That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
The first time I read this book I liked it, but I thought that Emma Woodhouse was really hateful! Arrogant, manipulative, snobbish, classist... At my second reading I must say that a changed my mind a little about this character who seemed so unlikable to me. At the end, Emma is just a girl in her early twenties, and not all of them can always be mature and sensible like Lizzy or Elinor! Jane Austen herself said about this character: I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like. (James Edward Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen, Chapter X). Jane was then perfectly aware of having created a character that could have easily be hated! Poor Emma! :) But really, how could I hate her so completely at my first reading, when her imperfections are almost always so funny and adorable! :)
Surronding Emma there are a whole other roundup of other characters, such as Mr Woodhouse with his hypochondria and gentle selfishness; Mr. Knightley, slightly unpleasant and pretentious; Miss Bates who is so much like me with her main feature that's the inability to shut up :); Harriet Smith, extremely naive and ready to believe and follow any thought of Emma; or Mrs. Elton, we had already met unpleasant characters, and thought we couldn't get worse, but then she came; Jane Fairfax with her characteristics so opposite to her aunt (Miss Bates) is also, however, so akin to myself too (Oh, Miss Woodhouse, the comfort of being sometimes alone!); and eventually Frank Churchill, all talk and no walk.
English, as you may have guessed, is not my first language, and it's always a great pleasure for me to read books in English, expecially when it comes to Aunt Jane. I'm always amazed by her style, so enjoyable to read, despite his age (this book in fact just turned 200 this year!).
Emma is a peculiar novel (and character), you love it/her for all the negativity that shows you, you smile and get irritated, and sighs because certain situations, certain characters are the same you meet in your life and in the end I would like to have Emma's spirit to deal with everything, even the failures, with such self-confidence and, ultimately, kindness. I surely appreciated this book even more with the second reading.
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
Among the most come-at-able of whom were Mrs. and Miss Bates and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies almost always at the service of an invitation from Hartfield, and who were fetched and carried home so often that Mr. Woodhouse thought it no hardship for either James or the horses. Had it taken place only once a year, it would have been a grievance.
Her [Mrs. Bates'] daughter enjoyed a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young, handsome, rich, nor married. Miss Bates stood in the very worst predicament in the world for having much of the public favour; and she had no intellectual superiority to make atonement to herself, or frighten those who might hate her, into outward respect. She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good-will. It was her own universal good-will and contented temper which worked such wonders. She loved every body, was interested in every body's happiness, quick-sighted to every body's merits; thought herself a most fortunate creature, and surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother and so many good neighbours and friends, and a home that wanted for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body, and a mine of felicity to herself.
Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School [...] a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies.
Isabella always thinks as he does; except when he is not quite frightened enough about the children.
It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her.
Till it appears that men are much more philosophic on the subject of beauty than they are generally supposed; till they do fall in love with well-informed minds instead of handsome faces, a girl, with such loveliness as Harriet, has a certainty of being admired and sought after.
"How d'ye do, George?" and "John, how are you?" succeeded in the true English style, burying under a calmness that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.
What is the certainty of caprice?
Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of.
A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.
It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively, without being at any 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.
Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.