An excerpt from an OUPblog article published on Tuesday 15th December, authored by Kathryn Sutherland, Professor of Bibliography & Textual Criticism, University of Oxford, and the author of Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: from Aeschylus to Bollywood.
"Like Mansfield Park, the novel that precedes it, Emma is a closely defended study of English life. Begun, according to Cassandra Austen’s chronology of her sister’s compositions, 21 January 1814, before the Fall of Paris and Napoleon’s exile to Elba, it was completed on 29 March 1815, just months before the battle of Waterloo (June 1815) and Napoleon’s second and final abdication. It was published in late December 1815. Where Mansfield Park is a novel about searching for and finding home, Emma examines in minute detail the close-knit neighbourhood that is home. It is about the importance of being known - to others and to oneself - and about the small imbalances that jeopardize that knowledge: whether in the shape of a handsome stranger, a vulgar new bride, or a gypsy encampment that encroaches too close to town. At the novel’s heart lies Donwell Abbey, Mr Knightley’s estate, whose ‘sweet view - sweet to the eye and the mind’ and ‘English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun, bright without being oppressive’ (vol. 3, ch. 6) provide a moral and, in 1815, a patriotic perspective upon this local knowledge."
Discover more: Read the rest of this article on the OUPblog