D-E-R.

Second, the red-herring, for Emma's benefit: D-I-X-O-N.

Third, the unread apology to Jane, which is not revealed in the novel: P-A-R-D-O-N.

Mr. Weston's Piece of Indifferent Wit, offered at Box Hill - A Conundrum...A "low piece of wit," or an unintentionally-barbed pun?

"I doubt its being very clever myself," said Mr. Weston. "It is too much a matter of fact; but here it is: What two letters of the alphabet are there that express perfection?"

"What two letters - express perfection? I am sure I do not know."

"Ah! You will never guess. You" (to Emma), "I am certain, will never guess. I will tell you. M. and A. Emma. Do you understand?"

Understanding and gratification came together. It might be a very indifferent piece of wit, but Emma found a great deal to laugh at and enjoy in it: and so did Frank and Harriet. It did not seem to touch the rest of the party equally; some looked very stupid about it, and Mr. Knightley gravely said:

"This explains the sort of clever thing that is wanted, and Mr. Weston has done very well for himself; but he must have knocked up everybody else. Perfection should not have come quite so soon."

[Ba-dum CHING!]

Names and the Regency Wedding Ceremony . For all of this "N" and "M" business, see Henry's Form of Solemnization of Matrimony, from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

"How often, when you were a girl, have you said to me, with one of your saucy looks - 'Mr. Knightley, I am going to do so and so; papa says I may, or, I have Miss Taylor's leave' - something which, you knew, I did not approve. In such cases my interference was giving you two bad feelings instead of one."

"What an amiable creature I was! - No wonder you should hold my speches in such affectionate remembrance."

"'Mr. Knightley.' - You always called me, 'Mr. Knightley;' and, from habit, it has not so formal a sound. - And yet it is formal. I want you to call me something else, but I do not know what."

"I remember once calling you 'George,' in one of my amiable fits, about ten years ago. I did it becuase I thought it would offend you; but, as you made no objection, I never did it again."

"And cannot you call me 'George' now?"

"Impossible! - can can never call you anything but 'Mr. Knightley.' I will not promise even to equal the elegant terseness of Mrs. Elton by calling you Mr. K - But I will promise to call you once by your Christian name. I do not say when, but perhpas you may guess where; - in the building in which N. takes M. for better, for worse."

References to Literature and Poetry in Emma

You can find some of these pieces in my Astore...

Here is bibliography of the works of Anne Radcliffe. Radcliffe wrote the novel which Harriet recommends to Robert Martin, The Romance of the Forest: Interspersed with Some Pieces of Poetry (1791). Other "romantic" and "sentimental" novels of the same period which are mentioned include Regina Maria Roche's The Children of the Abbey (1798), and Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield (1766).

Here is a biography of William Cowper. Cowper's The Task, Volume IV (partial), is quoted in Austen's description of Mr. Knightley's suspicion of Frank and Jane's relationship:

When he was again in their company, he could not help remembering what he had seen; nor could he avoid observations which, unless it were like Cowper at twilight,

Myself creating what I saw, (line 290)

brought him yet stronger suspicion of there being a something of a private liking, of private understanding even, between Frank Churchill and Jane.

Here's a biography of Thomas Gray, who wrote Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Lines 55 and 56 of this piece are slightly misquoted by Mrs. Elton, in announcing her patronage of Jane Fairfax:

"We must bring her forward. Such talents as hers must not be suffered to remain unknown. I dare say you have heard those charming lines of the poet--

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its fragrance [should read: sweetness] on the desert air."

Here is the selected poetry of John Gay. Gay wrote Fables, "The Hare and Many Friends," 1727, quoted by Mrs. Elton after reading a letter from Mrs. Smallridge on the occasion of Jane's engagement:

"We can finish this some other time, you know. You and I shall not want opportunities; and, in fact, you have heard all the essential already. I only wanted to prove to you that Mrs. S. admits our apology, and is not offended. You see how delightfully she writes. Oh, she is a sweet creature! You would have doted on her, had you gone. But not a word more. Let us be discreet--quite on our good behaviour. Hush! You remember those lines--I forget the poem at this moment:--

For when a lady's in the case,
You know, all other things give place."

Here is the Complete Works of Shakespeare, whose Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Scene i, is misquoted by Emma in describing Jane's situation:

"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.'"

The lines, from Romeo, actually read:

Art thou so bare and full of wretchedness,
And fear'st to die? famine is in thy cheeks,
Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes,
Contempt and beggary hangs upon thy back;
The world is not thy friend nor the world's law;
The world affords no law to make thee rich;
Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.

Earlier in the book, Emma also quotes the line "'The course of true love never did run smooth,'" in compliment to her own matchmaking prowess. "There does seem to be a something in the air of Hartfield which gives love exactly the right direction, and sends it into the very channel where it ought to flow...A Hartfield edition of Shakespeare would have a long note on that passage." The original line is Lysander's in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Mrs. Elton, to Mr. Weston, alludes to John Milton's L'Allegro:

"...he was apt to be in despair, and exclaim that he was sure at this rate it would be May before Hymen's saffron robe would be put on for us."

The actual lines read:

There let Hymen oft appear
In Saffron robe, with Taper clear,
And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask, and antique Pageantry,
Such sights as youthfull Poets dream
On Summer eeves by haunted stream

In chapter 53, on the occasion of Mrs. Weston's giving birth to a baby daughter, Emma makes reference to Madame La Comtesse Stéphanie Félicité de Genlis' Adelaide and Theodore: Or, Letters on Education: Containing All the Principles Relative to Three Different Plans of Education...

Mrs. Weston's friends were all made happy by her safety; and if the satisfaction of her well-doing could be increased to Emma, it was by knowing her to be the mother of a little girl. She had been decided in wishing for a Miss Weston. She would not acknowledge that it was with any view of making a match for her, hereafter, with either of Isabella's sons; but she was convinced that a daughter would suit both father and mother best. It would be a great comfort to Mr. Weston as he grew older -- and even Mr. Weston might be growing older ten years hence -- to have his fireside enlivened by the sports and the nonsense, the freaks and the fancies of a child never banished from home; and Mrs. Weston -- no one could doubt that a daughter would be most to her; and it would be quite a pity that any one who so well knew how to teach, should not have their powers in exercise again.

"She has had the advantage, you know, of practising on me," she continued -- "like La Baronne d'Almane on La Comtesse d'Ostalis', in Madame de Genlis' Adelaide and Theodore, and we shall now see her own little Adelaide educated on a more perfect plan."

"That is," replied Mr. Knightley, "she will indulge her even more than she did you, and believe that she does not indulge her at all. It will be the only difference."

"Poor child!" cried Emma; "at that rate, what will become of her?"