6 things you might not know about ‘Emma’ (footnote edition)

By Jennifer Abella

IMG_20150517_210812There are countless editions of “Emma.” The program’s preferred edition is the Penguin Classic.  I happened to read David M. Shapard’s informative (and, at 800-plus pages, exhaustive) annotated “Emma.” Here’s a smattering of interesting footnotes I came across:

OED alert

“She was so busy in admiring those soft blue eyes, in talking and listening, and forming all these schemes in the in-betweens, that the evening flew away at a very unusual rate; and the supper-table, which always closed such parties, and for which she had been used to sit and watch the due time, was all set out and ready, and moved forwards to the fire, before she was aware.”

The use here of “in-between” and one other reference in 1815 are the first two given in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Jane Fairfax = Jane Austen?

Jane Austen practiced the piano for about an hour every day for most of her life.

Austen Fairy land

“A piece of paper was found on the table this morning—(dropt, we suppose, by a fairy)—containing a very pretty charade, and we have just copied it in.”

Jane Austen told her nieces and nephews “the most delightful stories chiefly of Fairyland, and her Fairies had all characters of their own,” according to her niece Caroline.

Knit one, purl one

Knitting (different from needlework) was done mostly by poorer women, such as Mrs. Bates and Mrs Smith in “Persuasion,” as a matter of practicality.

From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Augusta Elton

Mrs. Elton uses both “cara sposo” and “cara sposa” in the novel, and both are misused: The former mixes the feminine and masculine forms of the words, and in the latter usage, she is saying “dear wife.”

Buy a vowel …

When Frank and Jane are playing with the letter tiles…

“She was immediately up, and wanting to quit the table; but so many were also moving, that she could not get away; and Mr. Knightley thought he saw another collection of letters anxiously pushed towards her, and resolutely swept away by her unexamined.”

In a memoir Austen’s nephew says she revealed to family members that the letters formed “pardon.”


Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow @nextjen on Twitter. And remember to like Jane Austen Summer Program on Facebook and follow @JASPhotline on Twitter.

About Jennifer Abella

Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow her on Twitter: @nextjen.

5 thoughts on “6 things you might not know about ‘Emma’ (footnote edition)

  1. Jennifer, great blog, am enjoying every entry. I’m wondering if I need to bring a Penguin Classic edition of EMMA along with my annotated and edited edition by David M. Shepard.

  2. Hi there! Thank you! The Penguin Classic edition is the one the discussions will use for reference, so if someone mentions a page number, people will (quite literally) be on the same page. But you’re not required to bring two copies! If not knowing page numbers, etc., doesn’t bother you, you can bring the annotated version and not worry about it. Personally, I’ll bring my ebook so i can search the text more easily — and so I won’t have to lug my tablet *and* the heavy book. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I also prefer ebooks too but have not honed my skill at searching the text. I’ll work on that before the conference. Meanwhile I’m learning a lot from the David Shepard annotated EMMA.
      Also, have you seen the PBS series The Edwardian Country House, Regency House Party? I really enjoyed that. There’s a book to accompany it by Lucy Jago.

  3. re: knit one, purl one
    An additional note on knitting versus embroidery:
    In Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1879) Helmer Torvald dismisses knitting as utilitarian and ungraceful while embroidery is praised as feminine and becoming. Mrs. Linde is, incidentally, a poor widow with no resources:

    Helmer. What, already? Is this yours, this knitting?
    Mrs. Linde (taking it). Yes, thank you, I had very nearly forgotten it.
    Helmer. So you knit?
    Mrs. Linde. Of course.
    Helmer. Do you know, you ought to embroider.
    Mrs. Linde. Really? Why?
    Helmer. Yes, it’s far more becoming. Let me show you. You hold the embroidery thus in your left hand, and use the needle with the right–like this–with a long, easy sweep. Do you see?
    Mrs. Linde. Yes, perhaps–
    Helmer. But in the case of knitting–that can never be anything but ungraceful; look here–the arms close together, the knitting- needles going up and down–it has a sort of Chinese effect–.

    Feminine arts must be pleasing to the eye!

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